Glacier Bay adventure

Photographer Mark Kelley examines park by land, sea and air

Posted: Sunday, March 05, 2000

The big brown bear was ransacking the Australians' camp when Mark Kelley paddled up.

Kelley was kayaking in Glacier Bay last summer, shooting pictures for his new book ``Glacier Bay National Park: Alaska'' when he heard their calls for help. When he arrived, the campers had retreated to their own kayaks and were floating just off the beach. At one point, the big brownie charged into the water to assert his claim to their camp.


Black oystercatcher


It was a clean camp, though, and when the bear ambled off down the beach, Kelley shadowed him off-shore. The bear jumped in the water, swan around a cliff, and climbed back up on the beach.

``He gave me two great shots,'' Kelley said.

``Glacier Bay National Park: Alaska'' is Kelley's sixth book of photos. The Juneau-based, 46-year-old freelance photographer shot hundreds of rolls of film to get the 148 photographs that appear in the book.

Kelley rafted down the Alsek River, flew over Lituya Bay, kayaked up the east and west arms of the bay, and backpacked and hiked through miles of the park and the outer coast.


Chocolate lilies


He shot icebergs shining like diamonds and vivid oyster catchers sitting on their beach nests, festive Tlingits in full regalia and humble fiddleheads unfurling. Kelley pays respect to skunk cabbage and chocolate lilies as well as bears and eagles.

``I wanted to emphasis the wilderness,'' he said.

Although a few of the photos go back to trips he took in the 1980s, most were taken in the last two years, when Kelley spent months camping in the park.

His photographs are complimented by short essays by writer Sherry Simpson. Simpson, who has authored several books, grew up in Juneau and now teaches journalism in Fairbanks. She said there are plenty of guidebooks on Glacier Bay, and they had no interest in creating another one.


Brown bear, Blue Mouse Cove


``We wanted to give people more of a sense of the place, a feeling of what it was like to be there, and less about pinning it onto a styrofoam board like a butterfly,'' she said.

All but four pictures are shot in Glacier Bay. Kelley said park rules restrict boaters from approaching too close to whales in the park. His images of feeding humpbacks were taken in Icy Strait just outside the park boundary.

Kelley formed a partnership with Goldbelt on the project, and the Juneau-based urban Native corporation served as financial backer. Goldbelt managers run the concessions and many tours in the park, and Kelley said they were fully supportive partners. He retained all artistic control, and the company will continue to help market the book.


Harbor seal mother and pup on iceburg, John Hopkins Inlet


``Glacier Bay National Park: Alaska'' is available at Hearthside Books. A book-signing event is planned for sometime later this month.

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