The final part of our trip was a Cruise. We drove down from Denali to a town called Cooper Landing in the Kenai Peninsula. We did not realize that Whittier, which is where we had to take our cruise from was equi-distant from Copper Landing and Anchorage. We really did not have to come all the way down. But I’m glad we did. The drive was beautiful, infact almost every inch of Alaska is breath taking .. so i’ll recommend this drive towards Seward
Image above is the view on the drive back towards Anchorage, So the next day in the morning we drove to Whittier where our cruise was waiting for us. Its a good 3 hours on the cruise ship if not more. It takes you to Prince William Sound, and they show you over a dozen Glaciers. However though, you are really not that close to these glaciers, they point them out from a distance. Needless to say the scenery is breath taking. The most exciting is the “Surprise Glacier”. They take you very very close to this one Glacier, and they fetch some ice from it floating on the water for you to consume. Yes consume ! 🙂 .. lets say you order Rum and Coke or may be even just coke, they put the Glacier Ice in it rather than just regular ice. but you have to be quick to order one of those :-). Essentially you are having a 150 yr old ice..
(Surprise Glacier )
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After the sightseeing in and around Anchorage on day 1, we drove to Denali National Park and preserve the next morning. The drive was very pretty and scenic. There were low lying clouds , mist and rain on the hills along the road. It was a little gloomy if you were alone, but we were about 5 of us so it was a lot of fun. The problem with Alaska is that you don’t get cellphone signals and even GPS doesn’t work once you are out of the main city area, so if you are planning a trip make sure you do your homework on the route before you leave.
Denali NP is centered around mt. McKinley which is the highest mountain in North America. Its originally called Denali , which means “The High One”. As a tourist you need special permit to drive your personal vehicle inside the park. You can only go up to the first 15 miles after which for the next 91 you have to use the Park’s services.
The image above is of the Savage River Trail head. You can park your vehicles here and do this trail or hop on to the Park’s bus service and go further into the park. The reason why the park bus is used is because the wildlife there has gotten used to these buses. The animals treat them like any other rock, tree or object and are not intimidated by it. This is because these buses have always been there, ever since that particular animal was born, so they have sorta become part of their environment. These animals recognize these buses but not the humans sitting inside it, so be careful, don’t jump out and be quiet.
The bus allows you to get off at certain scenic locations to get the view of the Park and the Tundra. The above image was shot from one of those viewing areas. You can see the hills with low clouds entirely covering the Alaska Range and the Tundra.
if you are lucky and the weather is clear you can also see Mt. McKinley from the moving bus. We weren’t so lucky because the clouds were too low, but we did see a glimpse of the North Tip. The first image was shot on our way in and the other on our way back.
When in the bus you also get to see a lot of wildlife if you are lucky. The bus driver stops for you and you can take as many photos as you like as long as your are quiet and stay inside the vehicle. We say plenty of Caribou, Moose and Doll Sheeps in the way. infact we even say a grey Wolf at the beginning at Savage river entry point.
The image below shows how low and dense the clouds were. This image was shot at another of the scenic/break areas on the way.
Finally we reached mile 66 which is the Eielson Visitor Center. There is a small ranger led hike , where the Ranger basically explains the climate, the soil, the permafrost, wildlife etc etc. I would recommend this trail because then you will really appreciate what the Denali NP is all about. And the best part is that its free. Its also a beautiful viewing area as you can see from the images below. These images are of the Tundra, and the Alaska Range.
We stayed about 3 nights in Denali. There were a lot of activities we did like cycling in the park, rafting, hiking etc. After that we were on a our final leg to Kenai peninsula to catch a cruise to see the Glaciers.
Finally made it to the Last Frontier in July. Alaska was on my list for the last 2 years, but somehow the plan never formalized, in fact I was way too lazy for my own good. It is one of the largest states in the United States and the least populated as well. The population increases during the summer which is the peak of tourism. People from all over the world come there for work and to run their own business.
Alaska was exactly as I thought, as a matter of fact more beautiful. Anchorage, Denali National Park and all the other places we saw in between. Surrounded by Hills, Mountains, lakes, water inlets from the Pacific, wildlife pretty much everything you would want to see as a landscape/nature photographer.
Day 1 in anchorage, my friends and I went on a long beautiful drive along the Seward-Anchorage highway (South). The drive is very beautiful, with the bay (Turnagain Arm) on one side and hills of the Chugach State Park on the other.
After about driving 4o miles we reached Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. We got lucky, because we had no clue about this center. We just happened to be there and it was definitely worth it. We got to see some beautiful Alaskan wildlife.
And then it was time to head back. We had to go to the airport to pick up another friend with whom we left for Denali the next day ..
I have been looking for a good Cellphone Camera, because I don’t carry my DSLR all the time. DSLRs are bulky, they need a camera bag, etc etc.. but with a cellphone, you just slip it into your pocket and you’re done. I have tried the Galaxy S2 Camera as well and seen the results of an iPhone too, S4 by far has the best image quality. Even on a bright sunny day if you use the HDR mode, you can get great image quality. There is no under or over exposure in the mode.
There are plenty of other features on the phone, my favorite being the voice command. If you set it up , then just say “Shoot” and an image is created. This is very helpful when you have dirty fingers 🙂 . The PAN also works flawlessly. I have made full 360 images with it and the end result is super cool.
At 13 Megapixel on a small sensor the camera is very versatile and effective. But on the Negative, when you use the digital zoom to the max the image looks like crap. Below are some examples for you to check. I’ll be doing some night time shoots as well with the S4, will put a post for that soon.
No! not like “Seeing Things” which don’t exist, but to see things that do exist… differently. Lets see if I can explain this clearly. When you are shooting landscape and nature and the light is beautiful you tend to miss out on finer aspects while creating the image. I usually, like most photographers do some scouting before the magic hour to find a nice spot and set up my gear and wait for the right light. But sitting around doing nothing would waste a lot of time. I use that time to observe things around me, sometimes you can get a good abstract out of finer details.
The shot above I created while waiting at Island beach SP. I liked the pattern on the sand. I put a ND filter on the lens and with a simple lens zoom trick I created the shot. Its simple and good use of time and works as an abstract.
The above two shots of the frozen surface of the lake created in Harriman SP in NY. I was driving up to Bear mountain and on the way I stopped on a few spots and noticed these.. thought would make a nice abstract.
This one was at Sandy Hook Beach, yet again waiting for the sunset. The tide was coming in and these small rocks were interrupting the smooth flow of the waves.
This shot I created in Ocean Grove. The low tide was creating these interesting lines moving back and forth. Probably had something to do with the texture of the beach sand. I also used these patters as leading lines in one of the Pier shot.