Frequently Asked Questions

What is Active Photo Tours all about?

Active Photo Tours is a small company offering a few carefully crafted, nearly all inclusive landscape-centric tours for active and adventurous photographers from advanced beginner to pro skill levels.

We specialize in offering customized private tours for individuals, families and friends who can’t make a workshop. Do it your way. Tell us what you want and we’ll do everything else.

Our locations are Southcentral Alaska, Southwest Utah and New Mexico – all places with striking and majestic backcountry landscape locations.

How strenuous are active photo tours?

Each trip’s physical demands vary. The fitness levels are listed for each tour using the universal system explained below in the next FAQ. We’ve had participants in their 70’s that had no trouble with everything we do and had a great experience doing it.

Generally speaking, most of our tours will be in the moderate to difficult category. These ratings represent the most difficult excursion or activity of the entire tour, and does not mean that ALL of the tour is at that rating. In fact, even on a difficult rated tour, there are shoot sessions and outings in the easy category. As a reminder, even though we might spend time hiking or paddling, the primary reason for an outing is to capture great images!

What do the Fitness Levels mean?

We rate the fitness level of our tours using the same symbols commonly used to rate ski slope and hiking trail difficulty, which are, green circle for easiest, blue square for moderate or intermediate, black diamond for difficult or advanced, and double black diamond for extreme or experts only.

Easy: pretty much shooting near vehicles and short, level walks on developed trails or easily negotiated terrain up to a half mile distance. Participants need to get from boat docks into boats but assistance is available. We are never too far away from covered shelter, the vehicle and some developed restroom facility even though it could only be a USFS outhouse.

Moderate: Hiking up to 5 miles round trip on maintained, but not necessarily smooth, dirt trails, with elevation gains up to 1000 feet carrying photo and day hiking gear, and/or and up to 2 miles on glacial ice with crampons led by guides.

Difficult: Hiking up and down maintained trails for up to 8 miles round trip with a moderate elevation change of up to 2000 feet, carrying photo gear and day hiking gear, and/or hiking up to 6 miles on non-maintained trails, in rivers such as the Virgin River Narrows, or in and out of muddy pools such as in Buckskin Canyon, and up to 3 miles on glacial ice with crampons led by guides. Participants may spend up to 8 hours without developed shelter or restroom facilities.

Extreme:♦♦ NOTE: At this time we are not offering any Extreme group tours, only on private tours by request. Hiking 9-16 miles round trip, with elevation gain of over 2000’ on maintained trails carrying camera gear, day hiking gear, food for 1-2 meals, and water. Extreme excursions also include technical outings such as slot canyon descents and glacier ice-cave descents. Technical Extreme activities are only done with expert qualified guides who provide gear and safety equipment. Technical excursions mean more risk but not unsafe! Safety is our top priority and we only team with guides with exceptional safety records. Extreme excursions can afford one of a kind photo ops into beautiful and seldom seen slot canyons, glacier features or beautiful landscapes worth photographing that just take a long time to reach, such as Lost Lake near Seward, Alaska. Participants will be without any developed shelter or restroom facilities for over 8 hours.

Who is Active Photo Tours for?

We are for photographers who are reasonably fit and active who want something more than a passive tour with larger groups that focus on easy to reach and “shot to death” scenes. We are for accomplished photographers who want to gain experience and access to more backcountry photography. We are for photographers who, like us, are already adventurers who want to learn how to make more impactful and memorable imagery of their travels and adventures. Do you like the camaraderie of the small group format? If you are unfazed by a little sweat and a bit of a workout, mosquitoes, being in bear country, enduring some nasty weather or brutal sun, walking in cold water or mud to reach striking and inspirational locations, then we are a good fit for you. We work with all skill levels but are best suited for advanced beginners and higher. Honestly, there are more economical ways and venues to learn the basics of photography.

Who are we?

