BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: All About Photography : Photographing Specific Subjects : Destination and Travel Photography Tutorial

Photography Question 
Cindy Sj
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2007

Photography on a Cruise

I'm heading out on a cruise to Alaska, and just received my first DLSR for Christmas. I'm trying to think of what I might need to take with me, and I'm scared I'll forget something critical! What would you recommend I take to make sure that I can shoot my little head off? So far, I have: 1 extra battery, 2 extra memory cards, circular polarizing filter, lens hood, lens brush, antifog cloths. Do I need a tripod? Can anyone recommend an inexpensive one that travels well? Anything else? Thanks soooooooooo much for your time in advance!

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3/15/2007 5:04:18 PM

Willie  L
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/28/2006
  Are you taking a laptop to dump photos onto? If not, make sure you take lots of memory cards for your camera. The 1 and 2 gig cards have gone done in price - take several. I would hate for you not to be able to shoot your little head off. Good Luck

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3/15/2007 5:15:03 PM

W.    Hi Cindy,
On a ship's deck, a tripod is probably not much use because the engines make the entire ship tremble continuously. 24/7. On land, however, a tripod is your best friend. Have you got a zoom telephoto lens, Cindy? Alaska is a BIIIIG place! And don't forget your charger. Have fun!

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3/15/2007 5:31:39 PM

W.    Oh, and BTW, if the ship has Internet, bring the cable to connect your camera to a PC. When your memory cards are full, you upload them to a PC, zip 'm together, and send 'm to a trusted recipient back home. That way, your cards are empty again, and your photos are backed up safely. Hey, even if the ship sinks, your photos will still be there! Isn't that a comforting thought... And you don't have to buy nor schlepp around a laptop or Portable Storage Device. You can send huuuuge files (up to 1 GB) using, or
Good luck.

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3/15/2007 5:41:58 PM

Bob Cournoyer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/9/2003
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  Take a battery charger for sure, depending on the size of your memory cards, maybe a 3rd extra. Tripod is basically useless on the boat. We did the Inside Passage a couple years ago ... if that's what you are doing, you won't have a whole lot of time at the ports to use your tripod since there are so many (thousands) cruise ship passengers out in town at the same time... Have a great time.

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3/15/2007 7:29:25 PM

John Zimmerman
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/20/2001
  Hi Cindy,

I did this trip a few years ago. If you take group tours then leave the tripod home. My tripod spent the trip in my suitcase. Zoom lenses 24-70, 70-200 and 100-400mm were my choice. I also took a spare body too. I hope this helps.

John Zimmerman

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3/20/2007 4:41:03 AM

Bill Chachkes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/26/2006
  Hi Cindy: main thing is enjoy your trip. Thats a Dream Trip for my wife and i.

I would forgo the tripod for the reasons stated above, but if you feel you must, check out the rather inexpensive Monopods from Bogen. Also on the tripod issue, the ones Samsonite make for Video cameras are Ok for Land use, and ar under $50.

Also If no Laptop on the trip I would invest the $ in a Portable storage unit, like the Wolverine flashpak.
(mine was $99 for 40Gb's at J&R last summer)
I used to Shlep my Old Apple iBook around on every trip until it died just recently. now I take the wolverine!

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3/20/2007 7:25:47 AM

Nanette B. Stephens
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/8/2005
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  I have never been on a cruise, but I would make sure you have at least 2 extra batteries. When I purchased my Nikon D70S I bought a total of 3 battery packs and I am glad I did. I keep them all charged and in my case at all times. It would be a shame to be out taking pictures and your battery goes dead and you don't have any extras. Instead of a tripod, I carry a monopod. It's great. It breaks down and fits right into my backpack for easy carrying. Hopes this helps.

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3/20/2007 7:28:24 AM

Joani    Don't cheat on a tripod. You have hundreds of $'s on top of it. I like a ball head. Placing foam feet under the tripod while on board cuts some of the vibration.
If you have a chance at a club meeting or on a field trip, try a varity of tripods. I like one that goes to ground level, for belly photography, and reaches as tall as myself. A day with a slight bending kills the back.
Alaska is cool. Have visited there several times since 1962. No cruises. I like the free spirit.

