Alaska Cruise 2017: Part Six – Glacier Bay National Park

Welcome to day 6 of our adventure! Today we stay aboard ship but cruise around the Glacier Bay National Park. I’ll warn you now, my words are inadequate to describe this to you so I’ll rely on the photos, lots of them and fewer words.

We start our day before 5am Alaska time as the sun comes pouring into our stateroom window, alerting us to this beautiful sunrise! I watch it from the bed, Karen gets up and makes a photograph. Yes, it has come to this.

As we begin to enter the passages of the national park, we are greeted by the majestic mountains once again. I personally just can’t get enough of them.

Early inside the park we are met by an otter playing around in the water near the ship as we cruise by.

I am able to capture this 5 shot pano as we are passing the mountains.


Once again I am thankful for the weather we are having. Blue skies with just the right amount of white clouds for dramatic effect.

As we pass one mountain the ship’s biologist informs us over the intercom that there are mountain goats visible. I learned that on a cruise ship, “visible” means grab your binoculars because you probably won’t see it with your naked eyes. This is a pretty tight crop from a zoomed image but 4 of those white dots are cliff-dwelling mountain goats.

This is a small glacier in Reid Inlet. This is nothing compared to what is coming.

As we cruise through the passage, the peaks seem to go on forever.

We are now in the Tarr Inlet, the main attraction is just ahead.

Finally we reach the end of the inlet. Oh wait, the glacier is on the other side of the ship.

This is Margerie Glacier. It goes back into the mountains for 21 miles! This is just the terminus of the glacier.

Gulls are numerous in this area. There must be plenty of food in these inlets to keep them fed.

You can also notice a lot of ice in the water. These glaciers are actively calving. Maybe we’ll get lucky and capture a photo of that happening.

Did I mention that even though the sun was out, it was pretty cold here. Of course, it only makes sense. Look at all the ice!

Looks can be deceiving. Remember, the glacial wall is several stories tall. This ship has 10+ decks and it still towered over us.

And there we go. A large chuck of the glacier let loose. Again, that splash is several stories tall!

The other glacier at the end of this inlet is the Grand Pacific Glacier. This one is about 25 miles long and is right on the boarder of the US and Canada. That’s Canada in the background. Here are a few facts from the National Park Service. This glacier is about 2 miles wide at the terminus, that’s what this photo is showing. It is also about 150 feet tall in the center! <link> The dirty appearance of the glacier is ground-up mountain as it has made its way, scraping along the earth to this point.

Another shot for perspective. That is Margerie Glacier and we’re almost three quarters of a mile away.

One last shot of Margerie before we go.

Now we are in for another treat. The captain makes a turn into the Johns Hopkins Inlet to where we are told is hit favorite location on this cruise. We won’t be able to go all the way to the glacier because this inlet has been declared a critical seal habitat and cruise ships are not allowed in between 5/1 and 8/1 each year. We will get to just enter the inlet and look though.

Nope, not there yet. This is Lamplugh Glacier. It’s only 8 miles long. Small, but pretty.

Karen spots this otter off the side of the ship, playing around on its back! He returns her glance and they both smile.  🙂

Yes, even I am smiling. Better be careful or I’ll lose my rep as a grumpy old man.  🙂

This turn is referred to as “jaw point”. According to our cruise director it is because your jaw drops when you round the corner!

That is the Johns Hopkins Glacier at the end of the inlet! It’s about 6 miles away from us, but the beauty is evident! Wow! Jaw has officially dropped!

Again for scale. That mast is pretty tall but nothing compared to the glacier.


After spending time enjoying the sight of Johns Hopkins, it was time to turn the ship around and leave. The trip out of the park was just as amazing as the trip in.

After dinner we are still enjoying the long days here. Finally, as the sun begins to set an amazing thing happens. We get just enough cloud cover for a very cool sky and a “sun dog“. Not quite the Northern Lights, but we’ll take it.

And for some reason, sunset seemed to take forever this evening. We spent time on the balcony, went inside, saw more amazing light, spent time on the balcony, went inside, repeat several times.

