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Aperture Academy, how to be a photographer, Photography Workshops
Aperture Academy

Grizzly Bears of Alaska Photography Workshop - August 2014

 Group 1

 Group 2

I've just returned from leading both of the Aperture Academy Grizzly Bears of Alaska Sojourn Workshops in the remote wilds of Lake Clark National Park. What a wonderfully trip it was! This was my first time working with Aperture Academy and I was so impressed with their organization and the high quality level of the clients in each group. I can't remember the last time I've laughed so much and bonded with folks so quickly.

Both groups faced challenging weather conditions (common in Alaska) at times and succeeded brilliantly in capturing amazingly unique images! I think we all felt a sense of pride after photographing wild bears in the middle of heavy rains and winds that drove the precipitation horizontally. These were no fair weather photographers!

Thankfully we did have our fair share of nice weather as well and were able to capture bears and puffins in a nice variety of situations and settings.

Day 1

Both groups made their way out to Lake Clark National Park via small aircraft that take off from Anchorage. The cloud level was around 1500 ft. so the planes stayed below that. The view of the Alaskan landscape from above is incredible and is a special part of the trip. Flying above the braided rivers, waterfalls, tiny villages, and rugged volcanoes, gives one a great appreciation for all Alaska has to offer the nature photographer.

Each group had to deal with some rain and wind on their arrival. It was awesome to see everyone still excited to don the rain gear and get out and search for bears regardless. One bonus was the knowledge that we had a warm cozy fire, coffee, and excellent food waiting for us as a reward!

After braving the elements I gave a presentation on the possibilities that we'd have over the next few days and we talked about various techniques we'd be using as well.

Days 2-3

Over the next two days we spent our time in search of bears- of course! We photographed a mother and her cub digging for clams and frolicking in the surf, the Alpha female swimming across the slough and also nabbing a salmon, a cub climbing a tree, another mother with two cubs taking salmon out of a set net ( the cub trying to drag a salmon across the beach was priceless!), and on the last morning we had the mother and two cubs sleeping on the beach at sunrise.

Both groups had perfect conditions when we went out via boat to photograph puffins. This is one of the highlights of the trip. Not only do we get a scenic boat trip out to the island but we were able to land and photograph right from the beach. To be surrounded by hundreds of horned and tufted puffins bringing fish in for their young or perched on the rocks is truly exciting. Rarely do you get the opportunity to get so close to these elusive birds. Elusive may be an understatement! Capturing these birds in flight is such a fun challenge! I was impressed that everyone came away with sharp action images of puffins in flight. To make the boat trip even more productive and interesting we spent time at a kittiwake rookery that boasted thousands of birds in flight and nesting among some unique geological formations.

At night we were able to spend some quality time looking at each other's images and sharing post-processing techniques. It's exciting to me that you can have seven people photographing in the same locations and still have such a wide variety of images. That's what is so valuable about photography workshops, we're all able to learn from each other and start seeing things in a different light.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the friendly and helpful staff at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. Our guide, Rick, was excellent and tirelessly worked to help us find our subjects. The meals were outrageously good. Many of us were hoping for more bad weather so we could just stay and eat!

Day 4

The saddest part of the trip! After another delicious breakfast it was time to board our charter planes and head back to Anchorage. I truly enjoyed getting to know the people in each group and was sad to say so long so soon.

Until next time,

Wayde and the rest of the Aperture Academy team

If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.


Tara Wilson - August 23rd, 2014 (7:49pm)

GREAT WORKSHOP!! Wayde did an amazing job working with the many different skill levels of photographers in our group! He was up with the sun and stayed up some nights until 2:00 am helping with the processing after a day full of amazing photography. Aperture Academy did an amazing job organizing this workshop and making sure we had everything we needed. Rick our guide from the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge did a great job making sure we saw bears as well as educating us about the area and entertaining us with stories of his own. David and Joanne the owners made us feel welcome from the minute we got there and made us feel like family by the time we left. The executive chef at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge made the best food I have ever eaten, each meal was better than the one before, leaving his food was the hardest part of coming home. I thought the bears would be the highlight of the trip but it turns out the people I met and the fun we had surpassed the bears, I can't wait to go back!!

Jim Schmidt - August 24th, 2014 (2:23pm)

First of all, thank you Wayde and great job. And thanks to the wonderful folks at the Silver Salmon Lodge (guide Rick and owners David and Joanne). I learned a great deal about photographing wildlife under sometimes wet and challenging conditions which was a huge takeaway for me. The expedition to Puffin Island to capture fast moving Puffins in flight (AI Servo Mode on the Canon!) was a great photographic laboratory. I am still going through my photos in Lightroom but there are definitely lots of keepers. Fun group, memorable trip.

Jona Saxby - August 25th, 2014 (2:05pm)

FUN! Our group had a great time from the start. I think we all prayed together a little on the bumpy flight into Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. We warmed up together in the South Beach Lodge. We huddled together in the rain as Rick drove us all over the place looking for bears on our first day. We marveled together at the rainbow over the lodge as we motored towards Puffin Island. We swore together when the puffin darted in and out of our viewfinders. We held our breaths when the first grizzly approached us at the river crossing. We splashed through puddles together to shoot photos of reflections when the darn bears went into hiding. We fought over the delicious honey-roasted chicken prepared by the incredible chef at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. We groaned after a few days worth of Wayde's puns. Some of fished together for the huge silver salmon. We "ooh'd & awe'd" together over Mama Bear & the 2 cubs. Oh yeah, we took lots of good photos together. One cannot ask for more!

Sherry - November 19th, 2014 (3:19pm)

Looks like your groups had fun - where are the bear pictures? When perusing a website for information, actual photos of the subject matter taken on the trip would be nice to see especially since bad weather was involved.

Kevin Noble - March 3rd, 2015 (8:34pm)

This was my 6th or 7th class with Aperture Academy and it was definitely my favorite. I am sure I was the most novice in the group but Wade and my classmates were awesome in sharing their tips and tricks for great shots. As Jona describes above, we certainly had our share of adrenaline filled moments and in the end, those leave some very enduring memories. We have kept in touch and still share our progress. If you love bears, a great set of hosts (Wade/Rick) and great food - this is for you.

For those of you asking for bear pictures, here is a link to my YouTube video with both pictures and video from our class -

hell - May 3rd, 2016 (11:16am)


hell - May 3rd, 2016 (11:16am)


hell - May 3rd, 2016 (11:16am)


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