Before I left for Alaska I had visions of beautiful landscapes, gorgeous blue glaciers, wildlife frolicking in the fields, and warm sunny days with beautiful colors overflowing. People either visit for the epic wildlife, stunning glaciers or to see the Northern Lights in Alaska.
And while most of this is true, photographing Alaska at the beginning of June came as a challenge because of the weather. It rained about 95% of my trip with low cloud coverage, fog and minimal visibility on many days. I won’t lie, it was a bit frustrating photographing Alaska in these elements, but I love a challenge and I knew my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III was up for the job.
I did a seven day cruise through the Inside Passage in Alaska and also made a stop in British Columbia. This gave me a variety of opportunities to photograph landscapes, mountains, water, ice, glaciers, sunsets, you name it. The Olympus stood the test of time in the weather elements and I could not have asked for a better camera to accompany me on this epic trip, which by the way was me completing the last of the 50 states!
So let’s get to it ..
This first photo from Photographing Alaska is one of my favorites. We were cruising outside of Juneau towards Tracy Arm and the water started to turn this stunning teal color and chunks of ice from breaking off at the glacier were starting to show up. I was on my balcony on the 15th floor of the cruise ship and quite a distance away. When I pulled out my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III to start taking photos, I could immediately see the beautiful colors in the frames and was able to zoom in like I was right there.
Photographing Alaska: Equipment
During this trip to Alaska I knew I would need a variety of lenses to go with my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III, so here is what I brought to shoot with:
- Kit lens: 14-42mm EZ Lens,
- M.Zuiko ED 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 II
- M.Zuiko ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3
- SanDisk Memory Card 256 GB – you will need the space for all the photos you take
To be fair, all the images I am sharing from photographing Alaska I used the M.Zuiko ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 lens. Reason being: It has such a nice long range for wide angle but also macro. I can go from macro to wide in seconds with no lens change. This has become my favorite lens to shoot with in my travels. I did carry all my lenses with me everywhere I went, but to be honest – the 12-200mm is just fantastic. I cannot recommend this lens enough.
Case in Point: I was standing on a suspension bridge and needed a longer range shot:
**I have included these photos from British Columbia because I was in Skagway Alaska and took a tour that included the Klondike Summit in Alaska, a salmon bake AND the Yukon Suspension Bridge over the border into Canada. It was part of my Alaska trip, just right over the border. Had the weather been better, I would have been able to get shots like these in Alaska, but its a but hard photographing Alaska when there is zero visibility at times.
Photographing Alaska: The Ports of Call
The very first stop in this Alaskan adventure was in Ketchikan, the first city of Alaska and the first stop on the Inside Passage. Ketchikan was one of my favorite cities in Alaska to photograph because there was so much color roaring through this tiny city. If you have been following me for any time at all, you know I LOVE architecture and bold colors. Ketchikan made photographing Alaska a dream for me.
You can see just beyond the roofs that the range is out of focus because of the low cloud coverage. I could not move the clouds, and honestly, if the clouds were not there, I could have doctored the sky to make it brighter, but this is Alaska. She is moody, she is fierce, she is unpredictable.
In the next two images you can see the cloud coverage again and that is because I was back on the ship and shooting from a higher ground. This is a great way to show you just how low the clouds were in the beginning of June. I imagine (according to weather reports) the weather is much better AND sunnier in the later months of the summer. In which case photographing Alaska is going to look a lot different, but the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is still going to put out amazing images with better weather. You just need to get creative with poor weather.
Juneau was the port I was most looking forward to because I could not wait to see Mendhall Glacier! One simply doesn’t go out photographing Alaska and NOT get a glacier, am I right? Glaciers and Alaska feel synonymous. What I found tricky about photographing the glacier, as did everyone else around me with a variety of cameras, was that the fog was so low that the color did not initially come out in the photos. I won’t lie – I stood there and had a little tear because I did not know if I would be able to nurse these images into what I was seeing with my own eyes. I played with ALL the settings on my camera and nature was not forgiving.
Luckily, I was able to bring the colors out in post production.
Both of these images were shot with the M.Zuiko ED 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 lens from the same exact spot on my Olympus. You can see just how powerful this lens is and it does not lose quality with the zoom at all.
I am sure you guys want to see some before images of the glaciers to see what I was working with .. so here we go! They look overexposed and no matter what I did with the camera, I could not get the darkness and colors to pop. It was pretty close to white out conditions when we left Mendhall Glacier, so I am glad I got there when I did or photographing this beauty would have been near impossible.
Additional Photos at Sea
One of my absolute favorite things to do on this cruise was sitting on my balcony and taking photos. Photographing Alaska was such a treat with the beautiful changing colors of the water and of course, the super late sunsets. Alaska has very late sunsets after 9:00pm in June and they are just marvelous.
Tips For Photographing Alaska with the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III:
My biggest tip for anyone using the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is that you do not have to be a professional photographer to use it. I know this goes against everything in professional photography, but nearly every shot I take with this camera is on AUTO! If you are reading this you are probably cringing. I am cringing. But here is the truth – Olympus has built in fantastic features for AUTO that sense your surroundings and give you the best setting for your photos, wherever they may be. So if you are just starting out or a seasoned prop, this would be a great camera to get AND it is affordable.
The Olympus has a feature called Scene Modes – you can set these up for whatever you are photographing and it creates the settings for you. *Note: if you are shooting in night modes you should use a tripod.
The camera itself is lightweight and easy to carry. Which means you can carry a variety of lenses you desire for photographing Alaska. Like I said earlier, I primarily used the 12-200mm because I strongly believe it is one of the best travel lenses on the market right now.
You can also download the app and the WiFi enabled camera will let you get photos right on your phone. This is great if you edit on your phone or quickly want to see the images off the camera.
Specs of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III:
- 16 Megapixel Live MOS Sensor
- Touch to focus and shoot
- 5-Axis image stabilization
- Ultra HD 4K video
- 3.0″ Tilting Touch LCD screen
- OLEN electronic view finder
- 15 Unique art filters
- Silent shooting mode
- Built-in flash
- 8.6 FPS continuous shooting
- 121-point selectable auto focus
- Built in WiFi
- Scene modes
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Disclaimer: This post is written in collaboration with Olympus, but as always, opinions are entirely my own.
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