Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts

Monday, October 21, 2019

Reviewing Alaska Photoventures: Season 1

In Alaska Photoventures, Dan Redfield explores Alaska through photography. This is an unscripted photography series in which each episode takes place on a different location in breathtakingly beautiful Alaska via a different mode of transportation (i.e. kayaking, hiking, biking, etc). This series hits both my curiosity about Alaska and my enjoyment of beautiful photography.


Reviewing Alaska Photoventures

I initially clicked on Alaska Photoventures with the thought that it would be a tutorial on photography in Alaska. While there are some general tips, it truly was focused on Dan's adventuring in Alaska and displaying those interesting places via his drone videos and photography. 

The episodes of season one include:
  1. Knik Glacier ATV Adventure
  2. Jet Ski to Blackstone Glacier
  3. Downhill Mountain Biking in Hatcher Pass
  4. Exploring a WW2 Fort in Seward
  5. Fly Fishing on the Kenai River
  6. Super Cub to a Floating Ice Cave
  7. Nighttime Kayaking
  8. Snow Machine Jumping w/Arctic Cat Athletes

I enjoyed all of the episodes, especially the kayaking episodes but I think Downhill Mountain Biking in Hatcher Pass is my favorite. Perhaps because it also includes some photos of nearby Independence Mine. Perhaps because Hatcher Pass is amazingly beautiful. Perhaps because guest Matt Sanders has such a great attitude and big personality.  Probably a combination of all of the above.

When shooting the riders on the biking trail, Dan noted that the sky was very bright but the light was not getting to the trail in the pass. He described it as "super hot blown out sky and then a really dark foreground".  Dan notes that he had to adjust for this so that he could get both some details of the riders and in the sky. He shows a photo of the examples of the different settings. However, he does not give an actual ISO setting or any other numbers (sorry, I'm only a very amateur photographer so my vocabulary here is lacking). Some people who are looking at this series as a tutorial may be disappointed by the lack of the actual settings. 

There is a chance that I like this series more than other people might because Dan Redfield and friends put me in mind of my sons. Also, visiting Alaska is on my bucket list. But honestly, I think that a variety of people will enjoy this series; viewers who have been to Alaska and want to reminisce, viewers who have always wanted to visit this beautiful state but have not yet been able to, and photographers at many levels of ability. 

Related Links:

Amazon Prime. I watch this series on Amazon Prime. I LOVE Amazon Prime for many reasons. But one of those reasons is because I refuse to pay a cable bill. I want to invest my finances elsewhere. With my Roku television and with Amazon Prime, Youtube, and Sling, I have more things than I can watch on any given day. 




Dan Redfield's Official Page. Learn more about Dan Redfield here

The photographers of Review This! I am realizing how much the Review This Reviews writers are photo-adventurers. Mary Beth in particular takes us on her lighthouse photo-adventures and shares photography tips. 


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Thursday, April 18, 2019

On Call in the Arctic - Book Review

On Call in the Arctic
I have been on a medical memoir jag lately, and On Call in the Arctic: A Doctor's Pursuit of Life, Love, and Miracles in the Alaskan Frontier, has certainly whetted my appetite for more.  Part Northern Exposure, part MacGyver, this is the perfect read for anyone who enjoys the kind of adventures that can only take place off the beaten path.  Though the story takes place in the Alaskan frontier of the 1970's, its themes of cultural divides, and racism, along with an undercurrent of hostility, make this a very timely book.

As Dr. Thomas Sims is about to enter his pediatric surgical residency, his status suddenly changes overnight when he is informed that he is about to be sent overseas to serve within a M.A.S.H. unit in Vietnam.  With a wife nine-months pregnant, and a two-year-old daughter, Sims is relieved to be given an alternative.  He can choose to accept a plum military placement as a U.S. Public Health Service physician in Anchorage, Alaska.  Not only does that mean that Dr. Sims can keep his family together, and be stateside for the impending birth of his son, but Sims is also offered the position of his dreams—Chief of Pediatric Surgery in a well-equipped urban hospital.

Perfect, right?  Well, not so fast.  Upon arriving with his family in Anchorage, Sims is shocked to receive new orders to report to Nome, Alaska, where he will be the only doctor in a very isolated setting.  Not only will Dr. Sims serve the remote outpost of Nome, but he will also be responsible for the medical needs of thirteen outlying Eskimo villages. 

