Alaska Dreamin’

February 03, 2017

Originally posted Feb14, 2012

A big part of the fun of any big trip is the planning and preparation. And in the case of this jaunt north to explore Alaska and photograph grizzlies, I absolutely have to (tsk-tsk) carefully review the gear I will be taking with me to make sure it’s appropriate.

Last week, I ordered LensCoats for both my 200-400mm and 600mm Nikon telephotos, even though I’ve decided not to take the 600mm. This is actually something I should have done when I acquired each lens, as the neoprene LensCoats do offer protection against cosmetic damage during transport or use. It will be important for the Alaska trip because, after a lot of careful (really) research, I’ve decided to buy Moose Peterson’s MB-3 photo backpack. Moose himself warns prospective purchasers of this item that it does not have a lot of “excess padding.”

Nevertheless, I’ve opted for this medium size bag over the larger MB-1 because we will be flying from Omaha to Minneapolis in a regional jet and will be using bush planes for transportation from Anchorage to Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks for the bear photography portion of the trip. Though Moose swears he’s never had an airline refuse to allow him to carry-on the MB-1 for cabin baggage, with my luck, I’m just liable to be the exception that makes the rule. However, I absolutely, positively know that I can carry the MB-3 on the small airplanes, and not lugging along both of the big heavy telephoto lenses will make for a much pleasanter trip as well.

Plus, the 200-400mm…especially as I will be bringing along my 1.4 and 2.0 teleconverters…will be more than adequate for the kind of bear viewing we’ll be undertaking. In Alaska, the way you photograph bears is to go to a place where they are known to congregate and wait for them to show up. In this case, that will be where they’ll be catching fish in the annual salmon run, where they will be too busy and in fact, too habituated to worry about some camera toting tourists. Doing it this way is far more productive in getting to see bears and a heck of a lot safer than just going out and walking around in bear country. While grizzlies are not out looking for people to chase down and eat, they are also quite unpredictable and can run faster than a horse. Years ago, I walked up on a cub grizzly in the Tetons. Like they do most of the time, this bear ran away, and I could not have believed how fast he ran without having seen it. Anyone who tells you they were charged by a bear and ran away and climbed a tree could also go to hell for lying.

Finally, it rains a lot in Alaska, even in July, so I ordered a rain cover that will mostly protect a camera with a big lens on it while still allowing me to go on shooting photos when things get wet. I have to confess that, as much time as I’ve spent banging around in the outdoors over the years, I’m really not very hardy when it comes to climatic conditions. I absolutely hate to be cold, and there are few things I enjoy so much that I can even have fun doing them in the rain. Actually, none at all, come to think of it.

However, after traveling several thousand miles and spending several thousand dollars to take pictures of bears, I’ll not be letting a little shower get in the way…at least not this time.

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