Digital Eyes On Alaska
28 digital photographers shoot 11,000 pics on a cruise.
By Arthur Bleich
with a variety of digital cameras, 28 photographers gathered in
Vancouver, BC, during the early summer of 2003, primed to shoot
images that would capture the essence of Alaska as they cruised
northward through the majestic Inside Passage.
panhandle section of the „last frontierš has a diversity of wonders.
Craggy, snow-capped mountains sweep down to narrow fjords, eagles
swirl through turbulent skies, whales splash noisily in the steel-gray
waters, and glaciers creep relentlessly toward the sea. Russian
priests still hold services in churches replete with gold icons
for the descendants of Indians who converted to Christianity over
a century ago. Tribal ceremonies, though, have been preserved and
Native Alaskans still carve stunning wooden masks and impressive
photographers, aged 20 to 80, came from all over the United States
and Canada to participate in a digital photography workshop sponsored
by Digital Camera Magazine, Epson, Olympus, and Xlibris Publishers.
There were engineers, legal secretaries, teachers, a financial advisor,
waitress, doctor, librarian, dress patternmaker, ad agency art director,
and others, all eager to get the kind of hands-on instruction that
would lift their images out of the ordinary. Their cameras ranged
from two megapixel, $200 point-and-shoots to six megapixel, $7,000-plus
attended intensive onboard lectures on technique and esthetics that
quickly taught them how to see subjects in new and creative ways.
They had access to Olympus ultra-zoom cameras when they needed them
for wildlife and landscape pictures, and round-the-clock access
to Epson printers. In the evenings, they sat in on critiquing sessions
where digital images they had shot that day were projected on a
large screen, allowing feedback from the instructor and their classmates.
their time ashore, attendees planned their activities and excursions
according to their interests. Some meandered around town shooting
local attractions while others took float planes, helicopters, and
small boats to visit glaciers, remote mountain lakes, and isolated
islands teeming with wild life. This gave the photographers a chance
to exercise their own vision, putting into practice many of the
techniques they had learned during class sessions.
weather in Southeast Alaska was, as usual, rainy or overcast. Ketchikan,
the ship‚s first port of call, gets socked with 180 inches of precipitation
a year; Juneau and Sitka have nearly as much. But the overcast days
were excellent for photographyŲ colors became richly saturated,
and both faces and places took on a soft and lovely look. Scenery
was almost mystical, as menacing cloud formations scudded across
the sky, dipping down here and there to caress a favorite mountain,
or skittering up windy channels like ethereal tumbleweeds.
though the photographers sometimes returned to the ship looking
like drenched rats, they were happy rats, knowing they had photographed
scenes out of the ordinary: magnificent ice-scapes, indigenous wildlife,
bits and pieces of the small towns along the way, intimate shots
of the people who lived and worked there, some wonderful examples
of Native arts and crafts, and more.
impressed most of the attendees was how quickly their work improved
after they started putting some of the techniques they had learned
onboard into practice. And moving out on their own, instead of in
a group, got them out of the herd mentality, where everyone points
cameras at the same subject, usually from the same viewpoint, resulting
in look-alike images.
the week-long voyage ended, more than 11,000 digital images were
submitted for editing into a book (see Publish Your Own Photo Book)
and the tough task of selecting 74 of the best began. Here are some
of those pictures. Enjoy!
-Arthur H. Bleich (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a photographer, writer,
and educator who lives in Miami. He does assignments for major publications
both in the U.S. and abroad, and conducts online photo courses and
digital photography workshop cruises. Visit his Digital PhotoCorner