My family and I migrate to Alaska every summer and live in a small town called Naknek in the Bristol Bay region. As an outsider and also a Brit Naknek, Alaska is a world away from anything I have ever experienced and even though this is my third year coming here the place still feels wild and wonderful. I can only describe it as Mad Max meets Little House on the Prairie or in this case Little House on the Tundra.
Bristol Bay is a pretty unique place. It is home to the largest wild salmon fishery on Earth and also home to a group of Yup’ik Eskimos who lead a vibrant subsistence lifestyle. While I’m up here I shoot for a few environmental groups like Trout Unlimited and Nunamta Aulukestai.
Last summer I went to a Yup’ik summer fishing camp called Lewis Point to shoot a story for Geographical magazine. Lewis Point is a rustic camp on the banks of the Nushagak River and every summer five Yup’ik families migrate downstream from their village to catch and smoke king salmon. I went back this year to make some more photographs and then on to a few other locations, the results are below.
Sadly the whole of this region is threatened by a proposed open pit mine called Pebble Mine, potentially North America’s largest open pit mine. And a good chunk of my work up here involves creating imagery for the campaign fighting to stop the mine. These new images are part of an effort to photograph some of the key individuals who call this place home and depend on Bristol Bay for their livelihood. I chucked in a couple of behind the scenes images as well.
Below is a little sketch of the set-up we used. This work was shot lean and mean due to power limitations (no electricity) and what we could pack into these remote locations. I also want to point out the use of neutral density graduated filters. I use these little puppies a lot in my work and these images are great examples of when they work their magic. Of course you can always pull the skies back in Lightroom using the graduated filter tool, but nothing beats capturing the data on camera. Bristol Bay has incredible skies, something about being far north just makes them so moody and intense, and I wanted to capture this so grads were a must. Since the images are also going to be used in campaigns to raise awareness about Pebble Mine, a serious and important issue for Bristol Bay people, I wanted to generate a sense of power and moodiness in the imagery that accentuates the seriousness of the issue.
If any of you have any cool shots where you used grads I would love to hear how and why you used them…send them along!