Until finally, the sun set behind the mountains, leaving us with the beautiful orange/red/yellow sky once more.

Tonight it looks like our friend is a towel frog. Who comes up with these things?

So, another day exploring God’s beautiful creation. Looking forward to what He shows us tomorrow! Tomorrow brings us to our last port-of-call, Ketchikan Alaska.

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 One – Vancouver CA

Karen and I have been wanting to take an Alaska Cruise for the past 20 years, but we always came up with some reason why we just could not do it each year. This year however, is our 25th anniversary and we decided that there will always be reasons not to go and decided to make the sacrifices necessary and go. So, toward the end of 2016 planning starting coming together to make this happen.

We decided on the Carnival cruise line because they offered an 8 day cruise at the beginning of May through the inside passage with an additional stop at the Tracy Arm Fjord. Karen had learned that this was a spectacular location and we wanted it on the list, so with the cruise booked by the end of 2016, all we had to do was wait. The cruise took place from April 30th to May 8th 2017. What follows is our adventure!

Let me preface by saying that as a photographer whose primary affection is wildlife, I would not recommend a cruise ship as the first choice for seeing the most wildlife. You have little control over your time and are at the mercy of the ship’s captain, excursion leaders, and other factors. That does not however mean that a cruise is not worth the time and money. If for no other reason, it does give you access to many places you would not feasibly be able to get to on a single vacation. Additionally you will quite possibly see places you will want to return to in the future to spend more time for a more in-depth visit. So, if you like, think of it as a scouting trip for a future wildlife-intensive trip.

Now, on with the story…

Our cruise began in the city of Vancouver Canada. With a desire to try something new,  we tried something old. Rather than staying in a well-known chain hotel, we opted to stay at a hotel called the Victorian. This hotel goes back to the days of the 1898 Gold Rush. Of course it has been updated but still maintains the charm of the late 1800s. Truly a slice of history and comfortable to boot. How many hotels can say they have been in operation in the same location for over 100 years? This hotel gets my seal of approval.

The hotel is located in the part of Vancouver called “gastown”. This is the historic old part of Vancouver which is now “hip” with the young urbanites. I found that I myself am no longer “hip”. I was not 100% comfortable walking around this part of town in the evening with a few thousand dollars of camera equipment around my neck, but we had no problems what-so-ever. Because of my own misgivings I probably missed out on a few interesting street shots, but that’s life. Still, it was an interesting visit.

We arrived in Vancouver the night before our departure date in order to allow for any flight delays. So after a good night’s rest, we got up and spent the morning exploring the Vancouver seawall area which leads down to Stanley Park, a massive area of which we only touched the edge. This would be a great place to come back and spend more time. On the plus side, our exercise bands recorded a record number of steps this day! Mine said I walked over 10 miles that day! What follows are some scenes we witnessed around the park and seawall prior to boarding our ship.

Starting out at Vancouver Harbor we saw many ships and sea planes moving about.

The harbor was also full of colorful boats. Again, you can tell from the boats that interesting people live here.

The city skyline made for an interesting backdrop behind the boats docked in the harbor.

Once we got into the park proper, we found many interesting things. The first we came across was a selection of totem poles. I learned later while in Ketchikan that totem poles, rather than being idols which were worshiped, were more like story books. When the pole was raised, the maker of the pole would tell the story. The faces represent the characters int he story. These stories could be historical in nature or much like fairy tales, told to children to teach moral and safety lessons.

I was able to catch Karen here as she was making photos of the poles.

Another point of interest in the park is Brockton Point Lighthouse which was built in 1914. You can read more about the lighthouse <here>. Also, as you can tell from the following two photographs, taken a mere 15 minutes apart, the weather changes pretty rapidly here.

And of course, we found a few birds to photograph. Karen got the best shot of the bald eagle that flew over us. I won’t use the excuse that I only had my wide-angle lens with me because that would just be petty.  😉

Another big landmark here is the Lions Gate Bridge which is a pretty magnificent sight. It opened in 1938 and the name comes from the twin peaks on the North Vancouver side of the harbor called the Lions. Notice the rock that looks like it has someone seated. That is a sculpture of a mermaid. Unfortunately we were running out of time and had to head to our ship before getting that far.

