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Coastal Brown Bears in Lake Clark National Park

Adult coastal brown bear strolling the beach searching for clams in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska © Michael DeYoung

AT A GLANCE

A quintessential Alaska bear photography adventure

WHEN

July 9 – 15, 2024
(TOUR FULL)

July 19 – 25, 2025
(6 SPACES AVAILABLE)

FEE

Single: $7,095
Double: $6,735 each

DEPOSIT: $500

SIGN UP

WHO

Adventurous wildlife photographers of all levels who want to advance their skills and vision

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS

Easy ⓘ

Physical activity is light. Our guide uses existing ATV trails to get us close to bears. From there, some walking, usually from a hundred yards to a quarter mile one-way, gets us to good shooting distances and favorable backgrounds.

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

TRIP LEADERS

Michael DeYoung
Lauri DeYoung

About Your Guides

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Cozy, rustic, remote Alaska lodge with modern amenities
  • Exclusive occupation of lodge by our group
  • Outstanding home-cooked meals included during lodge stay
  • Photograph wild free-roaming bears in natural habitat very close to lodge with the safety of group and bear guide
  • Efficient transportation via ATV and trailers with padded seats
  • Exciting bush plane flights with beach landing and take-off
  • Beautiful coastal and mountain landscapes with peak wildflowers
  • Small group Instructional based tour with lots of technical and artistic guidance
  • Personally crafted and led by one of Alaska’s most experienced and published travel, wildlife, and adventure photographers

WHAT CLIENTS SAY

“Once in a lifetime trip for us, and Lauri and Mike made it special! If you get the chance to tour with them, don’t miss it.”

– John T.

WORKSHOP DETAILS

WHERE: Starts & Ends in Anchorage, AK

GROUP SIZE: 8 Max

WHAT’S INCLUDED:

  • Bush plane transportation to and from Anchorage and Alaska Homestead Lodge
  • 2 Nights Lodging at Anchorage Hotel (Lodging on the last day of the workshop has been included in your workshop fee in the event of flight delays leaving due to weather. Travel home should not be scheduled until LATE the following day, July 16, 2024, at the earliest.)
  • 5 Nights Lodging at Alaska Homestead Lodge (shared cabins and bath only)
  • All meals while at Alaska Homestead Lodge
  • Photographic instruction and constructive image critique sessions

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED:

  • Transportation to and from your home to Anchorage, AK
  • Meals during your stay in Anchorage
  • Gratuities for lodge staff and photo guides
  • Travel Insurance
  • Additional expenses caused by weather delays
  • Personal expenses

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: January 15, 2025

DESCRIPTION

It’s all about photographing bears

Imagine viewing and photographing wild coastal brown bears in idyllic surroundings from the comfort of an Alaskan Lodge. This photo adventure takes us to a special place in the heart of Lake Clark National Park. Thanks to a delicate balance of protective status for bears, cooperative visitor management and limited access, one can safely photograph wild bears here. The intimate photography experience here is unique and only exists at a few places in Alaska.

One of Alaska’s most beautiful places is Lake Clark National Park. The Cook Inlet coast is prime habitat for bears amidst lush meadows and beaches below towering peaks of the Alaska Range. Our visit is timed to catch summer wildflowers and possible spring cubs while they are still small and playful.

Enjoy comfort and style at the Alaska Homestead Lodge

This rustic, full service Alaskan lodge with modern amenities is an ideal setting for a small photo group. Here, we enjoy warm beds and delicious home style meals prepared from scratch. Therefore, this allows for many hours on location with our dedicated bear guide. In between shoot sessions, we learn and grow with critique and edit sessions in a relaxing atmosphere that fosters creativity.

BENEFIT FROM EXPERT GUIDANCE

Receive expert photo guidance with Michael DeYoung, a 35-year professional Alaska outdoor photographer and former workshop leader for Arizona Highways PhotoScapes, for this quintessential Alaska photography adventure. Our knowledgeable bear guides will maximize opportunities to be in front of bears. On location and during critique session, Michael provides expert guidance on action technique, composition, lighting and design for wildlife and landscape photography. As a result, capture bucket list bear images you can treasure for a lifetime.

Click on any image for a larger version to display. Hover over any image to pause.

OVERVIEW

MEETING IN ANCHORAGE

Our wilderness adventure kicks off in Anchorage the afternoon prior to our departure to Lake Clark National Park. We start off with an initial image share and critique. Afterwards, Michael presents a detailed orientation about what to expect and how to best capture action images of bears in varied Alaskan light and backgrounds.

The next morning, we venture off into the roadless Alaska wilderness. Our flight in small bush planes (included in the workshop fee) takes us across Cook Inlet below the towering volcanos of the Alaska Range landing on the beach near the mouth of Silver Salmon Creek.

AT ALASKA HOMESTEAD LODGE

Upon arrival, the excellent lodge staff at Alaska Homestead Lodge takes care of all our needs. They transfer us and our luggage to the lodge for an orientation. The lodge kitchen staff prepares excellent gourmet meals served family style. The seasoned and knowledgeable bear guides will be very familiar with the movement of the local bear population.

