Denali National Park 2023
Aug. 20–25, 2023
Once in a lifetime opportunity to experience Denali national park without the usual crowds
I’m very happy to have been given the opportunity to bring a small group of photographers out to Camp Denali, one of the most special and unique lodges in our national park system. This will be my fifth trip out there and I just can’t wait to share it with you! Some very prestigious outdoor photographers have been going there for years and reservations are hard to come by.
Camp Denali, founded in 1952, is family owned and operated and is Alaska’s first wilderness lodge to engage in ecotourism. It sits near the tree-line in the Kantishna hills in the heart of the 6-million-acre Denali National Park and is the only lodge with direct views of Denali and the stunning Alaska Range. Camp Denali is more than a lodge, it’s an experience. It’s remote and rustic and exudes an aura of another time. This quote from their website gives you a taste of the exciting immersion in store for you.
“The (small) cabins are hand-crafted, well-appointed, and authentic. Quilts made by our staff adorn the beds, a wood stove provides cozy warmth, and propane lamps light the cabins. A short path leads to a private, meticulously maintained outhouse, and a sink basin inside allows washing up. Drinking water comes from a spigot just outside and may be heated on your cabin’s propane hot plate for a morning coffee or afternoon tea. A three-to seven-minute walk uphill from your cabin leads you to the dining room, a modern shower facility, and our historic lodge with an inviting wood stove, cozy seating, library, and unparalleled views”
Yes, you read that right. “Outhouse” and “walk uphill.” Believe me, the extra effort is worth it!
We’ll be in the park at one of the best times of year possible for photography. Fall colors should be appearing, the tundra bursting with reds, yellows, and oranges. The animals will be at their most glorious with their thick winter coats coming in and their robust state of health after a summer of gorging themselves in preparation of the coming winter. (Think: possible brown bears, moose, Dall sheep, caribou, wolves, fox, lynx, ptarmigan, golden eagle, and more!)
Perhaps the most valuable and unique aspect of this trip—that only Camp Denali can offer—is that our group will have our own private vehicle and highly skilled naturalist guide for photo excursions into the park. Each day the staff and I will determine which area to get out and explore in search of the best the park has to offer.
As excited as I am to be going back to Camp Denali for the photography opportunities, I’m almost as excited to be going back for the fabulous meals. Again, from the Camp Denali website:
“In spite of our remote setting, we cultivate a high standard and commitment to good food. From our greenhouse we gather fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs, as well as edible and decorative flowers. Each day our bakery produces delectable breads, cookies, pastries, and desserts. From the tundra we gather and preserve berries for you to enjoy as jams and syrups.”
Meals are served family style and the lodge varies our seating so that we get to interact with all of the lodge guests that share our time out there. This is an experience to savor.
In addition, the area around the lodge boasts stunning scenery and we’ll have the opportunity to do some short hikes for photos in the area. Camp Denali hosts a special emphasis series and we’ll have the option of listening to Ronn and Marketa Murray discuss their career as northern lights photographers and possibly join them for a night excursion if conditions are favorable. Camp Denali also has canoes on Wonder Lake available.
Those interested will share and critique photos and learn post-processing techniques at the lodge during down time and any weather delays. I’ll be working with each of you all day to help you achieve your best photos.
On the way to the park from Anchorage, we’ll take a leisurely 4-hour drive, stopping for any wildlife or stunning scenes we come across. We’ll also have lunch and a walk in the quirky, very Alaskan town of Talkeetna.
A trip highlight will be our flight into Camp Denali from the park entrance. Weather permitting, we’ll have an extended flightseeing tour through part of the Alaska Range and hopefully a close-up view of Denali herself.
Once at Camp Denali we’ll have four full days of wilderness splendor, great meals, and great company!
We’ll have opportunities to strengthen our skills in landscape, wildlife, macro, action, and hopefully night sky photography.
Due to the exclusive nature of this trip a non-refundable deposit of $2,000 per person is required at registration to hold your spot. If for some reason you need to cancel, every effort will be made to fill your spot and return your deposit. Trip Insurance is highly recommended!!!
Only 2 spots left!
Guests will make their own hotel reservations for tonight. I will make group reservations for dinner for anyone who is interested in meeting up before we depart the next morning.
- Arrive in Alaska!
- Optional pre-trip dinner together
- You book your lodging for tonight
Today the real adventure begins! Wayde will pick you up in our own 15 passenger van at 8 a.m. for a leisurely drive up to our hotel at the entrance to Denali National Park. En route we’ll stop for lunch and a walk through the tiny, funky, town of Talkeetna. We’ll also be on the lookout for wildlife and landscape images throughout the day. Having our own transportation allows us to make stops whenever an opportunity arises. If the light is favorable we may get out for some late evening landscapes that night as well.
- Scenic drive to Talkeetna and the Denali National Park entrance.
- On the lookout for wildlife and landscape photo opportunities
- Lunch and photo walk in Talkeetna
- Lunch in Talkeetna
- McKinley Chalet
Today we will make our way into Denali National Park! Instead of seeing the park from a bus window, you’ll begin your experience in Denali by viewing glaciers, mountains, and tundra lowlands from the air. Weather-permitting, our flight into the park will also include a fly-by of Denali and the Alaska Range. Once at the lodge we’ll check into our cabins and convene in the dinning room for a briefing about our time out in the National Park. Weather permitting we’ll have amazing views of the mountain and capture our first images of Denali in alpenglow.
- Flightseeing in the Alaska Range
- Orientation at Camp Denali
- Your first meal at Camp Denali!
