Adventure Journal Main Menu: Wildernesscapes Newsletter #29, Spring 2012

Wildernesscapes Photography Newsletter #29, Spring 2012

Springtime Adirondack Photography | 12% in 2012 price rise | free shipping | Lofoten Norway and Abisko Sweden aurora borealis | Austrain Alps backcountry

Happy spring season to you! I hope you'll enjoy reading this installment of my photographic and adventure newsletter from Wildernesscapes Photography LLC.

Lofoten Norway and Abisko Sweden aurora borealis photography
Winter and spring of 2012 have been filled with lots of photographic adventures as usual. I started out the year leading aurora borealis photography trips to Iceland, dog-sledding in Lappland, Sweden in minus-36° Celsius temperatures, and skiing the Kungsleden trail from Abisko, which is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights, thanks to it's geographic position at northerly latitudes and in the rain shadow of the Norwegian coastal mountains. You can read about those adventures in my last newsletter, which is posted online under the 'adventure journal' section of my website. I did photograph some interesting aurora borealis scenes, with me skiing underneath the lit-up green sky, on the Kungsleden route, which was my goal for that week-long solo trip. The first day of my hut to hut ski trip was again -36° C, but thankfully it warmed up to only the -20's° C after that. I also tried unsuccessfully skiing up Kebnekaise Mt, the highest in Sweden, but opted to carry my tripod and camera gear instead of a pair of crampons, and so got myself into a precarious position high up on a steep, icy slope, with a cliff below that. Eventually I extricated myself after an hour of sitting down and sliding inch by inch downward from rock to rock, by holding my ski poles at the bottom and using the little metal tips as hand traction, since my boots bounced off the icy snow when I tried to kick in steps. This means I've had to turn around on winter attempts on both Sweden's and Norway's highest mountains, and I hope to go back one day, perhaps in the autumn when the mountain birch forests turn yellow the first weekend of September.

If you're interested in doing some aurora borealis photography in northern Sweden yourself, I'm also planning on offering a completely unique and exclusive private dog-sledding and Northern Lights photography trip, combined with a visit to the famous Abisko region to maximize our chances of photographing the Northern Lights. This 1 week trip will be in February or March 2013, specific dates TBA, and will also allow opportunities for dog-sledding adventure-themed photography and watching the arctic winter sun low on the horizon, giving us magical light all day.

Upon looking at a map, one realizes that the photographically-renown Lofoten islands of Norway are at the same latitude above the arctic circle, and a short train ride away from Abisko, so I traveled a week there with friend and photographer Stefan Blawath. Norway is the most expensive country in the world, but it was worth it. While the winter weather was generally terrible the entire week, with wet, blowing snow squalls and often zero visibility, we were blessed by a break in the clouds one night the entire week, coinciding with strong aurora borealis activity while winter camping out in Selfjorden. I stayed out most of the night, photographing the illuminated tent under the green sky, and at 4 am, witnessed for my first time the flashing or so-called 'disco lights' activity of the aurora borealis. Instead of the usual wavering curtain of light, or a distant curving band, this aurora was spotted in pattern, with those spots blinking rhythmically yet randomly in intensity. This phenomenon must be seen in person to truly appreciate, as the longer 30 second exposure of my photographs cannot convey the blinking nature of the light. Of course, we also photographed some moody and stormy seascapes, and there's so much photographic and hiking potential in the western Lofoten that I hope to return someday.

From Norway, I flew to Munich Germany for a week, where Stefan lives. A couple days were spent in Munich doing the touristy sightseeing things, my favorite being a computer-controlled array of hanging spheres that would ascend or descend in unison, creating three dimensional waves, planar shapes, and patterns, in the BMW car museum. Soon, though, the mountains called again, and we drove on the autobahn (not too fast, only 150kph because the car was brand new and needed to be worn in for a thousand kilometers first) to the Austrian Alps at Sellrain (near Innsbruck). We stayed at full service mountain huts Potsdamer and Pforzheimer Hüttes, which are filled with Germans and Austrians. The usual routine is to get up early and enjoy the morning backcountry ski touring, then return not too late in the afternoon when the snow gets very soft and avalanche danger increases. This was my first time getting out in the Alps, something I had wanted to do for years since my college days when I was visiting the region on an academic study tour. In perfect weather, I skinned up and telemark skied down steep mountains, and capturing 360 degree panoramic photography of our ski tracks snaking their way up through pristine powder slopes. Ski touring is more popular here than snowshoeing, and there are some routes that would certainly stretch the ability of any backcountry skier. The possibilities are endless in the Alps. This region offers the best sledding routes anywhere in the world that I know of also, with 6-8km long runs. Sledding isn't just for kids here; the wooden toboggans which one can rent at the mountain huts reach dangerous speeds!

