One thing I quickly realized on our cruise in 2014 to Alaska is that it is really challenging to take pictures from a moving boat when the light is ‘right’ for landscape photography (hour before/after sunrise or sunset). Of course I knew this before going on the trip but didn’t realize what a challenge it would present. Additionally, we were at the mercy of the boat for what the scene was when we awoke in the morning. This presented even MORE of a challenge than the moving boat because if, when the alarm went off in the morning, we were in an uninteresting part of the ocean or there wasn’t anything to really photograph on the horizon then we were essentially ‘wasting’ the good light for the day.
There were a few days – like the one below – where the alarm went off and we were fortunate to be at a nice spot along the Alaskan coastline where there were mountains, fog, mist and imposing clouds. I had to crank the ISO up in this shot to capture it with a shutter speed fast enough (1/160th of a second) to minimize any of the blur from the boat moving. This isn’t as sharp as I’d like it to be but given all the circumstances working against me I was pretty happy with it.
Misty Mountains (Alaska)
We are off to Florida today for a late Christmas celebration. With my wife being a nurse we are now unable to travel during the ‘real’ holidays because she is often working. It sure did make the holidays a lot less stressful this year.
Time sure does fly…a little over a year ago, and it certainly feels just like yesterday, we were on an Alaskan Cruise checking out the amazing coastal landscape in the Northwest US. It was much greener than I expected since I was thinking we were going to see icebergs floating in the water all around us but when we pulled into Glacier Bay National Park it was exactly what I envisioned. The ice surrounded us in all directions as the giant, million year old glaciers sat sprawled out in all their glory.
The President visited Alaska this week (thankfully we weren’t scheduled to be there this year because I’m sure they weren’t letting cruise ships near it while he was there) and made a $1.5 billion proposal to increase the funding required to run and maintain all our national parks across the US. Honestly, government wise, that isn’t a lot of money but I’m still happy to see that someone is making an effort to increase the resources it takes to protect these amazing sights. I can’t imagine a world where we can’t see this in person because (as good as I think this picture is) it doesn’t compare to being there and seeing it with your own eyes. This little image is just a small snippet of a MUCH larger glacier and the sound the glacier made as pieces dropped off of its face and into the bay is unexplainable.
Glacier Bay (Glacier Bay National Park – Alaska)
Our mighty vessel during our cruise to Alaska was the MS Westerdam which is owned by the Holland America cruise company. I don’t have to repeat on here that we had a great time (as I covered that before) and I cannot thank my Mom enough for booking that trip as it will go down as one of the greatest trips of my life (and probably all of our lives – for many reasons I wish we could do it all over again).
Westerdam at Sunset
I took this photo during our last night on the cruise. We were docked in Victoria, British Columbia and needed to be back on board shortly after sunset. I could tell from the downtown area that the sunset was going to be amazing and I was disappointed that we had to hurry back to the boat and I was going to miss the colors in the sky. However, as the cab pulled back up next to the ship I ran out with my camera and grabbed a few shots before sprinting back through customs so that I could get back on board the boat before it departed. I didn’t even have time to set up my tripod so I had to shoot this hand-held and with a higher ISO level (400). I took the exposure reading from the sunset in the distance with the hope I’d be able bring out the shadows of the boat so it didn’t look like a big black blob and this worked out perfectly as Lightroom did an amazing job bringing out the details in the boat.
Sitka, Alaska is a town with a population of a little over 8,000 people. I imagine for Alaska that is decently sized but small to most other folks. The tourist season is a big business for them and for several months of the year cruise ships like ours pull up and drop thousands of tourists on the town before it goes back to being ‘same old Sitka’ for the other four – five months a year. I have to imagine that for people who live there the constant drop of tourists can get a bit overwhelming – especially if you moved there long before the tourists started coming in an effort to get away from it all.
Misty Morning (Sitka, Alaska)
I took this picture from the balcony of our room on the cruise ship as we pulled slowly into Sitka. The fog from the morning was still heavy but eventually it burned off and we got to experience the best weather of the whole trip. We decided to take a sea kayaking trip when we got off of the boat. The experience was a lot of fun. The tour instructors picked us up right from the dock and then took us out to a floating base camp where we launched the kayaks from. It took my wife and I bit to get the kayaking rhythm down – we spun in circles for awhile – but once we got it we didn’t hold the group up too much. We even wound up getting a little sun burnt on our faces from being out in the water for three or four hours.
Glacier Bay National Park was established in December 1980 to allow scientists to study the speed of glacial retreat that was ongoing in years leading up to its designation. Since the ’80s the pace of retreat has only increased and there are concerns that at some point the glaciers may disappear from Alaska completely.
One of the main attractions of the visit to Glacier Bay National Park in the spring and summer months is the possibility of hearing ‘white thunder’. ‘White thunder’ is sound of the calving glaciers (when a piece breaks off) that hit the water and sound like a cannon shot echoing off the landscape around it. The trick with trying to photograph it is that you hear the sound after the iceberg has already calved so if you chase the noise you are going to miss the impact. In this picture I focused on one area of the giant glacier, zoomed in tight and patiently waited/hoped for a piece to break loose. I got lucky and was able to capture the moment the iceberg hit the water and created a mini-explosion.
White Thunder – Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
This was the second to last night of our family trip to Alaska and one of the best weeks I’ve ever had. We were all together as a big, happy family and sitting out on the dock of the boat in the (relatively) warm Alaskan weather we had some drinks and watched the best sunset of the trip.
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”
This is a sunset – and a moment – that I wish I could relive over and over again.
Alaska is massive and one thing that I learned while we were on the cruise boat is that the coastline of Alaska is longer than that of all other US States combined. Luckily most of it, when it isn’t shrouded in clouds, is nice to look at as well.
My wife graduates from nursing school this afternoon after two long and hard years of graduate classes. This will be a career change for her and one that was met with a lot of challenges in the past 24-months. There is a still a lot to do ahead – in particular getting her license so she can actually practice – but I have little doubt she will accomplish that early next year and be well on her way to saving some lives in the future. I’m very proud of her and look forward to going back to being a D.I.N.K (Dual Income No Kids) for a little while longer – although the student loan payment isn’t going to be pretty!