Biography

 

A LITTLE ABOUT KIRSTY KNITTEL...

I was fortunate to be raised by parents with a keen passion for nature and the outdoors, despite being born in New Zealand's largest city of Auckland.

Photography became part of my life at age 9, when my father gave me my first camera. It was a little eight-picture Brownie with which I hotly pursued farm animals and my riding horses. After breaking the Brownie, I graduated to an Instamatic. It was during my backpacking trips as a teenager, shooting the lush green forests and clear mountain lakes with backdrops of snowcapped mountains, that I realized the need for a camera where I could control my own shutter speeds and exposures.

When I left New Zealand for America with Standardbred racehorses in 1977, I bought my first 35mm, the noble Pentax K1000. I became an avid shutterbug, catching the backstretch action from the rails in between training my charges. Soon my fellow horsemen were asking me to photograph their horses.

My visit to Denali National Park in 1987 changed my life. Here was the ideal place to spend the rest of my life. I moved to the small, scenic town of Healy, 11 miles north of the Park entrance, where I could watch the constantly changing moods of our four seasons play out on the ridges and peaks of the Outer Alaska Range.

I took up the arduous job of bus washing for Denali Park's shuttle bus system in order to have three days off a week for exploring the backcountry on foot. I bought a Nikon to catch the animals in action, smashed it backpacking, and switched to Canon cameras after they introduced image-stabilized lenses. So far they have survived.

I have had my share of adventures.... I returned to my tent one evening to find a young grizzly dragging my pack away as I approached. He agreed it was far too heavy for him so wandered off to a nearby kettle pond for a swim, looking more like a golden retriever in the water than a bear! I have had bears stand up unexpectantly in the willows or follow me in curiosity down Thorofare Pass as I hiked the road alone. A sow with three cubs appeared below my tent on Cathedral Mountain, prompting a big Dall Ram I'd seen earlier on to join me for company. The bears wandered over a ridge, never seeing us.

Several years ago, a friend persuaded me to take my photographs to a local Christmas Bazaar and I was amazed and gratified to find that people actually bought my work! I now work out of my cabin, happily filling my days cutting mats and framing my photos for tradeshows in fall and winter. Summers are spent driving guests by bus into Denali Park for Kantishna Roadhouse, a lodge situtated at the end of the Park Road.

The photographs on this website reflect some of the wonderful moments I have experienced exploring Denali Park and the incredible State of Alaska both as a backpacker or as a traveler by road, rail or boat. I love and respect this land and it's wildlife with a passion, and hope it is projected in some small way through my photography.

Kirsty and her favorite bus, Mr. Peppy