Going Wide

This week’s Lens-Artist theme is wide-angle photography and I immediately thought of our trip to southern Alaska out of Juneau and cruising the inland waterway in a very small ship. Thirty-two passenger small (click here for my post describing this small ship.) It was wonderful because the captain was a photographer so he made sure we knew when we would be going by some area of importance that was camera worthy. However, I don’t think there was ever a moment of daylight that didn’t seem worthy of a click of my shutter.

Morning light on the Inland Waterway in southern Alaska.

Even a wide-angle lens and stepping way back doesn’t seem to capture the grandeur of a mountain landscape. On a small ship there isn’t much room to step back to widen the view through a lens but usually the captain kept us back from the coast. We were visiting Dawes Glacier the first day out but couldn’t dawdle because the captain wanted to anchor in a small fjord with a very narrow, shallow entrance. Because of the high tides in this area he had a 15 minute window of opportunity to go through at high slack tide. This fjord is called Ford’s Terror for a reason that I wrote about here.

Ford’s Terror, Alaska

The Costal Temperate Rainforest of North American starts in the thin strip along the Pacific Ocean of southern Alaska (that we were touring), then goes south along the coast of British Columbia, Canada, and into the U.S. – Washington State, Oregon State and northern California. It is the largest intact temperate rainforest remaining on earth and in Alaska the Tongess National Rain Forest encompasses 17 million acres. A rainforest implies there is lots of rain so I knew to expect clouds and rain and was always alert for spots of sun breaking through the clouds and landing somewhere on this beautiful 360 degrees of scenery.

Tongess National Rain Forest
No “going wide” here – just dig in.

My favorite land excursion was at the small town of Tenakee Springs (pop. 91). It was a Sunday morning so not much was happening. The town’s restaurant-bakery-gift shop-movie theater-dance hall-coffee house-meeting place opened especially for us and had hot cinnamon rolls ready. The captain had special permission to bring us on shore and the only other way to get there is by sea-plane, the mail ferry, or private boat. Being a ways off shore while still on the boat I could only get half of town. This is the portion along West Tenakee Avenue.

Tenakee Springs, Alaska

And this is along East Tenakee Avenue at low tide. This seems to be the newer, more prosperous end of town.

These wide angle images of this town make me smile big as I supplement them with my memories. The avenue runs behind the houses and buildings and there are also side streets (named from A to J) leading to the houses you see going up the mountain. Wide angle doesn’t work when walking down the avenues of town, but this “long” angle will give you a different “image.” It will add to the town’s story.

West Tenakee Avenue

Alaska gave me a wonderful opportunity to practice both wide angle and close up photography, especially as I was working at capturing the personality or essence of what I was being introduced to.

If you would like to explore information about this Costal Temperate Rainforest of North America, here is an excellent brochure.

Lynn, on her blog “Bluebrightly,” posts her beautiful nature photography and narrates her walks through the rainforests of northwest Washington (state).

If you are interested in conservancy of our rainforests here is a link to The Nature Conservancy that is working to conserve the Tongass National Forest. This site provides some interesting information about this huge area and some really nice photographs.

The Story Teller

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Our Alaskan small ship cruise anchored outside Hoonah, and my expectations weren’t very high. The buildings had been a large salmon cannery that closed, and were later purchased and developed into a place for the large cruise ships to stop. We were scheduled to see a play put on by Tlingits, a Native American tribe that archaeological evidence indicates has been present in this Northwest area of North America for at least 10,000 years.

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The Story Teller

I didn’t expect to learn so much about the traditions of this group of people – traditions they are working to keep as the world around them is changing. A very important tradition is the telling of stories, and dancing that reenacts ancestral relationships between humans and nature.

Tlingits divide themselves into Eagles and Ravens based on which tribe their mother belongs to. Balance and reciprocity between the Ravens and Eagles are required to ensure social and spiritual harmony. (http://www.pbs.org/harriman/explog/lectures/worl.html)

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I saw my first raven in Juneau and now understand the importance of the bird to native belief systems. Many stories are told about the Raven as trickster and sacred being. We heard one of how the Raven tricked the person who owned and horded all light into giving the moon, stars and sun to Raven who then shared it with everyone, so the darkness had light.

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They are working to maintain and share their traditions of oral story-telling, dancing, social relationships, and costuming.

The traditional value that is most in conflict with dominate traditional values is their belief that all of nature is sacred and the spirit of the deceased ancestors remain alive in nature. Consequently any assault on our environment is an assault on them.

Because I wasn’t raised within the Native American/First Nation community, this feeling of being one with nature is hard for me to get my mind around and hold onto. I was indoctrinated from a very early age with the values of commercialism and personal wealth and possession of things. That is our tradition.

I have been reading a number of novels by Native American authors and want to assimilate these values – I still don’t totally understand but I respect their traditions. They feel sound.

