Harvest Time

Small creatures are working hard this time of year to gather enough material to get them through the winter that’s right around the corner. Days are rapidly getting shorter and pikas and Arctic ground squirrels aren’t wasting any time collecting their stores.

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The blooming of summer continues in full swing with wild geraniums at their peak, along with larkspur, chiming bells, and many others.  Fireweed has begun to add its bright magenta hue as well.  It’s all part of the rush to grow, blossom, and seed is a few short weeks before winter arrives again.

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Another New NEC Monitor

There’s a new professional-level color critical monitor coming soon—the NEC MultiSync PA271Q. It’s been available in Europe for a short while and is listed on B&H for preorder.

NEC is one of the most respected and recommended monitor brands among professional photographers. No in-depth reviews of this new model have surfaced yet comparing it to its immediate predecessor—the venerable PA272W—or pro-oriented units from other brands, but expectations are high. Designed for hardware calibration using NEC’s SpectraView II software and colorimeter, the 271Q provides expanded color space matching and improved connectivity with 10-bit support.

It’s hard to overstate the value of a high-quality monitor for serious photographic work. Using an accurate, reliable, calibrated display makes the whole imaging enterprise vastly more comfortable and efficient. Display size is a personal choice, but many find the 27” category ideal.

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The Colors of Spring

One of the most ubiquitous signs of spring in Southcentral Alaska is the blooming of wild roses. These delightful pink blossoms seems to show up everywhere. There are two species—prickly roses and Nootka roses—the former being the most common. Both develop fruit called hips which are full of vitamin C and are widely gathered for jellies, jams, and teas.

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New (updated) Lenses

One of the mainstays in any collection of 35mm format lenses is the 70-200mm zoom. Decades ago zoom lenses weren’t considered as high-quality as primes at the same focal length, but optical improvements and undeniable convenience have won the day and almost every brand now offers at least one lens in this category.  Canon’s 70-200 “L” models are legendary, and updates to both the f/2.8 and f/4.0 versions have been announced.  It will be very interesting to read critical reviews in the future as to how they compare.  I’ve used both previous models with outstanding results and personally lean toward the f/4.0 version (due to significantly less bulk and weight) unless there’s a real need for the one stop extra light-gathering power.

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Spring Transition

The change from winter to that truncated season in the far north which is kind of all lumped together as spring/summer/early-autumn comes late, but it’s happening now. The brown and gray landscape is rapidly changing to one highlighted by bright chartreuse new leaves, which in just a few days will darken to the deeper greens associated with each particular species. It’s a magical time that with length of daylight already exceeding 17 hours announces “non-winter” with a rush.

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New Dell Laptop

Intel just released their latest 8th Generation mobile processors, code named “Coffee Lake-H”, some with 6 cores, and an i9 version that Intel claims can provide “the ultimate content creation experience” in a laptop. Several laptop manufacturers also announced new models with these chips, including an updated XPS 15 from Dell. The XPS 15 has gained a strong reputation as a photographer’s mobile Windows workstation (John Shaw uses one), and this model (9570) raises the bar even higher. All tool choices are compromises, but if one is looking for a powerful 15” Windows laptop with a screen covering the Adobe RGB color space, high-end discrete graphics, very fast storage, lots of RAM, and only weighing about 4.5 pounds, this is definitely one to consider.

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Spring Migration

Waterfowl are beginning to show up again on their annual flights north. A small patch of open water in Anchorage called Spenard Crossing is one of the better spots to observe early arrivals. Today a pair of trumpeter swans, several common goldeneyes, one Barrow’s goldeneye, a bufflehead, and a pair of common mergansers worked the open leads between snow-covered banks of ice still covering much of the impound. Three gulls were also sitting atop light poles along the roadway. Geese and terns will be here soon as well.

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First day of spring and breakup is definitely underway in Anchorage. There’s still lots of snow in the Chugach Mountains east of town though and it will be some time before things begin to green up, but migrating waterfowl are expected in just a couple of weeks.

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Winter Finches

While many avian species migrate out of Alaska to more temperate climes during the winter, there are quite a number that remain in the Anchorage area year-round. Among them are Common Redpolls, colorful small finches of the Arctic tundra and boreal forest that tend to travel in busy flocks. Populations can vary widely with their erratic migration in search of food supply, at times reaching unusually large numbers termed “irruptions.” Feeders with nyjer or thistle seed are at the top of the list for attracting these energetic foragers.

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