Monday, January 1, 2007
For intrepid photographers, Alaska is still the gold standard for untamed landscape and wildlife photography
Alaska is often referred to as the last great wilderness for nature photographers who want to see the big game of North America. Africa's Serengeti and the Alaskan frontier are in the same class when it comes to the diversity of wildlife and the vast regions of unspoiled habitat that support these animals. Like Africa, it's not easy to reach North America's ultimate wilderness, but if you want to see the splendid flora and fauna this special place has to offer, the trek is well worth it. From bald eagles to caribou to whales, every aspect of the landscape offers its own treasure trove of wildlife.
The area most frequently visited by photographers is the southeastern region of the state. The Inside Passage stretches south from Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve north of Juneau to Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan. This stretch is popular with maritime tours, as the vistas are breathtaking. The Coast Mountains are the background for the thousands of protected islands and coastline.
This part of Alaska is also the home of the largest temperate rain forest on earth. Tongass National Forest encompasses more than 15 million acres of cedars and hemlocks and is habitat to thousands of bears and eagles, to name just some of the animal inhabitants.
When you think of Alaska, of course, you're apt to have a vision of a glacier in your head more than a rain forest. This region is home to flowing glaciers, with ice that's some 1,000-feet thick or more. These glaciers are the irresistible forces that carved and are still carving the dramatic landscape. Glaciers extend from the rugged mountains to the coastline where they meet the ocean in a form of primordial geological combat. The endless battles result in the frequent births of huge icebergs, which slough off and make their way into the Pacific. Ever since the very first photographers came to capture this wilderness, icebergs have been favorite subjects to photograph as these behemoths migrate into the open ocean.
The Summer Season: Plan A Workshop Or Tour Now
The best time to visit Alaska is in the summer. Wildlife that hunkers down for the long hard winter or else migrates to friendlier climes is found in abundance in the relative warmth of midyear. It's at this time you'll spot bears, dramatic salmon runs and more bald eagles than you've ever seen anywhere else. Whales leave their winter homes for the nutrient-rich waters to feed on the bounty that exists off the jagged coastline.
With such an abundance of photo opportunities, it's no wonder Alaska is on the lists of so many photographers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. While you can make all of your own arrangements, it's far easier to sign up with a group that can take care of everything for you. These outfitters know the ins and outs of the unique places in Alaska and how to streamline the challenges of getting there. Photography workshops and expeditions, however, are naturally geared to the particular requirements that shooters need in order to make the most of a trip. Going to a regular tour operator can be worthwhile, but you're not as likely to get schedules that include plenty of time for photography at the times of day when it's most productive. This is a common issue for photographers on any kind of tour—we tend to want to be out doing the most with our cameras at precisely the times of day when the non-photographers on the trip want to enjoy breakfast or dinner. Traveling with a group that specializes in photographers pays off—big.
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