Photographing Alaska: Tips on How to Photograph in Alaska
written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 6/17/2010
Alaska is beautiful, and you really want to capture that beauty. But, how? Well, here are some tips on how to photograph in Alaska.
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The State of Alaska has wonders at nearly every turn. So, whether you are a seasoned photographer or a passionate amateur, you’re bound to find something that is worthy of having its picture taken. But, there’s more to Alaskan photography than simply stepping out of your hotel or RV and snapping a picture.
For example, if you only have a week’s worth of vacation time, where should you go? Do you want to take pictures of animals, or focus mostly on scenery and landscape photography? So, you need to give some forethought to your trip.
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Where Do You Want to Go?
Two places that are known for their varied landscapes include Kenai Fjords National Park and Denali National Park. Denali National Park is home to Mount McKinley, North America’s tallest peak, and it has over 600 species of flowering plants and a variety of mammals, birds, and fish. The mixture of the tundra and the Taiga forests will give photographers plenty of scenery to capture photographs.
The Kenai Fjords National Park is located on the coast allowing photographers to capture glaciers and mountain reflections in the waters. Plus, the area is home to a variety of mammals and seabirds, including the multi-colored beaked Horned Puffin. Orcas are also a common sight in these environments. If you catch this area during the summer, blooming wildflowers will contrast with the deep blue of the waterways.
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Practice Makes Perfect
If you’re an amateur photographer, practice taking photographs on short trips to get a feel for your camera, how to properly zoom in and out, and how to best capture wildlife photographs.
Also, do your research before you ever leave the house. If you are planning to head to a particular location, check out photos that other photographers have taken of the area. Alaska is a wide expanse of wilderness; you don’t want to be spending all of your time trying to figure out where you should photograph.
Take pictures as often as possible. If you are photographing animals, place your camera on the continuous shooting setting, especially if you are trying to photograph something like an eagle in flight. Avoid the flash with wildlife. You may spook them, and the flash will wash the animal out. Try to use as much natural lighting as possible, and there should be quite a bit during the summer.
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Take a Hike
Carry a monopod as opposed to a tripod. You will be hiking, and you don’t want to worry about lugging a huge tripod. Use a polarizer if the sunlight is too bright, or use a color filter to create vibrant images.
Frame out your pictures. If taking pictures of a wildflower, try to position yourself so that the wildflower is in the foreground, and something interesting is in the background like mountains, lakes or other wildflowers.
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The Northern Lights
For pictures of the iconic Northern Lights, go to Alaska in one of the following months for the most activity: March, April, September or October. Try to avoid moonlight in your photographs as it will make the lights less vivid. Or, use it in the background to illuminate mountains and just create a hint of the lights.
Use your camera’s extended exposure setting to get star and aurora trails. Use a tripod to ensure that you don’t get blur. Set your camera on a high ISO, 800 or higher. Use the manual focus and the bulb mode setting. Use a wide angle lens to capture as much of the sky as possible.
When in these climates, dress warm and try to keep your camera as warm as possible. If not, you could get frost bite, and your camera and equipment could freeze up or even break down. Temperatures can reach nearly 40 below zero during the winter months.