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3/20/2007 8:23:52 AM

Dale M. Garvey   Take and read the camera's manual. Try some of the setting you don't normally use. Take a laptop. I use a D2H and D200 but can't see to edit while the images are still in the camera. Remember you are shooting digital so taking extra photos is not expensive. In tricky lighting (sun sets, animals)you might consider to shoot in the raw format so you can adjust your exposure in the computer. Take a lot of photos before you go so you are not trying to learn how your camera works while you are on your cruse. Invest in a good telephoto. The photos you see in the ads are not taken with a 50 mm.

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3/20/2007 8:28:28 AM

Kathy Silver
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/31/2006
  Hi Cindy - I too am going to Alaska in May - so excited. I'm thinking of taking a monopod. I was there in 2005 with a Sony digital point and shoot and came away with some good shots but I took tons - make sure you have plenty of memory or at least something to upload them onto to free up your space. And your charger !!! This time I have a Canon 30D and two great lens (one is a 100-400 IS) so I hope to come home with awesome shots. Good Luck and remember to have FUN :)

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3/20/2007 9:24:42 AM

Linda C. Price   I just returned from a trip to Costa Rica and took 672 pictures. I had a 1 gig, 2 gig, and 512 mb memory sticks with me and just used the 2 gig. I took several rechargable batteries with me and my charger. I actually let some others use my batteries because I kept them charged and with me at all times. I'd never go anywhere without my charger and batteries.
There is nothing more disappointing than to have a camera with you and no memory to spare. One person on our trip did just that and she was out of luck.
Take plenty of memory and plenty of batteries to be charged.

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3/20/2007 10:04:33 AM

Dale M. Garvey   No one has mentioned the quality of image to use. Plan ahead if you think you might want to get enlargements. I use Fine for most of my images which produces about 4 meg file. For posters I do for a local college I use raw (10.2 meg). Shutterfly has produced some beautiful 20x30 images from these sizes.

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3/20/2007 10:18:30 AM

Brad Calkins
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/2/2005
  I would also suggest bringing a blower brush (similar to the lens brush, but without the brush) to clean your sensor, if your camera doesn't have built in sensor cleaning. Enjoy your trip!

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3/20/2007 12:25:07 PM

"No one has mentioned the quality of image to use."

That may be because you should shoot at the highest possible quality/resolution/size, because afterwards you can always pare that DOWN to less quality/resolution/size, but never ever UP!

Sure, that means big file sizes. But memory has never been cheaper than today, so 'economizing' on quality/resolution/size is stupid.
Besides, with and you don't even NEED extra memory! Just empty your card, zip the contents, and send to a trusted recipient back home.

Good luck!

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3/20/2007 12:38:26 PM

Ros Ms    Do invest in a portable external drive. They are small, fit in your pocket, saves buying heaps of memo cards - you still need two though - one in camera and one busy downloading!!!! It saves you having to spend valuable shooting time sitting I f o laptop or comp to download your pics. AND you will never be without memory. Instead of a tripod, a monopod, but do practise using it before you go! Only way to get realy sharp pics specially if you are going to use a zoom lens. It can serve as a walking stick too. I NEVER go touring without the above.

Have fun you lucky girl!

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3/20/2007 2:53:42 PM

Robert Brosnan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/17/2003
  I really recommend the portable hard drives. I bought a 40 gig for $89 earlier this year. It is rechargable and runs a long time between charges. It saves each download from the card as an individual file so they are easy to sort out later.
Enjoy yourself. Robert

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3/20/2007 2:57:47 PM

Dale M. Garvey   As a newspaper photographer I often shoot in bad or no light. Before you go on your trip learn how slow you can shoot without getting garbage. 1/15 and panning can produce grreat shots. You can also find a tree or a rock to use as a support. With digital images you can take several and hope that one is that perfect shot. SI took about 19,000 at the Superbowl. With those numbers you can see why they get such great images.

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3/20/2007 3:01:20 PM

Paul S. Fleming   Cindy, As usual great answers from the members. My tip: Before you set sail get to know that new camera of yours inside, outside, upside down and completely and don't forget to stow your new camera's instruction manual in your camera bag so you can take images in the dark if you have to. Better to have it and not need it than vise versa. Bon Voyage. "ps" Fleming

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3/20/2007 3:47:22 PM

19,000, eh?

Imagine you are SI's photo editor, and you've got ONE hour to find and edit the 20 best out of that lot.... Mags have deadlines!

An enviable job?

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3/20/2007 3:54:23 PM

dave S   hi cindy, try to find the largest flash chip you can get for your camera. cruise ships have computers that are accessible for the passengers. you will be able to download them and burn to a disc.also they have internet access make sure you have your usb cable that came with the camera, charger, some dvd's or cd, depending on what their comp's have. if their internet access is available, you will be able to upload and email to your home email addresas. hope this is helpfull.

