Alaska Cruise 2017: Part Eight – Day at Sea and Final Destination

It has finally come–our final day aboard ship. This will be a full day at sea with only minimal view of land. We take this opportunity to sleep in a bit and then get breakfast. When we return we see the last of our towel sculptures for the trip–a heart!  Our cabin stewardess was excellent on this trip. She saw to our every need promptly and completely. I should have gotten her photo, but I didn’t think about it.

Ventures onto the deck provided this scene pretty much the entire day. There would be briefings about debarkation procedures and such to attend, and just general relaxing aboard the ship.

One event that we did attend was an ice carving demonstration. This guy was pretty amazing.

He started with a simple block of ice and just started chipping away.

I know that by this point I would have shattered the entire block into nothingness, but he appears to know what he is doing.

Looks like wings. Maybe an angel or a bird?

Jen, the cruise director, pumps up the crowd as he continues his work. The ice is starting to take shape.

Yep, it is starting to look more like an eagle at this point. Do you see the head and beak in the front?

Now the feathers of the wings are taking shape.

And the final product, done in just 23 minutes. Again, I would have a bag of shaved ice left! Incredible!

Checking the view, pretty much the same as before, lots of water, sky, and clouds. Still gorgeous though.

Land ho! Finally, off in the distance I see my beloved mountains! According to the GPS tag of the photo, we are still far enough north that those are Canadian mountains.

But the sun is setting and its time to make sure everything is packed for debarkation. The night is uneventful and when we wake up in the morning I get my first view of Seattle Washington. Yep, there’s the Space Needle! I’ve always wanted to see that!

And there is Mount Rainier! I’ve always wanted to see that as well!

And here they both are together. This is one of those places that is on our list for a return trip where we can spend time. This is not that trip. Duty calls and we must return to our real lives as ordinary workers in the system.

So, with that, it was time to pack up the cameras and prepare for the customs, TSA adventure. It will be nowhere near as exciting as the last few days, but it must be done. By tonight we’ll be back in our own bed in Overton, Texas. It will be many more days before the swaying sensation goes away but hopefully the memories made on this trip will never recede.

Thank you for coming along with us on our trip. I hope that you enjoyed the stories and photos. Watch this site in the future as many of the photos taken on the trip, some shown here and others not, will be made available for sale. Buy them and help pay for our next adventure. If you do, I’ll be sure to share those memories with you as well!

Thank God for the beautiful places to see!

Until next time…

All words and photos copyright 2017 MHampton Photography
Equipment used: Canon 5DS-R, Canon 7DmII, Canon T6S, and various Canon lenses

Alaska Cruise 2017: Part Seven – Ketchikan Alaska

Today is our last port-of-call–the city of Ketchikan. Alaska. We were told that the name Ketchikan is a native word that means “Land of a thousand jewelry stores”. I’m not sure I believe that, but for the size of the town, they certainly have their fair share. They even have a Walmart. We did not go but I did overhear one of the passengers from the boat asking where to catch the “Walmart shuttle”.

We woke pretty much with the sun, as we have most of these mornings and found that we were pulling into the bay. Karen captured this lighthouse as we passed by.

We were told that Ketchican is in the world’s 2nd largest rain forest, the Tongass National Forest. It is actually the largest remaining temperate rainforest. That being the case, we should expect wet weather here. As we get nearer the port, it is certainly more green here than our last two ports.

And yet, the mountains and the clouds, open to show bits of blue sky as we progress through the channel.

Once we arrive in port we disembark for our tour.

This stop we have chosen the Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary, Eagles, & Totems tour. It promised a “guided nature hike, bald eagles, Alaskan reindeer, native totem carver and historic sawmill, at an exclusive reserve by the forested mountains”.  Our nature hike lead us through parts of the rainforest with the guide explaining interesting facts along the way, for instance, this is skunk cabbage. The name itself is enough reason for me to not eat it though it can be eaten if prepared right. If it isn’t prepared correctly, you could die. So…

There are lots of red pine trees, some of which are decaying. This is actually good for the forest as the dirt here is very thin. The roots of the trees spread out, but without much depth, the trees can blow over in heavy winds. This rotting tree will help create more soil.

