Alaska Cruise - Tips for Equipment/Subjects


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Aug 2, 2011
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Hey Everyone,

Heading on an Alaska cruise this summer, and hoping to get some great wildlife/landscape/night shots. Wondering what sort of recommendations you had for "must-haves" as far as types of equipment to bring, and types of shots to try. I'd like to do some longer exposures for night photography, but don't know if that's even a possibility with the movement of the ship.

Currently shooting with a D7000. I was planning to bring my tripod (or a monopod), my 150-500mm Sigma lens, a 17-50mm Tamron, flash etc. Do you think I'll need a wider lens considering that I'm working with a crop sensor?

Any tips, suggestions or recommendations would be appreciated. I'm open to renting additional equipment.

Take a look at the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. My gut reaction is that for landscapes from the ship you may want something wider than 17mm (although it depends on what shot you're after). The 11-16 is a sweet little lens designed for use in crop sensors. Not sure about Nikon's lens offerings in that range but I'd assume they are fairly competitive. Other than that I would just want a tripod and a jacket, some of the best shots I've seen from Alaska were taken at night. I'm very jealous of your trip!
We took a cruise to Alaska 2 years ago - had a blast! I took my Canon 40D, Tokina 11-16, Canon 24 - 105 and Canon 100 - 400. Singh-Ray Vari-Duo ND filter, Galen Rowell Graduated Filter, Gitzo traveller tripod with Markins Q3 traveller ballhead. Do not leave home without a camera cover (I took a Storm Jacket) and several "Visible Dust" cloths. If you have a cabin with a balcony, so much the better. If you have a balcony on the stern - even better yet!

I'll attach some pics. Do let me know if you have any questions, I'll be happy to help!



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I did an Alaska cruise a couple of years ago and it was my favorite cruise. I was flying in from New York so I needed to pack with that in mind. I brought my d300 and a canon point and shoot. I had my sigma 10-20 f4-5.6, sigma 17-50 f2.8, sigma 70-200f2.8 with 1.4 an2x teleconverters, and nikon 18-135. Also, flash, filters, lowepro backpack, monopod, and a netbook for backup. I regretted not taking my sigma 150-500 figuring that the 70-200 with the tc's would be enough, wrong. Missed some good eagle shots as well as bear and sheep from the ship. I think the monopod is more practical than the tripod since it could get crowded at the rails, but if you can, bring both. Since it doesn't seem that packing for flying would be an issue, better to bring and not need than need and not have.
Appreciate all the feedback. I've just picked up a Tokina 12-24 f/4, and will have that along with my 17-50, and 150-500. I think I have a good sense now of the equipment I need. Based on the fact that we'll be "at sea" before sunset almost every evening I'm not certain I'll really have any opportunity to get good night shots. Any tips around shooting on the actual ship would be much appreciated. Can't help but think the motion aboard will make it difficult.

Thanks again!
Not sure about when your going but I was on a cruise in early June and the sun came up at 4 and didn't set until after 10 pm. so night shots may be more difficult.

Huge ships are more stable than you think, unless you have a huge storm which probably is not likely, especially if your in the inter passage.
Huge ships are more stable than you think, unless you have a huge storm which probably is not likely, especially if your in the inter passage.

Thanks, Thats what a was thinking.
I believe a lot of the cruise ships in Alaska are a little smaller and have a shallower draft than most cruise ships due to the shallower water they go thru. This could make them less stable, but the only time this was a factor was in the open water between Seattle and the inside passage which was a little rocky. Once we got to the IP, the ship was as stable as any of the larger ships I've been on. You may have to adjust how you time your sunsets. The sun took about 3-4 times longer to set than what I'm used to in NY. Distances are also hard to judge from the ship and you're usually a lot further off shore than you think. I think I averaged about 50mm for most of my landscapes from the ship. Hope this helps.
We were on the Crown Princess, a very large ship and I took lots of photos from the balcony especially while in sailing in tracy arms with out a tripod with no problems.
Where are you going exactly? I've been to Alaska twice. The one tool I wish I would have had was a longer lens for wildlife. There's lots of it. The 500 mm should be decent. The longer the better. You can't go wrong with an 800 either, but sometimes the wildlife is right next to the road, so you have to be prepared both ways. Even if you never leave the ship, you could see whales, seals, birds or distant ice bergs calving, so you'd still need a good long lens. The exact tools you use are subjective. Bring plenty of digital film, and if you think you have enough, consider adding another card. They're cheap enough. And the best piece of photographic advice for Alaska is always have your camera with you.

Cruise ships don't generally have a lot of motion. It's not like taking a fishing boat. Most people don't notice any movement on a cruise ship. Occasionally you'll feel motion but it's mostly like being on land. It would certainly affect long exposures if you include the horizon or the ship is moving past fixed objects like mountains, but otherwise it should have no impact.

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