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3/20/2007 7:29:45 PM

Dale M. Garvey   Dave's advice is good if you don't have a problem with the card. (If a smaller card goes bad you stand to loose fewer photos,) I shoot 2 gig cards. I have had to use a rescue disk program several times. Disks go bad if you fail to turn off the camera when you install or remove the card or when the batteries of the camera are nearly exhausted. If you are taking a laptop you might consider loading getting such a program (about $25)

Nikons are faily good in the auto mode but you can do so much better setting your own ISO (film speed). For example at the Capt's dinner it will be darker than on the deck. Photos without flash might be more attractive than with flash. Setting an ISO of 1250 or 1600 might give you professional looking shots. In very bright light you might have to dial a ISO of 200.
The ship's photographer might help you if you have a problem.

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3/20/2007 7:55:03 PM

Maureen Jackson   Hi Cindy. I did this trip lasy year. A silly little tip - take a plastic refuse bag a) to lie on in the snow and ice b) to cover your gear if it rains/fog etc. Another tip - if not a tri/mono pod, how about a good beanbag? Everyone's right - take plenty plenty memory cards. Have a great one. I did.

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3/21/2007 12:33:18 AM

Cindy Sj
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2007
  .....ok....a huge thanks to everyone that has added to this thread....what i've learned is exactly how much I HAVE TO LEARN about digital media....which is a gargantuan amount!!! [= Luckily I'll have a week in April that I can concentrate on learning the new camera before leaving in May... and THANKS to all folks with info about tripods, memory cards, laptops and the wolverine thing....I still have to figure out what that one is!!

mary s, I'm curious what ship you'll be on...perhaps we'll be bobbing around out there together!

maureen J...what the heck is a beanbag?? Am I missing something obvious?!

Dale G ~ frighteningly enough, I don't know a thing about raw formats yet, although I kind of get the gist that it's a file that covers most options on the camera that you can edit on your computer?? How would you recommend I experiment with this setting in my week off? I live near the San Diego Wild Animal Park, so I think that's where I'll go to mess with the camera... If I set an ISO of 1250, won't I need a tripod? (no laughing...told you I only know a wee bit...) [=

Due to funding issues I have just one lens that will have to do for now, but I will study my memory card/battery situation much more closely now.
Can I use a portable external drive without a laptop? I own a laptop, but sadly it's called the craptop because all it ever does is make up it's own rules and then quit, so it does NOT get the luxury of going on holiday with me!
Again thanks everyone, and keep the info coming!! I'm learning loads!!

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3/21/2007 8:35:38 AM

"what the heck is a beanbag?"
For travel you can leave it empty so it's tiny in your suitcase whilst you can fill it up when you get to your location with dry beans, rice, polystyrene, or similar.

"about raw formats [yet], although I kind of get the gist that it's a file that covers most options on the camera that you can edit on your computer?"


"How would you recommend I experiment with this setting in my week off? I live near the San Diego Wild Animal Park, so I think that's where I'll go to mess with the camera... "

Set your cam to shoot "RAW+". That way you'll get both a JPG file and a RAW file from each exposure. So you can choose later which you want to use.

"If I set an ISO of 1250, won't I need a tripod? (no laughing...told you I only know a wee bit...) [="

Indeed, you won't need a tripod. But you will TERRIBLY GRAINY photos.
Better keep the ISO at 100 or 200.

"Due to funding issues I have just one lens that will have to do for now,"

On a cruise to Alaska taking only one lens is a BIIIIG mistake!
Try to beg, borrow, steal, or rent a good zoom lens for the cruise, because you will hit yourself if you haven't got one!

"Can I use a portable external drive without a laptop?"

Yes. These don't require a laptop:
But all of those are a LOOOOT more expensive than having 2 good cards and using either, or

Test it! Send a BIIIG file (photos zipped together) to your own eMail address. It's very convenient. And FREE!

Good luck!

