Katmai Coastal Bears Adventure
July 5 – 12, 2022
September 4 – 11, 2022
There is no place else anywhere in the world to experience brown bears quite like Katmai National Park and Preserve. With a population of more than 2,200 bears, Katmai is the premier destination to observe and photograph this magnificent species.
Join me and a small group of fellow adventurers on an epic excursion to photograph in coastal Alaska. We are running two different workshops during this window of time. In July, David Swindler and I will lead you on an expedition to observe young brown bear cubs and their mothers graze on grass and mudflats along the water’s edge. In September, Jaclyn Merica and I will guide you along the shorelines to witness the prolific salmon run– a favorite annual event for the bears.
Without question, the best way to experience the rugged beauty and awesomeness of Katmai is by boat, but not just any boat or crew will do. We’ve partnered with the captain who pioneered Katmai brown bear excursions by ship over 30 years ago. With extensive knowledge of the terrain and experience with the bear population, Captain Chuck always ensures we’re optimally positioned for once in a lifetime photo opportunities.
By working with an experienced captain on a privately chartered vessel, we allow ourselves more access to the brown bears than other land based Katmai bear excursions. Our ship will act as a base camp while we navigate this largely roadless region. Once we’ve found an area with active wildlife sightings, we’ll then disembark on a specialized skiff for a closer look on shore.
Despite the close proximity to the bears, rest assured we are safe and will take all necessary precautions recommended by our local guides. The bears are focused on foraging for grasses, clams, and salmon, and are, thus, disinterested in our presence.
The park also offers much more than just bears to photograph. Katmai boasts over 135 species of birds, with many using the area as a migratory passage in the spring and summer months. Several species of marine mammals, including harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, and humpback whales frequent Katmai’s coastline. Just beyond the park’s boundaries, belugas, orcas, and gray whales enjoy the abundant opportunities to feed along the Shelikof Strait. This area is rich in wildlife photography experiences, and is one of the most remote and untouched places still in existence.
By joining this adventure, you’ll return home not only with some incredible shots, but also a greater understanding of creative photography techniques and technical skills. Juan, David, and Jaclyn will work with you both in-the-field and back at home base to attain exactly what you’ve hoped for in a photo excursion.
I believe that in order to truly enjoy your experience, and receive the most out of an adventure photography workshop, we must keep groups small and have a very high ratio of instructors to participants. We’ve limited this workshop to a maximum of 8 participants and 2 instructors, plus our very own Captain Chuck and crew.
This is a unique educational excursion, and by capping the number of participants, despite immense interest in the excursion, we are ensuring everyone gets the attention and one-on-one instruction they need to make once in a lifetime images.
You will be accompanied by Juan Pons, David Swindler during the July session, Jaclyn Merica during the September session, and Captain Chuck of the Coastal Explorer. Juan is an accomplished professional wildlife and travel photographer and photographic educator who has a deep passion for the outdoors. David is the founder of Action Photo Tours, and is a good friend and frequent co-leader on workshops with me. Jaclyn is my assistant, co-leading workshops in places like Costa Rica and Maine. Captain Chuck is the captain and owner of our amazing ship we will be staying on for the majority of our trip. He lives in this part of Alaska and has spent a lifetime in Alaska learning the intricacies of the region.
Juan and his team believe the best way to teach is by demonstrating, and to this end, we will be shooting alongside you, showing you our technique, and sharing our love and knowledge of wildlife and the landscape. However, our priority is always YOU, and assisting you to get the best images YOU can get.
The biggest advantage of having small groups is the flexibility they provide for customizing and adjusting our schedule to accommodate both to the unpredictable Alaskan weather and the interests of the group as a whole. This allows us to cover only those topics that you are all interested in, including:
• Techniques for creating exciting and captivating wildlife images
• Digital darkroom demos to enhance the quality of your images
• Best use of your equipment
• Image reviews
My workshops are fairly intensive experiences, and as such, you should not expect this to be a leisurely vacation. My goal is to capture the best images we can during our time with the bears. This means there will be days we begin very early and return to the boat very late. However, we will always have breaks and lunch rest hours.
You should expect to receive important details to secure your flights into Kodiak, Alaska about 3 months prior to the workshop.
Then, about 2 months prior to the workshop, you will start hearing from me and my team on a regular basis. I will provide you with a Workshop Participant Info Packet with all relevant details, as well as go over more info regarding the workshop to get you inspired and thinking about the images you want to capture during the workshop. At this time, you will also receive from me a list of recommended clothing, equipment, and even discounts for equipment you may want to acquire for this excursion.
My assistant, Jaclyn, and I are always available to answer any questions you may have leading up to the workshop- simply call or email and we can help you as best we can.
Additionally, we will plan a Zoom meeting 4-6 weeks prior to the start of our workshop. There, you can meet your fellow workshop participants, ask any questions before traveling, receive insights and recommendations for reference books, and much more.
Our vessel is built to endure the rough Alaskan seas, but you will find yourself cozy, comfortable, and content with its ample amenities. The ship is well equipped and well stocked for our excursion, and offers fantastic accommodations during our stay.