The lodge provides a nice selection of knee-high rubber boots for keeping feet dry out on location. Riding in open, padded trailers behind ATVs, our guide takes us to the best possible bear activity at that time while maintaining group safety, bear safety, and positioning us for the best angles. Though we are never far from the lodge, we are still out in the open and protective rain gear for participants and camera gear is essential.

On location, Michael coaches and guides the group with lighting, design, and in mastering action photography settings and techniques. If the weather cooperates, we should see amazing sunrises on the beach and magical low-angle Alaska light on the landscape.

In between shoots, we relax and edit images. Michael will conduct informal critique and suggestions making sure all participants are getting the best possible images.

Physical activity is light. Our guide uses existing ATV trails to get us close to bears. From there, some walking, usually from a hundred yards to a quarter mile one-way, gets us to good shooting distances and favorable backgrounds.

Please see the “Important Notes About This Tour” below. We encourage participants to NOT schedule a commercial flight home on the same day we arrive back from Alaska Homestead Lodge.

IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT THIS TOUR

NUMBER OF BEARS

The bears here are truly wild and their numbers and presence depend on factors beyond anyone’s control. There is no guarantee that we will see bears every time we go out. But, based on decades of history, some bears are almost always there and approachable. On recent visits, we have seen and photographed 6 bears at once at low tide on the beach or in lush green meadows. However, other times have seen no bears all afternoon. While there is a very high likelihood of seeing and photographing bears at close range, there is simply no guarantee. Be skeptical of any entity that guarantees photographing bears at close range.

LUGGAGE WEIGHT LIMITATIONS

Each person is limited to 50 lbs. of gear for the flight to the lodge. This includes your clothes and camera gear. Any additional gear can be safely stored in Anchorage.

WEATHER

This is coastal Alaska and long story short, this is a wet place. While warm, sunny days do happen here don’t expect them. The bears don’t care and they do what bears do despite the rain. In fact, bear activity is usually higher on cool, cloudy days as bears retreat to the forest for comfort on hot sunny days. You will be riding in open trailers behind ATV’s and need rain protection for you and your camera gear. Winds can be strong along the beach. But, that also creates very moody and dramatic waves as a background for any bears along the beach. Low tides and warm morning light create potential for beautiful reflections of bears and mountain backdrops. The lodge is rarely more than 30 minutes away from where bears are and is always warm and dry.

Everybody who visits coastal Alaska to view and/or photograph bears will deal with the same issues: potential bad weather creating possible unplanned transportation delays where small planes can’t fly; the presence of bugs; early or late arrival of salmon runs; and unpredictable bear movement. It’s all part of the wild Alaska experience and reward is rarely attainable without some acceptance of unpredictability.

DELAYS

Simply put, mother nature is in charge. On rare occasions, the weather shuts down all flying. As a result, people get stranded at the lodge or in Anchorage waiting to get to the lodge. This is just part of the Alaska experience. Participants should NOT schedule their return flights home the same day we are scheduled to return home from Alaska Homestead Lodge. In fact, staying an extra day or two upon return to Anchorage is encouraged to explore on your own since you’ve come this far.

VARIED HABITATS

While close ups of bears always make for great imagery so do environmental portraits of bears in their natural habitat. One of the best things about this location is the variety of backgrounds. The beach can have two different moods and looks on the same day. We could have a calm low tide with warm morning light as a backdrop for bears. At other times, the same beach can be moody with crashing waves and ominous clouds. A few hundred feet inland are lush green meadows with wildflowers, forests, meandering creeks, and, mountains with possible lingering snow. Bears graze on beach greens in between the sand and meadows. If salmon are running, the creek itself can provide the excitement of bears crashing through water.

WE ARE NOT ALONE

Sometimes there are other groups working the same bear or bears we are on and sometimes we are the only group on a specific bear or bears. Other groups are either from Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, 1/4 mile away (same owners as Alaska Homestead Lodge), or from commercial day viewing operation that fly-in and fly-out. Day viewers are usually gone by dinner and they have limited mobility as their clients don’t have access to ATV’s and trailers.

The crowds are nowhere near what one would see at a bear sighting at Yellowstone or other parks with uncontrolled visitor access. Fortunately, that dynamic doesn’t exist here. There has been consistent cooperation among groups with respect for bears and their space. There is no such thing as wandering off on your own outside the lodge grounds.

We will always travel as a group – something that is paramount to maintaining the impeccable safety record the lodge has.

ITINERARY

DAY 1: (SAT JULY 19) ARRIVAL DAY

Our photo tour kicks off at 4PM at the hotel meeting room for a meet and greet, orientation, and motivational presentation on photography in Alaska. We will discuss the best techniques and settings for capturing the best of bear action and landscape photography. Following our orientation, we will do a group dinner and possibly an evening shoot around the local area. PLEASE NOTE: Alaska is 4 hours earlier than the East Coast. To help you adjust to the difference in time zones, you may wish to arrive a day or two earlier to acclimate. Please plan to arrive no later than 2PM on the first day.

LODGING INFO: Each room will have a King size bed and include amenities such as a coffeemaker, microwave, a personal refrigerator, tv, and private bathroom. The hotel has free airport shuttle service.

