Alaska: Day 1 & 2 - Traveling to Glacier Bay National Park

We left Sitka, Alaska at 12:48pm on Thursday, July 14. 

I have spent many years longing to travel to the beautiful state of Alaska, but I knew that if I visited, the experience would need to be unique. When the opportunity to see Southeast Alaska on a private boat was presented to me, I had to say yes because I knew it would be an adventure that would have a significant impact on my life. 

That being said, I would be lying if I didn't say I was a bit nervous about spending a week on a boat, since I have experienced some sea sickness in the past. I was determined not to let my nerves get the best of me and I also packed a variety of medication to help combat the motion sickness, should it ever decide to creep up.

What transpired over the next seven days was nothing short of amazing. We spent hours observing some of the most incredible shorelines, beautiful mountains, glaciers calving, critters meandering the shoreline in the water and on land, calm and rough waters and misty sunrises.

 

The Crew

I met Natalia Stone, Joe Azure and Casey McCallister on Google+, back when the social media network was thriving. We have remained close friends over the last few years and continue to drink together, shoot together and travel together. 

We had no doubt the boat quarters would be tight on this trip, but even by the seventh day, we were still laughing and enjoying each other's company. 

Joe was our fearless captain who made sure the Marguerite and crew stayed safe during the week long trip. He navigated our boat to some incredible locations, thanks to weeks of research prior to our departure, and stayed calm during a few stressful times (you'll read more about this later).

 
 
 

Tenakee Springs, Alaska 

We arrived in Tenakee Springs just before 8:00pm and the sun was still high in the sky, though masked by clouds. As we entered the harbor, I heard a few gun shots and spotted a few people wandering below the tide line.  

Once we docked, we had one mission for the evening, to find the bar Joe had visited years prior. As we walked the streets, Joe explained to us that the town was free of cars and at that moment, we heard the sound of an engine behind us and stepped aside to watch an ATV pass us. One woman was driving and a second woman was sitting in the trailer, pulled by the ATV, both carrying shot guns, slung over their shoulders. 

 
Arriving in Tenakee Springs

Arriving in Tenakee Springs

 

Dozens of homes line the shoreline of this town, many with vegetable gardens surrounded by chicken wire to protect the crops from wildlife. The town is small, with a population under 150, but complete with a post office, bakery, general store and a bathhouse, but no bar. After chatting with a local, she informed us the hotel and bar burnt down a number of years ago.  

Inside the bakery, where they served coffee, tea, cinnamon rolls and quiche. 

Inside the bakery, where they served coffee, tea, cinnamon rolls and quiche. 

 
 
The public restroom

The public restroom

 
 
Tied up at the Transient Dock in Tenakee Springs, where we spent the night

Tied up at the Transient Dock in Tenakee Springs, where we spent the night

 
 
 

Humpback Whales

When we left Tenakee Springs and headed for Glacier Bay, we re-entered the Icy Strait, which is whale territory, so we continued our search for Humpbacks. As we rounded Point Augusta, we finally spotted half a dozen whales. 

We had been watching the whales for about 5 minutes when we observed them swim away from one another, then dive and flip their flukes to the sky. About 3 minutes later, we witnessed an amazing and rare behavior known as bubble feeding. 

Bubble Feeding 

Bubble Feeding 

Bubble feeding occurs when a pod of whales swims below a school of fish, blowing bubbles, forcing the fish up to the surface. The whales then swim up through the bubbles with their mouths open, catching hundreds of fish.  We were very lucky to have seen this performed four times. 

Bubble Feeding

Bubble Feeding

Bubble Feeding

Bubble Feeding

Photo: "A Morning At Peace"

I haven't been awake photographing sunrise in a few months, so naturally, I miss mornings like this peaceful one from back in February. 

I set my alarm with the hopes I would see low fog on the webcams when I woke. Despite there being no fog, I crawled out of bed and made the trek to the north bay anyway. Funny thing is, 95% of the time, it's worth getting up early and taking a chance, but when we are lying in our cozy beds it never seems that way. 

You can't get the shot if you're not there. 

Photo: "Horsehoe Bend Sunset"

I have always been fascinated by the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas with beautiful canyons worn away for thousands of years by the powerful Colorado River.

I photographed this same location over 5 years ago, but this last visit was even more beautiful.

(3-image vertical pano taken back in early January during a end of year road trip around the Pacific Southwest.)

Photo: "Crystal Star Castles"

Joshua Tree National Park happens to be one of my favorite places to visit in California. Not only is the landscape beautiful and strange, but there are fantastic 4x4 roads to explore and also some of the best climbing.

Last month, I hit the park with a few good friends and we did a bit of night shooting, during the full moon.

People often ask me which flashlights I like and which ones I use and the truth is, it varies. Some of my lights are upwards of $100. Others are under $20. You absolutely do not need a $100 light to successfully light paint an image, but there are definitely reasons I love the more expensive lights I have.  To light this image, I used a $17 work light by Viisliam - http://amzn.to/1QYG1sc

Photo: "Gold Mine"

 
 

This mine was founded in the early 1800’s and a mill was constructed on the property in 1900 when the mine changed hands. Sadly not much history can be found about this mine after 1916 and the mil structure is long gone, but its adit and shafts still exist today.

This image was lit with (2) Lume Cubes and a NiteCore flashlight.

(Disclaimer: Mines are very dangerous. Do not venture into these places without proper equipment or without someone who is educated about the hazards.)

Photo: "Yucca Trails"

 
 

It's not often that I photograph landscapes at night without the moon. This trip to Joshua Tree, last fall, was a treat because I had the chance to experiment with star trails and think differently about my compositions. 

Tomorrow night, I'm heading back to Joshua Tree National Park with a few friends for a weekend of shooting (yes, it's a full moon weekend), exploring and hanging out. It's been a while since I have had a road trip adventure, so I am very much looking forward to this trip.