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Thread: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

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    Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    Hello All, I am going on cruise to Alaska in May and I don't have a clue as to what would be appropriate for camera gear. We will be going on a somewhat smaller ship that will give us closer proximity to the coast and there will be some land excursions as well. I currently shoot with a Canon 1Ds Mark III, which is out of the question for this trip as it is just too heavy and bulky. I have been considering a new 5D Mark III anyway but this may not happen by May. I have an assortment of lenses for my Canon. One thought is to purchase a Sigma DP2 Merrill and possibly a DP1 to go with it. I want really high quality but portability/size is essential. I assume I would need a mono pod for ship shooting and a lightweight tripod for land excursions.

    In other words any general thoughts or gear recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks!
    J. Paul

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    Administrator Bob's Avatar
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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    Quote Originally Posted by jpaulmoore View Post
    Hello All, I am going on cruise to Alaska in May and I don't have a clue as to what would be appropriate for camera gear. We will be going on a somewhat smaller ship that will give us closer proximity to the coast and there will be some land excursions as well. I currently shoot with a Canon 1Ds Mark III, which is out of the question for this trip as it is just too heavy and bulky. I have been considering a new 5D Mark III anyway but this may not happen by May. I have an assortment of lenses for my Canon. One thought is to purchase a Sigma DP2 Merrill and possibly a DP1 to go with it. I want really high quality but portability/size is essential. I assume I would need a mono pod for ship shooting and a lightweight tripod for land excursions.

    In other words any general thoughts or gear recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks!
    J. Paul
    I have done such a cruise, but not speaking of any particular brand of gear here are a few points.
    1) If the ship is underway or even if it is moving slowly, a monopod may cause more issues than you think since rolling of the ship is not isolated. Sometimes handheld and/or some sort of VR is helpful along with a higher than usual ISO
    2) You may find that bringing a fairly long lens for your format is helpful. While aboard, the ship just will not get close to what you might be interested in shooting, I would take something equivalent to a 300 or perhaps something like a 70-200 plus a teleconverter.
    3) Belowdecks you will want something normal to wide but with a large aperture maybe a 50 or 35 1.4
    4) A very-wide in the 21-24 range is useful for many of the stops and shore excursions. Many of the places are fairly small towns with narrow streets and some of the mountains and glaciers need a wide.
    -bob

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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    Bob, thanks for your quick reply. These are some great points to consider.
    J. Paul

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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    You might like to bring an OM-D with the weather-sealed kit lens. It's a great small combo that give you 24-100mm coverage. Add a Panasonic 35-100 lens and you get 70-200 f/2.8. Still a tiny kit. I love mine. Forget the monopod and tripod. Image quality is outstanding.
    Brad Husick

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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    Thanks for the tip Brad! I have heard many great things about this camera but I am not sure if the IQ from a 4/3 sensor will give me what I am looking for. I know this would make a great supplemental camera but if I am shooting for stock or larger prints....? What do you think?
    J. Paul

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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    I am also scheduled for such a trip in June and also struggle with choices, especially since I have never been on a cruise at all and have never been to Alaska. The cruise is the main purpose, it is not a primary photo trip per se, although that is clearly important to me.

    I will bring 2 cameras for backup and so my girlfriend has a camera, as well.

    The menu would include:

    Both carry Leica Ms and share lenses, one travel tripod.

    One M, one Phase DF. Now I am carrying a bigger tripod and also do some DF shots handheld as walking camera. The kit now is much heavier and bulkier.

    One M, one tech cam with the tripod.

    I imagine mobility could be very important and I may have to shoot quickly, so the tech cam may not be a good choice, but I am open to the idea if it is actually usable. The M kit would be lightest and simplest, though I might get a simple combined kit into a shoulder bag. My lack of cruise experience shows and I don't know what is realistic under the circumstances.

    What do you think?

    Steve
    Last edited by scatesmd; 22nd March 2013 at 11:51. Reason: Additional question

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    NO TRIPOD ON THE SHIP ...Ships move and have bigtime floor vibrations . Bob has it right ..using a tripod on the ship or a monopod doesn t seem reasonable .

