In the first part of this article, I said we’d discounted seeing Alaska by cruise ship. Here’s why:
This part of our trip centred around Anchorage, with road trips to Valdez and Seward. But first, those bears. Remember I mentioned those inspiring Nat Geo shots of bears fishing? We paid a small fortune for a bear-watching trip with a large, well-known Anchorage tour company. We were flown to a tiny creek on Redoubt Bay, spent three hours sat on a boat, our view obscured by several salmon fishermen, and as we were about to leave, finally saw one bear, for less than a minute:
Back in Anchorage, the wildlife came to us. My wife spotted this, about five blocks from downtown:
Our first road trip was to Valdez. Only about a hundred miles away if you’re a crow, but nearer three hundred when you have to drive around the sea, the mountains and the glaciers. No mind, the roadside scenery is the main reason for doing this trip:
Small side roads contain slightly less obvious treasures, like the Rusty Cars Picnic:
Roadworks around the entrance to the parking lot meant we couldn’t get too close to Worthington Glacier:
On the way back from Valdez, we got close – very close – but the weather wasn’t cooperating. Still, using my wife’s Panasonic LX100 (didn’t have any pockets big enough to accommodate a Nikon in the pouring rain), I did manage some fairly dramatic shots. And we can both truthfully say we have actually touched the face of a glacier:
Mention of Valdez might inspire images of oil refineries and rocks covered in oil slicks, but actually the setting of the small boat harbour – surrounded by mountains – is superb:
Valdez is also the launching point for the very impressive Meares Glacier:
Like other glaciers, the scale is deceptive (half a mile wide and three hundred feet high in this instance), until some other boat or creature gives you some scale:
Notice those little dark splodges off the bottom left of the ice face?
I did take a multi-shot panorama with the D800. Any idea where I can get a 20k+ pixel-wide image printed? The road from Anchorage to Seward was similarly scenic (though only about a hundred miles):
The scenery was almost alpine at times:
Lots more glacier shots, though this one (Holgate Glacier) somehow felt much colder than the others, and the sea of ice-floes much more serious:
Seward provided some lovely wildlife shots. The Sea Otters seemed completely unfazed by us, and continued lazing or playing:
I’ll spare you the shot of the remains of a porpoise (which had been dismembered by a pod of Orcas) floating by the boat…
Our final day, in the Eagle River Valley near Anchorage, seemed almost bucolic by comparison. We were warned to keep singing and talking loudly, since there was a black bear in the area (though fresh footprints and scat were the nearest we came) – but even the slight nervousness couldn’t detract from the natural (and photogenic) beauty, sculpted partly by spring floods, and partly by several active beavers:
Sadly Denali couldn’t be fitted into our timescale this visit – but it gives us an excuse to go back again!
From a technical standpoint, all the cameras (D800, D500, LX100) behaved impeccably – though I’m still regretting not being able to take the Sigma Art 24-35mm and 50mm instead of the Nikon 24-70mm. This was the first and last major outing for the D500 – it will be replaced by a D850 once Nikon sort out any launch bugs. Sorry Nasim! – yes, I did read your post on ‘camera hype’, but my logic is that with D800 + D850 I don’t get the expense and weight of having to buy and carry two sets of lenses, which I would need to do if I stuck with D800 + D500…
Congratulations by the way to anyone who noticed photos labelled as ‘D610’. Those were actually shot on the D500, but disguising the camera’s identity is Raw2Nef’s way of fooling Capture NX2 into opening the RAW files.