Denali Highway Fall Colors and Northern Lights Alaska Photo Tour

Northern Lights glowing over one of many lakes along Denali Highway

Alaska is a fall landscape lover’s dream with potential to capture the essence of the north-the aurora borealis dancing across a pristine dark sky and reflecting on lakes and ponds. Wild, unspoiled and uncrowded, join a small group as we explore and photograph the vast and sweeping landscapes of Denali country and the Eastern Alaska Range at the height of tundra fall colors.

Jump start your fall color photography season on this unique and intimate Alaskan photo tour created and led by one of Alaska’s most experienced travel and adventure photography teams, our tour begins and ends in Fairbanks, one of the best places in Alaska to capture the aurora borealis in relative comfort. This is a magical time with potential to capture aurora reflections and color on the numerous small lakes along our route before they freeze for the winter.

Alaska – an undiscovered and fantastic fall color landscape photo destination without the crowds seen elsewhere.

WHEN: To Be Announced for 2023

WHERE: Starts & Ends in Fairbanks, AK

FEE: Single: $; Double*: $ each

DEPOSIT: $500

GROUP LIMIT: 6

WHO: Advanced beginner and above

FITNESS LEVEL: Easy

REGISTER BY:

* Double occupancy available for two participants traveling together.

 

Fall colors along the Denali Highway tundra
HIGHLIGHTS

Limit of 6 participants to maximize personal attention and mobility.

Transportation and lodging in a remote Alaskan lodge included.

Sweeping night skies, near zero light pollution.

Pristine wilderness landscapes: glaciers, rivers, lakes, tundra colors, and big peaks.

Potential to capture aurora and reflections.

Potential to photograph Denali, North America’s mountain.

Outfitted wilderness camp via river jet boat.

Guided by one of Alaska’s most experienced commercial photographers and photo tour leaders.

OVERVIEW

The auroras can be just as active in the fall as they are in winter but without the frozen landscape and bitter cold. To add a little spice, our tour will include chances to view and photograph North America’s highest peak, Denali at 20,320’, from the east and south.

When the auroras are not dancing across the night sky or covered by clouds, we will focus our cameras on a pure visual delight of reds, oranges and golds that make up the endless fall tundra with big open skies and sweeping views of glacier clad peaks of the Eastern Alaska Range. The blazing fall tundra also affords limitless macro and intimate landscape opportunities. If we are fortunate, dustings of snow will add visual interest to the already stunning landscapes of Denali country.

There are many places in the northern latitudes that afford decent and frequent aurora viewing. Fairbanks and Denali country are among them. All locations in northern latitudes regardless of what others may tell you are subject to long periods of cloudy weather even during the dry spring season and nights where the auroras don’t develop due to lack of solar activity. When looking at any aurora tour, go for the destination as much as the aurora potential.

This is why we’ve chosen this route and this time of year to capture the best of two worlds. There is a narrow window beginning in late August and lasting into early September when we see the convergence of two great photo subjects: the height of fall color on the tundra and upper taiga forest below big glacier clad peaks and aurora displays on relatively warm nights (compared to winter) with possible reflections on bodies of open water.

Winter comes early to these parts and usually by early October snow covers the landscape and the lakes are frozen. Snow can fall in late August and anytime afterward on the Denali Highway. Aurora displays increase toward the autumnal equinox but by then, the tundra colors are long gone and the landscape can be blanketed in snow while fall colors are peaking in the lower elevation boreal forests.

South of the Alaska Range, where the Denali Highway is, has a cloudier climate than the north side but potentially better aurora foregrounds based on orientation of the Alaska Range relative to where you will most likely see displays. If the aurora isn’t out we still have a visually stunning landscape to see and photograph. Spectacular displays do occur along the Denali Highway in late August and we’ve been seeing them for years. Every night of this tour, including the arrival and departure days in Fairbanks have potential for aurora viewing and photography. There are nearby lakes to capture aurora and reflections while in Fairbanks.

We encourage participants to stay an extra day or two at the end of the tour to increase chances for capturing aurora with newfound skills and knowledge of the local area.

NOTE: This tour is along the Denali Highway, a 130-mile stretch of improved dirt road that connects the Parks Highway (Cantwell) on the west and the Richardson Highway (Paxson) on the east. It is not the road into Denali National Park. While we would love to run a commercial trip in Denali National Park, the Park Service does not issue commercial use permits for us to take you into the park itself. We could arrange for participants to ride the official park shuttle buses but you do not have much flexibility on the bus, photographically, so we opt not to pursue that option. We’d be happy to help you arrange that trip if you wish to do so before or after this workshop.

WHAT'S INCLUDED

All transportation provided to and from lodging in Fairbanks.

5 nights of lodging. (Note: Most lodging has two queen beds per cabin. The last night’s lodging has one queen bed per cabin.)

Constructive image critique sessions with post processing instruction and guidance.

Michael and Lauri as your guides and instructors.

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

Meals

Personal expenses

Transportation to and from your home to Fairbanks, AK

Gratuities

ITINERARY

PLEASE NOTE: This itinerary is a guideline as weather conditions and northern light forecasts will affect the itinerary.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN FAIRBANKS

Plan to arrive in Fairbanks no later than 3PM. (A free shuttle service from the airport is available by the hotel.) Our group meets at 5PM for introductions and group dinner to go over the details of our adventure.

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. We will be happy to assist you with booking additional lodging in Fairbanks.

DAY 2: TRAVEL TO REMOTE LODGE – DENALI HIGHWAY

We depart Fairbanks after breakfast and photograph mountain scenics along the way to the Denali Highway, where we will spend the next several days. After checking into our rustic cabins, we will hop in the van and travel to one of several lakes to capture the fall colored tundra vegetation and nearby mountains reflecting in the lakes at last light. After dinner, if the forecast is favorable and participants are willing, we will head out to photograph the Northern Lights.

