Ahhhhh! The glorious, looooong summer days of Alaska! They are genuinely a taste of paradise…at least for me. It’s often said that there are essentially only two seasons in Alaska: winter and summer. There is a lot of truth in that statement, as the late autumn and early spring months feel and look like winter…with some exception from year to year. Those not-
The images featured in this gallery are reminders of those vibrant, cherished summer days! I find myself looking at these photographs often during the winter months to keep myself motivated for what lies ahead. While I capture hundreds, if not thousands, of images each summer, the ones featured here are, again, my favorite and most popular to date. Most of these photos were taken on Kodiak, which I personally feel is one of the most beautiful and photogenic places in all of Alaska.
During the summer of 2013 I spent a month or so with a wonderful family at their remote salmon fishing camp in Uyak Bay, on the south end of Kodiak. I was out there with them to help with whatever work I could, but also to regain my sanity and get my life back on course, as I had just been though a life-
As I write these words, it is a spectacular, cool, summer morning. I’m seated on an old, weather-
Drifting in the rolling blue waters before me are salmon fishing skiffs, gill nets protruding out from the banks, tendering boats, and bright orange buoys marking the location of strategically placed gear. In the depths below them are thousands of salmon on the way to their spawning grounds, halibut and cod roaming the ocean floor, and a myriad of different species of fish. Along the other side of the bay, I see the deceivingly calm water being interrupted by the spouting and breaching of a variety of whales, both monstrously big and surprisingly small. In the shallow coves and sheltered beaches around them are sea otters floating on their oily backs amidst the rocking waters, seemingly without a care in the world. Resting on top of tiny islands that are emerging from the lowering tide are chubby harbor seals. Alone, or with their families, they sun themselves and take a break after the morning hunt for fish.
Washed up and scattered about on the beach are starfish, crabs, clams, and shellfish of all kinds. Mixed in with them are slimy, gelatinous jellyfish, huge bundles of tangled bull and finger kelp, and the remains of other creatures that became food for the more dominant. Speeding across the surface of the water like fighter planes in attack formation are groups of colorful puffins, and a great variety of waterfowl. High above them are graceful eagles, crafty ravens and crows, acrobatic seagulls and larger birds, all in search of a bite to eat and a place to rest for a while.
Nestled in the tall grass, thick weeds, and bushy terrain of the land around me, I hear an orchestra of songbirds, each sweetly whistling their own unique tune in rhythm with the tempo of the crashing waves. Yet, when all perform together, it is not atonal bedlam, but rather a perfect, natural harmony. In a similar manner, decorating the hills and the valleys are summer wildflowers of all shapes, sizes, and colors…each one distinctly different from the next, yet when combined together on the canvas of creation, there is not a mess of cluttered, abstract confusion, but rather a masterpiece of organized, artistic allure. Among the blades of grass and colorful blooms, there is yet another intricate world in motion. Busy bees and countless insects are all out and about, hard at work, and making the most of the long Alaskan days.
In miles upon miles of secretive wilderness behind me are blacktail deer cautiously moving along their well-
When I pause to take in a deep breath of fresh island air, I can sense the pleasing bouquet of burning firewood from the camp stove and the fragrance of the wildflowers mixed with the salty sea breeze. I can detect the scent of fish, both fresh and old, the pollen from the summer vegetation and the budding trees. When I walk through the untamed land around me, I can smell the musky odor of nearby bears and the rotting bits of flesh left on the bones from one of their previous meals. With a closer olfactory inspection, I can detect where the deer have recently moved through. I can catch a whiff of their freshly cut tracks in the earth and the sharply nipped ends of newly chewed vegetation.
In such a setting, all five senses are pleasingly stimulated to the maximum. The beauty of this place penetrates the core of my being, and into the recesses of my soul. In a word, it is paradise, or at least as close as I have been able to get to it here on earth. How I love the summers of Alaska!
When mid to late June arrive, much of the Alaskan landscape is decorated with beautiful lupines. Kalsin Bay is an area on Kodiak that gets an unbelievable, massive amount of these stunning wildflowers. This is perhaps my most popular Alaska summer image to date. I like to think that it speaks for itself.
When I moved to Kodiak Island in 2011, I did not waste any time exploring my new home. Whenever I had a few hours free, I’d hop in my truck and take off for whatever adventure I could find. I’ll never forget the first time I explored the Chiniak Bay area, which is one of the locations where the short road system ends. I was simply blown away by the beauty of that location. While I have photographed many landscapes and seascapes out there over the years, these are my favorites.
