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O.k., I think I am safe here: “The Sun Also Rises”

Otter Beach Sunrise Acadia NP, Bar Harbor, ME Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Otter Beach Sunrise
Acadia NP, Bar Harbor, ME
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

When I — “tongue in cheek” — noted that I didn’t want to offend Hemingway and be guilty of the very thing I occasionally rant against, copyright infringement, an astute friend pointed out that it wasn’t Hemingway’s at all, but actually comes from the bible.  I am reasonably certain we are beyond the copyright expiration date for the particular author.  So there you go.  🙂

Sunrises reveal themselves in a number of varied conditions

Perhaps more meaningfully, my left turn into the topic of “sunrise” vs “sunset,” caused me to wonder just how many times I had ventured into the early morning, pre-dawn darkness, to try to capture the sunrise.  So I went back through my archives.  I was surprised (though I should not have been) to find that my sunrise images were far fewer than my sunset images.  I found about sixteen of them, most of which I had never given any serious post-processing.  I will use the next two posts to showcase some of them.  I will not say they are in every instance, my best work (in fact a couple were taken with lower-quality digital cameras in low light conditions — in a time when sensors were simply not as good as they are today).  The St. Thomas shot was made as the sun broke the horizon in the pre-dawn light, with a Canon G12 (which had a smaller and less capable sensor than my Sony RX100iv).  My Sony body is half its physical size.

St. Thomas, USVI Copyright Andy Richards 2012

St. Thomas, USVI
Copyright Andy Richards 2012

I believe the images here illustrate some of what I said in the prior post.  Sunrises reveal themselves in a number of varied conditions.  Sunsets can often be colorful.  Sunrises are generally more subtle, but as the Otter Beach shot shows, there are occasionally glorious exceptions.  Cooler temperatures create fog and mist.  Cold temperatures create a cool look to the image colors.

Saginaw County Sunrise Copyright Andy Richards 2006

Saginaw County Sunrise
Copyright Andy Richards 2006

The earliest recorded attempt I made at sunrise shooting was on a freezing cold morning in February, not far from my home in Saginaw, Michigan.  Saginaw is part of the so-called, I-75 industrial corridor, formerly known for its General Motors auto manufacturing plants.  But it may not be a well-known that it is also one of the largest agricultural areas in the mid-west.  As soon as you leave the city in almost any direction, there are farms and farmland.  This image was taken with my Nikon 35mm SLR camera and color transparency film.  Slow ISO speeds of such film dictated the use of a sturdy tripod and cable release.  The image here was scanned with an Epson scanner and is not the quality equivalent of the drum scanners that were used back then to digitize media in high resolution.  Even so, I am impressed with what modern “home-brew” digital technology can accomplish.

Horseshoe Lake Huron NF, Glennie, MI Copyright Andy Richards 2008

Horseshoe Lake
Huron NF, Glennie, MI
Copyright Andy Richards 2008

When my son was younger (me too 🙂 ), we used to do an annual late summer camping trip.  One of our favorite spots was a small National Forest Campground called Horseshoe Lake, in Lower Michigan.  One of my early “successful” attempts at sunrise photography was, perhaps, unplanned.  I have never been a fan of camping and especially, of sleeping on the cold, damp, lumpy ground.  So it was not surprising that I woke early in the pre-dawn.  I restarted our campfire and boiled a pot of water for coffee.  My son (like any pre-teenager) was sound asleep and apparently unfazed by the lumpy ground.  So I carried camera and tripod a few hundred feet down to the water’s edge and began looking for compositions.  I made a few images that morning, but the resulting shot was a bit of a surprise.  The image was shot on Fuji Velvia color transparency film.  A characteristic of this film with certain light conditions is to render blue.  While this was not my “vision” while making the image, I liked it well enough to keep it.  And it has been sold a number of times.  Who knew?

Otter Cliff Otter Beach, Acadia NP Bar Harbor, ME Copyright Andy Richards 2009

Otter Cliff
Otter Beach, Acadia NP
Bar Harbor, ME
Copyright Andy Richards 2009

In 2009, my best friend, Rich, and our spouses made a week-long trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National Park.   We always have fun when the 4 of us travel.  But Rich and I are pretty unrelenting on our commitment to be out early.  This trip was no exception, and we picked our way down a little known path (we had found during prior daylight) to a rocky portion of Otter Beach, where both the image above, and the opening image were taken, several mornings, waiting for the elusive sunrise I think it was worth the wait when this one finally came.