As you would expect in a moist environment, moss and other fungi readily grow.

Here, the moss and fungi are helping to break down a tree that has fallen into much needed soil and nutrients for other plants.

Pointing out how the root structures of the trees adapt to the shallow soil, our guide does some explaining.

This is also a wildlife sanctuary. Here we see signs of bear in the area! Maybe we’ll get lucky!

This beautiful flower is the “Chocolate Lily“. The “rancid smell and dark color of the flower attracts flies for pollination”, according to a sign here. I didn’t bend over to smell it.

The root system of the trees can also be used as a small den for bears in the winter. This one was empty at the moment.

Looks like someone didn’t prepare well enough for the winter. Ah, the circle of life.

Well, they did promise Bald Eagles here. This one was still quite a ways away, but I’ll take what I can get.

And then as we rounded a corner, the grand prize! A bear in the woods! This black bear was looking for food, and since they mostly eat vegetation and fish, we’re not too worried, but cameras are a snappin’!

One thing with nature photography, many times you take what you can get. The bear never came out for a nice clean portrait, but at least I got both eyes in this shot. The guide hurried us along so not too many people would be congregated in one spot. This was not a photography tour after all.

Another part of this location was a raptor rehab center. They had a few birds but of course I focused on the eagle. Just look at the talons on that thing! That’s a human hand it is perched on.

And even though it is a captive, I figure that the way things are going, this will be the only close-up shot I get of the eagle’s eye, so I take it.

They also have a gentleman here who is carrying on the native tradition of passing down stories through the use of totem poles. If you remember from day 1, these poles are used to tell stories, either historical or fiction. Each face represents a character in the story and the only person who knows the story is the builder. At least until the time comes to raise the pole in a ceremony, at which time he recounts the story to all who are there.

Once we left there, we headed back into town to see what Ketchikan was like. I told you that they get a lot of rain. This is their yearly rain gauge. In 1949 they had 202.55 inches of rain. According to this, last year they had about 170 inches! According to the sign, average yearly rainfall is 12.5 feet per year. That’s a lot of rain!

We hadn’t taken a lot of “tourist” shots, so here’s the Welcome to Ketchikan sign–“The Salmon Capital of the World”. I didn’t eat any salmon but I did have some fish-n-chips while here, but I ate those for the halibut.  LOL

A monument to the men and women who came here seeking their fortunes. Some found what they were looking for, many didn’t.

Our ship is almost the length of downtown. It strikes an imposing figure in the background.

And for many of the women who came, they ended up here, the red-light district of the gold rush. They even have a girl in costume at Dolly’s. Notice how the row is built on a pier?

And note the sign at Dolly’s…

Being more interested in eagles, I found one on a radio tower. We were still disappointed that they were not everywhere like we had been told, but speaking with an older native gentleman who was walking along the sidewalk, he told us that they gather there in the mornings to fish. So, going back to one of my first statements in the first post, a cruise is not the best vacation for pure wildlife photography because you have little to no control over your schedule, but it certainly does give us ideas for future adventures.

This is what the first few main streets of town are built over. Not earth, a pier. We were told that during prohibition, bootleggers would smuggle booze into the bars in the red-light district by going under the streets of the city and then come up through the floors.

Here’s one of the many jewelry shops in town.

And sometimes, even my beautiful wife has had enough of the lens.

Back on board, we are greeted by a towel-monkey! Yet another creative use of towels by the Carnival stewards.

As we set sail, we bid farewell to Alaska. We won’t be setting foot on its land again this trip. Maybe someday soon once again we will get to come and spend more time.

Those mountains! Even shrouded in mist and clouds, they still take away my breath.

And our final Alaskan Sunset. Sadness…

Tomorrow is a full day at sea before we wind up in Seattle Washington. What to do for a full day at sea…

All words and photos copyright 2017 MHampton Photography
Equipment used: Canon 5DS-R, Canon 7DmII, Canon T6S, and various Canon lenses

A Christmas Bargin

So winter will officially be here in a little more than a week and it got me going back through a few of my autumn photos that I hadn’t posted anywhere. The weekend before Thanksgiving, Karen’s family got together in Broken Bow, OK and we went up to spend some time there.

