Whenever possible, I offer my meteorological abilities and skills to my clients to advise when to shoot to get the best possible conditions. This has been a big asset for my tourism clients. Many shoots, however, have to be scheduled far beyond accurate forecasting range. In Alaska, based on climatology and years of experience, I plan 7 days on location to get one evening or morning of nice light. Getting more than one nice day in a given week is a bonus! This is especially true anywhere in coastal Alaska and around Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park.
The longest I’ve had to wait to get a shot has been 12 days in the very inappropriately named Dry Bay! The mission was to get a series of shots of the equally inappropriately named Fairweather Range and and the glaciers that flow into Alsek Lake in the northwest corner of Glacier Bay National Park. Mt. Fairweather is one of the loftiest mountains rising from sea level to 15, 300’ in only a few miles.
In mid August we flew in to Dry Bay from Haines (in the rain) where we met Brabazon Expeditions to boat us up the Alsek River to the park boundary where we planned to canoe, camp and shoot for 7 days. After 2 days of continuous rain with more rain forecast for the next 5 (we had a marine radio) we decided to paddle the 11 miles back to Dry Bay to hole up at Brabazon’s wood frame and tarp roof bunkhouse.
That proved to be a good call. On the three hour paddle back to Brabazon in a hard driving continuous rain dressed in $1200 each of high tech Gore-tex raingear and fleece base layers and we still got soaked (mainly from perspiration) and were border line hypothermic upon arrival.
Monitoring the marine radio daily, horrified by the forecasts, we were pinned for 10 days waiting for the weather to clear! We lived off of food left behind by rafting parties who didn’t want the weight for the flight back. During the 10 day wait, Yakutat, the nearest reporting station 30 miles west, reported 16 inches of rainfall which is more than a year’s worth of rain in Taos!
On day 11 with a forecast of brief clearing, we were shuttled back up river in early afternoon. We shot like crazy spending the night on Gateway Knob for sweeping views of the lake and Mt. Fairweather then paddling back down to Dry Bay again where FlyDrake would pick us up and return us to Haines before the weather closed in again.
Why did we stay so long? I am tenacious when it comes to getting my shots and just hate giving up. Another trip would have cost more in both time and expense than just waiting it out even though our trip length doubled. Being flexible allowed us to adjust to the prolonged wet weather regime. In the end, we got the shots and that’s what counts the most.