June 6, 2008

The Photographer

Filed under: — Susan Stevenson @ 2:57 pm

MeIt is difficult to find words which can adequately describe the great passion I have for making photographs. I often tell people that even when I do not have my camera pressed to my eye, I still hear the shutter being triggered in my mind’s eye. While some people may notice the brilliant colors of an autumn day, I see the way a golden leaf contrasts with a dark tree limb. On a summer day, a gaze across a field of wildflowers becomes a mosaic of colors and textures, light and shadow, and softness and sharpness. In my mind, I’m adjusting the f-stop, imagining a point of focus, and composing the image. Even the mundane can become a work of art, if treated with the reverence it deserves.

I’ve been interested in photography ever since I was a young girl. I can thank my grandfather (my “Pop Pop”) for exposing me to what was his passion. Pop Pop was the family photographer – the only family photographer. He was never without his camera bag – with its various lenses, film canisters, filters, flash and light meter, and a myriad of other gear – and I’d steal a look into his bag every chance I got.

Pop Pop had a darkroom in his basement, and when I’d visit, he’d invite me in and point out the different equipment. His enlarger sat perched on a table, different colored trays (white, black and red) held chemicals and wash – the special ingredients which turned tiny strips of negative into prints. A red bulb was screwed into the light in the ceiling, and a dark curtain hung over the door, blocking light from seeping in through the cracks.

He explained how the cyan, magenta, and yellow filters affected the color tone and saturation of the print, and encouraged me to help agitate the blank white papers in the various baths until images magically appeared. I wanted to do that someday!

My first camera was a Kodak 126 Instamatic and it used Magicubes flashbulbs. Later I moved to a 110 film camera. I waited patiently for my mother to have the money to send off my finished rolls of film in the self-mailing bags, and it seemed like forever before the postman delivered the finished product.

When I was 18, I was gifted my first 35mm camera – a Pentax (I still have it). I gradually added lenses to my bag, and started buying rolls of film in bulk. Then I became known to my friends as “the photographer”, and I was expected to bring my camera to every event and gathering. (Of course, I didn’t mind)

When the photography world made the leap to digital, I was thrilled. Being able to see my photo, without having to wait for it to be developed and mailed back to me, fulfilled my preference for instant gratification. Being able to delete anything that didn’t turn out as I planned, saved me a lot of money and time. I was in my glory.

My first digital was a Canon A20 – a good 2.1 megapixels (at the time) with optical and digital zoom. I bought a Canon G2 just before we began our journey to Alaska. I was only in AK about a year (maybe less?) when I realized I needed a more robust digital camera – an SLR so I could buy lenses too. I upgraded to a Canon Digital Rebel (the first one that was released). I burned out the shutter in a little more than a year. Taking 30,000+ frames will do that to some cameras. I made the leap to a “professional” 20D in 2005, and also invested in a huge zoom lens to better capture the bears at Katmai.

A few years later, I upgraded again – to a 40D. I also added additional lenses, one for portraiture, and a wide angle for shooting in low light conditions – which I use for the northern lights and night sky. In May 2010, I purchased a Canon 7D – which also has video capabilities. I’ve enjoyed taking it out in the field, but I sometimes forget that I can shoot video with it. I hope to hang onto the 7D for more than my usual 3 years, but there are no guarantees with how quickly camera manufacturers come out with new models!

I couldn’t live in a more beautiful location for breathtaking landscape and wildlife. While I am pleased with the gear I carry in my backpack, I am convinced that even the most high-tech camera, with all the bells and whistles, can not possibly capture what the eye, the mind, and the soul sees. The photos you see in my gallery are mere representations of what truly lay before me at that one split second in time.

To truly appreciate all that is Alaska, you must see it with your own eyes. Until you can, I shall do the best I can to bring it to you in my photographs.



  1. Susan I may have mentioned this to you before. You bring Alaska out to people that can not be there to see what beautiful country that Alaska is by having your photos here on your web site. I for one have really enjoyed seeing the photos I know I that there isn’t much of a chance that we will ever get up there. Thanks to you I can see the beauty up there by your Photos.
    Please take care Love John and Shirley


    Comment by John & Shirley Strauser — June 8, 2008 @ 12:30 pm

  2. There is so much good about your photography, Susan, that can be said it is difficult to find the precise words to use. You are such an excellent photographer and in my long life-time I’ve known personally only one other person who was a photographer – people, scenery, forensic, malpractice, etc. He was almost but not as good as you are. You are also a sensitive photographer. Kudos to you!!
    Gip and Carmen


    Comment by Carmen and Gip Moore — July 1, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

  3. HI Susan, You’re photos are beautiful. I had a similar exposure to photography, but since I am alot older I had a more primative camera as my ‘first’ – Then I went digital JUST before my trip to Antarctica in 2004. I didnt truly trust or understand digital so I also brought film as well.

