Photo by Discover Churchill
A Photography Adventure Deep in the Alaskan Wilderness
September 8-14th 2023
SOLD OUT - WAITLIST AVAILABLE
Grizzly Bears, Private Planes and Nikon Ambassadors
A Very Full 7-day photography workshop with Nikon Ambassadors Kristi Odom and Tamara Lackey to Photograph and Film Bears and Wildlife in the Remote Alaskan Wilderness.
Located in the wildest part of Alaska on the North shore of Lake IIiamna, her largest lake, we will be surrounded by 18 million acres of roadless wilderness, accessible only by bush plane. The lodge is nestled between the pristine and wild Bristol Bay and both Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks & Preserves.
Every day will be its own adventure! With our own guides and our own float planes, bush planes and boats, we will follow the guidance of experts to experience the best opportunities to get close to Grizzly Bears and Alaskan wildlife.
The Following is a sample itinerary and is subject to change. With the flexibility of having our own planes, each day is its own adventure!
On arriving at the Iliamna Airport, you will be greeted and transported to the lodge. After introductions, the crew will help get everyone’s gear into their cabins.
Once you’ve had a chance to settle into your cabin, we’ll all meet in the main lodge, where beverages and hor d’oeurves will be waiting for us. The “great room,” with its amazing panoramic views of Lake Iliamna and Roadhouse Mountain, will be our natural gathering place. You can relax, socialize, play a game of pool, or just sit back and soak in the view.
Once we’ve all gathered and had a chance to meet, we’ll enjoy a helpful orientation to the property and the area, as well as an overview of the week ahead. We’ll then enjoy a delicious meal together, and both instructors will share more about their work and what they will be teaching over the course of the workshop.
After enjoying a hearty breakfast, we will board one of the lodge’s aircrafts, and our bear adventure begins! One of the main things that sets this workshop apart from most is that we will have access to a fleet of five aircraft throughout our stay. In addition, the seaplanes are capable of landing on rivers and lakes and the bush planes can land on beaches, gravel bars and ridge tops. These planes will be paired with their 12 boats, all set aside for our use.
Our goal for this day will be to capture images of coastal brown bears fishing in Katmai National Park. We will land in Katmai on a small alpine lake in one of the lodge’s float planes. After landing, our guide will lead us on a short 15-minute walk, where we will find the confluence of two creeks. There, we will spend the day photographing and filming bears on the creeks as they chase fish in the shallow water. Our guide has led bear-viewing trips there since 1978 and knows the area intimately. He will help to ensure that we get the best images and bear-viewing experience possible. Afterwards, we will return to the plane and begin our short flight back to the lodge.
After a delicious dinner, we will review some of the images we all captured, with the opportunity for additional image critiques and photography technique walkthroughs. Lastly, we will step through our plan for the following day.
Once we’ve enjoyed our full breakfast, we will fly to Brooks Falls to capture iconic images of fish jumping up the falls - often to be greeted by the jaws of countless hungry bears! Afterwards, we will land at a secluded stream to observe a bear family who is accustomed to our guides. We will be able to get quite close to capture some incredible photographs.
On our flight back to the lodge, we will fly over the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, past mount Katmai, over the giant caldera of Crater Lake, and then past Novarupta with its many steaming volcanic vents and its 30,000-year-old glaciers. We’ll arrive at the lodge with appetizers already waiting, followed by another incredible dinner, image sharing and critiques as preferred.
On this day, we will leave the lodge in the late morning, after a hearty breakfast, and arrive on the Katmai coast. We’ll land on the beach in a wheeled plane equipped with tundra tires, just in time for low tide. Our mission for the day will be to photograph bears digging for clams on the coast and eating sedge grasses. It is also common to see a wolf on or near this secluded beach. There will be more walking on this day because the bears may be spread out anywhere along the tidal flats, or they may be napping in the tall grasses.
