The location of our tour will be directly affected by the proposed Pebble Mine, which is a massive open pit mine intended to extract copper, gold, and molybdenum at the headwaters of pristine Bristol Bay. If fully built, the mine would produce up to 10.2 billion tons of toxic waste that would remain on the site forever. Because of its size, geochemistry, and location, those toxins threaten the entire watershed, including one of the largest wild sockeye salmon runs on Earth.
Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency resumed work to establish permanent protections for the Bristol Bay watershed and reopen the 404(c) “veto” process. While this brings the region one step closer to stopping Pebble Mine from poisoning the watershed, work remains to ensure the job gets finished and the lands and waters are protected for good.
Stop Pebble Mine Now is an initiative sponsored by the Bristol Bay Defense Fund — a coalition of business, tribal, nonprofit, and community organizations dedicated to protecting Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine. As part of this tour, we are excited to be donating to their important conservation work.
When you come on this tour, two things will happen. First, you perception of bears will change forever. Second, all other bear photography opportunities will not seem the same. The close access we are afforded in Katmai opens the door to so many compositional opportunities. Tight portraits, environmental shots, fishing behavior, amazing light, mother and cubs, big dominant males, play fighting, it’s all possible.
August is the best time at our location because it coincides with the annual sockeye salmon run, where the creeks glow bright red from the schools of salmon passing through. The salmon is what draws the bears who are preoccupied with eating as many calories as possible before the harsh winter months.
The bears are tolerant of humans from decades of benign interactions. In this environment, we give the bears right of passage and we are rewarded by being accepted as an observer into their amazing world.
Our typical day starts shortly after sunrise. After quick coffee and breakfast, we will grab a packed lunch and head out in the boat in search of spirit bears. Once we arrive at one of the various landing spots, we will hike about 10-15min to the prime spirit bear fishing locations, though we may encounter a spirit bear at any time.
We will be out all day until sunset. This schedule ensures we are maximizing our time in the field for photographing spirit bears. Patience is required and is necessary for spirit bear photography. Sightings may last from only a few minutes to several hours. While we wait, we can often photograph black bears fishing for salmon.
Since we will be on foot in the rainforest, sturdy rain gear and rain coverings for your camera equipment are a must. It will worth it a million times over once we see a spirit bear emerge from the forest right in front of us. Once sunset arrives, we will walk back to the boat and make the journey back to Hartley Bay for a warm hearty dinner.
We want help you to become a better photographer. And to do so, we’re going to go the extra mile. Before the tour, we will have 3 hour long one-on-one sessions with you to understand your shooting style, discuss topics of interest (such as field techniques, composition, post-processing), and provide guidance to help you grow as a photographer and storyteller.
During the tour, we will have optional image review sessions so that we critique our images and thereby make necessary adjustments while we’re in the field.
After the tour, there will be 3 more hour long one-on-one sessions to help you choose and edit your favorite images from the tour, and discuss other topics of interest. We will also organize a Zoom group event so each of us can present our favorite images and share stories.
Our policy is simple: ask us anything at anytime about gear, technique, strategy, composition, post-processing and beyond. We are here to help you!
The tour departs from King Salmon, Alaska, United States. You must arrive in King Salmon by August 7th.
How many brown bears will I see?
Wildlife is unpredictable, BUT this location is reliable for seeing brown bears in close proximity. At this time of year, we would expect to see at least 10 different brown bears per day. On our last visit, we counted 30 different bears on one special day. Of course, volume does not equate to great photography opportunities. And we are lucky because in this location we can usually spend time with individual bears and get to know their personalities.
What other wildlife can we see?
We will definitely see salmon, lots of salmon! We will also see gulls and we may see ptarmigans, and if we’re really lucky, caribou and wolves.
How wet will it be?
Alaska summers are known for rain. It could rain most of the tour or for only a day or two. Either way, assume that there will be rain and prepare for it!
What focal range do you recommend?
For this location, every focal range is a great focal range. It depends on your shooting style. Most of my shots were taken with a 70-200mm. But I also used my wide angle and super telephoto at lot too. It’s best to have a variety of focal lengths at your disposal so you are ready for all scenarios!
Can I bring a tripod?
Absolutely. You will just need to carry it with you :-)
What's the bathroom situation?
There is a bathroom with hot showers in each cabin. But once we are out in the wilderness, we will leave these comforts behind.
What's the food situation?
There are a few restaurants in King Salmon and I recommend packing lots of snacks for our days in the field.
What's the cell coverage like?
None. I don’t believe there’s cell reception in King Salmon, though your phone may be able to pick it up through roaming. There is WiFI however that will allow us to stay up-to-date with the outside world, if you choose :-) Once we’re in Katmai, there’s no cell reception. My Garmin inReach will allow us to communicate with the pilot and trigger help in case of emergency.
Send us an email and we’ll be happy to arrange a time to chat through everything with you and answer any questions you may have.
- All guiding
- Photography instruction
- Flights from King Salmon
- Insurance (required)
We value our guests, so everyone who travels with the Wildlife Collective will automatically receive a 5 percent discount on all subsequent tours. It’s our way of saying thank you for your support!
All of our tours have a conservation focus. We will learn about the challenges facing our primary subject and ongoing conservation work. Plus, every tour makes a donation to a conservation partner.
We take you to the world’s most amazing wilderness destinations, which were chosen based on our ability to offer our guests the ultimate wildlife photography experience.
Every tour includes photography sessions before, during, and after the tour. With our hands on learning, you are going to leave our tours as a better photographer. Ask us anything at anytime!
We will never exceed 8 clients per instructor, and in most tours, the ratio will be even smaller. This ensures that you get the personalized attention that you deserve on our tours.
We work with the world’s best wildlife guides, who also happen to be our good friends. They are experienced, keep us safe, and put us in the best possible position to create a compelling image.