A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to lead a photo tour/workshop with Dr. Mike McNamara and his daughter Shannon in the Wrangell St. Elias Mountains and National Park at Ultima Thule Lodge. Just like the National Park it takes place in, this tour is so very unique because of the variety of terrain we got to photograph, the remote private lodge, and the “Alaska” way of transportation used each day — Super Cub Airplanes with the ability to fly low and slow and make great aerial photos from them. With the large “tundra tires” and extra-light airplane, we could land nearly anywhere, and we did just that.
The Wrangells are simply a photographer’s paradise. There is a plethora of graphic natural patterns to shoot both from on the ground and in the air; it’s quite overwhelming. The enormous, miles-long glaciers and snow-clad mountains are the backdrop that surrounds some of the most unique geologic formations, wild flowers, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and a diverse variety of wildlife — moose, sheep, goats, bear, bison, eagles, and more.
Some of the most fun photography was doing “air-to-air” shots of the planes against the variety of backgrounds. I think one of the best shots is shown here and taken by Mike showing his daughter, Shannon, leaning out the open door of the plane photographing him. I was in the back seat with Shannon.
I’m told that the weather in nearly every valley in the area can be different from the one next to it because of the varied terrain creating micro-climates. With that in mind, we had a very flexible itinerary. Each morning it was decided where we would go that day based on the weather and our desires. We always knew our plan might change with the weather but were confident we could find good subjects in nearly any weather. Shannon and Mike were great students and were making images nearly non-stop.
One slightly rainy day we spent at the historic Kennicott Copper mine and the tiny town of McCarthy. This ghost town mine that began in 1911 has some really great history and was truly a photo-mine for us.
Each evening back at the lodge we downloaded images and compared and critiqued and I gave more instructions on improving aesthetically and technically. The Ultima Thule Lodge food, accommodations (including the wood-fired hot tub and sauna), and company was first rate. I was excited and blessed to have my two friends take this photo tour/workshop.
If you or someone you know may be interested, I’ll be doing this tour again next year, this time in September when the fall colors are blazing. September 6-10, 2015. If there are three or more interested in a trip this year, we can make that happen during September 9-12, 2014.
If you’re into photography and want to hear more about the subject from my perspective, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter here and also consider subscribing to my blog through RSS or some of the other reading platforms found to the upper right hand side of this post, under “subscribe to this blog”.