Thursday, September 5, 2013

Photography with a Pro

The day after we visited Juneau we docked in Skagway, but Sue and I saw very little of the town because we had signed up for a shore excursion that took us by ferry to Haines.  Here is the description of the excursion from Holland America's literature:

Guide's Choice Photography Tour to Haines
Approximately 6 Hours
This tour provides a rare opportunity to focus on photographing the stunning scenery of the Chilkat Valley. The trip begins with a 45-minute ride via a shuttle catamaran along the steep-walled fjord that connects Skagway to Haines. Arrive in Haines and meet your photography guide. Your guide will select his/her favorite locations and provide you with ample time to set up the best shots. In your small group of eight or less, the emphasis is on taking time for excellent photography, rather than the photography being incidental ... Bring all your photo gadgets with you—you are assured space for your equipment in the transportation. Your guide will suggest shots, and discuss issues such as exposure, use of flash and depth of field. (S)he is well versed in the wildlife and wildflowers at any given time of the season, and will ensure that you adhere to ethical wildlife viewing protocols. With a small group, the guide has the flexibility to pick and choose locations that fit the group and the seasonal conditions. Some locations lend themselves to longer or shorter stops, depending on the light, wildlife activity and weather. You may end up photographing bears along the Chilkoot River (most reliable after August 1), an explosion of shooting star wildflowers at Chilkat State Park, or young bald eagles exercising their wings at the edge of their nests. The key is flexibility rather than adherence to a rigid schedule. The tour includes a boxed lunch so that you can eat when you want to and focus on getting the shots that you desire. You’ll return to Skagway via shuttle catamaran.

Sounds fabulous, doesn't it?  Well, it was.  I almost suffered a meltdown that morning when I discovered the memory card for my camera (which was admittedly almost 10 years old, a legacy of my first digital camera) had failed; on this of all days it stubbornly told me it was read-only.  Fortunately Tom, the liaison responsible for getting us on board the ferry, kindly took us first to the local Radio Shack where I bought two new cards (just in case).

You'll note that we were supposed to be in a small group; as it turned out, our group consisted of Sue, me, and our guide, Brooke, who constantly checked with us on where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see, etc.  Sweet!

Perhaps the highlight of the day was watching Speedy, a mother brown bear, fishing next to the weir on the Chilkoot River.  (The weir blocks the salmon so they can be counted; this makes it an ideal bear buffet.)  Brooke told us to stay close to her and do whatever she said, including jumping into someone else's car if necessary.  Apparently some tourists are reluctant to do this.  Personally, if I were to be chased by an irate brown bear - especially one called Speedy - I would have no problem with that.  Fortunately, Speedy was well behaved and it wasn't necessary.
Ship names and logos - Skagway harbor

Bald eagles fishing for salmon

Harbor seals
Bald eagle nest with parent bringing food to eaglet

"Speedy" taking food to cub
Plant in foreground is fireweed going to seed (a sign of fall)
Totem poles awaiting repair

“Exit pursued by a bear." ~William Shakespeare [stage directions in The Winter's Tale (III, iii)]

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