    BEST LIGHT IS PREDAWN OR DUSK ...on ship you will see nautical dawn 30-45minutes before sunrise . You need high ISO performance and or VR . I try this all the time with the M9s on land near the ocean ...low hit ratio and nothing is suitable for a large enlargement . Tripods can be amazing but if you can t get a solid platform ...its a show stopper . (I would take one but it would be in the cabin most of the time. ) I enjoy the old Leica table tripod which can be braced against fixed positions .

    You need first a camera with a sensor that can work at high ISO and that will record with good DR and Color at ISO1600.

    LENSES ..you can t reposition yourself on ship . An you need reach ...look at the LL trips .
    Speed ... is required to have adequate shutter speeds . You can just loose 15-20% of your oportunities or carry long fast glass. Depends on how important that is to you .

    SIZE ..I am missing the point here . On a ship most of your shooting will be either on board or in port mostly during the day . A DSLR like the 5D3 or the D800/E a short zoom works on shore , a few fast primes and one long lens on board .

    I could agree that an APS C sized mirrorless would be nice .. I would have a Fuji x100S as a 2nd body or an XPro 1 which could provide a good shore/town solution .

    You can make any of the alternatives work if you adjust your technique(and accept that some opportunities just aren t worth the effort and cost of the right equipment ) ..but it would be easier to get professional results with a DSLR and the right lenses. And there is something to be said for holding out for optimum IQ on fewer selects (MF) or for a smaller more mobile kit that would be a lot more fun to use .....but the system with the least trade offs would be a DSLR .

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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    I took an Alaska cruise not that many years ago, but was still shooting 35mm transparency film. At the time I had the flagship Canon's and mainly shot Fuji Velvia (iso 50) and Fuji Provia (iso 100, though I did push process some of the film to 200 and 400). I had three Canon zooms, covering from 17mm to 200mm (all f/2.8) and my 300mm f/2.8 with both converters (1.4 and 2.0). I used the 300mm lens extensively on deck, while the ship was in motion, mounted on a heavy Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. I also used the tripod for most shots with the other lens, in particular the 70-200mm. I don't think I lost a single shot to vibrations or movement of the ship, and believe me, I am extremely particular when it comes to sharpness. I was careful to shoot from portions of the deck that were less prone to vibrations, to stay out of the wind and spray, and it worked out fine. Yes, the above package was not light weight, but the photographs were my primary reason for the trip. And, I continue to license photos from that journey to this day. Digital cameras that allow us to shoot at higher ISO's with better image quality will make it that much easier to shoot from aboard ship. The reach and speed of the 300mm lens, along with the converters, was very helpful. But, lens length would be somewhat dependent on your shooting style. Make sure that if you buy new equipment you plan to use on the trip that you purchase it well in advance, and familiarize yourself with it thoroughly before departure. I did a month long land shoot in Alaska this summer and took all of the above gear, except 1Ds Mark III's rather than film bodies, a Canon 500 f/4 (loaned from Canon CPS), Canon 24mm TSE (for landscapes), Canon 100 f/2.8 macro (close-ups) and a Leica M9-P with four lenses, and two heavy Gitzo carbon fiber tripods (one with a Wimberly head for use with the long lenses). It was a lot of gear, most of which I shipped ahead to Anchorage, but once it was organized in my rental truck/camper I was glad to have it all and made use of every piece of gear. I don't think there is one set answer to your question, you have to be comfortable with the gear you take, and willing to drag it along. If it is sitting at home, or in the ship's cabin, you will never get that special shot. And, how many times do you plan to take an Alaska cruise? Bon voyage and happy shooting!

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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    Mark

    Good to know about the tripod because that is a game changer . The ships I have been on have all had too much vibration but I know the larger the ship the less its an issue . So its an important distinction .

    Tell us a little more about your technique and the shutters speeds you were using . I shoot a lot from the piers in Florida and enjoy the cruise ships in Miami.

    The other thought was how much the newest VR technology might affect the alternatives and whether a 70-200/4 braced with your body against the rail might be an alternative .