- Possible sunset photography
- Lunch at lodge (weather permitting)
- Dinner at Camp Denali
- Camp Denali cabins
We’ll spend three more full days and nights in Denali National Park! Each day our naturalist guide/driver and I will determine which areas we should get out to and explore. We’ll be in search of wildlife and landscapes and will have the opportunity for macro photography on the tundra. We will take short hikes and have lunches either in the lodge or picnic style out in the elements. No view is more grand!
- Tundra Walks
- Macro Photography
- More amazing meals!
- Camp Dean cabins
After breakfast we’ll take our scenic flight back to the park entrance and our van. We’ll enjoy another leisurely drive back to Anchorage, stopping of course if any new photo opportunities arise. I’ll then deliver you to the airport or the hotel of your choice if you choose to prolong your stay in Alaska.
- Scenic flight to Denali National park entrance
- Scenic drive to Anchorage
- None (I can suggest a hotel for those of you that will be coming on the optional extension.)
I’m offering an extension to photograph fall colors on a scenic drive from Anchorage to Valdez (3 nights). This trip offers incredible landscapes, a chance to get up close and personal with two glaciers, and a boat tour in Prince William Sound in search of marine life and more glaciers.
- Photographic hike on the Matanuska Glacier
- Exploration around the Worthington glacier and the stunning Thompson Pass
- Boat tour in Prince William Sound
- Meals will be at various locations and the responsibility of each traveler.
Note: All activities are weather-dependent; if poor weather keeps us inside, we’ll practice photo editing and post-processing techniques.
*Note: These are recommendations only. Don’t feel you need to buy everything on this list before your trip! Bring the gear you need to take the type of photos you really want.
- Digital SLR or advanced “point and shoot” camera with the ability to shoot in “manual” mode and with a wide angle to telephoto range zoom.
- Plenty of batteries for your camera and flash. Don’t forget to bring your chargers!
- A card reader so you can download images.
- Individual lenses, fixed focal length, or zoom, that give you wide-angle and telephoto possibilities. A good range would be 24mm to 400mm. 500mm and more would be great!
- A macro lens or close-up filter. If you love macro photography there are great opportunities in Alaska.
- Tripod. Please make sure it is made to support the weight of your camera model. Flimsy tripods are useless!
- Rain cover for your camera and camera bag. (Check out Fotosharp and Think Tank Photo covers for example). I often carry a small umbrella as well.
- A lens hood for each lens. This helps keep stray light out as well as rain off the front glass.
- A polarizing filter for each lens diameter. I think all models use “circular polarizers” now but check your lens/camera manual to be sure! (You can also buy a filter for your largest lens diameter and buy “step-down” rings that allow that filter to attach to smaller lens sizes.)
- Your Camera’s manual. A digitial version saves weight and space.
- Cable release, or wireless trigger-for tripod work.
- Plenty of storage cards and batteries. I would bring enough cards to shoot about 1000 images a day just in case. More if you shoot multiple frames per second often.
- Small portable hard drive to store your images on. ( 500 GB)
- Small hand towel to keep in camera bag.
- Lens cleaning solution and cloth.
- Jeweler’s screwdrivers (pack in checked luggage!)
- Dust blower and your preferred way of cleaning your camera sensor.
- Laptop computer (with surge protector) or iPad etc., with your photo manipulation software ie: Photoshop, Lightroom. We will spend time viewing images to make sure we’re all getting results we’re happy with! We’ll work on post-processing when time allows as well.
- 2 or 3 stop graduated neutral density filter with holder and lens mount for each lens size.
- Second camera body as back up
- Dedicated flash unit. This is a flash separate from your camera. The “built-in” flashes in the camera are very limited.
- Project-a-flash/ flash extender
- Small softbox or umbrella for dedicated flash.
- Off-camera flash cord or wireless trigger such as Pocket Wizards. (I love to do portraits/wildflowers with off-camera flash and a small umbrella!)
- Photoflex Litedisc gold/white reflector. 12 inch or 22 inch.
- 1.4 X or 2X Tele-extender (Makes a 200mm a 280mm/400mm for example)
- Binoculars/ spotting scope
- Coming soon.
- Your preferred bug deterrent
The deposit to hold your spot on the tour is non-refundable provided that the tour runs as scheduled. For this reason, we strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance will often cover unexpected trip cancelations, delays, lost luggage reimbursement, and other travel-related expenses that may arise unexpectedly (policies vary). Should the tour itself be canceled for any reason, we will do our very best to refund any deposit amounts that have not already been forwarded to secure airfares or hotel accommodations.
In Alaska, weather varies. We may encounter achingly beautiful, clear skies, a light overcast, heavy rain, or snow. I’ve experienced all in every month of summer. The days will still be wonderfully long, and we could experience all weather phases within a matter of hours. There’s no time of year that guarantees optimal weather, but we’ll make sure to be prepared for any conditions and use any down time constructively!
- Private van transportation to/from Denali
- Lunch in Talkeetna on the drive to Denali
- Snacks and water on the road
- 1 night lodging at McKinley Chalet, Denali
- 1 hour flightseeing trip over the Alaska Range on the way to Camp Denali
- 4 nights lodging at Camp Denali
- All meals once we arrive at Camp Denali
- Return flight from Camp Denali to Denali N.P. entrance
- Professional photography guide, instruction, and reviews
- Experienced naturalist guides at the lodge
- Private transportation to photo locations within Denali N.P.
- Transportation to/from Alaska (ANC-Ted Stevens International Airport)
- Any unplanned excursions or meals of your own choosing
- Alcoholic beverages
- Travel insurance (we HIGHLY recommend travel insurance!)
- Guide gratuities (Any tips are earned and not expected)
- Costs for changes to your itinerary for reasons beyond our control