Home » Alaska Photo Tours & Workshops » Alaska Aurora and Winter Mountain Landscapes

Alaska Aurora and Winter Mountain Landscapes

Aurora borealis glow above Alaska Range in winter © Michael DeYoung

AT A GLANCE

Instructional based winter landscape photo tour (starts & end in Anchorage)

WHEN

Mar 16 – 22, 2025
(6 SPOTS AVAILABLE)

FEE

Single: $4,695
Double: $3,795 each

DEPOSIT: $500

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WHO

Adventurous landscape photographers at all levels willing to shoot in winter conditions and stay up long hours to photograph aurora displays

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS

Moderate ⓘ

Hiking through deep or packed snow for short distances.

Portrait of your trip leaders, Michael and Lauri DeYoung. A veteran-owned, small business.

TRIP LEADERS

Michael DeYoung
Lauri DeYoung

About Your Guides

HIGHLIGHTS

    Spectacular mountain landscapes

  • 7 nights accommodations in rustic and cozy Alaska lodges and cabins
  • All ground transportation from Anchorage in roomy van
  • Optimal potential for capturing northern lights above the Alaska Range
  • Spectacular mountain landscapes
  • Exciting and unique glacier photography via helicopter access
  • Potential for unique ice cave formations
  • Classroom sessions on:
    • Artistic and technical tips & techniques for aurora and night landscapes
    • Post processing to get the most from your aurora images

WHAT CLIENTS SAY

“Michael and Lauri are just great people to be around. Her energy and willingness to help in anyway combined his dedication and expertise made the trip fantastic. The main goal of our trip was to see northern lights. Michael’s meteorological knowledge, technical expertise and photographic eye combined to get us the experience of a life time. “

– Trevis T.

WORKSHOP DETAILS

WHERE: Starts & Ends in Anchorage, AK

ON-LOCATION: Delta Junction

GROUP SIZE: 6 Max

WHAT’S INCLUDED:

  • All transportation provided to and from Anchorage in roomy van during tour dates.
  • 7 nights lodging – each room with a queen bed and private bathroom.
  • Unique and remote excursions to ice caves and/or glacier features via helicopter
  • Constructive image critique sessions with post processing guidance.
  • Michael and Lauri as your guides and instructors.

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:

  • Transportation to and from your home to Anchorage, AK
  • Meals
  • Travel Insurance
  • Gratuities
  • Personal expenses
Exploring inside one of Southcentral Alaska's glacier ice caves. © Michael DeYoung

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Dec 16, 2024

DESCRIPTION

One of the most exciting natural phenomena a photographer can ever witness and capture is the awe inspiring dance of the Northern Lights. A spectacular display of vibrant colors dancing across the boreal sky often invokes an emotional response with a sense of calm and peace leaving observers humbled by the vast scale of both the celestial display and the expanse of the Interior Alaska wilderness. The combination of witnessing a rare natural spectacle and immortalizing it into a photograph can create lasting memories.

Much of the northern half of mainland Alaska is situated under the aurora oval . However, displays often are active further south especially during peak activity periods around the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes. While most aurora viewing (from a tourism standpoint) takes place near Fairbanks, we will explore areas further south that offer photographers more compelling mountain foregrounds for our imagery.

Join Michael and Lauri as they share their 35 years of Alaska wilderness photography experience. Our journey starts in Anchorage and travels through some of the best mountain scenery viewable from the road system. Along the way to our interior destination of Delta Junction, we will see and photograph the Chugach and Wrangell Mountains as well as the Alaska Range going out every night there is favorable conditions for aurora viewing.

This instructional based tour merges maximum frequency of the aurora around the Vernal Equinox with beautiful mountain landscapes still cloaked in winter white. The unpredictability and elusiveness of the northern lights adds an element of excitement and challenge for photographers. Though this tour maximizes opportunities to see and photograph the aurora, we need something more in case cloud cover blocks displays. Our itinerary includes the excitement of remote helicopter fly-ins to photograph one of a kind glacier features not seen during the summer thaw. You will learn artistic and technical skills to create maximum impact with aurora and other night sky scenarios in addition to how to thrive photographing in a winter environment.

