What to take on an Alaska cruise?

NyftyNyfty Registered Users Posts: 18 Big grins
edited December 25, 2015 in Location, Location, Location!
My wife and I are going on an Alaska inside passage cruise in May. Since we've never been on a cruise or to Alaska, I'm looking for suggestions on what equipment to take. Since she isn't a shooter I won't get to spend all our time shooting landscapes or any wildlife we might see.

I have two Nikon APS-C bodies and several lenses ranging from a 10-24, through a 70-200, that fits into a Pelican 1510. I do have a 200-400 but don't plan on taking it as I would need to take my large tripod and we are flying, so I'm limited to weight and number of bags.

If you have any experience cruising, or been to Alaska I'd appreciate your input.


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    kdogkdog Administrators Posts: 11,681 moderator
    edited February 23, 2015
    I think you may regret not bringing a longer lens than a 200mm, although you may get away with a TC on it. You are likely to see whales from the ship. Plus there are neat landscapes, sunsets and glacier closeups to get. Are you doing any shore excursions? That may dictate what you might want to bring as well. For eagles, you'll want all the length you can get. Ditto with bears (if your 200 is long enough, you're too close!) If your 200-400 is too big, you might want to consider a more compact super-tele zoom like the Tamron 150-600, or the Nikon 80-400. I used my Canon 100-400 there and that was pretty good. A polarizer is always nice around water. Other than that, it sounds like you have your bases covered.
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    NyftyNyfty Registered Users Posts: 18 Big grins
    edited February 24, 2015
    Kdog, thank you very much for your input. I do have a 2X TC that I've used before with the 70-200 2.8. It's not as sharp as the 200-400 4.0, but on a Nikon D7100 the TC with the 70-200 has the same angle of view and is one stop slower.
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    yendikenoyendikeno Registered Users Posts: 214 Major grins
    edited March 5, 2015
    I agree with kdog that a longer lens is very useful. Was on a cruise with Linblad, and their smaller ships managed to get very close, but still wished I had more than my 70-200. Unfortunately for me I didn't have a TC, but sure could have used one. Given that you do have one, you can use that, although I would prefer a 1.4X TC over a 2X.
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    Tom FosterTom Foster Registered Users Posts: 289 Major grins
    edited March 6, 2015
    I think you will definitely need the TC on a 200mm. APS-C should help but some extra reach won't go amiss!
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    MooreDrivenMooreDriven Registered Users Posts: 260 Major grins
    edited March 7, 2015
    Depending on what excursions you're planning to go on will dictate what lens you should consider. I took my 70-200mm as my longest lens, which was great except for the whale excursion. I wish I would have had a longer lens along with a second body and my 70-200. I was shooting with a DX body (D300). I didn't find a need for anything longer than 200mm while on the ship.

    There are many photographic opportunities, so take plenty of memory cards and/or your laptop to back up your images. I look forward to seeing shots when you return.
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    pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,700 moderator
    edited March 22, 2015
    I think it depends on the boat you are going to be on - Large cruise ships won't really get that close to wildlife, so a 400mm lens may be quite helpful. One the other hand, some of the smaller cruise ships in Alaska that only take a dozen passengers or so, can really get you quite close at times, so that a 70-200 or even 24-105mm lens may be useful.

    I am returning next week for my third trip to Alaska and my second time on the "Northern Song", this time out of Sitka. I am taking 2 crop bodies, and a full frame body, a 16-35 f2.8 if we get ashore for star shots, a 70-200 f4 IS L for close shots of whales and eagles, and a 100-400 IS L Version II for longer distance shots. I am taking an 18-200 travel zoom for my 70D for snapshots and shooting along the way, and for video.

    Regarding your 200-400 lens -- I do own a Canon 200-400 mm IS L but have decided it is too big and too large and too heavy to fly to Alaska with, and will use my 100-400 V2 instead. I actually hope to do most of my shooting with my 70-200, especially for eagles. That is what I used the last time on the "Northern Song". Nothing beats getting closer to yout subject, and smaller lenses handle a lot easier than larger heavy telephotos. I am taking a tripod and a Jobu Gimble head for my 100-400 lens.

