The Great Northwest: Alaska and British Columbia

Mary L. Ryan, M.L.S., M.P.H., Director, UAMS Library

September-November, 2013
UAMS Library, Second Floor Gallery

After graduating from college and paying off student loans, my twin sister and I began traveling together in a mad dash to see as much of the world as possible.  After seeing 85 countries, we began focusing more on seeing the parts of the US that we haven’t already seen.  While my sister was busy doing other things this past summer, I traveled to Alaska with a dear friend, who helped me find good shots and helped organize this exhibit of pictures from that trip.

Alaska is simply amazing and like no other place I have ever seen, although parts of it reminded me of the fjords in Norway.  The vistas are huge, the snow-capped mountains and the lakes and coastline are stunningly beautiful, with so many shades of blue and green, and the sky is amazing, especially at night.  I can understand why the Big Dipper is on the Alaska flag, as it dominates the Alaska night sky.   The wildlife was interesting (bear, bald eagles, etc.).  Unfortunately, it is hard to get good pictures of wildlife with my small camera, so there are no wildlife pictures in this exhibit.   My favorite animals were the Alaskan Husky sled dogs, and I regret that I did not get any good photos of them either.

The people of Alaska are also memorable.  They are so genuinely friendly and so proud of their state and its natural beauty.  Many of them are from other parts of the country or world, and were so impressed with Alaska while on a vacation that they decided to move there – I heard this story over and over again.  After having experienced Alaska, I can understand why people want to live there, but I experienced it in the warmest time of the year and I cannot imagine what the harsh winters are like.

The flowers in Alaska were stunning as well.  While the growing season for most flowers is short, the summer days are light for 20+ hours, so the flowers grow quickly and stay beautiful in the cool summer air.  Speaking of flowers, I was fortunate enough to end my Alaska adventure with a quick stopover in Victoria, British Columbia, including a visit to Butchart Gardens, which is considered one of the best gardens in the world.   Needless to say, I took many flower pictures.

I know I’m not a great photographer.  I just take pictures as a hobby, have had no formal photography training, and use simple digital cameras. I have a complicated Canon 70D, but have not learned how to use it, and it is too heavy for me to carry much of the time, so I still rely most heavily on a little Canon G10, which I love.  I leave it set on automatic and I just point and shoot.  I am afraid that if I let the photography process get too complicated, I will spend too much time trying to take good pictures instead of enjoying the scenery and the people.

I love the natural beauty of our planet and its people, and I try to capture simple photographs to remind me of the wonderful places I have visited.  I hope you enjoy these glimpses of Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia.  For more information, you can contact me at or 686-6732.