Author Archives: Phil Ryan

About Phil Ryan

Photography helps me see. The act of slowing down to compose a photograph gives me the chance to appreciate what's around me. I currently am shooting medium and large format film and Micro 4/3rds and medium format digital.



The Missus cruising Lake Pleasant

One of the things on our to-do list lately has been to try out some kayaking. It seems that several of the trips we’re looking at in future have the opportunity, and quite frankly, it looks like a good way to get to places less travelled. So when one of the local REI stores scheduled a “Learn to Kayak” class we signed up.

The  five hour class was held at Lake Pleasant, a county park northwest of Phoenix. Instructors Dannie and Angie brought both “sit on top” and “touring” kayaks so we had the option of trying both types if we wanted. We spent about an hour on dry land learning the gear and how to set it up properly and then proceeded onto the lake where we had a chance to try out the basic strokes and then “rafted up” in a cove for a little more instruction.

The next four hours we on the water learning and practicing turns, different strokes and techniques, sculling, how to exit the kayak if capsized (demonstrated with the option to try it. I did. Fun!) with time to practice paddling around and getting comfortable on the water. Most of the time we were in fairly well protected coves which both kept us away from the power boat and jet ski enthusiasts and protected us from the wind.

The paddle back to our starting point was actually a pretty good exercise in that the crowds of swimmers, boaters and partiers were in full force, and we paddled into a head wind which made it a bit choppier. We had a final demonstration of a buddy rescue technique since getting into a kayak in the water is easier with help – something like getting into a hammock. We finished up around noon as scheduled. Lots of fun!

Vancouver Island

Monochrome Gull

Over the water

Aside from a couple of stops at St Johns airport in Labrador, I’ve never spent any time in Canada. Not that I had ever heard anything bad about our northern neighbor, there just never seemed to be a reason to visit. When the Missus and I found out that Arizona Highways Photography Workshops was organizing a trip to Vancouver Island with photographer Shane McDermott it drew our interest, and since our calendar happened to be clear for the month we went ahead and enrolled.

Each day on the trip we sampled a different aspect of Vancouver Island. The variety of photographic subjects and the beauty of the area makes it impossible to describe in a blog post, so I’ve decided to just post a few sample pictures and descriptions to try and capture a little of the feel of the Island.

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Jewel observing her new back yard from the porch.

Introducing a new member of the family – Jewel. Interestingly enough she’s from the same litter that Trix is from. Trix originally went to a family down the street, and Jewel went to their brother. As their youngest is starting college soon they didn’t have enough time to keep a border collie occupied and out of trouble, so they offered her to us.

Trix & Jewel

Playing racer/chaser after a refreshing dip in the pool.

I’m not sure if they remembered each other, but they took to playing together right away.


Superstition Mountains 25

Afternoon sun near Black Mountain

We have been wanting to try out a backpacking trip with REI Adventures, and with the Superstition Mountains being local we thought this would be a good opportunity.  Since the Phoenix area is already starting to warm up, this was the last scheduled trip till after summer. Being less that two weeks after the Alaska trip, we were prepared for a bit of temperature shock – it turned out to be a record setting week with highs in the 90’s, which is only 120ºF warmer than our coldest outings up north. Fortunately, we had time for a couple of day hikes to get re-acclimated to the desert prior to starting out.

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Tips and Tricks, or “Baby, it’s Cold Outside…”

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Photographers trying not to freeze to their cameras. It was about -25ºF at this point.

I’m something of a desert rat, so while the Alaska trip was not my first experience with extreme cold it’s not something I do on a regular basis.  This post is intended to be a summary of what worked and what didn’t.

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So what’s to do in the Alaskan winter?

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Christian Taylor coming in for the win on day two of the North Pole Junior North American Championships.

While our trip to Alaska was primarily to photograph the aurora, it turns out there was quite a bit to do during the day as well. When we arrived in Fairbanks the latest snow storm was just wrapping up and we took a little walk around downtown.  Smaller than I expected, Fairbanks has a population somewhere around 32,000 which makes it the 2nd largest city in Alaska.

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Northern Lights

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Northern Lights from the Chena River Recreation Area.

I don’t have a “Bucket List” per se, although there are things that I would like to get around to doing. One of those things has been to see the Aurora Borealis. This month the Missus and I spent a week in Alaska where we had the chance to do just that at a Northern Lights workshop presented by Beth Ruggiero-York along with Arizona Highways Photography Workshops . There is an element of luck involved in viewing the Northern Lights. The closer to the pole you are the better the chance, and of course it needs to be dark enough to see it, which means winter. The weather needs to be clear, and finally the sun has to cooperate by being active.

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