The Coastal Explorer’s staterooms provide a quiet and comfortable space to return home to after a long day photographing Alaska’s unforgettable and, at times, challenging environment. Our ship is capable of making plenty of water (cold and hot) of water per day, so there are ample resources for showering. Your bedrooms come with outlets for your camera gear, computer, phone, or whatever else you may need during your trip. For your comfort, there is a central forced-air heating system.
We will enjoy most meals aboard our ship, which will consist of home cooked Alaskan fresh catches and hearty dishes. You will come to appreciate the ship’s extensive galley, capable of creating high quality meals to recoup your strength after a long day of shooting. The Coastal Explorer can accommodate specific dietary requests if we tell them ahead of time. We will send out a questionnaire prior to our trip where you can specify any dietary restrictions.
The ship will provide necessary gear to safely and effectively disembark from our vessel. They will supply us with hip waders, however, should you choose, you’re also welcome to bring your own.
Tuition for the workshop is $8,495 USD for double occupancy per person.
NOTE: Because of fluctuating fuel prices the cost of the seaplane charter is not included in this price. About 3 months prior to the start of the workshop we will collect from you the cost of this charter flight, we estimate the price to be approximately $1,000.
We have one cabin available for single occupancy with it’s own private bathroom for an additional cost of $1,500. If this is of interest to you, please make sure to select the single cabin option during checkout. (Single Cabins for both July and Sept workshops are sold out.)
If you would like to reserve your spot on this workshop, you can do so with a $3,995 USD deposit. The balance of the workshop fee ($4,500), is due 3 months prior to the first day of the workshop.
If you are in need of a special payment arrangement, please reach out and we are happy to work with you.
When you complete the checkout process, you will be given the option to either pay the full amount or put down a deposit. If you pay the deposit, the remaining amount will be charged 90 days prior to departure.
Our charter flights from Kodiak to the Coastal Explorer have a total weight limit that is strictly enforced. We ask all participants to pack light for our days on the ship. We will communicate the exact weight allowance as we get closer to departure, as it will depend on the total person weight of our group.
There is always a chance that weather could delay our flights into or out of Kodiak and/or to the Coastal Explorer. Situations like this are beyond my and my team’s control. This is why we HIGHLY suggest you purchase Travel Insurance.
We have partnered with Squaremouth, a website that allows you to compare multiple travel policies from multiple providers to choose the best one for you based on your needs and costs. Check them out here: https://www.squaremouth.com/
• Privately chartered Yacht
• Lodging during the workshop and in Kodiak (6 nights on the ship, 1 night in Kodiak)
• All meals and snacks during the workshop
• Non-alcoholic beverages during the workshop
• All permits, fees, and gratuities
• In-the-field instruction
• An unforgettable time
• Air travel to and from Kodiak, Alaska Airport (ADQ)
• Cost of the Seaplane is not included in the tuition price. Due to fluctuating fuel prices, we will determine the final cost approximate 3 months prior to the start of the workshop and collect payment at that time. We expect the price of the charter flight to be approximately $1,000 per person.
• Any applicable passport and visa fees Items of a personal nature, such as laundry and alcoholic beverages
• Travel, Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended)
• Anything else specifically not listed as included
• You are responsible for making your own flight arrangements to and from Kodiak. We will assist you with flight arrival times and departures prior to your booking.
• Deposit is fully refundable up until 3 months prior to the start of the workshop, NO REFUNDS after three months.
• Dates are subject to slight changes as we await final rooms allotments in YNP
• Make sure to check the Terms and Conditions for all my workshops.
We highly recommend Travel Insurance from a reputable insurance company. I have partnered with Squaremouth, a website that allows you to compare multiple travel policies from multiple providers to choose the best one for you based on your needs and costs. Check them out here: https://www.squaremouth.com/
You should arrive on this day into Kodiak Airport (ADQ), which is accessed from Anchorage. We will provide you with the information you need to book your flights into Kodiak. You will be picked up at the airport and taken to our hotel for the night.
We will all gather for breakfast at the hotel and go over details for our flight over to the Coastal Explorer. Around mid-morning, we will all load into two seaplanes and set off to meet our expedition ship and captain. This is our starting point to Katmai National Park and Preserve. We will get working right away and make our first excursion to shore mid afternoon to make our first images of bears.
Day 3 – 7:
We’ll be aboard our vessel for these five full days, utilizing Captain Chuck and his crew’s local insights, current conditions in the region, and past expedition experiences to visit pristine and remote inlets and coves with abundant salmon streams and active wildlife. This excursion offers us significant opportunities and access to wildlife, however, it is important to note that our wildlife subjects are just that- wild. We, as a team, will do all we can to maximize our wildlife encounters, and will work with the conditions at hand to photograph the best settings possible. While on the boat, we will conduct live editing sessions and image reviews to continually improve our images and creative processes each day of the workshop.
After our last morning outing, we’ll disembark the ship late morning for our seaplane flight back to Kodiak. From here, we take another flight to Anchorage and make our way home.