Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dog Sled Adventure

We took our first ever cruise last summer and since we weren't really sure how much we would enjoy it, we decided to take one of the Alaska cruises that leaves Seattle during the summertime. We didn't really place any expectations on the cruise other than finally taking a week off to totally relax.

One of the first excursions we read about was the chance to take a helicopter ride up to a glacier and then drive a dogsled. It sounded like one of those once-in-a-lifetime adventures and we decided we just had to do it.

The helicopter ride alone would have been a blast, since the weather was perfect that day.  Our flight was a little ahead of schedule so our pilot offered to take us on a side trip around a few of the glaciers in the area, giving us a short tour of the mountain tops. The views were incredible, and flying just above the tops of the mountains made it feel like you could almost reach out and touch the snow as we flew by.  After giving us one of the most amazing scenic tours we've ever been on, it was time to head to the dog sled base camp. 

The first thing we could see off in the distance was something that looked like an old military base camp in the snow.  As we got closer we could see that there were rows of dog houses in the snow, most of them with a dog just hanging out on the top of the house enjoying the sun.  It was almost surreal to see them all in the middle of no where like that.  There were a few huts in the camp where we learned that the dog handlers actually live during the season.

We couldn't wait to take our turns driving a dog sled now that we were here, so they wasted no time walking us over to the sleds.  The handlers took a little time explaining how everything worked, and then started gathering dogs for our sled.  One of the things that really surprised me was just how much all the dogs started going nuts as they realized a sled was being set up to head out on a run. They were jumping around and barking like crazy, getting very excited and trying to make sure they got to go on a run.   You could see how much they enjoyed pulling those sleds.  While hooking the dogs up to the sled, they actually have to drive a long steel pole deep into the snow to keep the dogs from taking off early.  Once all the dogs were hooked up and we were all ready to go, all that was left to do was pull that pole out of the ground. The second the dogs felt the sled come loose, they took off.  No need to yell mush or anything silly like that.

I can't describe just how cool it was to be standing on the back of the sled while watching the dogs run through the snow with almost no effort.  There were a number of times one dog or another would even turn around and look back at us, almost like they were making sure we were still there. It was so quiet now, just the sound of the sled gliding over the snow and the patter of the dogs feet in the snow.  It was one of those things you just have to experience to even begin to understand just how cool it was.  Here we were, way up near the top of the mountain, nothing but snow covered mountains as far as the eye could see.  It was one of the coolest things I had ever done and something I will certainly never forget. If you ever find yourself anywhere near a dog sled camp, and you have the opportunity to go for a little ride, I would highly recommend not passing it up.

To see a few more photos from this little adventure, please check out the Dog Sled Adventure album under the gallery.  The photos don't do the trip justice, but hopefully they can give you a little bit of a

Thursday, October 21, 2010


One of the hardest questions to answer about photography, is "what should I look for when taking pictures".  It's one of those questions that you really can't put your finger on, or describe to anyone in some kind of formula that works no matter what the situation.  The truth is that most of the time, the inspiration for a shot doesn't even happen until I see it. I mean sure, there are the photography basics to keep in mind. Try to frame your shot using the rule of thirds.  Make sure you not only have a good subject for your shots, but also a nice foreground, middle and background for the shot whenever possible, but just like the rules for English grammar, the photography rules never seem to be hard and fast rules either. There are plenty of amazing photos out there that don't follow the "rules". 

When I pack up my camera gear and head out to take pictures, more often than not, I don't really know what I want to take pictures of, and those are the days I seem to take my best photos. There are the rare exceptions to that rule as well of course.  One of my favorite photos to this day is one that I had thought about, days before actually taking the shot.  I had this image in my head, and that image just kind of percolated in my mind for a few days.  I found myself looking around to see if I could spot that shot everywhere I drove, trying to see if I could see something that would capture the feeling I had in mind. 

After a few days, I decided I just needed to grab my camera and hit all the parks I could think of and try to capture the shot.  The first couple of parks I stopped at just didn't look or feel right, but then I went to a park out near a house I rented years ago, and there it was.  I'd never been in that park before, but the minute I walked down one of the paths, I knew it was the shot I was looking for.  It didn't really matter if it was going to be a great shot or not, as this was just one of those photos I had to take for me.  

Where did the inspiration for that shot come from? I really can't tell you. I don't know myself.  But I think as you take more and more photos, you'll find that there are times where you find you're just in a certain kind of mood, or maybe you hear a song or watch a movie that makes you feel some emotion you just have to try to capture somehow...  when you feel that... use it to inspire you to look around and try to put into a photograph.  

 Does that always work? No... but sometimes, you might just take a picture that you yourself can't stop looking at.