MENDENHALL GLACIER

It was a rainy and foggy summer morning when our cruise ship docked in Juneau, Alaska and my first thoughts were my first trip to America’s last frontier was ruined. I was signed up for a photography tour to explore a rain forest, hike to a glacier and then sail out to sea to watch some whales but the rainy weather almost made me reconsider. Thankfully, I decided last minute to join the tour and eventually realized how breathtaking Alaska was even during bad weather. As we hiked through the forest we passed by rivers with hundreds of salmon swimming upstream, which according to our guide were at the last stages of their lives. Our guide and photo instructor also pointed out landmarks on where the glacier was at various periods in the past 100 years. The highlight of our trek was coming face to face with Mendenhall Glacier, a magnificent body of ice that has been slowly receding through time. The glacier has receded 2.5 miles since the 1500’s with 1.75 miles of that occuring during the last 100 years. The entire scenery was magnificent with the mist covering a huge part of the glacier helping create a dramatic effect to my photograph. I initially considered adjusting the brightness but realized the photo could lose a lot of details in the mist and clouds so I decided to keep the gloomy mood…which I hope is not an indication on the future of this majestic natural wonder.

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EMERALD FOREST

Green is supposedly the most relaxing and calming color as it is the color of nature and it evokes a sense of comfort and peace helping reduce stress and anxiety. During my cruise in Alaska last summer, the ship sailed through straits and inlets flanked by islands of lush forest of pines so it was a glorious feast of green for my eyes. It was truly relaxing and calming sitting on my stateroom balcony while watching an endless parade of nature across the water from where I was seated. The view also provided me a lot of photography opportunities and I specially liked how the trees were reflected on the water creating a beautiful mirror effect like the photo above.

FROZEN

Alaska was never on top of my bucket list as I, to this day, am not a big fan of freezing temperatures. Last summer I found myself booking a cruise to America’s last frontier not because of my desire to visit the place but because of the amazing deal I was getting for a junior suite stateroom. Hey! Isn’t it all about the journey and not the destination? ūüėú Anyway, my trip to Alaska was quite an eye opening experience that can only be understood by someone who has also visited this mystical place. During the ships’ port calls, I made sure to find time to reconnect with nature and the experience was mind blowing like a spiritual homecoming. I would also most definitely consider the stop at Glacier Bay where nature showcased it’s beauty, strength as well as its fury as the highlight of my cruise. The photo above was taken at Lampugh Glacier where every line of the glacier has a story to tell…and we are talking millions of years worth of frozen stories to tell. Unfortunately, the ship didn’t dock so we only got to view the glacier from a distance. It would have been awesome to be able touch and walk on the glacier although by the look of it, I’d be frozen into history the moment I step on it. I guess it was more than enough appreciating it from a distance.

By the way, below is the photo of my junior suite stateroom…enough reason to bear the freezing Alaskan temperatures.

BEYOND THE MIST

As we traverse this journey we call life, let us all remember that nothing is definite and as always surprises awaits us in every turn. Just like this new year we are about to ring in, all we can hope for are wonderful things to come our way although road bumps are quite inevitable. These bumps are there to remind us to slow down but never to stop driving. The photo above, which was taken during my cruise in Alaska a few months ago, seems to remind me of what it’s like looking forward to the new year. It’s misty all around making everything less visible and uncertain, however, as we move closer to where we are headed the view becomes clearer allowing us to appreciate what lies ahead. We were headed to Glacier Bay that day and I thought I will never see anything due to the thick mist. To my amazement, a few hours into the cruise the mist lifted and we glided into Glacier Bay with an unobstructed view of the most magnificent sceneries one could ever imagine. Life is full of surprises so don’t fret too much because beautiful experiences await us beyond the mists of life. Happy New Year everyone!!!

PITCHFORK FALLS

I always wondered how cotton candy effect on moving water is captured so thanks to Google I learned how to program my camera settings correctly. It is highly recommended to use a tripod when attempting this style of photography but in this case, I broke the rule and captured this handheld. I was on a rush to capture the Pitchfork Falls in Skagway, Alaska as I was on a tour plus it was starting to rain so I had to rush back to the bus before me and my camera got soaked. One technique I read somewhere is to exhale while capturing a photo to further limit the shake. I have a few more photos taken using this technique and will post them soon.

INTO THE WOODS

I grew up in a small town in Southern Philippines where the main industry was paper and timber so trees were a predominant part of my daily life. I can still remember, like it was yesterday, the refreshing scent of leaves as well as the woodsy aroma of tree trunks especially after a rainy day, which was a frequent occurence in my sleepy hometown. During my senior year in high school, I was president of the InterAct Club (Rotary sponsored club) and on Sundays we would drive to the mountains and teach classes to the children of a native tribe. The village was situated in the middle of a rain forest and I always look forward to the long and rugged drive past giant trees along rough gravel roads. All these childhood memories were stirred up while on a trek in an Alaskan forest a few months ago. It was raining during the trek and the scent of the damp forest transported me back to my old hometown evoking wonderful memories of my childhood. I immediately pulled out my camera to take a shot of the forest before me. Unfortunately, I no longer have any of my childhood photos after my parent’s house got burned down a few years ago. This photo will be for now my new window to the past…

FLIGHT OF THE ALBATROSS 

I always envy how birds can just soar freely into the horizon and visit exciting destinations without worrying about pricey plane tickets, uncomfortable seats, lost luggages or nasty flight attendants.  I on the other hand had to work around my limited vacation days at work and patiently await for dollar-saving deals before I can start packing my bags. How I wish I was a bird so I’d be able to explore distant places to as far as my wings can take me. Just like the Albatross in my photo above, it was instantly headed towards its next adventure by just a flap of its wings.  The most I could do was enviously photograph it as it soared towards me with its gaze focused on my camera as if reminding me how I was unfortunately stuck in my stateroom’s balcony. What a cocky bird (uhm!)!