SPECIAL NOTES ABOUT THIS TOUR

Why a 7 day workshop? All northern latitudes under the aurora oval have predominantly cloudy climates, especially in mountainous and coastal areas. These areas provide better foregrounds for our aurora displays. It is possible anywhere in the north to have several consecutive days of continuously cloudy skies. Based on historical climate data, late March into April sees a fair number of clear days in Southcentral and Interior Alaska. Aurora frequency also peaks near the equinoxes – late March and late September. We feel at least 6 nights are necessary to maximize the chances to photograph aurora without the budget going out of control.

Under the aurora oval, around the equinoxes and when skies are clear, we stand a very good chance of seeing a display. Ignore Kp index forecasts. Kp 1 auroras can be beautiful and photographable under the oval. Delta Junction typically is in the same weather pattern as Fairbanks. If the lights are visible in Fairbanks, they will most certainly be visible in Delta Junction as well if skies are also clear. The Alaska Range to the south is often a major weather barrier blocking Pacific moisture. We will do everything possible to travel to where skies are clearest ,and we have 3 directions of where we can travel to chase clear skies: north or south on the Richardson Highway, or east on the Alaska Highway.

WHAT IF WE DON’T SEE ANY AURORA DISPLAYS?

If cloud cover prevents aurora displays from being seen, we want participants to still capture something truly unique and Alaskan. This is why we are including options to see unique glacier caves and other blue ice features. If weather or lack of glacier features prevents us from chartering the helicopter, a portion of the workshop fee will be refunded. Fortunately this has not happened yet on previous tours. Our ice cave exploration is non-technical and only requires traction devices to prevent possible slipping on a flat icy surface. Sometimes, a rope hand rail is put in place to access ice caves.

Due to the nature of photographing mostly at night and operating in remote areas, expect idle time. Aurora photography generally requires a lot of waiting on location for displays to become photo worthy. Really good and photo worthy displays are intermittent and unpredictable. We want to be at a favorable location when the aurora starts, not racing down the highway. Some sleep deprivation is likely as many folks have trouble sleeping during the day. Meals may not be timely although nobody will go hungry. We will always have high calorie snack food, drinking water, and a stove to make hot tea and chocolate, melting snow if necessary.

WEATHER

This time of year can see sunny pleasant afternoons, but winter is far from over. Interior Alaska is not a particularly windy place but some mountain locations and passes can see strong winds. New snowfall is possible and even welcomed. Forested areas with fresh snow always make for better imagery.

Delta Junction is situated at 64 north latitude and 1227’ in elevation. Late March sees average low temperatures in the single digits above zero and average highs in the upper 20’s. Further south in the Alaska Range, where we can be at elevations up to 3500’, expect temperatures to be roughly 10 degrees colder. March is one of the driest month of the year but that doesn’t mean no snow or clouds during our visit. Participants need to be prepared for anything from -25F to +45F.

ITINERARY

PLEASE NOTE: Itinerary is tentative and may change based on weather conditions to facilitate the best photo opportunities. Any night during the tour has potential for aurora displays and when possible the next day’s schedule will be adjusted for getting adequate rest.

Participants need to arrive in Anchorage by March15th. This night’s lodging is included in your workshop fee.

DAY 1 (MARCH 16): Meet in conference/board room at 9AM for 1 – 2 hour orientation on winter safety and logistics along with a presentation on photographing winter landscapes and the northern lights. After check out, we drive with majestic mountain scenery along the entire way to the upper reaches of the Matanuska Valley where we spend the night at a cozy rustic lodge. Weather permitting, we venture out via helicopter flight to distinctly unique glacier features.

DAY 2 (MARCH 17): Checking out late to allow for a few hours sleep if we are lucky enough to see aurora displays. We continue north today through the broad expanse of the Copper River Basin with views of the Wrangell and Chugach Mountain ranges before heading north through the heart of the Alaska Range. Through the Alaska Range we get to scout and preview potential foreground locations to return to if we get clear skies. Check in to our cozy and rustic cabins in Delta Junction. We will venture out tonight, skies permitting, to see and view the aurora. Which direction we go, either north or south, depends on where skies are the clearest. Hopefully we go south where better mountain foregrounds exist.