This is where things get mighty interesting.  Imagine the shock, if you have been trained in state-of-the-art medicine, to enter a medical world without adequate facilities, with very few supplies, and almost no support.  Not only that, but a major scandal which occurred during the previous physician's tour of service has created the kind of mistrust and prejudice that will make relationship-building almost impossible.

The most fascinating element of this memoir involves the stories of frightening, and yet exhilarating, medical emergencies.  How do you save the life of a patient whose appendix is about to explode when you don't have an operating room, the right supplies, or a surgical team?  How do you deliver a huge baby in distress when a C-section isn't an option?  This is where Dr. Sims has to use a combination of intuition and MacGyver-like ingenuity to save the day.

I can't help but believe his time in the Alaskan bush made Thomas Sims a better doctor.  Medical training in perfect conditions is one thing.  Learning to improvise in the heat of a life-or-death emergency is another.  To be able to master both the art and science of medical service requires a rare gift.  The beauty of this story is in watching that gift emerge.

From harrowing medical procedures, to death-defying bush plane and snowmachine travel in wicked weather conditions, this book has it all.  Though the harsh conditions and interpersonal divides take their toll, On Call in the Arctic is a book that dwells in the miracles that can happen in the midst of hardship, misunderstandings, and the messiness of living outside your comfort zone.

I recommend this memoir to anyone who enjoys living, or living vicariously, the kind of life that takes one to the wilder side of existence.  There is something essential to be gained when we leave the safe confines of a predictable way of life.  Somewhere out there are brave new worlds to be found and explored.

Reading this book is one way to step into a world where the past may inform the future, especially given the common threads between our current societal struggles and those with which Dr. Sims wrestled.  Here's to finding our way to a brave new tomorrow. 





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Monday, July 30, 2018

Reviewing Northern Lights by Nora Roberts

Reviewing Northern Lights by Nora Roberts
I enjoy books written by Nora Roberts, specifically the romantic suspense books that she writes. Northern Lights is at the top of my list of my favorite books. Recently, I've been so tired that it has been difficult to concentrate on new material and find myself stuck reading the same paragraphs night after night. I decided to read something familiar and that wouldn't require so much concentration but couldn't find my print copy of Northern Lights. I looked to the internet for a digital copy. Because Nora Roberts is a prolific writer, with well over 200 titles published, I found that this book may be lost among them so I decided to highlight one of my favorite stories by this author.


Northern Lights in Lunacy, Alaska


Ignatious Burke (Nate) is a Baltimore cop who accepts a job in Lunacy, Alaska. The baggage he brings, that doesn't fit in his carry-on bags, includes the trauma of watching his partner die on the street in Baltimore. Nate can't shake those feelings of guilt. So he accepts a job in a tiny, remote Alaskan town. So remote that he arrives by small plane.


"Strapped into the quivering soup can laughingly called a plane, bouncing his way on the pummeling air through the stingy window of light that was winter, through the gaps and breaks in snow-sheathed mountains toward a town called Lunacy, Ignatious Burke had an epiphany.
He wasn't nearly as prepared to die as he had believed." - excerpt from Northern Lights 

As you would expect, in Lunacy, there is a cast of eccentric characters. To be expected as the 500+ residents of Lunacy refer to themselves as Lunatics. Nate's job duties include, but are not limited to, Moose versus vehicle incidents, taking care of drunks, and watching over his quiet little town. Quiet until the remains of a body - clearly murdered - is found preserved in an ice cave.

The murder victim is Meg's father. 

Meg was born and raised in Lunacy, is a bush pilot, and is quite able to fend for herself. She lives with her dogs, outside of town. Meg is described by some reviewers as unlikable and cold. I describe her as efficient. She is not needy or clingy. Meg begins in a casual physical relationship with Nate but over time it begins to become a more meaningful connection. 

Like small town life, the story line is in no rush. Other reviewers refer to the story line as a "gradual climb" and a "slow burn". I agree and I would add that it is comfortable. When Meg's father's body is found the story begins to become more tense and we begin to find reason take a closer and more suspicious look at the many eccentric residents of Lunacy.  

