GREAT LAND, GREAT PIC­TURES

An Alaskan pho­tog­ra­pher shares his se­crets for cap­tur­ing his home­land on camera.

Seabourn Club Herald - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Loren Holmes

An Alaskan pho­tog­ra­pher shares his se­crets for cap­tur­ing his home­land on camera.

Our ship had just pulled up to one of the most mas­sive tide­wa­ter glaciers in North Amer­ica, and the cap­tain cut the en­gines. In front of us, tow­er­ing nearly 300 feet tall, was the mile-wide Aia­lik Glacier in Alaska’s Ke­nai Fjords Na­tional Park. In the si­lence we could hear the mas­sive river of ice stretch­ing and crack­ing.

My ship­mates and I held our cam­eras tight, wait­ing for what we knew was com­ing — the mo­ment when a chunk of ice would fall, calv­ing off the glacier and crash­ing into the wa­ter be­low.

Most of my com­pan­ions had their cam­eras zoomed out, try­ing to take it all in, but I took the op­po­site ap­proach. I zoomed in as far as I could and waited. Ig­nor­ing many small pieces of ice that fell all across the ex­panse of ice, I fo­cused on an over­hang­ing mass of ice that seemed par­tic­u­larly pre­car­i­ous.

My re­ward came a few min­utes later, when the mas­sive chunk of ice fell, spray­ing wa­ter hun­dreds of feet in the air and scat­ter­ing birds that had been rest­ing on ice­bergs near the face of the glacier.

By choos­ing a fast shut­ter speed, the fly­ing pieces of ice are dis­tinct, as is the plume of wa­ter erupt­ing from the ocean. The birds pro­vide scale, mak­ing the plume of sea­wa­ter all the more im­pres­sive against the blue back­drop of the glacier.

As a pho­tog­ra­pher I of­ten use this trick, fo­cus­ing on a de­tail rather than try­ing to cap­ture the en­tire ex­pan­sive grandeur of Alaska. By zoom­ing in on a small area of the glacier, I high­lighted an im­por­tant de­tail that speaks a great deal to the power that this enor­mous mass has, and prob­a­bly tells you more about the glacier than a wider shot might.

PER­FECT TIM­ING

There are a num­ber of other tricks that you can use to take your Alaska pho­tos to the next level. One of the eas­i­est is to take your pho­tos in the morn­ing or evening, rather than dur­ing the mid­dle of the day.

MOST OF THE TIME THE “GOLDEN HOUR,” AROUND SUN­SET AND SUNRISE, MAKES FOR MORE PLEASING PHO­TOS.

Most of the time the “golden hour,” around sun­set and sunrise, makes for more pleasing pho­tos. A great ex­am­ple of this is from my trav­els along the Glenn High­way, which heads north and east from An­chor­age and aligns it­self in a long, strait stretch to­ward the 12,000-foot Mt. Drum. I’ve passed by many times where the moun­tain is out but the light just wasn’t right. One re­cent sum­mer I started my drive a lit­tle later than nor­mal and I came upon it at sun­set, lit up like a Syd­ney Lau­rence paint­ing.

RIGHT IN FRONT

An­other idea that I keep in my pho­tog­ra­pher’s tool­kit is the con­cept of lay­er­ing. Alaska’s beau­ti­ful landscape can be daunt­ing at times, and it’s easy to sim­ply point the camera at De­nali or Sawyer Glacier and fill your mem­ory card with pho­tos. But be­fore you do, look around for some­thing you can use as a fore­ground el­e­ment. Look for your ship­mates’ re­ac­tion when the glacier calves or a cou­ple em­brac­ing as they soak in the sun­set from the top deck.

KNOW YOUR GEAR

You also should keep in mind the lim­i­ta­tions of your camera equip­ment. If you’re watch­ing black bears lunge af­ter salmon in Ketchikan’s Anan Creek, you’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to even see the salmon if you’re us­ing an iPhone, with its fixed, wide-an­gle lens. If that’s all you have, con­sider tak­ing pho­tos that speak more to your per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, such as your spouse’s face as he/she spots the bears, with the rain­for­est as a back­drop to that ex­pe­ri­ence.

IN A LANDSCAPE SET­TING, THE IPHONE IS A GREAT CAMERA. JUST KEEP IN MIND SOME BA­SIC PRIN­CI­PLES OF COMPOSITION SUCH AS THE RULE OF THIRDS.

In a landscape set­ting, the iPhone is a great camera. Just keep in mind some ba­sic prin­ci­ples of composition such as the rule of thirds, which is to men­tally di­vide your im­age us­ing two hor­i­zon­tal lines and two ver­ti­cal lines, and then po­si­tion the im­por­tant el­e­ments in your pho­tos along those lines or at the points where they meet. Be sure to hold the camera steady, and you’ll no doubt come away with some stun­ning landscape pho­tos.

EMO­TIONAL MEM­O­RIES

For me, the joy of pho­tog­ra­phy has al­ways been its abil­ity to make you feel some­thing, whether it’s the mas­sive grandeur of Glacier Bay, the wild en­ergy of a herd of cari­bou or the peace of a sun­set in the calm wa­ters of the In­side Pas­sage nes­tled be­tween misty rain­for­est-cov­ered moun­tains. I’ve spent count­less nights freez­ing as I waited for the North­ern Lights to come out, but I still pounce at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to bun­dle up and fend off the be­low-zero temps, hope­ful that the stars will align and I’ll be in the right place at the right time for an au­rora show that re­minds me of how lucky I am to have called Alaska my home for the past 30 years.

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