Tag Archives: photography

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess

Our day in Glacier Bay was my single best day, photographically, in a long, long time.  I don’t know if that is a result of the place being so photogenic, or the fact that I was prepared for my time there, with my only goal for the day to make photographs.  It’s probably a combination of the two, since Glacier Bay is certainly an amazing place and I found it quite inspirational on my first visit several years ago.  I have to imagine that what I experienced was a confluence of my own openness to the place and the renewed inspiration I felt from being there.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess

The Tourist Approach would be to slap a wide angle lens on the camera and shoot the huge expanse of icebergs, blue water and glaciers.  But what I was feeling was more intimate, although even with a 400mm lens, the actual slice of landscape I captured was still quite large.  The scale of the place never ceases to amaze me.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess

One of the most striking things about being in Glacier Bay aboard a cruise ship is how quiet everything becomes.  They mercifully turn off the sound on the outdoor “Movies Under The Stars” entertainment system (it’s just a big television), the ship slows to maneuvering speed, and except for a few comments from the onboard naturalist, the place is silent.  And I crave silent.  Silent makes me happy.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess


Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess

Only one ship at a time is allowed in each area of the park, which is huge (3.3 million acres!) with several “inlets,” so the captain is able to essentially stop the in front of the glaciers, and when the ship moves from one place to another it does so slowly, barely creating a wake.  The slower movement of the ship makes using a tripod very easy, both for composition and for holding the camera still.  People ask me why I use a tripod on a moving ship, but it really does make a difference.  Other than a couple of videographers, mine was the only tripod I saw on board the entire cruise.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess

I scouted ahead of time and found a great spot on the aft of the ship that had good, unobstructed views, access to both sides of the ship and had enough room to get out of the way.  You would think that, with 2000 people on a ship in a place like Glacier Bay it would be crowded, but except for the time in front of the major glaciers and the times when they were giving away free hot chocolate on deck (there are always crowds around Free Food) I had the place pretty much to myself.  Most of the people hung out in the center of the ship, closer to the pools, the restrooms and the bars.  Silly me, the bars!

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess

The onboard naturalist told us that one of her most frequently asked questions was, “what’s the best side of the ship to be on to see wildlife?”  To which she replies, “the OUTSIDE!”  She also stated that wildlife watching involved a lot of wildlife “waiting.”  But amazingly, most people didn’t like the idea of waiting.  I saw dozens of seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises and whales, and often I was the only person around to see them.  Once in a while someone would walk by, see all my gear and ask me if I had seen any whales.  When I replied that I had, they looked at me like they thought I was lying.  Most of them were too far away to take photos of them, but they were still fun to watch through my binoculars.

Even on a ship large enough to hold 2000 passengers – small by modern cruise ship standards – I was struck by the enormous scale of the landscape and how small I felt within it, the ability for it to remain relatively undisturbed and how quiet it was.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess

My personal favorite photos from the day are the abstracts.  They really speak to the quiet and calm I felt that day.  I seem to have a thing for moving water, and some of the patterns are simply spectactular.  I’m thrilled that the photos reflect them so well.  I also enjoyed finding patterns in the glaciers and on the mountainsides along our route.  Again, the relatively slow speed made for some pretty easy composition, although I did find that I had to “lead” the scene just a bit in places.  All I did there was to keep the panning knob within easy reach, so that once I had the composition framed up and level, I could just pan the camera just a bit as needed.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess
Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess

One of the funny things about being an obviously serious photographer on a cruise ship is that people always ask me to take their pictures.  I always oblige, although Kathy often handles that task so I can keep making my own pictures.  What was really funny was that I think every one of the ship’s photographers took our picture at some point during the day.  They knew we would understand that they had a count to make and almost looked like they wanted to apologize for it.  We didn’t buy any of their photos but it was interesting to see the difference in composition and framing between the different photographers.  Good photos, reluctant subjects!