DAY 2: (SUN JULY 20) FLY TO REMOTE LODGE/BEAR PHOTOGRAPHY

We meet at 6:15AM and begin the transfer to Lake Hood for our exciting 1-1.5 hour bush plane flight to Alaska Homestead Lodge where we land right on the beach. Along the way, we cross the 50-mile wide, 150-mile long Cook Inlet and if the weather is nice, we will view stunning mountain scenery along the way. To the north, Denali, at 20,320’ may be visible. Weather permitting, the pilots usually fly us down the west side of Cook Inlet with towering volcanos of the Alaska Range within Lake Clark National Park visible, including the 12,000′ Mt. Spur, and the 10,000’ Redoubt Volcano a short distance north of Silver Salmon Creek.

Upon arrival, we are greeted by lodge staff who will transfer us and our luggage to the lodge and our rooms. After an orientation from lodge staff and being outfitted with boots, we will go out for our first bear search and photo session. The lodge is rarely more than 30 minutes from where we might be photographing and we will break for lunch and dinner, going back out in search of bears between means and afterward.

LODGING INFO (Alaska Homestead Lodge): As a reminder, most participants will have to share a room and bathroom as there is simply no other option. Room assignments will be made on location based on the make up of the group. We will make our best efforts to put any couples or friends traveling together in shared rooms first before pairing up participants of the same gender that do not know each other. Regardless of room sharing status, the lodge is comfortable, warm, dry with modern bathrooms and showers with an exceptional staff and outstanding meals.

Alaska Brown bears sitting on beach at sunrise - Lake Clark National Park © Michael DeYoung
Coastal brown bear sow with her cub of the year - Lake Clark National Park, Alaska © Michael DeYoung

DAY 3 – 6: (MON-THUR JULY 21-24) GUIDED BEAR VIEWING/PHOTOGRAPHY

While on location at Alaska Homestead Lodge the exact daily schedule will vary based on weather and tidal conditions. This is what generally happens: Days start real early in July in Alaska as sunrise light takes place at 5AM! Sunrise can be fantastic on the beach – especially on a low tide when bears are out clamming. Expect to go out real early returning to the lodge for breakfast. In between lunch and dinner, we continue traveling the local area by ATV with towed trailers searching for and photographing bears and the surrounding landscapes. If the weather goes south and no bears are around, we can retreat back to the lodge to rest or edit images.

Sometime during our stay we will have a group critique to make sure everyone is on the right track to getting the best bear images possible.

We also go out again after dinner, returning between 9-10 PM.

DAY 7: (FRI JULY 25) RETURN TO ANCHORAGE

Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end. After our final sunrise shoot and breakfast, lodge staff will transfer our luggage down to the beach where we await the arrival of planes that will drop off the next guests and take us back to Anchorage. Since we arrive earlier than normal check-in, we will do a group lunch and, if desired, bring people downtown for any shopping needs. We check back in to our Anchorage hotel, say our goodbyes, and treasure the experience we all just shared

REMINDER: This last night is included in your tour fee. Please don’t schedule a flight out of Anchorage on July 15 as a weather delay that would prevent us from flying back from Alaska Homestead Lodge would create undue complications.

GETTING HERE/EXTEND YOUR STAY

The official group meeting location will be at 4:00PM at the Courtyard by Marriott Anchorage Airport (4901 Spenard Rd, Anchorage, AK). Alaska is 4 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time and 1 hour earlier than Pacific Standard Time so you may want to consider arriving a day or two before to allow yourself time to adjust.

Seven nights lodging from July 9-15 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. If you wish to stay at the same hotel, more information about how you can make reservations will be emailed to you in January of the tour year. However, we strongly recommend making any additional reservations early as hotels can fill quickly.

If you prefer staying at a different hotel or need help in making additional lodging arrangements, we’d be happy to assist.

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

The Courtyard by Marriott offers a free, 24-hour shuttle service to and from the airport. Details on how to request the complimentary shuttle will be provided in the welcome letter to registered participants.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is 1 mile away from the hotel.

Brown bear walking through Alaskan lodge property © Michael DeYoung

PAYMENT SCHEDULE & CANCELLATION POLICIES

PAYMENT TERMS

A minimum deposit of $500 is due at registration to reserve your space. We will send participants an invoice for an additional $3,000 by January 12 with a due date of January 27, 2025. We will send participants an invoice for the remaining balance which is due 120 days prior to tour start date.

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 5% of your initial deposit, or all fees paid up to this point can be applied to another scheduled tour or converted to a private photo tour or private photography instruction session.

If your cancellation is received less than 120 days prior to the beginning of this tour, we will retain the entire balance paid to date unless you are able to locate someone who will fill your position, or someone from our waiting list can take your spot. If you are able to locate someone who will fill your position or someone from our 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.

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 custom photo tour.

TRIP INSURANCE

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 receive notification that the tour has met its minimal participant requirement. You will be notified at least 90 days prior to the start date if the trip is a go. For added protection, please 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.

 

Have a Question about this brown bear photo tour? Send us an email.

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