The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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September 26, 2013

Mankato native and photographer captures dual nature of remote Alaskan wilderness in Conkling exhibit

Mankato native and photographer captures dual nature of remote Alaskan wilderness

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"It's really something to be dropped into the middle of this place and left to your own devices," he said. "There's a wonderful sense of freedom wandering around with a camera and sketchbook."

Visitors to the Conkling Gallery will be greeted by the image of a large, erratic boulder captured alone in an otherwise empty expanse, a testament to the silent but relentless natural forces that carried the stone into place. An image of the canyon walls that line a portion of Knife Creek place the viewer atop a severe plunge into the turbid river waters below. The impossibly serene photograph of Mount Katmai's crater lake, a hidden gem of reflective majesty some 800 feet deep and two miles across, belies the inevitable, violent future that awaits when the lake overspills its boundaries.

To get the photo of Katmai's crater lake, Freeburg first endured a 14-hour hike. When he arrived at the top, he was greeted by flawless dusk lighting and an unforgettable panorama.

"I was lucky to get up there on a cloudless evening, around 8 p.m., just beautiful," he said. "It was really magical. I feel that way toward just about all the photos I take there."

A year ago, Freeburg compiled his photographs into a book, "The Valley of 10,000 Smokes: Revisiting the Alaskan Sublime." The book includes essays by volcanologist John Eichelberger and archeologist Jeanne M. Schaaf in addition to more than 70 of the author's photos.

Upon its publication, Freeburg sent a copy to former President Jimmy Carter, who signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act into law in 1980, paving the way for the preservation of Katmai National Park. Freeburg recently received his reply.

Even with the president's congratulations, however, Freeburg isn't done with Alaska yet. Though he resides nearly 5,000 miles away in Virginia, Freeburg still checks the Alaska Volcano Observatory's website every morning ad he's already booked his next photography excursion.

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