Living in tents and a Sportsmobile for months at a time, Kennan and Karen Ward explore the limitless photographic opportunities in the vast Alaska wilderness
By Ibarionex R. Perello, Photography by Kennan and Karen Ward
Cruise Alaska “There are small boat cruises in the southeast where you get on a boat with six to 10 guests,” says Karen. “That offers one of the better photo opportunities for those who are looking for access, but aren’t looking to put themselves in dangerous situations as when you’re looking out for bears. In this way, you have not only the safety of the boat, but also a knowledgeable operator.”
In addition to providing an excellent way of travel, the local operators often are aware of reports of wildlife movement, which are useful for photographers.
“They’re very enthusiastic people who live there and have committed their lives to the region,” says Karen. “They know more about the area than someone who finds it on their own, even with the Internet. A lot of them have done the hook-and-bullet crowd. Now they’re into nonconsumptive resource use. People who have been commercial fishermen for over 20 years are kind of tired of pulling fish from the sea and watching coolers go south. For them, it’s refreshing to be around a group of people that are excited when you show them an eagle, an orca, a whale or a sea lion. To them, that’s a lot more fun than gutting a bunch of salmon and halibut.”
Birdlife “Birdlife in Alaska is an amazing thing,” says Kennan. “My favorite abundant wildlife story happens around May when several million dunlin sandpipers make their way around the coast of southeast Alaska and go into the interior. That’s probably one of the most abundant concentrations of wildlife left. We used to hear about passenger pigeons blocking out the sun and making it dark during their migration, but the waves of birds that follow the coastline as winter turns into spring is one of the most phenomenal spectacles that I have ever seen.”
Birdlife also includes the ptarmigan, which is Alaska’s state bird, the eagle, the gray jay and the spruce grouse.
The Wards’ passion for Alaska is infectious. “When we’re shooting with other photographers in Alaska, the excitement carries over to the other people that we encounter out there,” says Karen. “It’s such a neat passion to enjoy the outdoors and photography, especially when somebody gets something unique. You recognize how rare that is, and that’s a celebration for all of us as photographers.”
As the Wards’ experience and photography shows, Alaska offers photographers a lot to get excited about.
Kennan and Karen Ward are adventure naturalists whose landscape and wildlife images have been published in numerous national and international magazines and books. Their books include Denali: Reflections of a Naturalist and The Last Wilderness: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. To see more of their work, please visit www.kennanward.com.
Alaska Photo Workshops, Tour Outfitters & Accommodations