One of the biggest surprises of my life has been how much I have enjoyed photographing Humpback whales. Going into my summer in Juneau, Alaska, my goal was to capture landscape photographs. However, when I was spending time on the water fishing for halibut and salmon, I started noticing humpback whales coming up for air and found myself gazing at them until they showed their flukes and dived to the depths of the ocean. These gentle giants grabbed my heart and ever since, I have been hooked trying to photograph them in an effort to tell their story.
Alaska Photography Tips
There’s so much to see, do, experience and photograph in Alaska! Over the last decade, I have been visiting this great state (mainly throughout Southeast Alaska) and have learned a few things from a photography standpoint that I would love to share with you! These photography tips are practical and I hope they help you with your landscapes and wildlife shots. If you have any specific questions, please let me know in the comment section or send me a message leveraging the form on the contact page.
Photography Tips for Shooting in Alaska
There’s always a weather condition or element that you are battling as a photographer in Alaska. It might be windy, rainy, foggy. or hazy The temperatures maybe chilly and frigid causing you to jitter around more than normal. Or you’re trying to photograph from a moving bus, boat or helicopter. All of these things add to the complexity of photographing the beauty and wildlife in Alaska.
Often times, I find myself with a split second to take a capture especially when photographing wildlife. I’ve taken quite a few shots that were blurry or completely off the mark. If you find you have a similar issue, below are a few things for you to keep in mind as you adventure outside and capture the wild world around us in Alaska.
Camera Gear for Alaska
In my experience, I have used my longest lens for most of my wildlife shots and even mountain top photographs. The Alaska landscape is big and even though a humpback whale is quite large, the mountains and waterways seem to dwarf the size of the whale. If you have a teleconverter, please make sure to take it as well.
If you’re unsure of which camera body to take, please take whichever one you have that offers the widest ranges of aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. Often times your shooting conditions will be less than ideal due to the weather so make sure your camera does well in low light conditions, fast moving wildlife and distance.
Two other camera pieces that you might find helpful are a tripod (always helpful in my opinion) and a rain cover. While a plastic bag will work as a camera cover, when it really downpours the simple investment of an actual camera cover with more solid plastic (and no accidental holes) will be worth every penny. Here are the two products that I use:
Photographer Tips for Shooting in Alaska
Patience: You know the saying, ‘Patience is a virtue’ and I have found that it could not be more critical to heed that saying than in Alaska. For example, Humpback Whales will come up for air every few minutes before they do a deep dive into the depths of the ocean. Often times, their last breath of air will be followed by their tail (fluke). If you’re patient enough, you can capture this fluke above water. Once when I was whale watching, one breeched completely out of the water! You never know what you will see if you are patient enough.
Multiple Focal Points: I started off trying to photograph humpback whales with manual focus and soon realized that for these moving creatures, trying to focus manually was extremely hard. Most DSLRs come with an automatic focus. Let the camera do the hard work for you so you can focus on things like framing, rule of thirds or even just trying to get the wildlife in the viewfinder. I have also found that the more focus points you use, the more chances you have of capturing a fast moving animal or bird. I especially found this true with photographs of diving birds.
Exercise: This seems like an odd tip but hitting the gym a few times and building your muscles for a long day of photographing is one key to successful days in Alaska. If you’re photographing wildlife, you’ll most likely be using a longer/bigger lens. Your lens is only going to be as good as how still you can keep it. Your length of time and the exposure to how many animals / birds / landscapes you have the opportunity to capture will be determined by your own endurance level. This might sound like a lame tip but its not one that most people think about until they miss the orcas swimming by because their arms are tired.
Whales: If you are new to photographing whales, consider their swimming patterns in advance. After you see a few in the water, you’ll know what I mean. For Humpback Whales, they take long, slow, deep breaths when cresting the surface of the area. On average, you’ll have 3-4 opportunities to photograph the whale’s breathing hole and then 1 opportunity to photograph it’s fluke. This might seem like a lot of time but quite often, you will need to use some of the time between when you first spot the whale to it’s final tail fluke to get closer to the whale.
Orcas on the other hand seem to come up for air more often. They travel in pods so you might see more than one dorsal fin popping above the water. Orcas tend to crest the water more often and travel faster. This means that you while you may have more opportunities to photograph their crest, they will move outside of your lens range faster. Side note - I have seen more Orcas breaching the water than I have humpback whales.