We are a husband/wife team with a 25+ year successful career in adventure sports, landscape and travel photography for editorial and commercial clients with hundreds of national publication credits. Our photography is interwoven with our lifestyle. We are hikers, backpackers, paddlers, skiers, and long distance wilderness travelers. On our many commercial assignments and productions in challenging locations, especially in Alaska, we have learned how to create impactful images in any conditions. We are still active commercial shooters which is why we only offer a few highly specialized tours per year.

Click on About Us for expanded bios for Michael and Lauri.

Why do we only offer a few tours?

This could change but there are two reasons why we only have a few tours.

  1. We lead tours for others too! Like Arizona Highways Photoscapes.
  2. We still have an active career shooting for clients.
  3. We love leading our own tours and for other great outfits mentioned above. There is only so much time in a year. In the future we may put together more.

Why go with us?

We take you to locations that we love and know intimately that we have visited and photographed for decades; to places that have produced commercial sales or that are just magically inspiring to us. We believe our logistical and production experience in putting together commercial shoots and working with creative teams is an asset to leading photo tours. We like passing that passion, knowledge and experience to our participants.

What makes us different?

  1. Our groups small – usually 5 or 6 maximum. We believe in a lighter, smaller footprint and minimal impact on the landscapes we visit. This allows us to move faster, spend more time on location and minimize shooters getting in each other’s way, and allows for more individual attention.
  2. Our itineraries are invigorating and carefully thought out with safety and maximum image potential as top priorities. We will push on your comfort zone, creatively and perhaps physically. You might get sore feet and muscles. You will most likely experience some sleep deprivation. In the end, it is all worth it. If there is potential for great sunrise shots, we are there! If you want to sleep in and do casual photography during “normal business hours” then we are probably not a good fit. We firmly believe that walking, exercise and being in inspiring locations leads to increased creativity.
  3. Our location shoots are more experiential. We prioritize backcountry and harder to get to locations. This doesn’t mean we won’t opportunistically shoot front country and easy to reach spots spots. If we are there and all the ingredients of a great image line up, you bet we will shoot it! We immerse ourselves deeper into the landscape. We shoot from a participant’s point of view, not just from the outside looking in. We spend more time on location finding the shot than making it. That’s the formula to better imagery. We try to minimize driving distances per day to spend more time on location.
  4. Our approach is different. We teach and encourage the light and mobile philosophy. We want to carry less and shoot more in backcountry situations without sacrificing image quality.
  5. We emphasize creativity and the art of seeing over equipment. We promote a non-competitive and self empowering environment. We strive for constructive critiques and image sharing sessions – time permitting. We promote the art of image capture on location over the “fix it in post” philosophy. Don’t get us wrong. We practice proficiency in RAW image processing and getting the very best out of what you’ve captured.
What is the difference between a photo tour and workshop?

A workshop has a much more structured itinerary that is more about learning techniques and fundamentals than about the location, although the location can be critical to creating the right environment for what the workshop strives to teach. A workshop includes lecture and classroom time, field demonstrations, group location shoots, student assignments and critique sessions. Currently, Active Photo Tours isn’t offering any photo workshops.

A tour is location specific and is primarily about getting the best images possible by taking participants to locations at the best times and lighting. On location, we offer advise on how to best capture the scene(s) we are at. A photo tour usually starts with a 2-3 hour orientation on logistics and how to best capture the subject matter that we will see on the tour. On a tour, we try to motivate and facilitate creative and technical growth. Time and energy permitting, we try to have at least one constructive critique session.

What happens if a photo tour is cancelled?

Unfortunately we have to cancel a tour if we don’t receive a minimum number of participants in time to get deposits back from venues and accommodations. If we cancel a tour, registered participants have 3 options:

  1. Receive a full refund of your deposit.
  2. Apply what you paid to another tour.
  3. Convert what you have already paid to a private tour or consultation.

PLEASE NOTE: We are NOT liable for expenses incurred such as airfare or additional accommodations outside of what is specifically covered by the tour.

Do I need special clothing and equipment to participate?

