Although Katmai National Park is world renowned for its images showing bears standing atop Brooks Falls as they catch salmon jumping in mid-air, there exists a far wilder and remote part of Katmai that provides home to the highest populations of brown bears on earth.
This photo tour is a world class wildlife safari intended for those who want to see the wildest terrain Alaska has to offer, all with huge coastal grizzlies freely roaming amid its rugged landscapes.
Coastal Katmai is located due west of Kodiak Island along the shores of the Shelikof Strait and we will access it via a specially chartered flight from Homer (following a commercial flight from Anchorage to Homer), located on the tip of the Kenai Peninsula.
The flight is itself a spectacular adventure because we'll be paralleling the untamed wilds of the Alaska Peninsula during most of the journey. It is laced with towering mountains and glaciated volcanoes that rise abruptly out of the ocean's edge. Our plane will then land us in a secluded bay in a spectacular inlet known as Geographic Harbor.
We'll be staying aboard a lovely, 12-passenger cruise vessel anchored within the secluded confines of Geographic Harbor. While the boat could provide us with access to other neighboring areas, it will serve solely as our base of operation, providing daily access to shore via motorized skiff. It will also provide us with hearty home-cooked meals and lodging in comfortable stateroom bunks.
Our location is ideally situated to observe and photograph large brown bears at close range. Our trip dates are designed to coincide with an autumn run of silver salmon, which often draws a number of bears together at the confluence of the river and the tidal flats. In addition, there is another fork in the river slightly upstream where the bears often gather which we will likely visit during the mid-day hours.
Since bears are not hunted in Katmai, and our bear guide has daily interaction with these same individuals year after year, these bears tend to be rather disinterested in human visitors because they feel no threat to their food source (the salmon) or to themselves. The magnificent scenic backdrops characterized by wide-open terrain and towering jagged peaks offer a particularly appealing element to the photographic opportunities.
The trip is limited to only eight guests (plus Joe and I) so we will have the boat all to ourselves. Excluding some mid-day bear viewers who may come in for a limited visit by floatplane, we will have the bears entirely to ourselves.
We'll have a digital projector along, so we'll be able to do classroom sessions on digital workflow, image management, and RAW conversions using either Adobe Bridge, Adobe Lightroom, or Phase One's Capture One. If we have bad weather that shortens our day, we'll fill some of this time with valuable classroom instruction on these and other topics that you might bring up. Unlike our normal course teaching at Hoot Hollow or in Arizona, we won't be conducting an entire CNPC, but instead will be covering the salient digital aspects of the course. We'll be demonstrating how to maximize the digital potential in your photography by software techniques, including making exposure composites and panorama stitches. We'll show you how to use Layers and Masks effectively, especially for making spot-corrections and adjustments with sharpness or contrast, especially with the Highlight/Shadow adjustment feature.
Additionally, you're invited to bring along a digital portfolio of up to 40 images for group appreciation, review, or critique.
Plan on arriving into Anchorage by late afternoon. Lodging will be at the Puffin Inn on Spenard Road this first evening. After you gather your luggage at the airport, go to the courtesy phone station and call The Puffin Inn. They will send out a shuttle van to bring you to the hotel. We have arranged for single rooms for everyone in the group for this evening. For those that are in, the group will meet in the lobby at 7:00PM and we'll have our orientation meeting somewhere nearby. We'll then head to a restaurant for dinner where we will also go over final trip details. (PLEASE NOTE: this dinner is not included)
PLEASE NOTE: It is crucial for you to get in on this evening. We have a very early flight to Kodiak the next day and if you would miss this flight, it would take you at least a day to catch up to the group. And that's only if the float plane company had room to take you to meet us. In addition, and just so you know, you would be responsible for any additional expenses including extra nights in Anchorage, any charges in changing the flight to Kodiak and any charges incurred with the float plane company.
We'll be off to the airport for a very early morning flight to Kodiak. From the Kodiak airport we'll be transported to the office of our charter flight service company. After checking in, the company will drop the group off at a local restaurant for breakfast and then will transport the group to a local grocery store for any additional supplies that you might need. The floatplane office will be keeping an eye on the weather so they will govern the exact time for our spectacular flight across the Shelikof Strait to Coastal Katmai. We should arrive in plenty of time for a late lunch and our first afternoon outing with the bears! (B, L, D)
3, 4, 5 & 6.
We'll have four full days of bear viewing and will plan our daily outings around the weather, the tides, salmon runs and overall bear activity. We will likely pull anchor for one day and venture to another amazing location for a change of scenery and some different bears. Besides brown bears, red fox and eagles are also a possibility as they come in to scavenge for fish remains.
At one of our locations we'll be adjacent to a great tufted and horned puffin colony, and, weather permitting, we'll be photographing the birds at water level and from shore. This, during our last year's shoot, proved to be one of the most exciting and interesting shoots, as we often floated quite close to the puffins before they slapped across the water, running to take off. We also had flocks swirling overhead before plummeting into their nesting cliffs, making for challenging but very rewarding photography.(B, L, D)
Depending upon weather and flight schedules, we might have time for one last outing with the bears before the floatplane arrives to take the group back to Kodiak. Upon arrival in Kodiak, we'll be transported to the airport for our connecting flight back to Anchorage. You will arrive back into Anchorage (weather permitting and with the luck of the Sea Gods) around 5:30pm. Lodging is not included for this night. (B)
Trip Price: $TBA pp (from Anchorage, based upon double
occupancy on the boat, single occupancy in Anchorage)
Dates: Two dates in 2009 (7 days, 6 nights)
Group Size: Maximum of 8 participants
Price includes: All hotels and ground transportation in Anchorage; breakfast in Kodiak; all meals on the boat plus round-trip airfare between Anchorage and Kodiak including the bush flight to the Alaska Peninsula; gratuities for the boat and plane companies and non-alcoholic beverages on the boat and alcoholic beverages (as supplies last) on the boat.