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Thursday, January 1, 2004

The Inside Passage

Southeastern Alaska offers intrepid photographers unparalleled opportunities. An expert gives some insight on how to get the shots.

The Inside PassageHearing the haunting cries of bald eagles perched along the rocky shore, following bear tracks through the soft quiet of a mossy rain forest or feeling (and smelling) the point-blank blow of a humpback whale—these are rare moments. Of the many thousands of people who travel to southeastern Alaska each summer, most leave without truly experiencing its wildness.

The best way to experience and photograph the wildness of southeastern Alaska is on a small boat or expedition ship. These well-equipped vessels are the ideal platform for photographers. Most are outfitted with inflatable Zodiac landing craft for exploring remote places, and some have sea kayaks for getting an even more intimate look.

Photographing icebergs, with their combination of deep blues and bright white, is a challenge. If your composition is dominated by white highlights, it's important to fool your camera's light meter by overexposing the scene by at least one stop, then bracketing another third- or half-stop above that. If you're shooting digital, tweak your exposure after a quick look at the histogram.

As the ship approached the face of the glacier, the ship's crew launched the Zodiacs for a closer look. Photographing from a moving boat requires a fast shutter speed to bring back tack-sharp images and for stopping the action when South Sawyer Glacier drops icebergs into the sea. Pushing ISO 100 film to 200 (or switching to the digital equivalent) can help gain the speed you need. Image-stabilized (or vibration-reduction) lenses also can be useful when making tight shots of harbor seals hauled out on the ice floes and for bald eagles perched along the shore.


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