On the way back to get our bags at the hotel, there were several flights of stairs and I got to do my not-so-famous Rocky impression after “running” the stairs. (Editor’s note: By “running” he means moving faster than normal walking speed.)

Vancouver Harbor is a beautiful site and Stanley Park is a treat you must visit if you are in the area. For us, it was time to head to the ship, the Carnival Legend. We had several hours of TSA, Customs, and loading procedures to get through.

Once we finally made it on board, the time came to shove off and leave the land behind. From our stateroom balcony we waved goodbye to Canada and set sail for Alaska and the inside passage.

A few last glimpses of Vancouver. Pulling out of the harbor we passed under the aforementioned Lions Gate Bridge and you can see North Vancouver in the background.

After the bridge, we passed by West Vancouver, set at the foot of beautiful mountains.

As we were leaving the bay, we got a glimpse of the West Lion peak, which is one of the peaks the bridge was named after, rising up behind West Vancouver, which also appeared to be having a local carnival.

Goodbye Canada…

As we set sail for our first full day at sea, we watched in awe as God painted the sky the most beautiful oranges and reds at sunset! This would be a common occurrence most every night of the cruise.

Day two is a full day at sea as we make our way towards the Tracy Arm Fjord!

Stay tuned for part two, coming soon as I process through the 6000+ photos taken between the two of us.

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

A Trip to Mississippi

Finally, after a long time of saying we were going to do it, we finally make a trip to Gautier, MS to visit our friends William and Claudette Owens.  We were so glad that we went.  They not only showed us a great time while we were there, but they also showed us a few new things.

For instance, they took us to the Gulf Coast Gator Ranch in Moss Point MS, where we not only got to see gators up close and personal in their facility, we also took an airboat ride and were able to see them in the wild as well.

Mississippi 2012

Mississippi 2012

Mississippi 2012

Of course, its little mouth was banded to keep from customers losing any fingers, but something tells me that the little guy wouldn’t have hurt a flea.  Just rub its neck and it just purred.   Smile

Yes, they have bigger gators there, but you wouldn’t want to pet them!

Mississippi 2012

Mississippi 2012

Mississippi 2012

After looking around there, William thought it would be a great idea to take the airboat ride through the local swamp. 

Mississippi 2012

Mississippi 2012

I guess William forgot that he has a tendency to get a little motion sick, or perhaps he had never seen the videos that show just how much of a “ride” an airboat can be! But he was a trooper and stayed strong for the entire ride. No extra “feed” for the gators this trip!

Mississippi 2012

Mississippi 2012

Yes, there were gators out in the wild as well as the ones at the “farm”.  This is just one reason why they said to “keep your hands and arms inside the boat at all times during the ride!

Mississippi 2012

Mississippi 2012

The swamp was very cool with all the overhanging trees.  Other than the gators we saw, I didn’t see any snakes, so I was good with that!  For an example of just how “wild” the ride was, here is just a three minute clip of the ride!  Check out the 360 towards the end!

After the gator ranch, we had lunch and then headed for the beach in Ocean Springs, MS.  Karen wanted to at least stick her feet in the water while we were here, and I just wanted to see what I could take pictures of.

Mississippi 2012

And no, I didn’t wade in the water.  Not really sure why, just didn’t.  But here are Karen, Claudette, and William while I shoot from the dry sand.

Mississippi 2012

If course there were birds…

Mississippi 2012

I was almost able to walk all the way up to this Heron that was perched on the pier.  Good thing too since all I had with me was my 24-105mm lens!

Mississippi 2012

And shells, with someone at home…

Mississippi 2012

And the requisite couples shots on the pier…

Mississippi 2012

Mississippi 2012

But Karen caught the best sunset picture when we drove over to Gulfport for dinner to the Back Bay Seafood Restaurant.  The food was as good as the sunset!

Mississippi 2012

It was a great trip and one I’m glad we made.  Thanks again to our friends William and Claudette for making it an enjoyable trip that we will remember for a long time to come!