Waterfall in Tracy Arm, Alaska - Vertical Pano

Photographing an Alaskan Cruise – Photography Tips

This is the second blog post in a series on photographing an Alaskan cruise.  We took the southbound cruise from Whittier to Vancouver with Norwegian Cruise Lines.  We also spent an extra day and a half in Vancouver. I’ll be blogging about our experience and the photo ops at each destination as well as other topics such as what photo gear to bring.

Alaskan Fisherman, Rough Seas

Try Using a Passing Boat as your Foreground

An Alaskan cruise can also be a great photography trip.  In this blog, I’ll give my tips on photographing an Alaskan cruise and how to get the most out of it from a photography perspective.    What photo equipment to bring will be the next topic in the series on Photographing an Alaskan Cruise.

Index for all 11 Blogs on Photographing an Alaskan Cruise

Photography Tips for an Alaskan Cruise

  • Balcony.  If you can afford it, get a cabin with a balcony.  The balcony was my favorite part of the cruise.  It was wonderful to sit on your balcony with your favorite beverage and look for beautiful compositions at any time of the day.  It is also your private viewing area for the glaciers, sunsets, and sunrises.
  • Multiple Camera Bodies. If you have multiple camera bodies, have each set up with different focal length lenses.  This will reduce the need to switch lenses and reduce missed shots.  The lenses you need will vary based on your distance from the shore.  I normally had my Canon 5D mark III set up with a telephoto for wildlife.  I saw humpback whales, dolphins, orcas, seals, and bald eagles all from my balcony.  For the second body, I normally had a wide angle or a longer zoom lens (70-300mm) depending on the distance from the shore.
  • Think Foregrounds.  There is a lot of beautiful mountain scenery in Alaska.  Depending on the focal length of your lens and the distance from the shore, you could have a lot of empty water in the foreground. For a more interesting composition, look for objects for the foreground of your photo – islands, passing boats, icebergs, and reflections can all make interesting foregrounds.  Since the boat is moving, the compositions and foregrounds will constantly change.
  • Sunrises and Sunsets.  If you have clear or partly cloudy evenings and mornings on your cruise, the sunrises and sunsets can be beautiful.  If you are coming from a different time zone, you will likely be up early in the morning, check outside your cabin, the sun rises really early in Alaska.  Sunsets seem to last a long time in up in Alaska.  Look for sunsets reflecting in the clouds, on the white mountain peaks, and on the water.  Also, try shooting directly into a sunset to produce a silhouette of the mountains.
  • Panoramas.   Think about shooting panoramas both horizontal and vertical.  Horizontal panos are useful when you have a beautiful mountain range in front of you with no foreground objects.  You will see many waterfalls cascading down from the top of the mountains on your cruise.  Try a vertical panorama for these waterfall scenes.  I shot my panoramas handheld.  With a fast shutter speed and advances in panorama merge software, successful panoramas can be shot handheld.
  • Bring a Camera Everywhere. If you bring a point and shoot, take it with you wherever you go on the ship.  I got some good photos while eating in the dining rooms that I would have otherwise missed.
Alaskan Landscape Panorama

This scene was photographed with my point and shoot while eating breakfast one morning

Related Posts
Photographing an Alaskan Cruise – Review and General Tips
A Collection of Beautiful Alaskan Sunsets
What Photography Gear to Bring on an Alaskan Cruise?

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  • Barry Kurek

    Thanks for the tips.  My upcoming vacation is a little different in that it is a land tour.  But every little tip helps.  I especially appreciate the reminder about foregrounds.


    Be well.


    B JK

  • Steve Rubin

    Martin,  thanks for the tips.  When I usually travel I bring my (all Canon) 5DMIII with 18-36, 24-70. And 70-200 (all 2.8 L) and my 1.4 extender.  I can get these in a nice travel bag. However, for the Alaskan Cruise I have a feeling that I'll need to bring my 7D body (crop) as well.  I'm thinking of setting up the 7D with my 24-70 (36-105 converted)  and my 70-200 with the 1.4 on my 5DMIII (100-290 approx).  Would you agree?  I can also bring an 18-200 3.5-5.6 for the 7D (EFS so only for the 7D) but I hate not to have pro glass on when I have it.  Your thoughts? 

    • Martin Belan

      Hi Steve,

      Sounds like a pretty good kit.  If you plan on whale watching on an excursion or from the cruise ship, you may want something with a little more reach (300mm with a 1.4x on the 7D) would work.  The fast glass will be helpful for photographing sunsets from the ship without a tripod.  When you’re further north, the sunsets are beautiful and last a long time.  Enjoy the trip and get some good shots.



  • Martilie Weideman

    We are photographers from Suth Africa and leave on an Alaska cruise tomorrow. Thanks for the hints and can you recommend any cheap excursions that is worthwhile

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