Who has killed Mr. Galloway - keeping the secret for all these years and walking the snowy streets with the unsuspecting Lunatics of Lunacy, Alaska? And now that the body has been found, who will the killer go after next in order to cover his/her/their tracks?


Additional things to consider about Northern Lights  


Because I am recommending a book that won't be everyone's cup of tea, I feel I should add a few side notes and warnings.  

  • There is a bit of "gore" (there's been a couple of murders after all - one in Alaska and one on Baltimore). 
  • There is profanity. 
  • There are a couple of sex scenes (4 sex scenes for a total of 10 pages is what another reviewer counted). 
  • This novel was written years ago, about a setting years before that (published in 2004, with a journal entry in the book dated February 12, 1988). It is not PC by some standards today.
  • There is also a review that reports a dislike for how the Alaskan residents are portrayed. 
This story will not be everyone's style. It is mine. I like gritty and a bit of gore. Swearing typically doesn't bother me. I tend to like my fiction slightly caricaturized - after all, why read a story if the character is as mundane and boring as I am? And finally, I am very familiar with people who talk, think, and behave just like the people of Lunacy. So this level of alleged political incorrectness was not shocking to me. But I have read a couple of reviews (out of hundreds) in which readers seemed to be significantly triggered so I felt I should give this bit of information in the interest of full disclosure.

If you are curious, but not sure about the story, Amazon provides a sizable "look inside" sample. If the story sounds intriguing but you aren't quite sure, take a peek at the Northern Lights free sample. 

I enjoyed this story, characters, and setting very much. I have read this book multiple times and have it downloaded to begin again. In my opinion, reading about snowy Alaska during the tired, heat-wave days of summer is a great escape. 




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Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - Book Review

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - Book Review
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Kristin Hannah, author of the runaway bestseller, The Nightingale, has yet another instant New York Times Bestseller in her new novel, The Great Alone.

It's 1974.  Turmoil abounds.  Think Watergate, the Munich Olympics massacre, Patty Hearst's kidnapping, and Vietnam.  Despite the great uneasiness of the times, our country's immense angst is no match for that which churns within Ernt Allbright, recently returned prisoner of war.

In search of escape from what Allbright perceives as external madness, he loads up the VW van and moves his family off-grid to Alaska's remote wilderness.  For a few idyllic weeks of summer, there is bliss in the Allbright's ramshackle cabin.  Just as Alaskan summers are the most fleeting of seasons, the much-needed respite known by Ernt's wife, Cora, and teen daughter, Leni, will disintegrate with the eternal darkness of the Arctic winter.  It is in the midst of Ernt's downward spiral that the women in his life will learn the truest lessons about what it means to survive, to love, and to find yourself.

Hannah's descriptions of Alaska's raw beauty are breathtaking.  It is here that her writing soars.  Having spent significant time immersed in the splendor of the last frontier (her family owns an adventure lodge there), the author has an intimacy that draws the reader into her own authentic wilderness experience.  Even when the circumstances in the story were bleak, or daunting, I found myself wanting to pack up and leave for the Great Alone.

The book's title comes from a poem by Robert W. Service:
"Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear, and the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear... "
It is that awful clarity, and the many different kinds of alone, that make this a powerful story of forging the only kind of connectedness that really matters.











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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review

The Wedding that Wasn't


We meet Kate Evans, protagonist of Touching the Clouds, on the day that was supposed to be her wedding day. A week before, she had told Richard, the man she was to marry, that she feels a need to move to Alaska to become a bush pilot. Richard is hurt and not ready to give up on marrying her. Her parents don't completely understand, either, and it's hard for Kate to explain. She likes Richard a lot. She doesn't enjoy hurting him. She just doesn't think she loves him enough to marry him.