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3/21/2007 9:14:48 AM

Emile Abbott
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/29/2004
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All of the advise above is excellent and you should read and reread it and make choices according to budget but don't forget you spent a lot to get there so be sure to a backup camera even if used or inexpensive point and shoot, just in case you drop yours overboard (it happens). Dress for the weather. As much memory as cost allows (you will never regret this and can reuse when home). On my trip to the Tundra to photograph polarbears I also took an EZdigiMagic that burns DVD's (weight less than a pound) and 1 or 2 DVD/day shooting. You can put 2GB on most DVD and you have your backup instantly each day or to free-up space on the CF or memory cards. Empty Bean bag but you can make one easily and fill with anything once on board. Battey charger for sure, If only one lens make it a zoom but a wideangle is great for scenery if shooting wildlife you will need the telephoto. Get lowest F/stop possible for lowlight time if you can afford it. If you have a laptop ie Apple or PC take it with you. One of the things we found most convienient but no one ever mentions is a multiplug cord so you can use the computer, burn the DVD and recharge the battey at sametime unless you know you will have plenty of outlets. I started making my list months before I went, got my suitcase out and began arranging the items. Some stuff did not make the cut. Tripod. Never missed it. Have a great time and bring back plenty of memories and remember it is not just about getting the shot but that is nice if it occurs it is about having fun. Wish I was there.Emile

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3/27/2007 3:09:16 PM

Cindy Sj
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2007
  emile ~
thanks for the summary of all the great (but sometimes confusing) recommendations above. You've just done my dream trip AND purchased my dream laptop!! (currently I own what I call the "craptop" crashed constantly, so I trust it with nothing) It's about a month until we leave, so it's crunch time.... I've got a h20proof throwaway for my snorkling in sitka, my nikon p4 for point and shoot, 2 lenses for the d80 (18-135mm and 70-300mm)... 3 2gig memory cards, camera backpack, 2 batteries (reckon since it's a cruise, I can recharge each evening...), circular polarizer.... regarding backup, I'll have the techno-genius i'm married to read the info on the EZdigimagic....he'll be making the decision regarding backup equipment. Oh, and planning on taking a powerstrip to keep all the stuff charged and running! I still have to check ot the file sending sites... one of the biggest drawbacks for our "readiness" plan is budget, so we're attempting to weigh options carefully. By the way, love the photos of the left and right handed rigging...

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4/5/2007 1:25:08 PM

Dale M. Garvey   The only thing left is to share some of your great shots when you return.

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4/5/2007 1:50:53 PM

Bill Chachkes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/26/2006
  Cindy!! If your Laptop is that bad(i'm assuming were talking PC here) GO GET A MAC!!!(sry to shout, but i'm so passionate about this!) I have Like, so little $$ to spend because my Niece is getting married 7/7, and then we are going away after that, and my Laptop died(7 Year old Apple iBook-about a week after this thread started!) well,..I replaced it with the Exact same one from Craigslist for 60 Dollars, and transferred my Battery, Ram, and wireless card over from the dead one! Walla! Now,.i don't suggest you do what I did, but if all you need is to store Pics and send a few e-mails from whereever on the ship they provide wireless(not all ships have wired or wireless connections in room) you don't need much, and can get a good Used Mac portable for Less then 500(well under if you shop) Dollars..
Do this and you will have a "craptop" no more...I got mine(orig one) used in 2002, and it lasted me 5 years!! (oh the alternative to "The List" is eBay!!! Anyway, good luck and we want to hear all about the trip(and see pics in your gallery!!!) when you get back!!!

(owner of 11 macs(5 in storage for parts) the ones running are!!
1 Intel Mini, 1 G4 Mini, one G4 Cube, 1 G4 Quicksilver tower, 1 G4 eMac, and my adorable little G3 clamshell(rev 2!)

Officer of Metromac(NYC users Group)

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4/5/2007 6:47:01 PM

Cindy Sj
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2007
  at sea
at sea
f10, 1/250, iso125. not a cloud, not a wave...what a strange photo....
© Cindy Sj
Nikon D80 Digital ...
I'm baaaaaaaack!! waaaaaaaaaaaaah!! It was a gorgeous trip... but as usual, there was equipment failure! I just got my d80 at xmas, and the 18-135mm lens it came with broke on the cruise!! It's a darn good thing I listened to all you folks and went and purchased a 2nd lens, or it would have been a frustrating holiday. So thank you. I did shoot raw, but also shot these jpegs for quick use...actually I have no idea what to do with the raw photos...all I have is iphoto for a program currently. I'll be saving up for either Photoshop elements or aperature in the near future. I've attached a few photos that are unaltered...i would absolutely LOVE for y'all to critique your heads off... and thanks again!