DAYS 3, 4, and 5 (MARCH 18-20): Our schedule for our remaining 3 nights in Delta Junction will be dictated entirely by weather and aurora forecasts. Ideally, we head out around 9PM and return about 9AM as morning light on the big peaks of the Alaska Range is better than evening so after aurora photography all night we end with some nice sunrise landscapes.

DAY 6 (MARCH 21): We leave Delta Junction and head back through the heart of the Alaska Range, returning to the Matanuska Valley for our final night. Along the way we will make stops for landscape shooting and weather, snow conditions and energy permitting, we make a 2-mile round trip hike to a beautiful ice cave. After checking into our final nights accommodations at a cozy lodge, we will venture out for sunset landscape photography.

Group of photographers capturing aurora borealis along Richardson Highway. © Michael DeYoung
Photogenic blue patterns and textures in glacial ice cave © Michael DeYoung

DAY 7 (MARCH 22): Weather and energy permitting we start with a local sunrise shoot. If we were out photographing aurora the night before we may elect to sleep in. In mid morning we make our final adventure out to some glacier features via helicopter. After a late lunch we drive back to Anchorage where the workshop will end.

Participants should not schedule a flight out from Anchorage on this day NO EARLIER than 11pm. Lodging is on your own on this day and beyond if you choose to stay after the workshop and venture out on your own. (Highly encouraged!)

GETTING HERE/EXTEND YOUR STAY

The Anchorage International Airport (ANC) is a busy, visitor-friendly airport with plenty of flights daily. Some of the major airlines that service to Anchorage include:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta
  • United

There is a 24-hour shuttle service from the airport to the first night’s accommodations. Details on arranging airport shuttle service will be provided to participants in the welcome letter.

Lodging in Anchorage on the night prior to the tour (March 15, 2024) is included in your workshop fee. If you plan to arrive earlier and/or stay later you will need to make your own additional reservations. The group reservation information will be provided to you if you wish to stay at the same hotel. However, if you prefer staying at a different hotel or need help in making additional lodging arrangements, we’d be happy to assist.

Sheep Mountain Lodge cabin, located in the upper Matanuska Valley, during the winter. © Michael DeYoung

PAYMENT & CANCELLATION POLICIES

PAYMENT TERMS: A minimum deposit is due at registration to reserve your space. Required deposit amount is $500. Final payments, which can be made in installments, are due 90 days prior to tour start date. Invoices for final balances will be emailed to registered participants approximately 120 days prior to tour start date to allow time to spread out making payments.

CANCELLATION POLICY:

When a participant cancels a reserved spot in a regularly scheduled (i.e., non-custom) photo tour, it takes time and effort to fill the vacancy. Please be sure to check your personal schedule well ahead of the dates of the trip to make sure there are no conflicts. If you discover that you will not be able to attend we would very much appreciate knowing this as soon as possible.

The following fee schedule applies:

Because of the unique nature of this workshop, If your cancellation is received more than 120 days prior to the beginning of a tour or workshop, we will refund your registration fee less a 5% of your initial deposit. Any fees paid up to this point, less 5% of your initial deposit, can be applied to another scheduled tour or converted to a private photo tour or private photography instruction session.

As other vendors we book with have limited refund policies, if your cancellation is received less than 120 days prior to the beginning of a tour or workshop, we will retain the entire balance paid to date unless you are able to locate someone who will fill your position.

If the photo workshop or tour is full and someone from the waiting list can take your spot, we will refund your entire balance paid to date less 5% of your initial deposit.

No refund of any fees will be made for cancellations after the tour begins.

TRIP INSURANCE

In the event that a tour must be cancelled due to inadequate enrollment, all registration fees received by us will be refunded in full or, if you prefer, your registration fees paid up to this point can be applied to another scheduled tour or converted to a private photo tour.

We are not responsible for reimbursement of non-refundable airline tickets or lodging arrangements you made in the event of a tour cancellation. Please do not make any travel arrangements until you have received notification that the tour has met its minimal participant requirement which will be known at least 90 days prior to the start date OR consider the purchase of trip insurance.

We highly suggest TravelGuard® or similar travel insurance policies to assist you in case of last minute plan changes and emergencies.

 

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