DAY 3: REMOTE LODGE- DENALI HIGHWAY

We start the morning with a sunrise landscape shoot and return to the lodge for breakfast. We can spend time photographing around the lodge or meet up for an informal image critique session and/or answer any technical or creative technique questions individuals may have. In the afternoon, we head back onto the Denali Highway for more fall color landscapes and sunset photographic opportunities.After dinner, if the forecast is favorable and participants are willing, we will head out to photograph the Northern Lights.

DAY 4: REMOTE CAMP – DENALI HIGHWAY

If we are not out too late the previous night shooting Northern Lights, we’ll start the morning with a sunrise landscape shoot and return to the lodge for breakfast. We’ll check out of our cabins, gather our gear, and be transported to a remote camp via a river jet boat at around 1PM. Once settled in at camp, we will explore and photograph the majestic landscapes from this area. And, since we are overnighting here, we hope to capture the legendary Alaska sunset and sunrise on the landscape. After dinner, we will practice photographing the night sky and, if the forecast is favorable, catch some auroras dancing across the skies.

DAY 5: DENALI VIEWS

After being picked up in the morning from our remote camp, we head back to the main lodge and grab a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. Afterwards, we continue west on the Denali Highway for more landscapes. After our fill of Denali Highway vistas, we travel to our night’s lodging along the Parks Highway near Denali National Park entrance.

DAY 6: FAIRBANKS – END OF TRIP

We head out early, weather permitting, for some sunrise views of Denali before heading back to Fairbanks around 11AM to say our goodbyes and treasure the experience we all just shared.

GETTING HERE

The official group meeting location will be at 6:00PM at the Clarion Hotel & Suites (95 10th Ave, Fairbanks, AK 99701). 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. If you need help in making additional lodging arrangements, we’d be happy to assist.

The Fairbanks International Airport (FAI) is a large, visitor-friendly airport with several flights a day. Some of the major airlines that service to Fairbanks include:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta
  • United

Sun Country Airlines and JetBlue has service to only Ted Steven’s International Airport in Anchorage – not to Fairbanks. However, check the above airlines for a connecting flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

There is a shuttle service from the airport to the first night’s accommodations (at the Clarion Hotel) that you can arrange for pickup through the telephone information board in the baggage claim areas.

Clarion Hotel & Suites s is approximately 6 miles away (as the roads go) to Fairbanks International Airport.

CONSIDERATIONS

PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS: A reasonably fit photographer capable of hiking on uneven tundra, muddy, or rocky trails, and who can get in and out of canoe (one day only). Participants may have to carry a camera body, tripod, 1-2 lenses, filters, and other gear in a backpack for up to a 1 mile round trip hike.

WEATHER: While many of us want warm sunny conditions with direct light for our photography day, Mother Nature does not always provide us those conditions. Please do not get discouraged that great images are not possible in cloudy conditions. Our tour is timed to take place during peak fall with maximum red and gold colors in the tundra. With careful and creative techniques, which you will learn, it is still possible to get colorful and beautiful landscape images in cloudy and even light rain. Remember, often times, bad weather can equate to great photos. Participants may be in remote locations with no restroom facilities for up to 2 hours.

CAMERA GEAR

A more detailed list of gear to consider will be provided to registered participants.

RECOMMENDED CAMERA GEAR

  • At least one camera body (second camera body highly recommended)
  • Wide angle lens 24mm or wider with a maximum aperture of 2.8 or faster.
  • Fixed or prime wide angle lenses recommended for aurora and night sky photography.
  • Medium telephoto lens such as 70-200mm
  • 300mm lens or longer for wildlife
  • Good, sturdy tripod and ball head (arca-swiss style clamp, camera body plates, and lens plates recommended)
  • Filters: Circular polarizer, ND (6 stop), and graduated ND (soft or hard step, 2 and/or 3 stop)
  • Extra memory cards
  • Extra batteries for camera and flash
  • Rain protection for camera (plastic bags or umbrella)
  • Daypack capable of carrying camera gear, extra clothes, snacks, water, and tripod. (We recommend a pack designed for hiking and not necessarily a photo pack.
  • OPTIONAL: Macro lens or extension tubes (100 macro or 25mm extension tube for a regular 100-200 range)
  • OPTIONAL: Waterproof camera cases and/or soft dry bags. (Recommended Hard Cases: Pelican and Otter Box; Dry Bags: Watershed or Sagebrush Dry Bags.)

RECOMMENDED COMPUTER GEAR

  • Laptop plus power cord
  • Card reader
  • External hard drive (to back up images)
RECOMMENDED CLOTHING
  • Comfortable, sturdy hiking shoes with good ankle support
  • Water shoes (or an extra pair of shoes that can get wet and muddy) or knee-high waterproof boots (preferable)
  • Small pad for kneeling on possibly wet ground
  • Rain pants/rain jacket with hood
  • Insulating jacket
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Hat
  • Non-cotton layers – base and insulating
  • Soap and shampoo for remote lodge
  • 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 60 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:

    If your cancellation is received more than 60 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 60 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.

    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 60 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.

     

    TESTIMONIAL

     

    “Michael and Lauri ran a great Alaska photo tour experience. We saw the aurora, animals and some amazing sunsets and sunrises. Their knowledge of Alaska and the great places to shoot was exceptional. I truly enjoyed the experience.”

    – George R. (Santa Fe, NM)

     

    Have a Question About This Tour? Send us an email.

     

     

    DeYoung Photo Workshops, LLC