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Photography Nirvana: Tracy Arm Fjord

Q:

How do you know that you just might be a photographer?

A: 

When you are photographing out on the open deck of a boat during a storm of freezing rain and sleet and you realize that every single other passenger (including your wife) is snug inside the warm and dry cabin, drinking Hot Chocolate (and probably making jokes about that moron outside with two cameras hanging around his neck)!

Yup…welcome to my life:)

Oddly enough, I’d bet that I was probably the happiest person on that boat.  We were on a small sightseeing catamaran cruising up Tracy Arm Fjord in Alaska.  While other passengers were bummed out because of the crappy weather, I was ecstatically bouncing around from one side of the deck to the other trying to capture the dramatic views.  4000′ Mountains covered by wispy clouds were jutting out of the fjord to either side of me and the sea was filled with hundreds of icebergs and chunks of ice.

As one of the passengers said when he briefly stepped out “You’re clearly having way too much fun.”

And he was right…I was smiling from ear to ear.  Well sure…my hands were numb and I had to dry my lens after every single shot, but the views were awesome.  I had photographed the same area once before years ago…but that had been a pretty day and the resulting photos were okay…but bland.  Blue skies, grey rock, green trees…ho, hum.  But what I was seeing was anything but boring.  It was truly awesome.

Take a look yourself:

Photographer Nirvana: Tracy Arm Fjord

Was I right?

I’ve been to Yosemite more than a few times hoping to get photos of the clouds as they swirled around the valley after a storm…but no luck.  On the other hand, the vistas in the fjord that morning were all I could have hoped for:

Photographer Nirvana: Tracy Arm Fjord

2015 Northwest 06 29 209

The lack of light sucked the color out of the landscape and I thought these views were made for black and white.  Even so, some of the little icebergs were a beautiful deep blue: Photographer Nirvana: Tracy Arm Fjord

At the end of the Fjord, we came to Sawyer Glacier and I understood where that color had come from.  When the skies are overcast, the entire glacier seems to glow cobalt from within the ice.

It is hard to convey the size of such a thing, but that is a big, two-story boat you can see to the right:  it helps provide a sense of scale…

Photographer Nirvana: Tracy Arm Fjord

Sawyer Glacier

 

Of course, I really wanted to see and hear the glacier calve:  “White Thunder”.  It did a couple times, but they were pretty unimpressive and I missed them anyway.  Being the stubborn type, I waited patiently.  And waited.  And waited some more. And then I heard what sounded like a gunshot as a huge slab of the glacier fell away and shuttered into the sea creating a huge wave.  Fortunately, I had my camera ready and ripped off a series of 24 shots.

Yesterday I processed those shotS and here is the best image:

Sawyer Glacier Calving

Well, that’s really not very impressive is it?   To be honest, I was pretty disappointed.  The photo was in focus, it was well exposed, it covered all the photographic basics…but the image utterly failed to convey the size, the action and the sheer violence of the moment.

I realized that I had made a mistake.  I should have shot a video.  The camera I have now (a Nikon D800E) is the first one I’ve owned that can take video but I’m guilty of being stuck in my ways…I just hadn’t thought of trying a video.

So I was pretty PO’ed with myself for missing the opportunity…I mean how many times am I going to be able to go to Alaska and see something like this?   But…I DID have 24 sequential shots…Maybe I could make a pseudo-video by processing the frames like I would a time-lapse.  How hard could it be?

Well, here I sit a full day later.  The project did not exactly progress flawlessly.  In other words, I had no idea what I was doing and I learned it all the hard way…but I did learn.  Honestly though, it really frustrated me.  Or, as Ricardo Montalban said in the Wrath of Kahn:  it “tasked me!”   I simply had to keep working on it till I bested it…darn it!

And now I’m the proud owner of a six second video (that probably took me six hours to make…possibly not my most productive use of time)  Just the same, it’s kinda cool:

Soon we had to head back to port.   As the boat slowly cruised back, the sun tentatively begun to polk thru the overcast.  As it did, I spotted this eagle who had clearly been drenched and was trying to dry out his wings.Photographer Nirvana: Tracy Arm Fjord

By now the other passengers had started coming out of the cabin and the camera shutters started clicking all around me.  But for me, the magic had dissipated along with the fog so I just went back into the cabin, got a hot coffee, snuggled up to Anita and enjoyed the ride back into Juneau.

It was a good day to be a photographer.

Jeff

 

 

 

 Photography Nirvana: Tracy Arm Fjord

Photography Nirvana: Tracy Arm Fjord

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