    I try to see the beauty in everday things where I live. but driving into the city of Detroit every day Ijust dont see much. PLus the neighborhoods I drive thru does not warrant ‘ getting out of my car’ to explore. Even Geof my 🙁 boyfriend that just died, the cop, even he didnt want to take me some of the places I wanted to photograph & He had and carried a gun (he was a Detroit cop)

    iT IS a joy to see your photos. I wish to purchase one or two when I change decor in my bedroom from IDITAROD to Alaska scenery. How can I do this – purchase photos (not change my decor) ha ha
    thanks susan, carole/MI


    Comment by carole/MI — September 16, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

  4. Sue,
    You are the most gifted photographer on the planet!! I look forward to seeing you photo’s as often as I can. Somethimes looking at them many times over. Thank you for sharing your gift with us!


    Comment by Donna — October 25, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

  5. Dear Susan,
    I am an artist and a friend of Sue Cole’s. She shared your site with me and you truly have a gift. The auroras these last few nights were such an experience, it is difficult to put the emotion into words.
    I am curious about the local photography club you mentioned. Is it possible to join and meet with your group?
    Thanks again for sharing such beauty and wonder.
    Myra Helmer


    Comment by Myra Helmer — April 8, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  6. Susan, having lived in Anchorage in 7/74 to 2/76 while working on Alyeska Pipeline project I recall seeing time photos of winter sunrise thru sunset where the sun never rose much above the horizon.

    Have Grandson doing a report on winter in Alaska and am looking of the sourch of this photo.

    Would you have any suggestions as to where I might might such a pic.

    Appreciation getting any clues on this.

    Thanks, Charles DeBolt


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Charles and thanks for stopping by.

    I found an image that shows the winter sun on solstice, moving across the horizon. It was taken by Todd Paris from UAF. You can see it in this blog: http://edplumb.blogspot.com/2007/12/longest-night-of-year.html

    Also, a local shot a time lapse video of the sun moving along the horizon on winter solstice. You can see it on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhqeJZekoKc

    I hope this helps your grandson with his project! Good luck to him!

    Warm regards,


    Comment by Charles DeBotl — February 5, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  7. Hello, just wondering if I can purchase the picture of the close up with the Fireweed and birch trees? Thanks


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Hi Vince, and thanks for commenting. Can you tell me which photograph you’re referring to? Did you see it in my gallery, or in my blog?



    vince Reply:

    Hi Susan, could you please email me directly. Not to familiar with this “blog stuff. Tried to copy and paste the picture on this comment page but it didn’t work for me. Thanks


    vince Reply:

    Hi Susan, could you please email me directly. Not to familiar with this “blog stuff. Tried to copy and paste the picture on this comment page but it didn’t work for me. Thanks . Okay, its the picture on the very left below this paragraph.

    The town of Circle is at the end of the Steese Hwy, and another 34 miles past Central. The road gets rougher on this final stretch too. Circle sits on the south bank of the Yukon River at the edge of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge and just downstream from the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The town is about 75 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Here are some photos taken along the final stretch of the road:


    Comment by vince schneider — May 15, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  8. Hi Susan! It was truly wonderful to meet you and your husband, Steve, in Sugar Hill at the Hilltop Inn a few short weeks ago. You have inspired me with your gifted photography and your love of Alaska. I’ll be following your blog and perhaps sometime in the future take a trip up to Fairbanks at a time when the auroras are most likely to occur. All the best, Chris


    Comment by Christina Sansone — October 23, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

  9. Your pics are so pretty. I have wanted to experience Alaska for sometime now. I have thought about relocating there. It is a huge climate change and while searching for life in Alaska I came across your pics. THey make me want to pack right now. THank you for sharing.


    Susan Stevenson Reply:

    Thank you Jennifer. If you have any questions about moving to AK, or life here, feel free to email me. I’m quite hooked on life in the Last Frontier!


    Comment by Jennifer — December 10, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

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