National Geographic : 1910 Jan
PHOTOGRAPHY IN GLACIAL ALASKA Alaskan "sour-doughs," old-timers, but include a few new-comers or "checha kos." The "sour-doughs" are characters of the greatest interest, representing as they do the last of the American pioneers to westward. The Scandinavian type predominates-men of splendid build, whose eager, alert attitudes as the boat approaches each Alaskan village afford good subjects for the kodaker. The cabin passengers present more diverse types. Mining, railroad, and construction engineers; successful pros pectors; capitalists, judges, and commis sioners; scientific men in the fields of geology and forestry; store-keepers, cannery managers, and perhaps a writer or two, make up their number. These are more shy of the camera man, but from their conversation one may acquire an all but complete history of Alaska and the current events of its present-day rapid development. In passing through the narrow reaches of the Inside Passage, such as Grenville Channel, the photographer is offered many opportunities, from the deck of the vessel, for pictures of the steep, glaciated cliffs of these passages among the islands. Waterfalls, sometimes extending all the way from a high mountain summit to the sea, but more often emerging from the lips of hanging valleys high up on the slopes, descend between the shelter ing green of the luxuriant vegetation which everywhere covers the mountain sides, the water in each case appearing as slender threads of foaming, white, high-light. The first opportunity, however, for securing a truly imposing picture is afforded by the lofty peaks of the Fair weather Range, all snow-covered, with valleys buried in glacial ice, and tower ing from 10,000 to 15,ooo feet straight up from the sea-level. These mountains are to the northward of the Inside Passage, and the ship is from 10 to 15 miles out to sea while they are in view. A good picture is, therefore, contingent on a clear day and a suitable lens; that is, a lens with sufficient length of focus to enable one to get a large image of the distant peaks on the ground glass. For such work a telephoto lens is usually recommended, but I have found these very unsatisfactory, because the very small aperture at which they work makes focusing very difficult. In this case it would render their use impossible, as the motion of the steamer would pre clude an exposure of the necessary dura tion. A rapid rectilinear lens, furnished by Bausch and Lomb, of 17'-inch equivalent focus, working at f/I6 and fitted with a shutter having a maximum speed of I/Ioo second, was found ad mirable for all kinds of distance work. The other great peak and mountain range visible from the steamer, as one sails to the north and westward, is Mount Saint Elias and its setting, the latter sometimes inaccurately termed the Saint Elias Giant Alps. Although Mount Saint Elias rises directly from the low ice-plateau of the Malaspina glacier, it is so far distant from the sea that im posing pictures of its pyramidal mass are difficult, if not impossible, to get. One opportunity for a striking snap-shot was missed (because the cameras were stowed away) on the first evening after our landing at Yakutat. That was at the last of June, and the sun set directly behind the peak, outlining it in fire and at the same time casting a triangular shadow of the mountain on the sky, high above the summit. The sky-space between the mountain and its shadow was filled with the varied colors, lights and shadows of the sunset glow, while in the foreground the lower mountain ranges gleamed white in their all-enfolding mantles of snow. Such opportunities for photographing the peaks of southeastern Alaska are rare, because of the almost continual presence of clouds, and the steady down pour of rain for much of the time on the lowlands. Again, it is the rain and the consequent humidity which make photographic processes so difficult. On the other hand, the same humid condi tions provide the snow-fall on the higher ranges, which, in turn, gives rise to the glaciers, on whose presence is dependent much of the pictorial interest of the region.