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on Jul 30, 2013 in Landscape Photography

A Hoary Moment

Jake and I had been up on the Arctic Plain for a four days chasing the never before photographed Alaskan Marmot. As part of that project were getting photos by us of Hoary Marmots, a population not habituated. For example, you can basically pet the Hoary Marmots in Denali at Savage Rock as well as many other locations. The Hoary Marmot range is south of the Yukon River, the Alaska Marmot is north of the Yukon River but really now is just north side of the Brooks Range. Well, the biologists knew about this one Hoary Marmot colony not too far north of Fairbanks but way in the hell up a mountain and away from anybody. So Jake and I made the trek to spend time with them. The plan was to spend a couple of days at the colony.

Hoary Marmot 0502

The key phrase with this entire project is, “that was the plan.” Mother Nature has a mind of her own and when you combine that with politics and money, well nough said. Eating blueberries we picked as we climbed, we reached the rock out crop that is the home for the colony. We were guided by the two biologists who, once we were in place went back down the hill and left us to our photography. Now marmots have really only a couple of predators, the most common being Golden Eagles (since we don’t fly, we don’t look like them) and bears (which we could be mistaken for). So like normal, for the first few hours, the good light time, we saw only the occasional eye staring at us from a rock crevice. By late afternoon, a good 6-7 hours into our shoot, they started to go about their daily routine within site of our lenses. What you’ll see in the video is the fun unfold. Many have heard me joke about flying dust spots. That reference normally pertains to gulls flying about. In this video though, flying dust spots take on a whole new meaning! Those aren’t dust spots…them are flies!

Alaska Marmot 0382

The Alaskan Marmot for comparison

All the still shooting was done with the D3x. For video I swapped out the D3x for the D3s with both stills and video being shot with 600VR2 with TC-14e mounted on a Wimberley / Gitzo, carrying the entire rig over my shoulder through the forest and up and down that mountain. That’s because if we came across something like a Wolverine (which were in the area), I didn’t want to miss a shot taking time to set up. That’s my general MO. I did the editing on the iMac with all the vid residing on the ioSafe N2 and doing the editing right in Premiere Pro CS7. With the way the day turned out, we didn’t make the trek back up the next day. While it was a really, really, slow start, the end of the day was great! One of the Hoary Marmots ended up coming right up to me so with that, Jake & I knocked out the rest of the photos we needed for the project. And those flies you see in the video, lucky for us they only plagued the marmots, they left us alone.