    I would also suggest taking a smaller camera ( like my 70D ) that shoots video as well. Once you have 1000 whale tail shots, video will seem appealing, and the audio tracks will be desirable as well. I am taking a shotgun mike and an H4n Zoom recorder for audio tracks of the whale breathing and spouting. I really enjoy listening to the whales and their singing from my last trip to Alaska.

    Shooting from a boat, especially if it is moving, means you will have to be somewhat mobile, and able to move about, and will need faster shutter speeds. Consider shooting in Tv with Auto Iso at times; it may be overcast and grey at times in Alaska, so higher ISOs may be needed than you usually prefer to use.

    Try to get as close to the water level as you can. Large cruise ships usually won't let you get close to water level, but lower is generally better.

    Some of my images from my last trip in 2012 can be seen here - http://pathfinder.smugmug.com/Travel/Petersburg-Alaska-on-the-MV/22879619_Zmn37g#!i=3516720636&k=bSC2m5q You can mouse over the larger image and click on the i box, and see the exif data to see what lenses I used for each image. A lot of them were shot with the 70-200.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
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    puzzledpaulpuzzledpaul Registered Users Posts: 1,621 Major grins
    edited March 23, 2015
    pathfinder wrote: »

    Try to get as close to the water level as you can. Large cruise ships usually won't let you get close to water level, but lower is generally better.

    Couldn't agree more :)

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    gwrightgwright Registered Users Posts: 36 Big grins
    edited December 24, 2015
    Be sure to take rain gear. We spent 17 days there in July. It rained every day. Rain gear for you camera as well. if you don't know the panhandle of Alaska is a rainforest area. Hence it rains a lot there. I definitely agree with the others on longer lenses. I used my 80-400 Nikon a lot for wales and other wildlife.
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    aj986saj986s Registered Users Posts: 1,100 Major grins
    edited December 25, 2015
    FWIW, cruise ship cabins are typically stingy on electrical outlets. If you will be needing to charge a variety of batteries and/or devices, you should consider bringing along a packable power-strip that you could plug into a lonely outlet.

    Alaska is a beautiful trip. Consider a helicopter excursion onto one or more glaciers if offered.
    Tony P.
    Canon 50D, 30D and Digital Rebel (plus some old friends - FTB and AE1)
    Long-time amateur.....wishing for more time to play
    Autocross and Track junkie
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    SeefutlungSeefutlung Registered Users Posts: 2,781 Major grins
    edited December 25, 2015
    Your American Express card.

    I've shot above the Arctic Circle in February, which I suspect is a whole differnt animal than a cruise. But, a few lessons I learned. Extra batteries, beacoup extra batteries. I was in the field, so warmth often was a premium. I made pouches for my extra batteries sewn into the armpit area of my clothing. When the batteries went dead, I'd switch out the dead batteries with the smelly warm batteries. When those batteries went dead, the previously dead batteries were warmed up and were useable again. Et cetera.

    Gloves, find some really thin and very highly rated warm gloves. I had silk, but there is probably newer and better materials available now. My cold weather gloves either are made-of grippy materials or have grippy stuff on the underside. If you shop for thin/warm/grippy gloves take a camera to check out handling.

    Zip lock bags. Be careful about condensation when traveling from cold to warm. Use a Zip Lock to package your stuff up to avoid condensation.

    I'd take the 200-400 with a monopod and/or a 2X TC. But for me, the cruise would be more of a photo expedition first and family outing second and photography would take priority over mobility and common sense. It is hard to mix a family vacation with photography ... I've never been on a "cruise" ... I imagine that with my much better half only and on a cruise that the two activities could mix well.

    Good Luck and Good Shooting
    My snaps can be found here:
    Unsharp at any Speed
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