SOUND OF SILENCE

The Slide Cemetery near the ghost town of Dyea was one of the stops of the photography tour I joined in Skagway, Alaska. When our tour guide announced where we were headed, I froze in fear at the thought of being in a cemetery in the middle of a forest with 4 complete strangers. ¬†While hiking towards our destination, I immediately recalled the movie Blair Witch Project and started feeling goosebumps. I have to admit I was petrified that the sound of twigs snapping as we walked towards the cemetery made me jumpy. ¬†The most peculiar thing about this cemetery is that everyone has the same date of death except for four. Apparently, the casualties of Palm Sunday Avalanche on April 3, 1898 were laid to rest here. In Alaska, they call avalanches as slides thus the name Slide Cemetery. ¬†The place was totally eerie but I decided to focus on my photography and made sure I stayed close to everybody throughout our photoshoot. This was the only time I discarded my curiosity and didn’t attempt to wander around. Thankfully, my photos turned out well minus any weird reflections, orbs or unwanted photobombers. LOL!

GELID PEAKS

We were sailing slowly down Glacier Bay in Alaska towards the Johns Hopkins Glacier when I noticed these massive snowy peaks majestically reaching up for the cotton white clouds in the sky. ¬†I also noticed a long white swath of cloud floating across the middle as if dissecting this monstrosity into an upper and lower half of a mountain. ¬†All this time I was standing at my stateroom’s balcony freezing yet determined to brave the icy temperatures for the sake of my photography. The frosty wind was blowing into my face freezing my expression of awe over the wondrous beauty in front of me. I took multiple shots and this one is my personal favorite having captured so much detail…from the silvery waters of the bay and the lush green, red and browns of the island in the foreground to the steel blues, purples and whites of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. By the time I finished taking these photos, I could barely feel my skin that I thought I was suffering from frostbite. ¬†Aaah! The things we do to capture the best shot.

ALASKAN SPEED

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In Skagway, Alaska, I joined a photography tour that brought me to a ghost town, a cemetery where everyone but four had the same date of death and an inlet teeming with Alaskan wildlife. ¬†The fourth stop was the most exciting and supposedly a surprise…we sped up a mountain and parked on the side of a cliff overlooking a waterfall. ¬†I immediately noticed a railroad track right above the cascading water and from a distance saw this train speeding up the mountain. ¬†I finally realized the surprise and impressed that our tour guide timed it perfectly. ¬†I hurriedly adjusted my camera settings and took a few test shots to ensure the perfect photograph. By the time the train rolled above the waterfalls, I was perfectly positioned to capture as many shots as I can. Here are four of the many photographs I took of the White Summit Pass Train speeding above the majestic Pitchfork Falls.

BEAUTIFULLY RUGGED 

Having lived my entire life in a tropical climate, the Alaskan wilderness was quite a significant change of scenery for me, add to that a major change in temperature as well.  From tree lined rocky shores and rugged mountain ranges to snow capped peaks and majestic glaciers, it felt like I was in another planet…an enchanting and magical planet.  The Alaskan terrain also drew out a deep sense of adventure in me…I found myself trekking alone inside a rain forest just to see a glacier. I did realize much later what a stupid thing I did, I could have encountered a bear and that could have been the end of me. Anyway, I never saw any bear, moose or deer until the last day of my trip when my ride to the airport dropped by an animal conservation center. So yes, I was in Alaska for 8 days and only saw wildlife inside a mini-zoo.

PLACID 

It was a calm afternoon at sea and my cruise ship was sailing steadily towards our first port of call…Ketchikan, Alaska. The air was a bit chilly but that didn’t deter me from stepping out to my stateroom’s balcony to check the view.  It was foggy earlier in the day so I was excited to see the fog finally lifted and the islands visibly clear from where I was standing.  From a distance, I saw this tiny boat slowly glide towards us while staying close to the island obviously trying to maintain a safe distance from the behemoth of a ship it was encountering. As both vessels got closer, I noticed how still the waters were creating a mirror effect of the boat and the island so I immediately got my camera busy to capture as much as I can of the magical scene.  It was such a treat to photograph the boat as it carefully sliced through the silent waters and gently stirred up the serene reflection of the lush Alaskan forest in the distance.

TALE OF TAILS

Last week I found myself in foggy, rainy and chilly Alaska for a 7-night cruise in America’s Last Frontier. When one thinks of Alaska, nature and adventure immediately comes to mind as well as its hostile environment, which can be frightening and exhilarating at the same time. One of the cruise’s excursions I signed up for was a photography tour in a rain forest, the Mendenhall Glacier and some whale watching. My post today will feature photos I took during the whale watching, which was quite an experience in itself with the rain and fog providing an additional challenge. We were herded into this small boat (big enough to sit 14 of us) and was brought to an inlet where other boats were already stationed waiting for the next sighting. Apparently, when one boat sights a whale, the other boats get radioed on the location so everyone gets to view the whales. Otherwise, we get a refund if no whale is sighted during the tour. Our guide/instructor taught us how to capture the flukes (whale’s tail) by observing how a whale dives down. He told us to focus on the dorsal fin stating that once a whale dives and exposes its dorsal fin, the tail will definitely come out for a wave. True to his words, we were able to witness and capture a good number of whale tails. I’m sharing below five more of the many tail photos I took that day.

Note the dorsal fin above as the whale attempts to dive…the tail came out after this.

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