For lunch, we will be spoiled by the pilot with a field-cooked meal, consisting of fresh-dug clams from the beach, shrimp jambalaya cooked over an open fire, hot dutch-oven-baked cornbread, and additional options for all. For our 40-minute flight back to the lodge, we will fly you low over the glaciers and ice fields of Mount Douglas. Once back at the lodge, we will take some time to decompress and then offer an optional Portrait Clinic, with hands-on portrait shooting at the lodge. The night will round out with appetizers and another amazing dinner.
Today, some of our workshop participants will choose to fly to Twin Lakes to view and photograph the Dick Proenneke log cabin. (One Man’s Wilderness). We’ll shoot photos while flying over the turquoise water of Lake Clark, the Dall sheep in the higher tundra, caribou, and the extraordinary glaciers of Lake Clark National Park. The plane will touch down on Upper Twin Lake, a mere 100 yards from the historic homestead site built by Dick Proenneke. The history is well documented and preserved by the Park Service.
Another portion of our workshop group will decide to travel to the most remote, rugged, and wildest part of Alaska: The Bering Sea. With its beautiful beaches hopping with wildlife, it is a sight few humans ever get to see. We will land at Walrus Point and the Seal Islands, greeted with the unmistakable stench of walrus. With the walrus situated upwind, you may approach and set up your tripods a mere 50 yards away without disturbing them. These islands can often display 200-400 seals hauled out on the beach.
With walruses all around, swans nesting in the salt grasses, eagles patrolling the cliffs and waters from above, and sea otters playing in the surrounding streams, there is no shortage of subjects to enjoy and photograph. Caribou, moose, and bear are also common to see along the way.
We will spend this day floating the incredibly clear waters of the Copper River. We can film and photograph striking pods of Red Salmon in the crystal water, see bears alongside and in the river, photograph a variety of birds, and perhaps catch a trophy rainbow trout, too.
After a long day on the river, we will head back to the lodge to decompress and discuss some favorite photography techniques we’ve practiced over the course of the week. Together, we’ll share one more amazing dinner, as well as a collection of our favorite images shot during the workshop so far.
After another hearty breakfast, we will return to the secluded confluence of the two creeks we’d visited at the start of the workshop. We’ll land on a small alpine lake in the De Havilland Beaver float plane and walk 15 minutes back to the creeks. On our return trip, we are bound to see different bears and different activities, but it will also be a wonderful opportunity to put into practice much of what we have learned this week through experience, instruction - and sheer joy.
After we wave our goodbyes to our newly-found 600-pound furry friends, we’ll take our short flight back to the lodge. There we will change into more comfortable traveling clothes, finish up our packing, and travel as a group back to Iliamna Airport for the evening flight back to Anchorage!
Please note: This is a sample itinerary and subject to change.
Intro talk on photographing bears and putting more emotion into your wildlife images
20 minute One-on-One session with Kristi Odom. During this session Kristi will ask you to show her your raw images from your first day of photographing the bears. This technique has been vital to make sure that your photographs are both technically correct as well as showing off your unique voice.
Nightly image shares with critiques for growth during the workshop.
All ground transportation
Shared rooms (no option for single supplement)
Full-board accommodation: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Flight to Anchorage
Flight from Anchorage to Iliamna Airport
Personal expenses such as drinks, tips, telephone calls, etc.
Tips and Gratuities
$2000 non refundable retainer at time of booking
Maximum 8 Photographers
FAQ from the Lodge:
Is September a good time to photograph bears?
The lodge owner expressed that this was his favorite time of year, here is what he said: “The truth is if you have the access and know where to go, bears are actively fishing from late June until mid October. My personal favorite time is the first 3 weeks of September. The weather is not as good and we are more likely to lose a day because of the weather. But the fall colors make for a fantastic background. Because of the weather issues in September we add an extra day to the trip with no extra charge.”
What animals might we see?
Bears, Walrus, Wolves, Eagles, and Dall Sheep.
How do I get there?
