Go Big or Stay Home

May 17, 2017 ·

Hugh O. Smith

This past 2 years, my wife Diana and I decided to make photographic excursions around the U.S. and Europe. We have made some exciting discoveries and done what we consider pretty good work documenting photographically the landscape of the various places we have visited.

This year, after a month of time off from our last 1-year adventure, we decided to visit Alaska for a month. Trust me when I tell you, that is almost biting off more than one can chew. Our first sample of landscapes begging to be captured was Glacier Bay National Park. Glacier Bay is 3.3 million acres of mountains, snow, and glaciers.

As one might imagine, capturing it was a monumental endeavor. First of all, unlike the lower 48, where driving is the best way to travel, Glacier Bay is only accessible by boat or plane. We managed both, a fly in and ship.

The glaciers in Glacier Bay were some of our most memorable trips. Covering millions of acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate rainforest, wild coastlines and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas. From sea to summit, Glacier Bay offers limitless opportunities for adventure and inspiration.

From the bottom of the deepest glacial fjord to the summit of its highest peak, Glacier Bay encompasses some of Alaska’s most amazing scenery and wildness. It is a land in constant change, a living lesson in resilience. If ever there was a place to intrigue and inspire us, this is it. Glacier Bay is a homeland, a living laboratory, a national park, a designated wilderness, a biosphere reserve, and a world heritage site. It’s a marine park, where great adventure awaits by boating into inlets, coves and hideaway harbors. It’s also a land park, with its snow-capped mountains, spectacular blue glaciers, and emerald–green forests. Glacier Bay’s wildness is remote, dynamic and intact.

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Ice calving, also known as glacier calving or iceberg calving, is the breaking off of chunks of ice at the edge of a glacier.It is a form of ice ablation or ice disruption and is normally caused by the glacier expanding.

Some of these chunks can be as large as 200 feet and are accompanied by huge booms and cracking sounds.

Margerie Glacier is a 21 mi (34 km) long tidewater glacier in Glacier BayAlaska within the boundaries of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

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Opportunities for beautifully ominous black and white images abound in Glacier Bay as evidenced by this view of Johns Hopkins Glacier. Overhanging clouds and fog embrace the Johns Hopkins Glacier.

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The light in glaciers is heavily refracted giving them their distinctive blue appearance. If one wants to capture true luminous landscapes, this is the place.

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Millions of years of tracking the mountains give glaciers a geology lesson in varying rock formations and ice floes gathering unto itself millions of tons of gravel, rock, and dirt.

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Another example of a calving glacier. I strongly suggest a good zoom lens as the action happens usually without warning. Here, I used a Canon 70-300 mm DO lens. The photographer has to be ever vigilant if he or she wants to capture the calving.

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Glaciers aren’t the only feature of Glacier Bay. Rugged mountains surround the landscape and come in a multitude of colors.

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Black and white or color? Whatever the photographer’s choice, it is certain to be spectacular. All of these images were photographed with a Canon EOS 5DSr and either a 24-105 mm lens or the 70-300 DO lens.

Image stabilization lenses are a must, as well since all of this images were shot from the deck of boats.

We spent several days on chartered boats and a cruise ship to get these images. Either choice can be expensive. The private charter captains and cruise line captains make plenty of time for photography and U.S. Forest Rangers board the cruise ships and give an extensive history of the glaciers.

Everything about Alaska is huge; the fish, the bears, the glaciers and Glacier National Park gives new meaning to “Go Big or Stay Home.”


Hugh O. Smith
August 2016

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Hugh O. Smith

A Philadelphia native, I have lived in Baja California for the past 3 years.  I make photographs. You can follow me at www.jargonart.com  I started shooting as a stringer for newspapers and in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania.  I opened my commercial studio in Center City, Philadelphia in 1972. I shot catalogs for Spencer Gifts and Lenox China among others.  I shot fashion, runway and headshots until about 5 years ago as my wife and I started slowing to a merciful crawl and traveling and writing.  My work has appeared in magazines from Shutterbug to Sports Illustrated and I am a regular contributor for Trillium Art Magazine. I am a regular editor and contributor to 1X.com Magazine.  I have exhibited in Europe as well as the U.S.  My work hangs in the permanent collection of private collectors as well as corporate venues.  Currently, my work is in the permanent exhibit at Polo’s Gallery in Rosarito, Mexico.  I have published 6 books including Art of the Muse (books 1 and 2) as well as 'Italy, through my lens.' Paris, Through my Lens.' 'Ireland, through my lens.' and others.  You can also follow all of our work at www.jargonart.com 

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