Your Alaska Photography Tips
Do you have any photography tips that you find help when photographing landscapes or wildlife in Alaska? If so, please share them in the comments below! In the meantime, check out these shots from Alaska:
Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to quite a few locations in search for awe-inspiring photographs. I’ve managed to explore Singapore, Hong Kong, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Alaska and a few other places. As a landscape photographer, its tough to find the right balance of camera equipment to take while still remaining flexible and mobile. It’s a mental dance that I do each time I pack for a trip.
If you’re anything like me, you also want to have access to your camera along the journey to your destination. This often includes several airports, international baggage restrictions, hikes, taxi rides and rain (or snow). Having immediate access to my camera is preferred. At all times.
How to Carry Your DSLR While Traveling
Given this criteria (mobility and camera access), I have found 3 camera products that I consistently travel with when carrying my DSLR. Most other pieces of equipment can be changed depending on the photograph that I’m capturing or the type of hike I’m going on but these 3 items are key to every trip.
Find a Good Carry-on DSLR Travel Bag
Find a good, sturdy yet lightweight camera bag that can be used as a carry-on will save you a lot of time and effort. You’ll avoid transitioning bags for each trip (which means you’ll be less likely to forget an item) and you’ll get used to where your lenses and camera body are (which means that when you’re on a safari in Africa, you will be super familiar where your zoom lens is). Get comfortable with your bag and make sure it’s lightweight enough that you can hike with it - aka, try not to overstuff it.
Here’s the DSLR Travel Bag that I use:
Find a Lightweight Tripod For Your DSLR
If you’re into landscape photography, make sure to find a lightweight tripod. While shopping for one, you might lift quite a few of them up and think, “that’s not heavy at all”. Think again. Really try to envision yourself carrying your tripod on a 5 mile hike that’s uphill for most of the way. Plus your actual camera gear. If you get tired just thinking about carrying it in that scenario, opt for a lighter one. When you’re leaving for a tough hike to get to your desired location, it can be tempting to remove as much weight as possible. You do NOT want to leave your tripod behind so try to hedge this desire by finding a lightweight one.
Here’s the one that I travel with:
Rain Gear for DSLR While Traveling
A lot of my travels take me throughout Southeast Alaska - and it rains a lot. I mean a lot. Almost everyday (in my personal experience). So it was important for me to find a decent camera cover that was mobile, easy to use and protected my gear from the rain. I’ve read online blog articles that say you can use a plastic grocery bag (poke a hole in the one side) but I prefer to use a camera cover because there always seems to be multiple holes in my grocery bags. This rain protector has saved me quite a few times especially during the rainy seasons in Alaska and even Hong Kong.
Here’s the Rain Gear I use for my DSLR:
DSLR Travel Gear Recommendations
Do you have a favorite or preferred product that you make sure you have with you when you travel with your DSLR? If so, please let me know in the comment section below! I’m always looking for products that make my life easier - on the last mile of my hike or when I’m just boarding a plane.
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Best Photography Location in Petersburg Alaska
One of my favorite places to photograph is located in Petersburg Alaska. It’s a tricky spot to get to because the best angles are from the Wrangell Narrows (waterway) during low-tide. For this spot, timing is everything.
Here’s an image that I’ve taken from this spot:
Great Photography Location in Alaska
One of the reasons why this location is one of the best in Petersburg, Alaska is because the landscape is always changing. In addition to juggling the weather and the tides, the mouth of the Wrangell Narrows opens up to the Frederick Sound. The Sound contains deeper waters and pods of Orcas and even Humpbacks swim through this area everyday. You never know when you’ll see a whale fluke or even a sea lion.
Directions to Petersburg Alaska Photography Location
Starting at Papa Bear’s (it’s right on the main street of the town), head North towards Eagles Roost Park by foot. It will take you about 5 minutes to walk and please note that there is a slight uphill.
Once you’re at Eagles Roost Park, face the direction of the water and turn to the right. You will see the beginning of a path.
Follow the path for about :15 seconds and you’ll see stairs. Take the stairs (approximately 3-4 flights).
This is where your timing will be key. During low-tide, there will be rocks exposed. Scramble over the rocks and look down the Wrangell Narrows towards Devil’s Thumb. On a clear day, you’ll see the wonderful mountain peak.
