Alaska, An Excellent Choice ~ Day 6, Glacier Bay


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North America » United States » Alaska » Glacier Bay
August 28th 2015
Published: October 20th 2015
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Photos from Glacier Bay

We were still at sea this whole day. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the next day we would dock for the first time since we left Whittier. Glacier Bay National Park is much bigger than Hubbard Glacier even from the water, but the visibility was barely better, so it was hard to compare. Again, since this blog is supposed to be about the photos, this will be another short entry. Although Glacier Bay was bigger, our approach to it was much the same as it was at Hubbard. The ship moves in and slowly circles, which means that a tripod wouldn’t have helped with long exposures because we moved ever so slightly. It’s like trying to take a long exposure of the moon. It Moves. In Glacier Bay the boat just floats around, and the most input I had in the photos was to walk from starboard to port. The length of stern to bow, of course, made those directions too time consuming.

For the most part we had a great, uncrowded spot astern near Joe & Mary Ann’s suite, or as Joe put it, “In the ass-end of the ship.” The excitement of other photographers can
still be shared even when the subjects we’re shooting are hand-fed to us. There was always someone shooting something while trying to dodge the rain under the overhangs. One guy was sure he saw a whale, so we watched with him to increase the excitement. None of us ever caught the whale, but there were plenty of little choppy waves to reward our concentration. We would get to talk with others as we waited for the ship to bring the next subject into view, and hear their stories from various parts of the planet. It’s somehow rather cool to enjoy Alaska with someone from New Zealand on their month-long excursion through our country’s most amazing scenery, or to hear of Caribbean life while shooting a glacier.

You can tell in the first few shots of the gallery, which were taken as we entered the bay, that the Sun had no chance of joining us. We were happy that at least we could see the shore, and that a piece of white paper held in front of the lens would no longer be enough to duplicate our efforts. You can also tell from those first few shots just how magnificent
this national park could be seen in a better light. Maureen noticed a slight sliver of sunshine off the bow, and I reached out as far as I could to keep the ship out of the shot, and zoomed in for photo 9. By the time we floated around to a better view of the spot, it was overcast again. In photo 9 you can also see, by the EXIF info on the page, that I was still occasionally trying to work with the 24-105mm lens. It was definitely a challenge. If the lens fed any information to the body, it would be so wrong that it would take me several shots to zero in on what should be the correct exposure. This made me regret my just-do-it approach that relies on correct information from the lens. Shooting RAW format in Manual Mode has so many creative advantages, but it requires accurate communication from the lens, even when it, too, is set to manual. Most often now the lens would stop working all together by the time I could compensate for the misinformation. I would always backup the efforts with a take from the SX50, photo 11 in this example.


The wide-angle 16-35mm lens was still working fine and so was the fisheye, but we were way too far from the subject to fill the frame with these lenses. The pano-like shots with the 16-35mm (like photo 22) were simply single-shot photos, but because of the superfluous amounts of sky and water necessarily captured at such a distance, they looked better as imitation panoramic photos. Photo 68 is one such crop with this lens. I was able to get most of the glacier’s face in focus, but it’s not possible to see the details in the gallery-sized showing. So here is the large version where you can get a better view. It was the only shot all day that I got a piece of the glacier falling into the sea. It was a really small piece, but you could hear it cracking before it fell. Photo 69 is a cropped closeup of the moment.

Without people or something else in the photos for scale, it’s hard to imagine the size of these glaciers. Take a look at photo 39, for example. You can easily imagine a big snow-shoe covered foot crashing through the shot and crushing such a little section of snow; you
can just as easily correctly imagine that not only shoes but whole humans can get stuck in those little cracks in the giant glacier. You can see some smaller boats in some of the shots, and they can help the shoreline in providing scale. These boats, of course, were able to get much closer to shore than our huge hull. The glacier, especially with all of its exposed debris, seems to curve like a six-lane interstate bending around the river it follows. Photo 46 could feed the illusion that the boat just slid into the bay from a slide on the Glacier-Bay Highway.

Since all of the shots on this trip that weren’t taken through a glass of muddled limes (i.e., caipirinhas) were also not taken with a tripod, HDR treatments weren’t on the menu of methods visualized for the darkroom. Photo 47 might have been the only handheld attempt at three bracketed exposures for this purpose. You can see that it is much like the single-shot version in photo 44. In addition to the boat in 44, you might be able to imagine the head of Jerry Garcia in the clouds. The clouds in 47, on the other
hand, might show the whole band. That, I suppose, is one difference HDR resolution can deliver.

Photo 56, a self portrait in the reflection, was taken when we took a break from the ice and went in to have some ice cream and beer. The shots afterward were taken off our balcony. Other shorelines around the globe have driftwood floating in; at Glacier Bay there is drift-ice floating around. In photo 63 you can see two birds taking the role of eyes in a Spongebob-shaped block of drift-ice. The darker bird in photo 64 seemed to prefer his cone with sprinkles. There are two other birds, or possibly the same one in two shots. Photo 67 was taken with the 16-35mm, and for photo 70 the bird circled back around to let me get a backup shot with the SX50.

It was a cool day with the ice, and the night was warm with laughter, magic tricks and fine dining in Johnny’s Cafe, followed by a couple shows and a log-like sleep.


Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


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21st October 2015

Interesting blog from Alaska
Your comments are interesting on camera performance. Marg and I both have SX60 cameras and have just started shooting in Raw and JPG simultaneously. While we can detect differences in image detail, I am still uncertain if it is worth the extra processing. When images viewed side by side, contrast and detail can be seen. What do you see as the advantages of raw over JPEG?
21st October 2015

I'm going to have to answer this one at another time, Fred. On my way to pick up my son and we're heading to Maine. There ARE considerable advantages, but they don't always apply.

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