Each tour will have a detailed suggested clothing and gear list. Wherever we go there are certain things you should always have. We suggest using a day pack vs a “photo” backpack for excursions where you are carrying your photo gear for the day. Trekking poles are often helpful. Sturdy shoes and layers are a must. Even in the Southwest, we seek out waterways to photograph in so it’s always a good idea to have a pair of water shoes you don’t mind getting wet. We always carry rain gear and a little sunscreen.

How do I protect my camera gear from rain/snow and water?

For rain and/or snow, plastic bags and gaffer or duct tape. Sometimes, low tech solutions still work well. For carrying equipment around water, we use Pelican hard cases and high end dry bags made by Watershed, Sea to Summit, or Sagebrush Dry Gear.

I’ve never done some of the activities described in the tour. How safe is it?

There are always inherent risks with any outdoor activity but safety is our top priority. For activities beyond basic trail hiking such as glacier walking with crampons, kayak touring, or walking up rivers and slot canyons we team up with reputable expert local guides and outfitters who provide all specialty and safety gear and assist in ensuring safe travel. Our partner guides and outfitters are used to taking people who have never walked on a glacier before or paddled a kayak before and giving them a safe and rewarding experience. Being prepared, safe, and assisted by capable guides in an activity you haven’t done before, frees our minds to do what we came to do – make great photographs!

What are accommodations like?

Whenever possible we try to use smaller, cozier independently owned lodges, or B&Bs. Sometimes we need to resort to traditional larger hotels that may provide an airport shuttle. Lodging is based on double occupancy. Participants can elect for single supplements at an additional fee at time of registration. In some instances, particularly in remote locations, single supplements or private baths are not an option. Specific itineraries will indicate if this is the case.

Are meals included?

Most meals are not included. Including meals on a tour is limiting and restrictive because doing so often requires reservations and limited group menus. We don’t want our tours to be driven by meal times and sacrifice great light and photo opportunities. On some excursions with an outfitter a meal is included. Some lodges offer breakfast but we are often gone shooting during “normal” breakfast time. On overnight backcountry camps meals are included. We know calories are important for maintaining good health and spirits and creativity. If on location during meal time, we bring it with us. We make time for shopping for foods you like prior to the excursion. As your tour leaders, we will always have snacks along to get through crunch time.

Can you accommodate special diets?

We try our best to pick eating establishments that will have something to offer those on specific diets such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or paleo. In rural areas with few options, this is not always possible. We make every effort at the beginning of all tours to visit well stocked supermarkets so participants can purchase specialty food items.

Should I get trip insurance?

Sometimes unforeseen circumstance take place that can seriously disrupt our plans and even prevent us from completing the scheduled itinerary. In Alaska, although rare, extreme weather or high seas can cause a tour by boat or helicopter to cancel. In the Southwest, heavy precipitation events over a short period can create flash flood dangers, impassible roads and landslides. We highly suggest TravelGuard® or similar travel insurance policies to assist you in case of last minute plan changes and emergencies.

What if there is an emergency or injury during the tour?

This is always an uncomfortable topic to talk about and of course we all hope it never happens and do everything in our power to prevent and avoid a medical emergency. That said, Lauri and I go beyond what is required by land managers who issue permits. We are both Wilderness First Responder certified. We always travel with a first aid kit. In addition we carry a Garmin InReach a satellite enabled emergency communication device. It is with us at all times as we are often in areas with no cell service.

Can non-photographer companions come?

Photographer couples, companions, friends or families are always welcome. Due to our small groups and our costs of transportation, accommodations, outfitter and guide fees, we are very seldom in a position to offer discounts to non-photographer companions. If space is available we are happy to accommodate non-photographer companions but the costs for guides, outfitters, lodges, and land managers who grant our permits are based on a per person basis and not on who is a photographer. Any discount of non-participating companions will be considered only on a case by case basis.

Why such small groups?

Small groups have several advantages. Our days are long and action packed and smaller groups generally move faster allowing more time on location. With only 5-6 people max, participant gets more instruction time. Our critique sessions go faster and are more relaxed. Smaller groups are easier and quicker to seat in busy restaurants and smaller groups also allow for quainter independently owned accommodations.

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DeYoung Photo Workshops, LLC