Arctic Alaska Polar Bears and Northern Lights
Dates: October 14-20, 2021
Details: 5 Spots MAXIMUM
Time in the Field: 7 days total: 2 in Fairbanks / 5 in Kaktovik, Alaska
Designed for avid photographers (from enthusiast to pro) to get gallery-worthy images of polar bears at eye-level in the Arctic. You don’t have to be a photographer to join, but you must want to spend time in the field with wildlife.
The Arctic is a special and fragile place, where polar bears fight to survive against climate change. In Kaktovik, Alaska, though, they enjoy a few extra calories. The Iñupiat village practices traditional subsistence bowhead whale hunting every fall, and any unusable portions of the 20-ton whales are hauled to other parts of Barter Island, where the polar bears feast on scraps. This helps the bears maintain their weight until the ice freezes and they can hunt again. This rather well-kept secret allows intimate viewing of the bears as they congregate in the waters off the Beaufort Sea, sparring, playing, nursing, and swimming in steady numbers.
Your photo instructor on the excursion, Michelle Theall, is an award-winning photographer whose work has been published around the globe and in the US in over thirty titles, including Alaska, Backpacker, Outdoor Photographer, Sierra, National Geographic.com, and others. Her stock work is handled by several agencies, including Getty, and several images have been purchased for private collections and galleries. She’s been teaching photography for 12 years and prides herself on helping clients capture “the moment,” the unique miracles that happen in the field that take a photo beyond a snapshot to something more sublime.
Bruce Inglangasak and his son, both Native Inupiat, live and work in the Arctic year-round and know Kaktovik’s bears and their locations like the back of their caribou-lined mittens. They are exceptionally versed in photographer’s needs, knowing where to place the boat for the best angle and light, making them an invaluable resource for the tour. The boats have heated cabins, and Inglangasak owns one of the few ice-breaking skiffs on Barter Island, allowing us to go out on the water late in the season to get ice and snow shots, as long as the ice remains less than 4″ thick. After freeze-up, we use all-wheel drive vehicles.
In Fairbanks, prior to heading to Kaktovik and upon our return from Kaktovik, we’ll have the convenient opportunity to shoot the Northern Lights from the 75-acre Migratory Wildlife Preserve where our hotel is located.
On this trip, our plan is to go on polar bear safari twice per day, a morning and a late afternoon drive, with editing, and image review at lunch and after dinner. We’ll discuss everything from composition and post-processing to going from snapshot to gallery-worthy images. We’ll review and critique shots from the day and because of our small group size, one-on-one instruction is always available in the field or during breaks.
But more than anything else, we guarantee you’ll leave with a few unique images worthy of hanging on any wall or being published in any magazine, as we go beyond technique to practice photography as an art.
Download Brochure and sign up now. Space is limited.
Day 1: Arrive in Fairbanks and to the Wedgewood Hotel on or before 6pm. There, we’ll enjoy dinner that evening as a group. The Wedgewood is located in the Migratory Waterfowl Preserve on 115-acres of trails and wetlands. We’ll check the skies and aurora forecast for the evening and head out to take photos if the Northern Lights decide to dance for us!
Day 2: Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before we leave for the airport to catch our flight from Fairbanks to Kaktovik / Barter Island. We highly recommend TRAVEL INSURANCE because getting delayed or canceled because of weather is a real thing at this time of year. Our flight will take around 1.5 hours and take us over the Brooks Range, above the Arctic Circle, and to the North Slope. Upon arrival, we’ll be swooped up by our hotel shuttle to check into our hotel, have a quick lunch, and go out for our first excursion to meet the giants of the north. We’ll meet for dinner to warm up and share stories at our hotel that evening.
Days 3-6: We’ll go out for several hours, mornings and afternoons on our full days, to try to catch the best light, looking for playing, sparring, nursing, fighting, and prowling bears. The bears are typically energetic and curious, and our boats are able to get quite close. Layers are recommended, along with boots rated to -10, down-filled parkas and snow pants.
Day 6: We’ll enjoy a morning polar bear viewing excursion to say farewell to our bears, before returning for lunch at the hotel. We’ll catch an early afternoon flight back to Fairbanks, and arrive in time to check into our hotel and have dinner. That evening, we’ll check the aurora forecast and skies and photograph the Northern Lights.
Day 7: Guests are free to head home or wherever their journeys take them next!
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