Please note that the tide swings can be more than 14 feet (depending on the time of year, it can swing to 20+ feet).
Tip: Wear waterproof boots so you can wade into the water a bit
What are the best places for landscape photography?
You’re ready to go. You know which camera you would like to try, you have your lenses packed and you’ve researched what should be in your camera bag. But now what?! You know that you want to create a landscape photograph but your backyard seems dull and boring and you want to go somewhere exciting but you’re not sure where.
Often times, we’re limited by the amount of travel time we have or by the funds we have to get some place. In this blog post, I’ll focus on a few places within the continental USA.
Where to take landscape photographs
To be honest, you can take landscape photographs from almost anywhere. Given enough creativity, you can make even the most mundane and dull places seem Instagram worthy. However, if you get the itch to travel within the USA, below are the top 5 locations I would recommend.
Best states to shoot photographs
Alaska: An exquisite location filled with varying terrain, wildlife, and beautiful natural elements such as glaciers and wildflowers. Depending on how much time you have, consider jumping on an Alaskan cruise for a week or so. Most cruises traverse through Southeast Alaska allowing you to disembark at various cities. It’s a great way to see a lot of places in Alaska, get a few great landscape shots from the water and not worry about the travel logistics. There are also smaller boat cruises to consider if you prefer a more intimate setting.
Washington: If you are looking for a great outdoorsy landscape photograph with a lot of lush greenery, Washington state should be high on your list. No matter where you turn, you will be able to find coastline, mountains and/or a state park just waiting to be photographed. Make sure to do your research ahead of time as seasonal weather patterns can alter your travel plans.
Maine: If you’re anything like me and prefer to be by the ocean when you’re photographing landscapes, Maine is a great state to head to! Filled with wildlife and various coastal scenes, you’ll also find quite a few lighthouses. Make sure to take your tripod so you can capture the rolling waves and if you have a minute, stop by one of the boutique lobster shops that you’ll inevitably find along your way and try a ‘lobstah roll’.
Florida: If the heat doesn’t bother you, head to Florida during the summer months to catch one of the incredible sunsets (and/or sunrises) in your landscape photographs. If you’re not sure where to start out, consider heading to the Everglades or Key West. Both locations are further south and provide beautiful flora.
Hawaii: Hawaii is on my bucket list in terms of where to photograph next. The rugged, lush mountains, incredible ocean views and beautiful sunsets are among the richest in the world. If you happen to get there before me, please let me know where you recommend to photograph landscapes!
Great Places to Take Landscape Photos
As you know, there are millions of places to take incredible landscape photographs and to practice photography. Have you been somewhere special that you’d like to share with everyone? If so, please comment below and let others know of fantastic places to try photographing.
What considerations should I have in mind when selecting new room décor pieces?
Sigrid: Quite often, I see home decor stores focus on cost and large production. Big box stores and midsize retailers offer their customers a large volume of artwork and home décor at reasonable rates. I decided to take a different approach. At Sigrid & Co., we source home décor products with the underlying principle that home décor is a gateway for global connectivity and fair trade.
This means that we source our products from talented artisans from around the world and believe that by providing our partners a channel to reach buyers, we help enable a globally connected economy.
You may be wondering why we decided to focus on Fair Trade (we get this question a lot!). By implementing conscious fair-trade practices, we are holding ourselves accountable to helping the world fight against poverty, gender inequality, child labor and migration. As a company, we believe that we can do well AND do good – all at the same time.
Selecting Interior Decor Through the Lens of Fair Trade
We provide our customers the opportunity to purchase home décor that makes a difference in people’s lives. We encourage our customers to research their products and select pieces that are unique and also do some good in our world. Often times, because we source our products from global artisans, we have more unique products than big box retailers.
It also means that we help enable artisans in third world countries to make money to help pay for their own necessities such as food, housing, and education. Artwork and home décor is a language that everyone can speak. It transcends language barriers, cultural divide and borders. By supporting our artisans, you’re supporting a world of positive change with true impact, changing lives one product at a time.
Look out for our third and final blog post from Sigrid & Co. coming soon!
Have you heard of Humble Design?
As I sit in a coffee shop with the sunlight pouring in, it reminds me of a nonprofit that I have had the opportunity to donate my artwork to. Just like the sunlight is filling this room, this nonprofit works to fill their recipients lives with donated household goods, dignity and hope.