To get to the Lodge you will need to make flight arrangements from Anchorage to the remote Village of Iliamna. There is no road access to this wilderness. You will need to catch a flight from Anchorage to Iliamna with Lake & peninsula Air (907-781-2228). The roundtrip cost is around $500.
How physically demanding are the wildlife safaris
Our trips are Moderate Difficult but tailored to your individual needs. With our 4 bush planes, jet boats, rafts and kayaks we can accommodate anyone in reasonable shape. You should be able to walk 4 miles a day to consistently see wildlife from the ground.
How many guests are at the lodge?
Only 12 guests will be at the lodge during your stay. We prefer the dynamics of a small personalized operation so we can customize each day's activities to the desire of our guest. We split into two or 3 groups each day. With 1 guide for every 4-6 guests.
Is there a weight limit on baggage?
No weight limit! Your first 50 pounds is free. You will be charged $1.60 per pound excess baggage fee by the air service for anything over 60 LBS but there is no limit as to how much you can bring provided you are willing to pay for the overage.
The lodge has a long standing reputation for fine dining. Meals prepared fresh daily under the experienced eye of our chef. We cater to both meat lovers and vegetarians. If you have special dietary restrictions please let us know a month before our trip.
What are the accommodations like?
The main lodge, is right on the shore of the lake and the gathering place for our guest
You'll enjoy the warmth and atmosphere around the stone fireplace reliving the day's adventure, project images on a large screen, play pool, and plan tomorrow's adventures, all while taking in a 180 degree panoramic view of Alaska's largest lake and the glacial filled mountains of the Alaska Peninsula. We have 5 comfortable cedar guest cabins next to the main lodge. Each cabin has a private bathroom, shower with unlimited hot water, heaters with thermostat so you can set the heat where you like it. There are 2 full sized beads in each cabin and you should expect double occupancy.
How close do we get to the Bears?
Bears are individuals just like people. Each bear will have a different tolerance level for how close it will be comfortable with us approaching it. We often approach to 50 yards and bears will occasionally wander past us as close at 15 yards. Our guides are able to read the bear's body language and know just how close is a safe distance. We have many bears that we have identified and watched for years. There are a few sows that we have watched raising 3 generations of cubs. These momma bears have learned that we are not a threat to their cubs and will often come lay down to nurse very close to us.
Does the lodge have Internet and Phone service?
Cell Phones will not work. There is a lodge satellite phone that you are free to use for non international calls. Our satellite Internet has very limited bandwidth so only emails that do not have attachments can be sent or revived.
What happens if there is a medical emergency?
We will be in remote Alaska but are incredibly fortunate to have a fully equipped medical clinic only 7 miles from the lodge that is accessible 24 hours a day, emergency evacuations are always available. Guides carry Satellite phones during the day.
Tamara Lackey is a renowned professional photographer, speaker, author and program host. A Nikon USA Ambassador, Tamara has taught a wide range of programs, from delivering inspirational presentations at Google, Disney, and Harvard Law School to leading dozens of photography adventure treks to being invited to speak on stage at The Nikon Global Mirrorless Launch Presentation in Tokyo. The author of nine books on photography, Tamara is also the creator and host of Chasing Frames, a television show focused on capturing adventures through photography, found on PBS.org.
Tamara is also the co-founder of the Beautiful Together Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit focused on rescuing animals who have been abused, abandoned or neglected, currently being built out on 83 acres of land in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
To see more of Tamara's work visit her website, Tamara Lackey Photography
Kristi Odom is an internationally acclaimed photographer, a Nikon Ambassador, an associate fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, and a motivational speaker. A photographer and filmmaker, her work focuses on connecting people emotionally to animals and celebrating those who have a connection to the natural world.
Her accolades include over 60 international photography awards including 2 Nature’s Best Photography awards, which exhibited her images at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Her work has appeared either online and/or in print for the following clients: National Geographic, Nikon, Forbes, Rollingstone, Microsoft and Outside Magazine. Learn more about Kristi on her website: https://www.kristiodomfineart.com/