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.

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.

Go to the Pointy End of the Ship

We traveled through Fredrick Sound, a wide body of water that forms a portion of the inside passage of Southeast Alaska. This area is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales. We would frequently hear “whale on port side” and see a whale breaching

whales 092or see a tail, indicating a dive.

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We would Ooooh and Aaaaah, and those of us with cameras would click, click, click. I wonder if people ever get tired of seeing these 40 to 50 foot water beasts do what nature calls them to do.

Then the captain announced, whales sited ahead – everyone to the pointy end of the boat. We watched as he proceeded ahead, and saw some whales surfacing, saw some sprays in the distance.

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And we saw them slapping the water with their large pectoral fins.

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Then the captain idled the engines and they were all around us, feeding on schools of small fish. I would be watching and photographing in one direction and someone would call my attention to whales in another direction.

The naturalist told us about bubble net feeding, where a group of whales work together by forming a circle under water, and blowing air bubbles as they spiral to the surface. This drives large numbers of small fish toward the surface. The whales are gulpers so they take in a huge amount of water and fish as they lunge to the surface. Their mouths are lined with about 330 pairs of baleen plates that strain out the fish. We saw some bubble-net feeding but I wasn’t able to catch the action.

I am still in awe of what I saw and thrilled with the images I did capture.

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I bet we tracked this pod for close to an hour – an hour of alternating adrenaline rush and a quiet intimacy with life itself.