Today is leap year day, February 29th, which I'm using to fly back to the United States after more than 2 months abroad travelling. I won't send out this newsletter yet, as I promised to send out emails only 4-6x yearly, but March will be an exciting and full month, as you'll read in the next paragraph....
Springtime Adirondack Photography
Three weeks of time have passed as I write this, and March was a dud, at least in terms of wintry weather. Here in the Adirondacks the weather has been record-setting warm, in the 70's° F, and spring season feels a month ahead of its time. There's no snow anymore; it all melted away, and even the local ski areas have closed. Photographing in early spring is an aesthetic challenge, because there's no fluffy white snow coating the trees, and there's no green (or red or orange or yellow) foliage or other color in the forests, so it's generally pretty bland and colorless. I didn't get a chance to photograph some snowy mountain vistas on top of my list, such as Kempshall Mt or Gore Mt. I did however make the most of it, and photographed some nice spring scenes of lake ice receding around the shorelines, as well as walking out onto Raquette Lake's thinning ice and photographing sunset reflections on meltpools on the surface of the melting lake ice! Another interesting springtime subject has been the astronomical conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in the night sky, by far the brightest celestial bodies visible. Night photography brings with it all sorts of technical challenges, such as higher ISO noisy low-light images, which will be greatly improved by next month's release of the new Canon 5d Mark III camera. Of course I'll have to 'invest' in one of these, too! More Adirondack images from this springtime are in my new Adirondack Park III gallery.

Besides some premature spring photography, I've been busy with running the business-side of my photography . If anyone is curious as to what that actually entails, it involves things as diverse as delivering and picking photos up from customers and exhibitions, working with interior designers (the new lobby in the Word of Life Inn poolhouse in Schroon Lake is hanging 12 large photos of mine!), booking accommodation and talking with clients for my upcoming summer Iceland photography tours, writing speeches, designing new Adirondack photo notecard designs, uploading gigabytes of photos to clients, applying to art shows for this summer, and many (less exciting) things (like paying sales tax I collected to New York State). Public speaking is relatively new on this list; I was invited to give a 1 hour presentation on my Treetop Photography in the Adirondacks at the annual Adirondack Sportsmens Dinner in Schroon Lake. Hopefully I kept everyone awake and attentive with my tree-climbing demonstration, in which I pretended the ceiling panel metal framework was a tree branch which I 'lassoed' with my lead line, to then hoist up a climbing rope which I would then normally ascend into the treetop. Don't worry if you missed it, I'm scheduled to give a couple more presentations this year, most notably for the Adirondack Photography Institute partnered with Adirondack Life Magazine at their annual photography weekend seminar held in Lake Placid August 17-19 (more info at I'm speaking on the topic of selling one's photography, and how to grow oneself from mere hobbyist to professional, both artistically and especially commercially. If you decide to come, please introduce yourself at the event or beforehand!

As I write this speech outline, I recall my own story of my photography career and the path that I've been led down, at first by the invisible hand of God, and now more self-directed. I feel incredibly thankful to God for blessing me and opening doors for me. I remember just a couple short years ago I was sitting at my computer with a giant black void in front of me (well actually maybe it was a large black computer screen that turned off after 10 minutes on power-save mode after no keyboard or mouse input), struggling to come up with my next step on how to find more exposure for my work, or how to make a single sale. This contrasts to today, when I have to-do lists on virtual sticky-notes taller than my computer screen, and in some ways the only thing holding me back is my own delay, but I must be thankful for this busyness. I really feel the year 2011 was a turning point for my business; I incorporated my business, led international photography workshops for the first time, and worked with more customers than in all previous years combined since starting in 2008. So, in case you can't make it to that Adirondack Photography Institute event, or work with me personally on a one-on-one situational experiential learning photography outing with me in the Adirondacks, in the next newsletter I'll send out in early summer I'll include a letter I recently wrote to another young man seeking direction in his own life and asking about my story.

Announcements and special offers
It's time to wrap up this newsletter. But first, some announcements:
  • On April 1, 2012, I am increasing my website prices for all mounted photos by around 12%. (not an April Fool's Day joke :-( . This better reflects the true printing costs, as well as inherent value, in my archival-quality photographs. So, be sure to place your order this last week of March to receive the best-possible price! Over the course of 2012 I'll also be elevating my Treetop series of photos into a premium price bracket to better value the uniqueness and inherent risks of this type of photography.
  • I have updated my 2012 Adirondack art/craft show schedule where I will be displaying my work (full list). I'll have a display tent at 12 shows through the Adirondacks region this summer and fall, including Old Forge, Inlet, Remsen, Keene Valley, Bolton Landing, Glens Falls, North Creek, Lake Placid, and more.
  • I have 1 more space available on my summer Iceland photography tour July 23-August 5; everything else is fully booked. These trips combine an intensive itinerary comprehensively covering spectacular regions of Iceland, combined with in-the-field situational personal photographic coaching, and wonderful photo opportunities. I believe there is no other Iceland trip offering such value. Please contact me right away if you're interested in this trip! (trip info)
  • Finally, I'm driving out tomorrow to Colorado, for a period of 1 month, for some backcountry skiing and other recreation. I will always be available to speak with you and fulfill orders and answer questions. I'm also driving out, to be able to return to the Adirondacks in May with a trailer-load of photo inventory, so that I can continue to minimize the costs, especially shipping costs, of my photography and pass on the savings to my customers. If ordering by the first week in April, use coupon code 'MayCOInvRun' on my website to receive free shipping (for Adirondack region customers only), and I'll personally drive your photo back with me in May for personal delivery to you.
Have a great Spring!
Johnathan A. Esper