Kate wants to get away from all that reminds her of the awful day she "killed" her best friend Alison. Kate was seventeen then. She had talked her friend into flying with her in her father's plane. The weather had been fine, with clear skies, when they started out. But when they got to Rimrock Lake it was foggy. She didn't turn back even though she knew she should. They had crashed into the lake, which sucked the plane down into the icy waters. For seven years Kate has blamed herself for Alison's death and is sure everyone else in town blames her, too. She want to go where  no one knows about the accident.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Image in Public Domain Edited with Text from Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon.
Created on https://getstencil.com/app/


Right after the accident, she was afraid to fly again, but her dad, an excellent pilot who had taught her to fly, helped her to get back in a plane and resume flying once again. Now she is 25 and wants to do something she believes matters -- something more than just getting married and having babies. Her mother warns that she can't let her past rule her present.  She replies,

As long as I stay here, everything is about the past. I need to start over in a place where I can prove myself, a place where I'm free to live without shadows of that horrible day dogging me.
Now, as she's about to get into her Bellanca Pacemaker and head for Alaska, she leans against her father Bill -- the one who taught her to fly and has always understood her. Her feelings are mixed as she prepares to leave her parents and the apple farm in Yakima. The angry roar of Richard's truck as he left moments ago, after one last attempt to keep her home, still sticks in her mind. She wonders if she will regret her decision.

She climbs into the plane. Her father cranked it for her, she pulled on her helmet, and checked the gauges one last time, and took off. The year was 1935.

A New Life in Alaska


Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Chugach Mountains Near Anchorage from the Air,
Courtesy of Frank Kovalchek, CC 2.0 


When Kate landed in Anchorage, she spent the first night in a hotel she could not really afford. The next day she applied for a job at the local mercantile. She knew she probably wouldn't get a job as a pilot right away and meanwhile she would need to support herself.

When Albert Towns, the owner of the store, interviewed her, she admitted she really wanted to be a bush pilot, but recognized that probably would take some time. Albert and his wife Helen were OK with that, saying that if she found work as a pilot, she could work part-time around her flying hours. The couple also said she could stay in a room at the back of the store. The arrangement worked well for all of them. They became close friends.

One of the first customers Kate helped in the store was Paul Anderson, who lived in Bear Creek in a rather isolated cabin. He came to town a couple of times a year to stock up on supplies. He had come from San Francisco but no one knew much about why he came to Alaska. The reader learns his wife back home, Susan, had died. No one knew how he had earned his living in California. In Bear Creek he was trapping animals for their meat and fur.

The reader can sense that Paul finds Kate fascinating, and Kate admits to herself he is handsome and intriguing. One wonders if this is the beginning of a possible new romance.

When Paul learns that Kate wants to work as a pilot, he suggests she try the new airfield at Lake Spenard. She had already tried Merrill Field with no success. They didn't need any more pilots. Kate applies at Lake Spenard. Although the interview was tough, Sidney Schaefer tests her in the air, and hires her part-time for a mail run. The current pilot filling in for the mail run, Mike Conlin, was to train her the next Monday.

Kate Begins Taking Passengers

This is the terrain of  the Chugach Mountains Kate flew over near Anchorage. 



Kate soon got used to the mail run, and looked forward to giving people their mail, especially Paul and his neighbors -- Patrick and his wife Sassy and their daughter Lily. Paul felt uncomfortable with Lily because he knew Patrick and Sassy wanted him to marry her and he didn't want to. Sassy was always sending Lily over with food, or to help. Paul was polite, but he didn't want to encourage her.

Paul was fighting his attraction to Kate because he didn't want to give his heart away again.  Falling in love would make him vulnerable to hurt again. He knew Kate's work as a pilot was dangerous, and he could lose her, just as he'd lost his wife.

Kate proved herself capable on the mail run, and Sidney began to let her carry passengers. Her first opportunity was a rescue flight to check on hikers at McKinley Park who should have gotten in before the sun went down. She was called in  early morning to go search for them. She found them just before her fuel got low enough to necessitate turning back. That made her more sure than ever that she would not return to Washington and Richard, who was still writing and begging her to come back. She knew she belonged in Alaska, flying as a bush pilot, fulfilling her dreams.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Photo of Mt. McKinley Courtesy of  Pixabay


Kate got to play Santa Claus before Christmas. She flew to Kotzebue,  549 air miles northwest of Anchorage, to bring Christmas packages to that small town. She had made friends with the owner of the airfield Joe Turchick and his native wife Nena on her first visit. She had arrived on Halloween and Nena invited her to go trick or treating with her and her children. Since then she'd stayed overnight with them on her trips there. It was like her home away from home in Kotzebue.

Nena was afraid to fly. After the Christmas  trip, though, she asks if Kate will take her to visit her sister in Candle, who is about to have a baby. She overcomes her fear when she sees how beautiful it is to look down at the scenery. She decides she actually likes to fly.

