Capturing wild-eyed Alaska

Self-taught wilderness photographer opens gallery for First Friday

Posted: Friday, October 02, 2009

It was at age 12 that Daniel Buckscott fell in love with Southeast Alaska. Perhaps it was the familiar ebb and flow of the tides that reminded him of his childhood home near Chesapeake Bay. Perhaps it was the miles of unseen wilderness that piqued his curiosity, his sense of adventure and granted him reprieve from bustling East Coast cities. Or maybe it was a bit of both, and then some.

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Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Because upon turning 18, this self-taught wilderness photographer applied to a single university: the University of Alaska Southeast. He's called Juneau "home" ever since. In fact, it's here he and his wife Jennifer have decided to open a gallery, Wilderness Peaks, to highlight Buckscott's work.

"I love Juneau. I think it has the perfect mix, that small town feel," he said.

It's here he pursues his passion for photography, adventure and satiates his need to experience Mother Nature to her fullest.

"It's a journey. Every picture I take I'm trying to evolve how I capture the world around me," said Buckscott, now 26.

His photos represent seasons at their peak, unobstructed vistas and Alaska's wildlife in telephoto clarity. Buckscott's work illustrates fleeting cloud formations that only arrive on the tails of a retreating storm. Many resonate the quiet solitude and deep reflection found only in Alaska's outskirts. Fall colors are vibrant punches of orange, red and yellow. Sunrises are fiery horizons. And detailed images of flowers, ferns and aquatic life are devastatingly clear.

And like anyone exploring remote locations, there is always a tinge of the unexpected.

Luck was on Buckscott's side the morning he took a stroll in Katmai National Park. That day he had but one task: photograph a bear at sunrise on the beach. His meandering led him to pause next to a log, but upon further inspection reality proved otherwise. This log was not made of wood. Instead it was covered in the chocolate fur of a still slumbering brown bear.

"I got my bear photo at sunrise," he said. "Next time I'll bring my flashlight."

Good fortune again found him the day his seat belt came undone.

"I was doing some helicopter work, up at 10,000 feet with the door of the helicopter off, hanging out ..." he said.

He didn't know his watch had unlatched his waist belt.

"I've learned to duct tape my seat belt shut," he said.

And with him on every "adventure," as he calls it, is his wife Jennifer.

"My wife is with me basically everywhere we go. We just have a great time and we both have such a deep love for nature," Buckscott said. "We just like to go out and have fun, experience the world. I just happen to bring my camera with me."

She was the subject in his latest award-winning photograph of a kayaker on the Juneau Ice Field.

"The yellow of the kayak against the deep blue of the water was just amazing," he said. "I couldn't have done it without her."

And for that image he was chosen out of over 20,000 entries as a highly honored photographer at the 2008 Windland Smith Rice Awards.

Buckscott's work has been featured at local exhibits and museums. From 2004 to present one may have seen his images at the Juneau Douglas City Museum, the Ad Lib Gallery, KTOO radio station, Juneau Arts and Culture Center, the Alaska State Museum and the Juneau Public Market, to name a few.

Tonight Buckscott and his wife celebrate the opening of their new gallery located in the Merchant's Wharf downtown.

He wanted to make it a place that was inviting and relaxing, without the stark carbon copy white walls found in many other galleries.

"The walls are a deep brown, the floors have bright rugs," he said. "It's just really about spotlighting my photos and we just wanted it to be a place where people can gather and have life music."

And in honor of October's First Friday, the couple are inviting the public to view exclusive never-released images, share hors d'oeuvres and wine catered by the Hangar and listen to live music by their friend's band "Pembroke and Park." The gallery will be open tonight from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

• Outdoors editor Abby Lowell can be contacted at 523-2271 or abby.lowell@juneauempire.com.



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