Alaska is the dream for many a wildlife and landscape photographer. This is a country of such astounding natural beauty which is made all the more enticing by the frequently harsh climate conditions, making many parts of it almost inaccessible at certain times of year. Few other places in the world offer such a wealth of photographic opportunities, and whether you’re a professional or an amateur, if you holiday here you’ll need to bring more than a few memory cards for your camera.
If you’re a first-timer to Alaska, here are some locations you definitely won’t want to miss if you want to catch a memorable shot.
In the Katmai National Park in the south of the country, Brooks Falls has a special viewing platform set up, because so many people are after that iconic shot of brown Kodiak bears fishing for salmon as they swim upstream. Catching one just as the jaws clamp closed is a measure of luck as much as skill.
Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes
Katmai is also home to seven active volcanos, one of which, Novarupta, erupted in 1912, the largest eruption in the 20th century. It created the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, where you can see colourful clouds of dense ash drifting along, as well as great cracks cleaved into the earth’s surface.
Captain Cook State Park
Visit the beach here from May onwards and you may catch a sight of Beluga whales, as they arrive to feed. Keep your finger on the button as you try to catch one breaching the waves.
Walk along this 17-mile glacier that begins at Bagley icefield during the summer months. As the snow starts gradually melting in the bright sun, tiny holes become gaping-mouthed caves. Pointing your lens down there is akin to staring into the bowels of the earth.
Turnagain Arm Drive
Part of the legendary Seward Highway, this is reputed to be one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Mountains, waterfalls and many scenic coves are everywhere - there are plenty of places to pull over and grab a few shots on this 45-minute drive.
In the south-east of Alaska, this is a huge body of water, usually navigated by cruise ship. Stay on the deck, and you’ll witness gigantic floating blocks of ice that dwarf your ship, as well as porpoises and bald eagles plus, if you’re lucky, orcas.
The mysterious and entrancing Northern Lights are visible in Alaska from September to April, when the skies are clearest and the weather mildest. Most weeks will offer several good opportunities, and your best spot is around Fairbanks.
Cruising around the Kenai Fjords is another fantastic chance to snap majestic icebergs, as well as whales and sealions, in a landscape of such beauty it defies words.
Denali National Park
One of Alaska’s most prominent destinations for Alaska holidays, Denali is home to Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in North America. On a clear day you can get incredible views of it’s icy summit, but if not then there is abundant flora and fauna to capture your attention and viewfinder elsewhere.
Ice-fishing is a traditional Eskimo pursuit that many visitors like to try out for themselves. The northern Bering Sea coast is where you will find Inuits who spend hours at a time crouched over a hole in the ice, and will be happy to pose for a picture, or help you catch your dinner.
As you would anywhere, it’s always polite to request permission before taking anyone’s picture. Alaska has some of the planet’s most diverse, and also dangerous, wildlife. When out with your camera, always be aware of your proximity to the subject and take appropriate precautions.
A big fan of amateur photography holidays, Rob has undertaken tours of Alaska, Kenya and the Amalfi Coast in recent years.