Humble Design is a non profit organization serving “individuals, families, and veterans emerging from homelessness by transforming their empty house into a warm, welcoming and uplifting home with donated furniture and household goods.”
Across the country, Humble Design warehouses are stocked with donated goods that allow design teams to personalize homes by providing a dignified, life changing experience for clients. We believe in restoring dignity to every family that has suffered homelessness.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Laura Corp - the Operations Coordinator at Humble Design. Before she started working at the nonprofit, Laura had participated in a ‘Day of Service’ which is when an organization sponsors a family, helps put the household goods into the homes, and gets to participate in the reveal. After her experience, she was hooked. She knew she had to be more involved with Humble Design and so she applied for a job. Laura generously took the time to talk me through how Humble Design works.
Making a Difference with Humble Design
Humble Design has a few big warehouses where they keep donated household goods. Partnering with other nonprofits, Humble Design works with families who are transitioning into their new home. Once they receive a referral from a partnering case worker, a team of designers will go meet with the family in their home before going back to the warehouse to begin selecting the home goods to be leveraged at lightening speed (about 1.5 days!). The designers also spend time creating custom artwork for the families after getting to know their interests and what they dream of having their home look and feel like. On the third day, volunteers help put the home goods into the identified home. With 4 locations nationally, Detroit (headquarters), Chicago, San Diego and Seattle, Humble Design completes about 7 homes each week.
One of the motivations for starting this nonprofit was the idea that often times, when people get back onto their feet and in a home, they don’t have the means for furnishing it. Sometimes people are sleeping on blankets or sleeping bags - there’s no furniture, chairs or tables. A common issue that people run into when furnishing their home is transporting the goods to their home. At Humble Design, they are able to transfer the home goods to the home.
Check out their videos here:
Before and After Photos of Interior Design
We all love ‘before and after’ photos as it helps us understand the transformation of the space. Here are a few images of the work that Humble Design has done in Detroit, Chicago, San Diego and Seattle. What do you think? I personally love the dining room transformation!
Which of the before / after photos impress you the most? I love the living room transformation space! We especially love how the designers used a neutral palette and leveraged the existing fireplace.
Lending a helping hand
I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to donate artwork to Humble Design. Not only is the nonprofit mission something I can get behind and believe in but the people there are so kind truly helpful. If you’re an artist looking to get involved or help out with this cause, please check out their volunteer opportunities here: https://www.humbledesign.org/getinvolved
What is the best DSLR for Outdoor Photography?
What DSLR Camera should I buy for Outdoor Photography?
One of the most popular questions I receive as a DM (or a direct message) via instagram is ‘which DSLR should I get if I’m going to be shooting outdoors’. I wanted to take a moment and provide a few considerations for you if you’re having this same thought.
Usually when I’m taking landscape photographs, I need to first travel to where I’m shooting. Then, I have to make sure my equipment can hold up against the elements and weather conditions such as freezing temperatures, rain and extreme heat. After that, I want to make sure my editing software and computer system are correctly set up. As you can see, there are quite a few items to take into consideration when it comes to purchasing a DSLR for Outdoor Photography. Today, I’ll share with you a few of the top considerations.
Outdoor Photography DSLR Considerations
Camera Body for Outdoor Photography
As mentioned above, often times you have to travel to capture outdoor, landscape, nature and wildlife photography. One of my biggest criteria for purchasing a DSLR for outdoor photography is how it will hold up against ‘bumps and bruises’. Whether the bumps and bruises come from traveling (squishing a back pack under an airplane seat) or from a brush with the ground as I hike up a mountain. Yes - in a perfect world we would bubble wrap our cameras, lenses and tripod but practically speaking, if you want fantastic outdoor photographs, you will need to get out of the house.
Nikon D810 FX DSLR Camera Body
I have lived in Florida and have taken outdoor photography portraits and landscapes there. Often times, I find myself in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) and Alaska where its usually chilly and it rains often. I needed a camera that could handle both of of those elements along. I was looking for a full-frame with a wide aperture and a fast shutter speed. I didn’t go into photography seeking out extreme conditions or really wanting to push the boundaries with my camera; however, I knew there was a chance that as I grew as a photographer, I would really want to test my cameras limitations. For Outdoor Photography, I would highly recommend the Nikon D810 FX DSLR Camera Body.
