Being a part of The Break Free Program has been a really exciting phase in my photography journey. It has been a little over a month since my last blog post, so here’s an update on how things are going.

My project is showcasing the awe of the Alaskan winter landscape and night sky. Living in Anchorage, Alaska opens the door for a lot of different kinds of landscapes and areas to shoot due to its proximity to 3 mountain ranges, a rainforest, and the ocean. Lately I’ve found myself shooting a lot of day and night photos in the Chugach Mountain Range, a state park just North of Anchorage full of glacier fields and valleys.

The Northern Lights are something I’ve really been hoping to include in this project, which is much easier said than done. Waiting for clear skies, high solar activity (what causes the lights), and darkness to overlap is extremely difficult. For me, it has resulted in almost two dozen late nights with little to no results…until this past weekend. The lights show was the brightest I have ever seen. I decided to go to a frozen river to add scenery to the sky.

OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
14mm | 10s | F2.8 | ISO 2500

It was a beautiful location, but conditions were far from perfect. It was hailing and 35pmh winds were coming close to knocking my tripod over. The funniest part was realizing my knees froze to the ice from kneeling too long. It was a crazy night!

These shots will play a big part in the theme I’m trying to create, and I’m thrilled to get to include the Aurora in my project.

Milky Way Landscape
OM-D E-M1 Mark III | M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
12mm | 20s | F2.8 | ISO 2000

One of the biggest things I’ve learned so far has had to do with composition. It’s easy to get to a location and just mindlessly start taking photos. This project has caused me to slow down and think through my shots more. Not only do I find myself taking better shots, I also notice compositions and subjects that I never would have thought of before. I think this is the skill that has improved my project the most.

Another challenge that I’m learning to navigate is shooting conditions. Southern Alaska on average has over 250 overcast cloudy days per year. This means conditions for astrophotography and good sunsets are far and few between.

To make things even more complex, daylight here changes dramatically in the wintertime. With only 6 hours of daylight, golden hour happens at totally different times. Such limited light has taught me to utilize every hour I get.

This project has been very enjoyable yet challenging. It has pushed me not only creatively but physically. Taking photos in Alaska has meant thigh-deep snow, walking across ice, and -12°F temperatures. Thankfully, I have a camera that’s able to endure all of the craziness I put it through while still being lightweight. The E-M1 Mark III has survived getting dropped in snow, sub-zero temps, and a lot more.

The next few weeks I plan on photographing the Alaskan coast and more Auroras –weather permitting. The Break Free Program has grown me as a photographer, and I can’t wait to share my final project with you next month!