Meet our expedition leader Justin Hofman who will be on board the Alaska cruise the entire time as part of our Signature Expeditions program. With a lifelong passion for the ocean, Justin has spent his career observing and documenting wildlife both above and below the water. As a university student, Justin first honed this focus by obtaining a marine biology degree and continued with post-graduate scientific illustration study. Justin has traveled extensively aboard expedition ships as a naturalist, photographer, and dive master utilizing his extensive knowledge of ecology, conservation, and animal behaviors to enhance others’ travel experiences and to create his own unique illustrations and photography and he has worked with some of the most preeminent wildlife photographers. Justin has traveled to every continent in search of wildlife and has extensive experience in the Polar Regions.
You have previously traveled extensively aboard expedition ships as a naturalist, photographer, and dive master utilizing your extensive knowledge of ecology, conservation, and animal behaviors to enhance others’ travel experiences. As an expedition leader, on Star Legend, how different will this job be for you?
This will be a new adventure for a lot of Windstar guests, so in some ways, I revel at the thought of taking guests out on their first Zodiac cruise or their first up-close encounter with wildlife. I think it will be exciting and, honestly, quite easy. Alaska sells itself. Our team has so many years of experience in remote places that once trust is placed in our abilities, the trip will draw everyone in, and they will be in love with Alaska within no time.
Are there any specific areas in Alaska along the voyage that you are excited to see and take our guests?
I think that Windstar guests will be particularly interested in the marine mammals we will see along this voyage, and some of the hotspots we will visit are truly top-notch sites. The number of animals can be overwhelming at times, and seeing them from the low vantage point of our Zodiacs will be a memorable experience.
Do you have a suggested packing list for Alaska?
Rain gear. Having really good rain gear will allow guests to forget about the elements and just enjoy the feeling of being surrounded by granite walls and creeping temperate rainforests. The general misconception is that Alaska is incredibly cold. However, the thing that chills us the most is the precipitation. Full rain gear will be the key. And binoculars. Some of the animals we will spot are a bit shy and having a familiar set of binoculars will bring them closer to us for a more intimate viewing experience. I suggest everyone get used to their binoculars BEFORE the trip. Consider them a tool that should be mastered from home before taking them to the wilds of Alaska.
Packages & Packing Lists. Not too hot. Not too cold.
To thoroughly enjoy the expedition experience it’s essential to wear the right gear. We have partnered with the leading expedition outfitter to offer an online Alaska clothing and accessories service that ships directly to your ship. You’ll find all the right gear for Alaska, packing lists, clothing tips and our limited-edition Alaska inaugural season jacket here.
You have traveled to every continent in search of wildlife and have extensive experience in the polar regions. What is your favorite part of the planet for wildlife, underwater adventures, and photography?
This may sound hokey, but Alaska is at the top of my list in many ways. For diving, it is one of the most exciting places to explore due to it’s strong, often unpredictable tides and a profusion of color. However, the place that is closest to my heart is the High Arctic, particularly the region around Ellesmere and Baffin Islands. This is the last stronghold of ice and also holds some of the most incredible assemblages of Arctic wildlife on Earth. This is a place where you can find thousands of belugas, hundreds of narwhals, and dozens of polar bears per trip. The fjords of Baffin Island are also a natural wonder that should be experienced by all.
Being a photography expert, will you be training and coaching Windstar guests on how to take photos?
The most crucial step that photographers can take when progressing on their journey as a photographer is learning how to observe wildlife and anticipate the moment. I try very hard to get people away from worrying about the settings of their cameras and instead concentrate on what they are actually pointing it at. We will have plenty of opportunities to observe wildlife from much closer than you ever imagined so getting good shots will not be difficult. I will help guests by sharing my love, knowledge, and experience with wildlife to reach the next level. Settings and technique can be learned from any book.
Photo Credit: Justin Hofman
What photography gear do you recommend for Windstar guests to bring on board?
My suggestion is that whatever gear is brought, they are familiar with it well-ahead of the trip. There is no use spending thousands of dollars on equipment if they are not familiar with their material when the crucial moment arises. In the field, I generally have a camera with an SLR lens (at least 200 mm), and my phone serves as the wide angle camera. It’s important to not bring too much stuff. Focus on one type of shot and work hard at making that moment happen.
Photo Credit: Justin Hofman
Can you tell us more about #TurningTheTide Sea Legacy campaign and how are you involved?
Through SeaLegacy we are trying to reach as many people as possible to inspire them to protect the oceans (and by proxy, our own health). We aim to tell the stories about our experiences out in remote places among wild animals, with a worldwide audience. We are at the front lines of climate change, and we see firsthand the negative impacts humans can have on wild places, but we also see the fruits of hard labor and the positive impact of locally run conservation efforts. Everyone can do their part to help the oceans, and by becoming part of the Tide, they will learn how each of us can make small, easy changes to our daily living to help ensure we have healthy ecosystems for the future.
How can Windstar guests help to sustain healthy oceans?
One of the best ways Windstar guests can help sustain healthy oceans is to share their enthusiasm for the ocean, local peoples, and nature with everyone back at home. By sharing their firsthand accounts of these amazing sights and sounds, they are generating a positive impact that will have unforeseen ripples through the social and economic networks. We will also strive to encourage guests to make responsible seafood choices which can have massive impacts on local and international coasts.