Why Do I Recommend the Nikon D810 Camera Body for Outdoor Photography
From shooting outdoor portraits on the beach to orcas and bald eagles in Alaska, my Nikon D810 Camera Body has been with me every step of the way. It has a wide range of ISO sizes, allows me to shoot in raw, 36.3 MP and a 51-point AF system. If you’re looking for the detailed specs, please see below. This is a versatile camera body allowing me to photograph outdoor night photography, a fast-moving breeching Orca and family portraits.
Outdoor Photography DSLR Specs:
36.3 MP FX-format CMOS sensor without an Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF)
30% faster EXPEED 4 image processing engine
51-point AF system and 3D Color Matrix metering III with a 91,000-pixel RGB sensor
ISO 64-12,800 expandable to 51,200
Featuring a new RAW Small Size option, which produces 16MP images with much smaller file sizes
Professional video and audio capabilities
Questions About Your DSLR for Outdoor Photography
If you have any questions about a camera and it’s performance for outdoor photographs or have specific questions about the Nikon D810, please reach out to me on my Contact page! I would love to provide guidance and any useful tips or considerations.
Photographing Throughout the State of Washington
Landscape Photography of Mount Rainier and Tulips
For those of you who do not follow me on Instagram, I wanted to share a few brief video clips from a recent trip to Washington. A lot of my photography work was done in the early mornings and the evenings - around sunrise and sunset. There were a few mornings and evening when I thought I would capture the perfect photograph but the clouds moved in or the rain started pouring. I wanted to share these videos with you so you could hear the quietness of nature around me and envision what I was seeing while I was crafting my artwork.
On a side note - from a travel standpoint, one week is not nearly long enough in this beautiful state! There’s so much to see, so many trails to hike and such beautiful land to soak up. I had the chance to witness beautiful tulips blooming, hike to Rattlesnake Ledge, and see Mount Rainier poking out of the clouds.
Landscape Photography of Mount Rainier and Tulips in Washington
Landscape Photography Equipment
For this landscape photography adventure, I decided to take 2 camera lenses, 1 camera body, 1 tripod and 1 camera bag. When I first started packing for this trip, I wasn’t sure if I would be taking wildlife photographs or more landscape photographs. I decided on taking just 2 lenses but these two cover a fairly wide spectrum of distances. Here they are below:
Landscape Photography Video of Gig Harbor
Landscape Photography Video of Skagit Valley Tulip Festival at Sunrise
Landscape Photography Video of Rattlesnake Ledge
Landscape Photography Video of Sunset at San Juan Islands
Landsape Photographer Mary Parkhill
We believe that artwork should inspire.
Especially the artwork in your home since it’s where you spend a lot of your time. It’s where you and your loved ones create lifelong memories – where milk is spilled, tears are wiped, and family dinner traditions are created.
This is a 3 part series of blog posts and we will be posting helpful hints over the next few weeks as Spring gets into full bloom. Make sure to tag us in your home décor photos on Instagram for a chance to be featured!
Part 1 - How do I start pulling decor together for a room?
Sigrid: When I begin a home decor project, there are two things that I anchor the room around: color and tone.
Color: The color palette of a room is fundamental to creating harmony and a cohesive space. It should be inviting and easily translated by the viewer as warm and welcoming. As you select décor, ensure that your personality shines through as you curate pieces.
Here are two color palette examples for you to consider:
1. If you would want an airy and calm room, consider combining light neutrals or leveraging the same color in different shades.
2. If you would like to create a warm space, consider combining coral and pink blush tones.
Tone: Once you have defined your color, decide on the tone you would like to convey. Consider combining cooler tones such as blues for your bathroom to remind you of a fantastic trip you made to Maine last summer or perhaps you would prefer warmer tones in a dining room to represent your time in lovely Northern Italy.
Once you identify which color palette you would like as well as the tone, selecting the rest of your decor will fall into place.
Pro Tip: If you are decorating your entire home, consider focusing on rooms one at a time so that you can play with colors and decor styles on a room-to-room basis. This process can be overwhelming so by breaking an entire home into rooms, it can make the project feel more manageable.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog post from Sigrid & Co about fair trade home decor. Sign up for our eNewsletter here so you don’t miss our next post!
Interested in the home decor items you see in this post?
Check out Sigrid & Co’s online store here!