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6/1/2007 11:51:56 AM

Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/15/2005
  Hey CIndy, I watched this thread with envy - sounds like a trip of a lifetime. Your pix look good so far!!! So give us more info - what happened with the original lens (how'd it break), what was your second lens, did you take a tripod/monopod, how many memory cards, back-up? Did you take a laptop/Mac/dvd writer? How did weather/cold affect your camera? Look forward to seeing more pix!

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6/1/2007 12:27:54 PM

Kathy Silver
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/31/2006
  Hi Cindy - I've been following your question /answer on your cruise to Alaska. I just returned too. It was so awesome. Sorry to hear that you had equipment failure. Did you use a tripod or monopod on the ship - I used a monopod with my 100-400 IS lens but still had blurred photos. All other shots with my other lens came out great. I took over 1500 shots and I'm still going through them. How about you? Hope you enjoyed your trip as much as I did :)

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6/1/2007 2:24:50 PM

Cindy Sj
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2007
  Robyn ~ the mystery of the breaking lens...well, it's still a mystery. It started with a wee squeak while autofocusing, which turned into a squelch, which turned into a painful grinding noise (like ball bearings with no grease rubbing), then it gave up altogether. ]= Quite a surprising early demise, considering we had perfect weather on this it wasn't due to cold or rain exposure! I took it to my local Calumet, and they've sent it packing back to Nikon to be repaired under warranty...I ended up shooting the last half of the trip with my tamron 70-300mm, which limited my shooting and was tricky at times, but it was better than watching the scenery go floating, flying or running by without getting a thing! Due to monstrous budget restrictions, I ended up taking 4 2 gig memory cards and having the ship's photo department burn the one really "important" card (the one with the dogsledding pix) onto cd for me. I left the "craptop" (aka crappy laptop) at home, because I think it's at the point of being less reliable than the weatherman....who said it would be raining every day of the only drizzled for a few hours twice! temps 50-65f....lovely. You shouldn't pass up the opportunity to go to Alaska.. we scrimped and saved and are thrilled we did. But I see you have a distance issue. Have you done the Chilean Fjords? They offer some of the same coastal beauty... my mother took me on a South American cruise 2 years ago (she didn't want to go alone..what great gift, eh?) and it was also beautiful.. But speaking of beautiful, your photos are just gorgeous....actually, inspiration is a better word!

Mary ~ Hope you're not experiencing withdrawls like we are!! [= I miss the sound of the sea while falling asleep, someone asking me if I want fresh ground pepper on my salads...sigh!! My husband had the same issue as you with his larger was a something-300mm and he attempted to use a doubler, with frustrating results. I didn't use a monopod or tripod, but he used a gorillapod, and for longer exposures with shorter lenses off the ship, he was pleased. I took about 500 photos....I'd LOVE to see what you shot, and hear what excursions you took and what you saw. As my profile states, I'm a rank beginner to digital photography and would love to learn from someone who also did a cruise! (and had a room at the back of the we did!) Email me directly and we can swap stories, so that we don't bore others here. I think you just click the "contact cindy" button. I've gone through most of my photos, but haven't altered any of them....I don't have any photo software currently, just iphoto. That's the next project!

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6/1/2007 4:19:52 PM

Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/15/2005
  HI CIndy - thanks for the great update - it sounds divine, but 500 pix - you must have held back - I can shoot about 1000 in a weekend in the bush! LOL Yes distance and cash is a bugger - so whether its Alaska or South American or China........ (sigh)!!! If you don't have an editing programme - why don't you d/l from Google, their free programme Picasa - its better than nothing, and I'm sure that some minor adjustments will make your pix 'pop' even more - try it and let us see the results - thanks for your kind comments on my gallery - look forward to seeing some more of Alaska.

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6/1/2007 8:54:47 PM

Bill Chachkes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/26/2006
  Hi Cindy and welcome back. Glad you had a great time. Pics look quite nice. Hopefully I get there some day. Why were some of your Pics Blurry with the 70-300?? My wife and I can't afford the "Big Kahuna"- a 300-800 Sigma that we want for our E-volt 500, but we got a 50-500 & a 100-300 to go with the 14-45 & 40-150 that came with the package. I took 220 Shots last wekend at the Jones Beach Air Show and that was just 5 Hrs! you only took 500 on a Whole trip??? Well I Guess Quality beats Quantity anytime. Glad you had a good time despite the Lens failure.

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6/2/2007 6:39:31 AM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/28/2005
  Have fun. I live in Juneau, Alaska.

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6/2/2007 7:30:24 AM

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