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Alaska Magazine

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Sometimes you get lucky, and that winning photo practically takes itself. Other times you have to work for it, angling for the best composition or waiting for perfect lighting. Either way, photographers create art that captures the viewer’s eye—and sometimes their heart, as is the casewith our grand prize winner. What we always look for when selecting finalists and then winning images from this contest is, first and foremost, an emotional reaction: Does the picture make us think Wow!? If so, then we look at technical merit such as whether the image is in focus, has a pleasing or surprising composition, or is overprocessed. Blurry, ho-hum, or fake coloring all get an automatic pass. While we appreciate those rare times when every aspect of a scene synchronizes and the photographer is paying attention enough to capture it on the fly, we know the thoughtfulness, time, and attention to detailit requires…

Get Inspired For many people, a trip to Alaska is a once-in-a-lifetime dream fulfilled. For others, it’s a return to one of their favorite places on the planet. And some visit once and decide to make the state their home. There are reasons aplenty to come to the Great Land and explore: An abundance of wildlife, unique cultural experiences, and unparalleled scenery are just a few. Building time into your itinerary to relax and absorb the small delights is always a good idea, too—enjoying quirky cafes, strolling through a boat harbor, groovin’ to some live local music. And if you’ve never been here, we hope these photos nudge you to start planning. Who knows, in just a few short months, you could be watching humpback whales bubble-net feeding or be flightseeing around the summit of Denali. After all, every adventure starts with an inspiration. —Susan Sommer 1. A pair of…

Nome delights visitors year-round Known as a rough-and-tumble, gritty gold rush town and the finish line of the renowned Iditarod race, Nome offers more than precious minerals and mushing. The Seward Peninsula city of roughly 3,600 residents located on Norton Sound in the Bering Sea might be remote, but that doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible. In fact, warming winters have opened up Bering Strait waters for all but the coldest months of the year, leading to construction of the nation’s first deep-water arctic port. Slated to be completed within the next seven years, the $600 million project will allow 4,000-passenger cruise ships, cargo ships, and military vessels to dock 10 boats at a time, providing supplies to isolated outlying villages, protection from the increasing threats of foreign vessels, and additional tourism revenue for a city on the isolated tundra. In addition to major cruise line guests and Iditarod race followers, birders…

How they came to be by Jonathan B. Jarvis & T. Destry Jarvis The following excerpts from National Parks Forever: Fifty Years of Fighting and a Case for Independence (2022, University of Chicago Press), by Jonathan B. Jarvis and T. Destry Jarvis, are shared with permission. They are taken from chapter 2, “Alaska: Doing it Right the First Time.” Jonathan Jarvis was director of the National Park Service from 2009-2017. His brother, Destry, has worked in lands conservation for decades. While traveling thirty miles to another creek or valley in Virginia was an adventure, we vicariously visited wild country through the writings of Zane Grey, Sigurd Olson, and Wallace Stegner. We traveled west with Ward Bond on “Wagon Train” and experienced nature up close with Walt Disney. But Alaska called to us as the ultimate adventure. Little did we know that, one day, we would have the opportunity to not…

Important moments captured in print The images in this archival portfolio prove what we’ve always known: There’s no place on Earth like Alaska. The storied history of our state includes, well, statehood itself, along with catastrophic volcanic eruptions, record-shattering earthquakes, the gold rush, groundbreaking legislation, and the purchase of Alaska from Russia—to name a few. While we couldn’t include every monumental event, we hand-selected a few unique and compelling images to serve as a reminder of the people, places, decisions, and elements of the natural world that have shaped the Great Land. —Michelle Theall Anchorage’s Fourth Avenue looking east after the devastating earthquake of 1964 The massive 9.2 magnitude Good Friday earthquake occurred on March 27. The shaking and subsequent tsunamis and landslides caused more than 100 deaths, and the state sustained $311 million in damages. The quake was the most powerful recorded in North American history. A colossal 200,000…

Behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Michael Melford Text by Emily Mount, photos by Michael Melford. Michael Melford popped open the door of the Piper Super Cub and looked out on an epic wonderland of snow, ice, and vertical rock. He and pilot Paul Claus were idling at some 10,000 feet on a flattish slope deep in the heart of the St. Elias Mountains. Suffering a few misgivings, he jumped out, plunging knee-deep into powdery snow. With a roar, Claus taxied downhill and dropped off the edge of the slope. Then all was silent. Melford was on assignment with National Geographic, photographing Treasures of Alaska, a guidebook. “I had read about Paul as the cowboy pilot of Alaska, one of the best in the state, so I trusted him,” Melford says. “I had to.” When Melford had asked for an air-to-air photo shoot with two planes, Claus replied, “We…

An excerpt from the novel Homestead by Melinda Moustakis Note: This edited excerpt from Chapter 1, “Pioneer Peak, June 1956” is taken from the novel Homestead, with permission of Flatiron Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers. Copyright ©2023 by Melinda Moustakis. God made the trees and men make the kindling, they say. One hundred and fifty acres of white spruce and paper birch, alder, aspen, cottonwood, and willow—spears of evergreen pointed at the sky, and the pale and peeling bark, and the leaves of every branch—all for the taking if the acres are proved. Fell the trees and clear twenty acres of land to seed a crop, raise a cabin with nails and timber, and weather the seasons. This is the way to earn and own the deed. Lawrence stands where the cabin will stand, the marsh and muskeg easing miles toward the marine inlet of Knik Arm, and beyond,…

By photographer James H. Barker The following pages present a tiny fraction of the extensive body of work (largely focused on Alaska Native peoples) created by legendary Fairbanks photographer James H. Barker. Now in his mid-80s, Barker was recently honored as the Rasmuson Foundation’s 2022 Distinguished Artist, the first photographer to receive the prestigious award. His photos, reproduced here from Always Getting Ready: Upterrlainarluta: Yup’ik Eskimo Subsistence in Southwest Alaska, are the result of 18 years spent capturing the intimate moments of the people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to give viewers a glimpse of Native life. Over those years, Barker joined his Yup’ik friends and subjects on whale hunts and trapping trips, in steam baths, and at fishcamp. Though each image represents a single, frozen instant, Barker’s work transcends the individual moment to reveal universal beauty and connection. See more of his work at jamesbarker-photography.com. —Michelle Theall

Young Inupiaq captains provide food for their community Text by Molly Maqpee Lane, Images by Nathaniel Wilder Time stands still when you catch a bowhead whale. Meetings are canceled, work is forgotten about, chores go undone, the kids don’t go to school, and sleep is out of the question.  The only focus is on harvesting the giant mammal. Sometimes it can take hours, sometimes it takes days to put away. It’s such a joyous time that it doesn’t feel like work. Thomas Edison once said, “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” That is what whaling is all about. I am from Point Hope, Alaska. It is the oldest continuously inhabited region in North America. We have always been an Inupiaq subsistence community. Thanksgiving of 2022, my in-laws Jacob and Della Lane Jr. passed down their whaling crew to my husband, Jacob Lane III,…