Sunrise on the Gastineau Channel; Inside Passage Juneau, AK Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Sunrise on the Gastineau Channel; Inside Passage
Juneau, AK
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

In 2010, we to our first cruise.  I was lukewarm about the whole cruise idea.  In my mind, cruises were about partying shipboard, buffets, and sun and fun in the Caribbean (which, it turns out, isn’t such a bad gig after all).  My wife wanted to do a cruise, so I agreed–as long as I got to pick it.  And I chose the Alaska Inside Passage cruise.  It turned out to be a great trip and we learned that cruising is a pretty comfortable way to see new places.

Inside Passage, AK Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Inside Passage, AK
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Another plus to going west is the time change.  Already a relatively early riser, the 3 and eventually 4 hour time difference had my wide-eyed before first light nearly every morning, as we cruised the inside passage.  The sun was pure gold the morning we approached the port of Juneau.  A day later, approaching Skagway, the rising sun lit the sky with multiple colors.

Whittier, AK Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Whittier, AK
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

On the final morning of our cruise, I walked the rear deck of our ship, the Diamond Princess, and watched a dramatic sunrise under cloudy skies.  I was a convert to cruising, and we would cruise 3 more times between 2010 and 2013.

Sunrise in the Caribbean Royal Princess Cruise Ship Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Sunrise in the Caribbean
Royal Princess Cruise Ship
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards



Port of Whittier, AK

Our arrival at Whittier was bittersweet.  It marked the end of our cruise and of a great time.  Wittier, on first glance seems unremarkable.  There are few or no individual homes here.  There is a high rise apartment building.  There is a very nice harbor and the port is completely surrounded by mountains.  The only access to Whittier is by a tunnel through the mountain which is one way only and is shared by train and vehicular traffic, or by water or air (floatplane only).  Previously primarily a commercial-industrial port, one of the cruise lines determined that it was a good deep water port which avoided the congestion of nearby Seward and provided a good way to carry cruise line passengers by rail or bus, either to Anchorage to depart Alaska, or on up into Denali National Park.  It looks like a nice place to sail or fly into and a nice point of departure for some of Alaska’s wild beauty.  And its hard not to argue that it is gorgeous in the early morning.

Dawn in Whittier, AK

Glacier Bay National Park

Glacier Bay

The rest of the cruise was a slight change of routine.  After departing Skagway at 8:30 in the evening, we were aboard ship until the end of the cruise in Whittier.  The next 2 days involved cruising in Glacier Bay NP and then in College Fiord, north of Whittier.  Both involved up close and personal views of glaciers, as well as some pretty impressive wilderness.

Snowcapped Mountains, Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay National Park has the distinction of being the only U.S. National Park that is accessible only by air or water.  Nearly all wilderness, there is one visitor center and a couple of reservation-only rustic guest cabins.  While I have read much about kayaking in the park, the bay is huge and the water deep and cold.  Such a visit would, in my view, take a particularly hardy soul.

Floating Glacial Ice, Glacier Bay

In the mouth of Glacier Bay, we were joined by National Park Service employees who came aboard for the day to educate us on the park.  The waters in the bay are thousands of feet deep.  We cruised from the mouth, all the way north to the Grand Pacific Glacier, some 65 miles!

Margerie Glacier

Skagway Harbor

Skagway Harbor

We arrived in Skagway around 6:30 a.m. and were cleared to go ashore by 7:00.  Our family excursion on the White Pass Railroad was not until 12:30.  So while the other slept in and then had breakfast aboard, I was among the first passengers to leave the ship.

One thing that consistently impressed me was the small boat harbors in every one of our ports.  I grew up in a Lake Michigan town and have spent much of my life on and around small boats.  I have a natural draw to boats and harbors and find them photogenic.  Skagway harbor was no exception and was one of the most photogenic I have ever seen.  The clear flat water, colorful mix of pleasure and working boats, and the snow capped mountain background stimulated me to spend some time.  The harbor was on the way to the downtown.  I wanted to see the town (and I had learned that there was a Starbucks there!  Coffee on board was mediocre at best, so I was suffering from serious withdrawal symptoms by this time).  So I went downtown first, with a plan to spend some time down in the harbor on my return to the cruise ship.  On the way back to the ship, I spent an hour or so down on the docks in the harbor.