Flying Wasn't All Fun


Most of Kate's trips were uneventful, but some passengers put her and everyone else on the plane at risk. It's hard to handle drunk hunters bigger than you are and fly a plane at the same time, especially when the drunkest one opens the door in the back of the plane . One woman lied about about how far her pregnancy had advanced and actually gave birth in the plane. Kate knew nothing about bringing babies into the world, but she had to find a place to land and deliver the baby.

Kate had many close calls. On one occasion she left on a mercy flight with a nurse to pick up a miner in Hatcher Pass who had fallen, was seriously injured, and needed to get to a hospital.  The weather conditions were so bad that Jack, the other pilot there on call refused to go and called Kate a fool for going.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
Hatcher Pass Photo Courtesy of Dootsle20, CC 2.0


Kate wound up agreeing with him when after flying in the fog she discovered she was off course. Her compass was malfunctioning. She had to find a safe place to land and wait for the fog to clear. Meanwhile, everyone at home was worried. Unfortunately, when the fog cleared they found that the miner had died. None of the pilots could afford radios in their planes, so when  pilots had trouble, there was no way to contact anyone to report their locations.

After each close call, Mike, who was getting to be a close friend, comforted Kate. His interest in her was obvious. Paul's reaction to Kate's close calls was to withdraw.  One of Kate's fellow pilots, one of the best, crashed and did not survive. The loss hit Kate and the other pilots hard.

Nena finally made it to Anchorage. She had a wonderful time. As Kate was taking her back home to Kotzebue, they passed Mt. Susitna, also known as the "sleeping lady." Kate veered from the flight plan a little to give Nena a closer look. That's when Nena smelled something, and Kate saw a drop of oil on her windshield. Memories of Rimrock Lake came rushing back. Below is a photo of Mt. Susitna from Cook Inlet, the location Kate was flying over when this happened. You will have to read the book to find out what happens next.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review
BySanchom - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0aption, CC 3.0

A Decision to Make

The first decision, the one Kate had already made, was to stay in Alaska and fly. She had learned that she did not want to live an ordinary life. She had told Richard she would not be coming back to him. She knew he would not want to live in Alaska.

Kate had been dating Mike, her fellow pilot. He was protective of her and a good friend, but she did not think she was in love with him. She was eager to know Paul better, but although he sometimes seemed attracted to her, he would  keep withdrawing. They had some great experiences together, but then he would avoid her again. She knew she was attracted to him.

She is pretty sure Mike wants to marry her. He has given her plenty of hints, but she just isn't ready.  She knows she needs to decide soon, because she doesn't want to lead him on if she knows it won't work.

 Recommendation

I found it hard to put his book down. The characters were well-developed, and   every one of them was necessary to the plot. I appreciated that I had time to get to know them in small batches instead of having too many being introduced at the beginning and having to try to keep them straight. I enjoyed learning more about Alaska and aviation in 1935.

I enjoyed getting to know Kate. She is the sort of person you can imagine having as a friend. She is brave, kind, and stubborn. She is willing to take risks, and sometimes takes foolish risks that land her in trouble. 

The characters are realistic and complex. Kate and Paul individually have guilt and fear to overcome in order to become whole again. Kate trusts in God. Paul has given up on God. Even minor characters, such as the drunk hunters, and the pregnant woman come alive through Bonnie Leon's words. So do the other pilots, Jack and Frank.

One of the mysteries in the book is Paul. No one knows why he came to Alaska. No one knows much about him.  Patrick knows his wife died.  Paul eventually also shares that information with Kate under duress.The author gives the reader enough clues to get close figuring out who he really is.

The author is very good at foreshadowing what will happen without really telling the reader. An alert reader is able to pick up the clues and be on the alert for what will follow. 

I would recommend this Christian novel to anyone who likes adventure stories, aviation, strong women, Alaska, and/or a touch of romance. I am anxious to read the rest of the series. I hope I've been able to interest you in these books, too. I would suggest you get the set so you can just keep reading after you finish Touching the Clouds. I don't  think you will want to stop. Just click below if you want to buy them. 


Here's one last photo that's designed to Pinterest specifications if you'd like to pin it.

Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon: A Book Review




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