The Alaskan Railroad

The first 24 hours of our grand adventure north was a tale of trains, planes, and automobiles.  So much distance to travel to reach the beautiful Alaskan wilderness!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

It began with a late night flight into Anchorage.  We managed to find flights at an insanely reasonable rate, but that price came only with one airline, and that airline literally had one flight to Anchorage a day, late at night.  I briefly considered flying in the night prior, as it wouldn’t require any extra days off from work (Friday night instead of Saturday), but I didn’t really care to putter around the city by myself for a day, and in the end, I was grateful for the extra day to finish pulling my things together.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The craziest thing about that flight was the sun.  This far north, the sun sets very late; daylight clings on well past 9pm.  So when we took off around 9, the horizon still held a glow… and that glow just never went away.  When we landed several hours later, it was still dusk – well past midnight.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

The next day, we woke to drizzle as we packed our things, called an Uber, and made our way to the train station.  Checking our bags was considerably easier than in an airport (if a bit more wet), and we then waited for our train.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Our accommodations in “Adventure Class” aboard the Denali Star were quite pleasant.  There was no wireless aboard, and we were lucky to even get signal when we passed a town here and there.  However, there was more than enough room to spread out, and some chose to take advantage of that, sleeping away much of the trip.  I, for one, couldn’t fathom sleep when there was so much to photograph.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

I wandered back and forth, from the dining car to the car with the viewing bubble, filming clips (Aaron insisted I do a bit of filming in his absence) and snapping interesting vantages.

But my favorite spots, by far, were those between the cars.  These were open air, bare to the cool wind and the crisp air, and with unhindered views of the passing landscapes.  I’d shoot from one side, then dash to the other, then race to the far end of the dining car to get a different view of the cars both forward and back.  And just when I would tire of a view and return to my seat for a bit of a break, I’d notice something new that tickled my fancy.  Or I’d race back to my seat to change out a lens.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

And all throughout, our conductor (in an honest-to-goodness train conductor hat) would pop on the intercom to announce a passing site or point out spotted wildlife.  There’s a moose, or here you can espy the “Dr. Seuss Tower.”

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Along the way, we passed lakes, rivers, mountains, and marshlands; the famed Hurricane Gulch Bridge 296 feet above the creek.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We even passed Summit, which is the highest point of the rail and where it claims to cross the Continental Divide.  However, in attempting to verify this, maps of the Great Divide show it actually snakes much farther north through Alaska, so I don’t understand how we could have been anywhere near it south of Denali.  I’m calling baloney on that claim, but if you happen to have any information on this, I would love to hear from you!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

We also passed a recreational park where a line of kayakers saw fit to drop their drawers and give the passing train a bit of moonshine.  I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to catch that… but you’re probably thinking that’s a good thing!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

All told, we rolled into the Denali station about 7.5 hours later, tired from the journey, and hungry for some real food.  Fortunately, Healy was more than happy to offer us the 49th State Brewery, where we returned each night for their killer frozen margaritas.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Day 1: train: achievement unlocked!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

Stay tuned next week for Day 2: bus!


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Eclipse: A Preview

Alright.. So I know everyone’s anxious for my Alaska posts, and I even had something else originally planned for this week, but with all the excitement of this life-changing event, I had to interject an extra story.

This is just a preview, as I’m still working on the photos, but I’ll have the rest next week.  Follow my blog for all the latest!

Anticipation for the solar eclipse has been brewing for months, and “totality” invokes a very clear image in everyone’s minds.  For any living in the States, it’s meant booking hotels and campsites for exorbitant amounts, scrambling to secure legitimate solar glasses when half those sold were recalled a week prior, and selecting the best viewing spots.

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Photostory: Secret Cliff Discovery

Nowadays, most of the best cool spots are overrun with people wanting to see such locations firsthand.  With the prevalence of the internet, once secret or obscure places can be broadcast to millions of people within an instant – complete with GPS coordinates.

I do whatever I can to avoid crowds, and it’s sad to see some of my favorite spots reduced to a mere tourist attraction.  Therefore, I have decided to make an effort to not disclose the precise location of all of my photos anymore, instead sharing only the beauty therein.

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WC: When Happy Meets Good

If you didn’t know by now, I’ll let you in on a (not-so-)little secret: I’m a bit obsessed with photography.  I experience much of my life through the lens, and I remember through pictures.

It’s difficult for me to separate photographs of good technical quality with those that have a strong sentimental tie, because I have similar reactions to both.  The former are like the good child – always doing well in school, someone who brings great pride.  The latter are also like children (they’re a piece of you), and while they may not perform as admirably, the mother loves them for all of the happy moments and experiences.

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This Week on Instagram: 7/7/17

If I have trouble choosing my favorite photos for this post, then I know I’m doing a good job over on Instagram.  I want to make sure you’re seeing some awesome photos, and I like this week’s set.

This first one is from Yosemite.  I just loved that black oak!  It was a magnificent centerpiece to “the swamp.”

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2017

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Photostory: How to Not Photograph a Waterfall

I’m still working through my many Costa Rica pictures, but I thought I’d take a little break to share a photostory with you.

I do some crazy things sometimes, and I don’t always consider my own safety while getting lost in the excitement of photography.  As a result, I can get caught in some precarious situations.  It’s only then that I realize I might have had a slight slip in judgement.

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