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

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.

Peaks…

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.

Wow!

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 Two – A Day at Sea

The vacation started off great, and kept getting greaterer (sic). Yes, I said greaterer! Neither Karen nor I had any trouble adjusting to life on board a ship. No seasickness. No falling down trying to gain our sea legs. This was great. And our first full day at sea would be no different. While there were not a lot of opportunities for my kind of photography on this day, there was plenty to do, and eat, and see, and eat, and eat. Did I mention there was plenty to eat? You’ve probably heard that there is food 24/7 on a cruise ship. To quote Han Solo, “It’s true. All of it.”

Our view for the day varied little since we were at sea all day.  Most of the time it was just open ocean, as far as you could see.

But we were able to catch occasional glimpses of land off the starboard bow (that’s the right side) of the ship. If I’m reading the map right (my camera tags my photos with GPS coordinates), this is Triangle Island, and it was about 20-25 miles away. That gives you an idea of how distance can fool you at sea!

The day at sea gave us plenty of time to explore the ship. And according to our exercise bands, we did a lot of that. Not quite as much walking as we did in Vancouver, but we did plenty considering our limited distance. The Legend is only 963 feet long. Of course, there are stairs between decks.

As I mentioned, we were aboard the Carnival Legend. Weighing in at over 44 tons, it is easy to see why our ride was so smooth. Even with the waves were up, it was just a gentle swaying back and forth that actually aided in sleeping at night. And the orange and white “boats” in the photo below are the escape pods, which were built to remain afloat even if capsized. There was no fear of any tragedy on this trip!

All Carnival ships have the distinctive “winged” smoke stacks which sets them apart from all the other ships. You can know at a glance in a group of ships which one belongs to Carnival.

As you can tell from our reflection, it was quite chilly here on the open sea. Both Karen and I were sufficiently bundled up to remain warm.

While we did have cloudy skies, the breaks showed us the beautiful blue skies were just behind them.

As I mentioned in the previous post, while not the best type of vacation for pure wildlife photography, wildlife was spotted several times. Though not quite as close as we would like for really good photographs. For instance, that puff of white on the left of this photo is from the blowhole of a surfacing humpback whale. We did get to see them closer a couple of times during the trip, but never got to see one breach up out of the water like you see on television. Apparently they do that more in mating season, which was not now.

Another example, here is a pod of either seals or sea lions. I think the on-board biologist said that they were Steller sea lions. But again, too far away for any really great photos.

And while you may not expect to see birds this far away from land, these guys were seen “running” across the surface of the water several times during the cruise. Again, too far away for a good identification, but an interesting bird nonetheless.

That was pretty much it for this day, other than the walking and, did I mention there was plenty to eat? As we neared the end of the day we make our way to the deck to watch the sun set over the horizon. When we first got on deck, the sky still had plenty of blue.

But as the sun neared the horizon, the color began changing to the red/orange/yellow that we saw on our first evening aboard.

Which gave me time to photography my favorite subject…

Just before the last of the sun dropped into the ocean.

Then it was off to dinner (did I mention all the food?) and then a return to our stateroom and another towel creation. This one held a couple of gift cards to help celebrate our 25 years of marriage!

Then it was time for bed to rest up for the Tracy Arm Fjord tomorrow. What a beautiful sight that was! Stay tuned for day 3, coming soon!

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

The Mississippi Gulf Coast

On the few days before the Memorial Day Weekend 2012, Karen and I traveled to the gulf coast of Mississippi to visit some friends.  Of course, I took along my camera to capture whatever images I could.  However, challenging myself, I opted to only take my 24-105mm lens and not the 600mm “beast” as my friend JohnT likes to call it.  That made capturing some of the shore birds a little more of a feat.

For instance, this heron was perched on the pier. I slowly walked toward it, taking a shot, taking a couple of steps, taking a shot, repeat, until I was probably within 20 feet before it decided to fly off!

Mississippi 2012

Another heron, was perched on top of on of the pier roofs and sat there while I walked right up to it.  Of course, it was still out or reach, but close enough for a pretty detailed shot.  It remained there until some kids started throwing shrimp at it.  <kids!>

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There were also gulls, of course.  They were a little harder to catch as they flew past at breakneck speeds, but I did manage to capture a couple of them.

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And of course, there is the sun, as it begins to set over the bay.  Still a little high in the sky here, but you can already begin to see the colors as the sun approaches the clouds.

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All in all, it was a great trip.  Spent some quality time with our friends, was able to challenge myself in my photographic techniques.

Next post: Gators!

All photographs created with the Canon 5d mark II and Canon 24-105mmL zoom lens.