    Roger



    Quote Originally Posted by H. Mark Weidman View Post
    I took an Alaska cruise not that many years ago, but was still shooting 35mm transparency film. At the time I had the flagship Canon's and mainly shot Fuji Velvia (iso 50) and Fuji Provia (iso 100, though I did push process some of the film to 200 and 400). I had three Canon zooms, covering from 17mm to 200mm (all f/2.8) and my 300mm f/2.8 with both converters (1.4 and 2.0). I used the 300mm lens extensively on deck, while the ship was in motion, mounted on a heavy Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. I also used the tripod for most shots with the other lens, in particular the 70-200mm. I don't think I lost a single shot to vibrations or movement of the ship, and believe me, I am extremely particular when it comes to sharpness. I was careful to shoot from portions of the deck that were less prone to vibrations, to stay out of the wind and spray, and it worked out fine. Yes, the above package was not light weight, but the photographs were my primary reason for the trip. And, I continue to license photos from that journey to this day. Digital cameras that allow us to shoot at higher ISO's with better image quality will make it that much easier to shoot from aboard ship. The reach and speed of the 300mm lens, along with the converters, was very helpful. But, lens length would be somewhat dependent on your shooting style. Make sure that if you buy new equipment you plan to use on the trip that you purchase it well in advance, and familiarize yourself with it thoroughly before departure. I did a month long land shoot in Alaska this summer and took all of the above gear, except 1Ds Mark III's rather than film bodies, a Canon 500 f/4 (loaned from Canon CPS), Canon 24mm TSE (for landscapes), Canon 100 f/2.8 macro (close-ups) and a Leica M9-P with four lenses, and two heavy Gitzo carbon fiber tripods (one with a Wimberly head for use with the long lenses). It was a lot of gear, most of which I shipped ahead to Anchorage, but once it was organized in my rental truck/camper I was glad to have it all and made use of every piece of gear. I don't think there is one set answer to your question, you have to be comfortable with the gear you take, and willing to drag it along. If it is sitting at home, or in the ship's cabin, you will never get that special shot. And, how many times do you plan to take an Alaska cruise? Bon voyage and happy shooting!

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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    Roger, it was the only cruise ship I have ever been on and I would guesstimate it was of average size - small compared to some of the new mega-ships that exist today. I think the ship size is limited somewhat for all AK cruises; so that they can get into the small port towns and also sail the Inside Passage. It was the Norweigan cruise line, if that helps. Since I was shooting film, and not digital (ie metadata), I have no way to recall the shutter speeds. I can tell you though that I am sure I used speeds dictated by common sense for the conditions, vibrations, etc. The days are very long in the summer in AK, so that allows for faster shutter speeds, even in the early evening. With longer lenses I am certain I tried to use the fastest shutter speeds practical, 1/250th and faster, etc. I don't think bracing yourself against a railing or other stationary fixture on board would be wise - it would simply transfer the vibrations from the ship to you to the camera. Most VR technology works best when the camera is off a tripod and camera is hand held. I know in shooting aerials from helicopters the rule is to minimize your touch with the heli frame, structure, etc. Your body works something like a shock absorber for the camera. If you already have a 70-200 f/4 lens I wouldn't even think about replacing it with a f 2/8 version, unless money is no object. The higher end digital cameras allow one to shoot at relatively higher ISO's so you can easily compensate for the one stop light loss with minimal, if negligible, image quality loss. Faster lenses are generally larger and heavier than their slower counterparts. A handy way to recognize movement & vibration is to mount a two-way bubble level in the hot shoe of your tripod mounted camera. The little bubble of air will usually show you any movement or vibration, often when you do not perceive it otherwise. I often hang a weight, sometimes the camera bag, from the hook at the bottom of the tripod center column.
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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    Another thought is to contact the cruise line's public relations department. Tell them your situation and ask for advice re. using a tripod aboard the specific ship on which you will sail. They may be quite helpful.

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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    Mark excellent insights based on your experience . Thanks Roger

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    Re: Gear for Alaska Cruise?

    Thanks to all for the great advice. I had not thought of asking the cruise line, so will do so and see if they can help.

    I would prefer not to enter a new camera system like the Nikon, as my experience with it is limited and I already have too much gear. I agree, though, that it would likely work well.

    I also decided to write to Kevin Raber, as I suspect he has experience with this as a part of the PODAS series trips.

    Thanks again,

    Steve

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