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve in Alaska from aboard Sea Princess

More 5D Mark III Fun!

Views of uptown Charlotte from the Seventh Street Station parking garage, Charlotte, North Carolina

I’ve gotten a little more time to shoot with the 5D Mark III over the last few days.  Saturday I was teaching a digital point & shoot class for The Light Factory, and part of the class time is spent out actually taking photos.  What a concept – a photography class that actually goes out and takes photos…amazing if I do say so myself!  I cheated a little and took the 5D, with full disclosure to the class, of course.  And after using my G12 in the previous session.

Looking Up, Clouds

I’ve still a little vexed by what I feel is most likely a learning curve in Lightroom…my files seem to be coming in flat and dark, and only after applying a pretty aggressive tone curve adjustment can I get them where I want them.  I thought maybe I  had some kind of Auto Tone turned on, but nothing I see indicates that I do, and even if I did I think the images, if anything, would look lighter instead of darker.  I also saw on a video tutorial something about some automatic highlight suppression that Lightroom is doing, but I haven’t found anything definitive about that.  So for now I’ve got something that works and I’m using it.

Looking Down

I’ve posted this photos a little larger than usual in case anyone wants to do some peeping.  Click on each photo to make them bigger (dare I say “embiggen?”).  They look pretty good, I think.

Frame In Need of a Face
No Littering


Uptown Charlotte in Fog - Canon 5D Mark III @ ISO 3200

The world is a noisy place, sometimes. Our workplaces are full of overheard telephone conversations, unattended cell phones, conference calls in “speaker phone voice” from an open cubicle with multiple participants, casual chatter between cube-neighbors. People leave televisions blaring in an empty room that is so loud it hurts my ears, and there’s no one there watching it. We go out for a meal to a restaurant filled with televisions AND loud music in a room with concrete floors and high ceilings that creates “atmosphere.” Actually it creates a headache. Heck, spend a couple of hours on the Blue Ridge Parkway and count the number of loud, noisy cars and motorcycles that roar by in a given period of time. “OUT ENJOYING THE PEACE AND QUIET ON YOUR HARLEY, HUH? WHAT? I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER MY RADIO.”  Why does a motorcycle even NEED a radio?  HUH?  Nevermind.

Morning Coffee - Canon 5D Mark III @ ISO 6400

Kathy & I seek quiet. We avoid noise whenever possible. We sometimes sit at home in the evenings and the only sound is the clicking of one OF our clocks. Lovely. No television, no music, and hopefully no neighbor’s barking dogs. When I sit at my computer I listen to an acoustic guitar channel on Pandora. Softly. When we think about traveling we think in terms of places we can go to get away from noise, at least man-made noise. Ocean sounds, waterfalls, wind? Those are no problem. We’ve even learned how to find the quiet places on a cruise ship, which is no small feat when sailing with 3 or 4 thousand of our closest friends.

Charlotte Plaza Building Lobby - Canon 5D Mark III @ ISO 25,600 - "Because I Can"

The thing I love about photography is that it takes me to quiet places. Even in the middle of a city, it gets my mind and attention away from the sounds and they become nothing more than background. I shut all that noise out and just think about enjoying my time with my camera. That’s the reason I don’t generally photograph with groups. I have a lot of good friends that are photographers, and while hanging out with a few of them at a time is great fun, much more than that and it’s hard to find the quiet place I look for when I’m with my camera.


Like these photos?  Maiden voyage of the new machine.  I made them a little larger than usual – click on them to make them bigger.

Different Strokes

No Trespassing

Three conversations over the last several days have gotten me thinking about the things that influence our preferences and perceptions. Bear with me while I elaborate.

Scenario One:

Kathy & I enjoy dining out, and this past Friday and Saturday nights were no exception. Friday night we went to a restaurant we have only been to a couple of times but have really enjoyed, and on Saturday night we went to a restaurant we had never been to before but had wanted to try.