Broken Bow is also home to the beautiful state park, Beavers Bend. Well, needless to say, we had to take a detour through the park on the way home to see the colors. As we came to the Mountain Fork River we stopped and observed two guys in a kayak and thought it made for a peaceful scene. I got out my camera and made this exposure to remember the moment.

Now for the promised bargain. This shot along with many others, are available for sale at my Fine Art America site. And between now and December 26, 2016, you can use discount code “GTUFMA” at checkout and they will reduce my markup by %50.

So go to and check out all the cool things you can get with my photos printed on: cups, towels, duvet covers, shower curtains, iPhone cases, and yes, even  prints, framed and unframed, to hang on your wall.

Another reminder to always keep your camera handy.


Tyler Highland Games

Okay, I’m a little behind on my photo editing, but wanted to share these. Near the end of October was held the Tyler Scottish Festival and Highland Games. Having never been to one, and always admiring men willing to wear a kilt in public, we packed up the cameras and headed over. There were multiple tents for vendors selling their wares, as well as Scottish music and games. As you’ll see, the games were not limited to only men.

When we got there, the games were already underway, but we got to watch a couple of weight toss and caber toss events which I found interesting.

First up were the 56lb and 28lb weight toss events. This was kind of like a discus throw, but with a weight which has a handle attached. The participant spins in a circle to gather momentum, and then lets it fly. These guys and gals were pretty impressive with their strength, as well as their ability to not let it fly in the wrong direction and injure those behind them.





The one I really found interesting was the caber toss. I had see this before, but never understood what the rules were, until now. The purpose is to toss the large pole, have it flip end over end, and then you are judged on how straight it lands to where it was thrown. While it looks easy, apparently it is not. Of course the biggest hurdle is first picking up the rather long pole and balancing it before you actually try to flip it. This was very impressive.


This guy actually accomplished the feat! I think the yelling at the pole actually pushed it over the edge and got it flipped.




The parade of the clans was quite a site. They paraded around the area being led by the piper to the traditional song you usually hear on bagpipes. All the clans and their colors (tartans) were on display. Each clan had their own tent where you could learn some history of the clan and even see if maybe you were a descendant from them.


And of course, what sort of festival would it be if there wasn’t music? This is the Reel Treble Band, hard at work entertaining the crowd.

I didn’t get to stick around as long as I would have liked, but thoroughly enjoyed everything we saw. Next year I’ll plan a full day and see and learn even more!

Until next time…


Admittedly, I’m not a huge sports fan, but when offered tickets along with friends to see the big (local) game between the Kilgore College Rangers and their rivals the Tyler Jr College Apaches, well, who could turn that down? What follows are shots I took from the stands as a regular attender of the game.

Special teams coach Gary Wade talks with his players
#7 seemed to be the play-maker of the team. He was given the ball on several occasions for many gained yards
Blocking for the quarterback allowed for even more yards gained
#7 once again for the run
Once more, zigging and zagging past the opponents
Half time started with the TJC Marching Band. They were pretty impressive, playing songs from the 80s, which means I knew most of them. 🙂
They had a full percussion section present
And of course, the TJC Apache Belles dance troup
Quite the athletic set of girls
Founded in 1947, they have been around for quite some time
However, the Kilgore College Rangerettes were the first! Founded in 1939, they were the first team of their kind to grace the college halftime shows.
Not having my wide-angle lens, I couldn’t get them all in one shot
The Kilgore College marching band was also present. Not as large or flashy as TJC’s but still a good performance.
But when the Rangerettes sat down and did their synchronized hand-jive, it was very impressive. Their timing was impeccable.
It is easy to see why these girls are world famous, having preformed on 4 continents and 11 different countries.
Their poise and attention to detail continue to show whey they are the best
Back to the game. More running and dodging
Nose to nose, the teams face off
QB gets rid of the ball just before the coming tackle
Coach Wade giving instructions
At the end of the day, there can be only one winner, and this day that winner was the Kilgore Rangers, 50 to 29! Great ending to their homecoming game!

As I said, I’m not a huge sports fan, but this was definitely a treat for us. I actually look forward to attending another game.