I've gotten some questions about going to Alaska, so I figured I'd run down the trip for a couple blogs. First, I absolutely recommend all of you visit our largest state. We lived in Anchorage for three years and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Alaska is a beautiful state, with huge, wild areas, filled with wild animals. The people are friendly and helpful - even to tourists. The fishing and eating are great.
On this trip, there were six of us: my wife and I and her two sisters and their husbands. They had never been to Alaska, so Cathy was determined that they see as much as possible. If you're going to visit, give yourself some time to see more than just the airport at Anchorage. On our trip, we landed in Anchorage and drove, immediately, to Seward; then back to Anchorage; to Denali National Park; and, finally, Fairbanks. In Fairbanks, we picked up my brother and his wife. It was a big crowd.
Seward is home to Kenai Fjords National Park, where I got skunked by the weather last year. This year, we had more time down there, and I scheduled myself on two separate boats into Kenai Fjords. A boat trip (or sometimes helicopter) is the only way into the park. Don't worry about getting seasick - most of the boats are large and comfortable. The trips vary from two to nine hours, depending how far into the park you want to go. Weather conditions can change quickly throughout a single day. The first day was mostly sunny, but it was overcast the entire next day. I picked a different route for each of my two days out.
Bring a jacket (it's always cooler on the water), some snacks, and your camera, of course. The rolling of the boat and frequent clouds call for fast shutter speeds. You may need to increase your ISO to ensure you don't make great photos that aren't sharp. I had rain covers for my camera, but, luckily, didn't need them. You'll have the opportunity to see glaciers, whales, otters, sea lions, birds by the thousands, and an occasional black bear.
The bear appeared the day I was using the 70-200, so this is a heavily cropped image. On the second day, the conditions on the bay were too active for the 200-400. The whales were barely breaking the surface, and the seals were just lounging around.
If you are interested in sea birds, you can see quite a variety. There were some bird watchers on our boat who had a check list of birds they wanted to see. They were all excited when we found a particularly rare breed. (And they say photographers are weird.) Me? I like the puffins.
We spent several days of constant activity and eating great seafood. The list of activities included dog mushing with a past Iditarod champion; hiking glaciers; and relaxing in the hot tub. Since it was early August, the sun didn't set until about 10:30 p.m., and sunrise was about 4:45 a.m. The light on the cabin was great. Seward is one of my favorite destinations.