The Friday night restaurant experience was exactly what we expected based on previous visits. The place has more of a sports bar/pub atmosphere and is generally a lot noisier than we prefer, with lots of televisions, this night showing NCAA basketball. Definitely not my idea of the ideal restaurant experience, but it is close to home, the food and service are good and the prices are reasonable, so we are willing to overlook a few less-than-ideal factors.


Fast forward to Saturday night. The place was a restaurant we had never visited before, but they had good reviews on Yelp and UrbanSpoon, so we figured it was worth a try. The restaurant’s website confirmed that the chef had lots of experience in other restaurants we have previously enjoyed and suggested that his approach mirrored our preferences and we went with an expectation of an excellent and enjoyable meal.

It wasn’t terrible, but a number of missteps left us with a very mixed first impression, to the point where I’m not certain we’ll return. They didn’t have a table ready for us despite having a reservation, the first two bottles of wine I requested were not in stock, despite being on the list, and my steak – one of the “features” for the evening – was tough and undercooked and my vegetables were practically raw. I know from well-proven experience that there are not many places that can do steak to my satisfaction, but I ordered it anyway, and the result proved my rule. On the other hand, Kathy’s dinner was good and she ate every bite.

Wrought Iron Diagonal

Afterward, our discussion centered on how our prior experiences and our own biases influence our first impressions. We have been to some very good restaurants over the years, and while we are certainly not snobbish or opinionated, we generally know what to expect. And I’m not talking just fine dining – we have had excellent meals from casual diners to fancy, high-priced restaurants. Are we spoiled? Perhaps we are, but there are noticeable differences between a good restaurant and an average restaurant regardless of price, and there are enough good restaurants that there is little reason to bother with the average ones.

To be fair to this place, however, I recognize that had I ordered something different I might have had an experience that was 180-degrees opposite from what I had, and I may have been able to overlook the miscues. And had there not been the miscues I might have been more able to overlook a disappointing meal. As it turned out, a lot of little things contributed to a disappointing experience. We concluded that, considering the price and knowing the many other options available, this place would not be high on the list of restaurants to return to.

Exit/Enter Pull

Scenario Two:

During our lunch in Salisbury last weekend, Paul, Earl & I talked about why we write and what we hope to get out of our blogs. We talked about the mutual followers we have and talked a lot about the number of photography blogs we enjoy and how those writers have a similar philosophy and approach to their photography that we have with ours, and how they often commented on our blogs, just as we comment on theirs. I was not too surprised to find that there are a few blogs we don’t especially care for. There is one blog in particular that we mutually dislike (“despise” might not be too strong a word) for a number of reasons, and that discovery led to a rather amusing conversation, as we all felt that this blog was the antithesis of our own blogs and those of our friends. Also interesting was the common observation that most of the people who follow that blog – or at least those who comment on it – had similar philosophies to the writer and were not the type of people we would find commenting on our blogs. It was an interesting discussion.

My take from all that is that people of like minds tend to gravitate toward each other, and the people who take an alternate or opposing viewpoint tend to stick with each other too.

Magnolia House Shadows

Scenario Three:

I spent some time on Sunday afternoon working with a good friend on getting some prints made of his photographs. This person is a long time friend and I admire his photography. His photos have traditionally been very quiet and introspective. But lately his images have taken on more on an “urban decay and chaos” theme, and the difference is fascinating. The particular photographs we were printing were from an old store that he has been photographing. The store is long closed, but the photographs show an interior with lots of clutter and chaos. This friend has had some chaos in his life recently, and it seems that he is expressing this through his photography. I wonder if he realizes it?

Coincidentally that same day a number of other friends had been posting photos on Facebook from several other another outings, and Kathy & I had an interesting discussion about how those photographs often reflected my view of the personality of each photographer. We speculated about how or whether a person’s subject matter reflected their profession, their current emotional state or some wished-for or desired outcome!