When friends tell me of their travel plans to visit a tropical beach somewhere, I always try my best to convince them to abandon that idea and head north to Alaska instead. We have hundreds upon hundreds of miles of beaches up here! Sure, it’s a little cooler than the Caribbean, but you can experience total solitude, with no other people and no distractions for miles around! Not to mention, we have so much more to see on our beaches in Alaska! While you are kicking back in your lounge chair with beverage of choice in hand, you may see a pod of orcas hunting down a sea lion, or a massive humpback breaching in the distance! You will most likely see eagles and a great variety of birds flying over above you, you’ll see salmon jumping out of the water as they make their way to a nearby river mouth. Blacktail deer, buffalo, caribou, and a host of other critters might make an appearance. And, if you are lucky, you may even have a 1000 pound bear come lumbering along to say “hello” or feast on a washed up whale carcass down the line. The possibilities are endless! These two beach images are from two of my favorite locations…where I have regularly seen many of the things I just described.
© 2017 Joseph F. Classen -
I captured these two images during the summer of 2016 while on one of many adventures along the Katmai Coast. Katmai is a wonderful location, with an abundance of bears and other wildlife, spectacular scenery, and many glaciers…such as the ones pictured here.
Salmon fishing in Alaska is one of the things that we residents, as well as visitors, long for all winter long! Whether it is for commercial, subsistence, or sport fishing purposes, life revolves around salmon in Alaska…especially the coastal areas. These are two of my favorite fishing images that capture the essence of that fishing fever!
One of the many things that keep me busy during the summer months is a guide service that I operate. I spend many hours taking clients from all over the world to the most spectacular areas on Kodiak for them to photograph and enjoy the land where I am so blessed to live. I don’t bring along my camera gear while I am with clients, as I want to focus 100% on them capturing the images they want. I have to admit though, there are many outings that I really, really, really wish I had my own camera handy.
One particular summer, after many weeks and many outings with my photography guide clients, I finally had a day to do some shooting myself. I got up very early and made the rounds to some of the best locations I had been taking clients to recently. It was such a joy to rediscover how much fun it is, how refreshing, and how life-
These two images were also captured during my time in Uyak Bay. There was an endless variety of subjects to photograph out there and compositional ideas flowed like the invigorating waters of the many nearby mountain streams.
There are many magnificent monoliths that protrude out of the coastal waters all around Alaska. I always enjoy studying their features, and if possible, getting up close for a hands-
While the coastal areas, beaches, and rivers of Alaska are full of vibrant color and contrast during the summer months, the deep green spruce forests are as well. The first time one experiences wandering through such a place, with its thick moss, beams of cascading light, and overwhelming sense of stillness, one can’t help but to think they are genuinely in some sort of magical forest. It is an experience I never grow tired of and thoroughly enjoy sharing with others. These are two of my most popular summer spruce forest images.
Kodiak Island is one of the most historically rich areas of Alaska. Among many other noteworthy details, Kodiak was home to one of the Russian Orthodox Church’s most beloved saints: Saint Herman. Between 1808 and 1818 Father Herman left the main island of Kodiak in order to live on a smaller, adjacent island of the archipelago known as Spruce Island. St. Herman referred to it as the “New Valaam.” He remained on Spruce Island for the remainder of his life, where he cared for orphans, ran a school for native children and continued his missionary work. Many miracles are attributed to the Saint, and every year the local Orthodox Church, Holy Resurrection Cathedral, where St. Herman’s relics are now preserved, operates a pilgrimage over to Spruce Island for a day of prayer, fellowship, etc. I was honored to make the pilgrimage a couple years ago.
There is a long path through the woods that leads to a chapel and St. Herman’s original place of burial. Along that prayerful path there are many beautiful, weathered icons adorning the massive spruce trees. This image is of one that particularly caught my eye, and remains a wonderful memory of such a treasured experience.
The many wildflowers that cover the landscape of Alaska are a stunning sight to see! I’ve captured many images of the many species of flowers from many different parts of Alaska over the years, but these three have continually risen to the top as favorites among my audience.
Photographers always pay attention to the reflections in the water around them, as they make a fantastic compositional element. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which way is up, and which way is down. Such is the case with this hidden lake I came across while exploring southeast Alaska’s Prince of Wales Island. It was a beautiful, “bluebird day,” as they say, and it was so calm that the reflection was truly mesmerizing. The other image here is of Anton Larson Bay, on Kodiak, which is another spot to capture some great reflection images of the Alaska landscape.
Alaska Wall Art
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