Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Clothing update

Now that my full-time job is done until Labor Day and we are almost in June, the trip is becoming even more of a reality.   I received the new camera lens and I am happy with it.  It seems sharper than the 50-200mm zoom I've been using for years, and I've been having fun photographing Earnest and his Little League teammates.

I started purchasing "Alaska clothing" in October, but took a fairly long hiatus once the initial rush had passed.  Over Memorial Day weekend, we (all five of us) made a concerted effort to shop together.  This is what I am planning for each of us as special "Alaska clothing" that we wouldn't normally take on a vacation.

  • Hiking boots--Only Chretien had these.  We purchased mine in October from Timberland during a Columbus Day sale, and I finally took them out to start breaking them in on our marathon shopping expedition this past weekend.  We got Earnest a pair from REI on clearance, and we ordered Trust and Imp theirs from Backcountry.  (And we learned that Trust and Imp, 4.5 years apart, have the same size 5 foot, which amused me.  The boys are catching up!)
  • Binoculars--the kids each received a pair for Christmas from my sister. I have my new lens, so I will probably view a lot of the wildlife and glaciers through that.  My parents have given us two pairs of binoculars that they no longer have a need for, so Chretien may use one of those.
  • Rain coat--Trust and I each have a Columbia rain jacket which I bought on deep clearance last Labor Day (right before we bought the tickets to Alaska), since we needed rain jackets anyway.  I bought the two boys Marmot PreCip rain jackets on Ebay in October.  Chretien bought a rain jacket at Columbia on Monday.  
  • Rain pants--None of us had these.  Chretien and I found ours on Amazon.  I got the three kids theirs on Ebay (including one seller from Alaska!)  My parents gave us these for Christmas.
  • Heavy wool socks--Chretien and the kids have some from skiing.  I bought a bunch of pairs for me and the kids at Target on deep discount on Good Friday.  I think we will each have about 2-3 pairs.  I figure, we won't need them every day, so we should be OK.
  • Base layers--Chretien has many sets of Hot Chillys he uses for skiing.  Earnest has two sets of kids Cuddl Duds tops and bottoms (Climatesmart) for skiing, which I didn't realize until I started pulling things out last week.  Imp has one set of kids Cuddl Duds, so I got him another from Ebay.   I bought Trust a "Thermal" set of Cuddl Duds on Ebay and a black pair of pants from REI.  I am still looking for one more base layer shirt for her.  For myself, I bought a Cuddl Duds Climatesmart shirt on Amazon and some pants at REI.  I also bought myself a set of 32 Degrees Heat base layer on Ebay.  
  •  Hiking pants--Chretien bought two pairs of convertible hiking pants at Columbia.  Trust and I each scored one pair of convertible pants and another slightly heavier pair which are not convertible but will probably be fine when we do something near glaciers on one of the day trips on the boats.  I want us each to have one more pair, so I am stalking Ebay right now.  For Earnest, I have one pair I won on Ebay and am looking for another, and Imp still needs two pair.
  • Tights--Before I thought it through regarding base layers, I bought Trust and I some heavy tights.  Turns out that they run small, so they are sort of useless anyway.  Thankfully, I only spent $10 for the three pairs on Ebay.  
Although I am doing fairly well at not spending a ton on these items, because there are five of us, the costs are going to add up.  Still, though, we want to be warm and comfortable, because we aren't the type who normally stop for rainy days.

Monday, May 15, 2017

New camera lens

If you've taken a look at the earlier posts in this blog, you know I dabble in photography as a hobby.  I've been taking a photo a day since 1/1/2011, which is a lot of photos.  I have a DSLR and I know how to use it.  😉  More or less.

For months now, I've been thinking about a better lens for my Pentax.   I have 50-200mm, but that won't nearly be enough to zoom when we're in Denali or on the day cruises.   I really was coveting this lens:

but with a pricetag of roughly $1000 to $1100 which never really dips below $1000, except briefly around Christmas when it was $995, it was a no.   It's a 300mm prime lens, and gets great reviews, but no...especially since I've never needed such a lens in regular life before...although Chretien argued that I might start finding reasons to use it.

Then I thought maybe I'd rent it.  I looked around and both Camera Lens Rentals and Lens Rental
had it for about $200 for the time I'd need it.  Lens Rental had an insurance policy which covered just about every possible situation...including bear attacks. 

And then I started thinking...what if I didn't get the prime lens, and went with a lesser lens--the 55-300mm zoom?

There are actually several versions of this lens.  There is one that is not whether sealed.  I figured that was a no-no, since if there is any place I would be likely to need weather sealing (e.g. from rain!) it might be in Alaska.

There is also a newer model, whose focus is supposed to be a lot quieter.  However, the mount will not work with my Kiis model camera, and will force the aperture to stay wide open all the time...and given that it's about $100+ more right now, I figured I'd go with the one that would work with my older model Pentax.  I figure, some day I might regret it when I upgrade the camera, but that day isn't now, and now I want to be able to control the F-stop.

So this baby is headed my way.  I can't wait to get it on Wednesday and see how much better it is over my current zoom.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Pre-trip Planning: Day 14--Girdwood/Anchorage --> Home

This is our last day in Alaska (Sob!)  As I've mentioned, we don't leave until after dinner, so we still have some hours to do something fun!

I listed quite a few items for Day 13.  My guess is that we might still have something left on the list...or maybe we might want to head back to Anchorage to do something that looked interesting back on Day 1.  My feeling is that by mid-afternoon, we need to start finishing up and thinking about heading to the airport, returning the minivan, etc.

Writing this all out has helped me firm up some of the days.  My guess is I'll probably continue to tweak this until the actual trip.  I am also going to have some posts about what we are bringing with us, and that'll be good to have to then compare to what we actually used.

We arrive home on the morning of Day 15, exactly two weeks after we left.