The problem seems to be that large numbers of people cannot be sustained within their environmental value system unless we are willing to give up a whole lot of things. It requires a life with minimal processions to meet basic needs. It seems like the more I think about all that I have, the more I realize how my traditions are contributing to the raping of our earth. Ouch.

You can think about your interpretation of traditional in a photography post linked to:


So Many Eagles

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Seeing a bald eagle isn’t an every-day experience for me so I was pretty impressed when I would see one on our cruise of the inside passage of Alaska. Then we passed this rock outcrop and behold there were 6 bald eagles and 4 other birds of prey that I don’t recognize.

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Here is a blow-up of the other birds. I am wondering if they are golden eagles. If you know what they are, please comment below.

Tenakee Springs Surprise

Before we boarded the skiff taking us from the ship to the Tenakee Springs dock, we were told that the yellow building to the right of the dock was the bakery and they had internet service. The Captain had called ahead so the bakery would be open for us on this Sunday morning.

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I hadn’t had any type of connection in many days so I took my computer with me. I guess I was experiencing that painful connection withdrawal.

Tenakee Springs isn’t lacking for modern-day amenities, like emergency services

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public phone service – not sure what Alaskan’s in a town of 100 people consider local calls,

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a library right in the middle of town,

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and next to the library a farmers market – during harvest season. I didn’t want to speculate on the meaning of the flying pigs.

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But the jewel of Tenakee Springs is the

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My plan was to get a cup of tea and connect with the outside world on my computer for a few minutes. I walked in and knew I had found Alaskan gold.

Tenakee Springs 255I perched myself on a stool,

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and ordered one of those cinnamon rolls, sitting on the counter, emitting a freshly baked aroma – and a cup of tea.

Tenakee Springs 260 I broke off a piece of the warm roll and placed it on my tongue. Oh my, I have been looking for this experience for well over 20 year; since I last made my own cinnamon rolls. As the tender bread and sugar and cinnamon melted in my mouth, my whole body responded with ecstasy. I am not exaggerating. I put another piece in my mouth and the same thing happened. Pure nirvana.

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I savored my tea and roll while I grinned at the signs above the coffee cups: Women who behave rarely make history; I’ll have cafe, mocha, vodka, Valium,  latte to go, please; and, We trade coffee for gossip.

The latest gossip was that the people on the other side of the island want to build a road to Tenakee Springs but locals are fighting it – they don’t want the traffic. They also don’t want the car ferry stopping there. The young man has a four year old daughter – I think I saw her and her mom walking down the lane to visit daddy. She was dancing along in her bare feet.

Tenakee Springs 269This seems to be the where-it-is-happening place. It is the town’s restaurant, with a changing menu on the board. There is a projector hanging from the ceiling and they have a screen they hang over the lunch counter that makes it the local movie theater. If you remember the sign, at least one person believes the Part-Time Bakery should be the Party-Time Bakery. By the size of the speakers on the top shelf above the coffee cups, I think some dancing has gone down in here.

Along the walls they had some merchandise by local artists.

Tenakee Springs 268I scanned them and found the perfect poster size print for my guest bedroom. On the other side they had some hand-knit hats – one of my fellow passengers bought a couple. How nice to find keepsakes that are locally made.

I never took my computer out, but that seemed just fine. I was functioning in Alaskan culture. Many of the houses had dishes so people who live there are well connected to take them through the long, dark winters but I couldn’t think of anything more interesting on my computer than the Part-Time Bakery in Tenakee Springs, Alaska.

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Put another pan of those cinnamon rolls in the oven, I’m on my way back.

Remote: Tenakee Springs Alaska

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I heard that the word in our ear this week is “remote” and that inspired me to post on Tenakee Springs in Southeast Alaska. This town of about 100 people is remote!

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It is on Chichagof Island, on the Tenakee Inlet. The only way to get here is by water or air.

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There are no roads coming in and it could be argued if the dirt road is maybe just a wide path. It is impossible to get lost because there aren’t any turns – only a bend in the path that follows the curve of the beach.

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Transportation is pretty simple. There are a couple of trucks in town, used for work. Getting a car into town would be expensive and then there isn’t anywhere to take it. Parking is also a problem.

I find the houses in places I visit interesting because they trigger my imagination about the people who live there and what their life is like. The inhabitants of Tenakee Springs are a mixture of full-time and summer inhabitants.

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It seems that this community was built around the hot springs that are in the middle of town. Men and women have different hours at the bath house, but we were asked not to go in to respect their privacy.

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We visited the community on a Sunday morning so it was very quiet, but I passed a couple of people who gave a warm hello. I could tell people are happy here because there were casual and whimsical decorations everywhere I looked.

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It seems that the people who call Tenakee Springs their home like it just the way it is. Some people in Hoonah, on the other side of the island, want to build a road to Tenakee Springs, but people here don’t want it. A car ferry also wants to stop here, but they are fighting that, too – because then they would have to build a parking lot down by the dock.

I fell in love with Tenakee Springs, but there is one last secret – and I am saving that for another post.