Skagway Harbor

The White Pass

White Pass, Near the Top

White Pass, Near the Top

Black Bear on White Pass

One of the objectives of the trip (for me) was the White Pass Railroad ride.  Every piece of research I did for the AK cruise highly recommended this excursion.  My wife, wisely, found a variation, which involved riding the railroad up to the top in Fraser, B.C., and then boarding a bus and riding the bus back down the highway.  On the way back we stopped at Liarsville and finished with a short tour of the Red Onion brothel.  This was a little light, fun, entertainment, which included a meal, panning for gold, and a beer at the Red Onion.  Liarsville was an encampment near Skagway which was the last point of civilization before entering the White Pass and the Yukon territory.  The story is that it gained its name because reporters who did not want to do the difficult trip into the Yukon, stayed and interviewed returning miners, as if they had actually gone up into the gold mines.  Hence, “Liarsville.”

Skagway River

But the White Pass railroad is definitely the draw for the photographer.  Again, the weather gods were in a charitable mood.  We had mostly sunny skies with lo

ts of blue.  These railroad cars have a balcony on either end, and as soon as possible, I “camped” out on the one closest to our seats.  I never got back in my seat until we neared the top and they required us to go back.

I shot nearly 400 images (hey, its digital, we were moving, and I’ll probably never be back 🙂 ).  If you are as impressed as me by the photographic views, you might agree that it would be worth hiking this pass and spending perhaps a week there!

White Pass


Downtown Skagway, AK

Downtown Skagway

I don’t mean this in a bad way.  But Skagway is all theatre.  It is a theme park.  But it really comes by that naturally.  But for the Klondike Gold Rush in the Canadian Yukon, there would be no Skagway.  It was essentially a tent town which was the starting point for the trek into the Yukon for gold seekers.  It lasted 2 years.  After that, there was really no reason for Skagway to be.  It appears to have been reborn as a cruise ship tourist attraction.

Today, it is again, a starting point for some of the most spectacular landscapes Alaska and Canada have to offer.  Our primary purpose for including Skagway on the itinerary was the White Pass Railroad.  Perhaps the most fun explanation of the White Pass and Skagway’s place in history comes in James Michener’s novel epic, “Alaska,” in which he chronicles the requirement of the Canadian Mounted police that in order to enter the Yukon territory, a person must have a one-year supply of food, etc, for each person.  Before the White Pass railroad was built, every miner carried his one-year’s worth of supplies up over the pass, making several trips.

The current town is a series of bars and shops (including, remarkably, a number of diamond stores).  Some of the buildings are remodels of original buildings; notably the Red Onion Saloon, which was the local brothel.  As these photographs show, the architecture is an eclectic mix of influence from Russia and the American West.  Next:  White Pass, Spectacular Scenery and a surprise wildlife shot.

Downtown Skagway

Inside Passage; Juneau To Skagway

Inside Passage

Again, the routine was, depart Juneau in the early evening and “at sea” during the night.  This allowed us to take nice advantage of the part of the on-ship amenities that most interested me.  I didn’t see an Alaska cruise as being about lolling about the pools and playing shuffleboard on the deck.  The on-ship meals were surprising.  Good to excellent.  The buffet was, well, a buffet.  What can you say.  Great for breakfast.  Unremarkable food otherwise.  But the dining rooms were another story.  The meals were well-prepared, fresh, and in almost all cases, delicious.  We opted for the traditional, second seating and on all but one evening, shared our table with a delightful foursome from England.  A brother and sister and respective spouses, they had flown from London to Calgary, and take a train from Calgary to Vancouver.  I need to do that some day.  They were seasoned cruisers and gave us some great thoughts for our future planned Mediterranean cruise.  We also had some fun discussing “football.”  I am typing this as I watch the U.S. play England in the World Cup (even though it will be posted much later) and I cannot help but fondly think of our dinners with them.  John, Jean, Sue and Richard, I hope you are all well.

Inside Passage

By this time, it was getting light by 3:30 a.m., and I was out on the balcony making images at about that time, and off and on as we came into port in Skagway.