Rear View Mirror: Bob McCallum

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Canon 6D, F/5, 100-400mm @100mm, 1/1600 sec, ISO 1250

When we left Juneau, Alaska on an August morning aboard the small touring vessel named the Katlian Express, we were headed to view, up-close, the Twin Sawyer Glaciers. The boat features a glassed-in main deck with an open observation deck above. The Katlian Express is referred to as a Jet Boat and is able to travel through the extensive Tracy Arm Wilderness Area quickly and quietly in addition to being small enough to get close to the glaciers.

Although it took a while to get to our destination, the view held us captive, and we quickly entered a timeless zone. The closer we got to the glaciers, the more magnificent the view became. We were surrounded by massive mountains spouting numerous waterfalls that looked like shinny ribbons floating down the mountain sides; in the water, chunks of ice, often blue and turquoise, became more plentiful and larger in size. When we could see the glacier from a distance, we became totally fixated on our destination, and our surroundings were no longer the main attraction.

The picture to the right is of a portion of the South Sawyer Glacier taken from the upper deck. Although the boat is rated for a maximum 49 people, there were less than 20 on board, and we had plenty of space and time to get our pictures. As a bonus, we enjoyed the company of harbour seals as they swam around, and lounged upon, the glacier ice.

I, and the others, took lots and lots of pictures of the spectacular view in front of us, and rightly so … would we ever be here again? I had lots of time to check my exposures, play with angles, shapes, and compositions.  When the jet engine started up, I was content with this photo opportunity and began preparing for our departure.

I consider it good fortune that I happened to turn to the left instead of the right in order to leave the observation deck. Doing so brought me face to face with the jaw-dropping view that had gone totally unnoticed behind me all this time. As I felt the Katlian Express begin to turn, I knew I didn’t have much time to react … up came the camera to the eye while being turned back on … a quick setting check: dial back my 100-400 lens from 400 to 100 & change F/5.6 to F/5 to balance the light meter … focus … click … click again for good measure. The first click is the above picture showing our route into, and our soon-to-be route out of, the South Sawyer Glacier. I would have done this shot differently if time permitted, but it turns out to be one of my favourite photos anyway.

The moral of the story, for me anyway, is I now think of photography like driving my car: yes, what is in front is very important, but I mustn’t forget to check the rear view mirror too!

More images of our trip to Alaska can be seen here.

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