The word picturesque is often used when it comes to travel, but it is truly synonymous when describing the natural wonders of Alaska. The incredible landscape, skyscraper-sized glaciers, majestic wildlife and seemingly endless wide-open spaces make it the last great frontier and a special place like none other.
It is also a photographer’s paradise. Where else can you snap a brown bear fishing for salmon in the crystal river waters? Or kayak past a pair of 400-foot-tall glaciers? And catch a glimpse of a Humpback Whale from the deck of your cruise?
Whether you are a professional photographer or simply enjoy snapping memories with your smartphone, here are some of the best places to photograph all that Alaska has to offer:
As the home of Denali (Mount McKinley) which has the highest peak in North America, Denali National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations. Boasting four different mountain passes (filled with 90 miles of scenic vistas, rivers and a low elevation taiga forest), the area is ripe with photographic opportunities. It is also one of the best opportunities to photograph grizzly bears, wolves, caribou, moose and Dall sheep in the wild if you are lucky.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve
Accessible by plane, boat or cruise ship, Glacier Bay features 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, rainforest and fjords so there is something for every interest. The impressive glaciers are the real stars here with more than fifty that resemble icy jagged hillsides. Glacier Bay is also the home of wildlife such as sea lions, seals and whales.
Katmai National Park
Named after Mount Katmai, the park is notable for Brooks Falls where you can spot congregations of brown bears fishing for leaping salmon and feeding their young. There is no road to Katmai so travel via boat, plane or air taxi.
Prince William Sound
220 species of birds, 30 species of land mammals and 150 glaciers make Prince William Sound a prime spot for catching a unique shot. Meadows with blooming wildflowers and the spring birding festival make the area very popular in the summer months, as well. With a backdrop of the Chugach Mountain range (the second largest national forest in the United States), the College Fjord and Harriman Fjord are scenic spots to catch both glacier and mountains. Be on the lookout for sea otters, harbor seals and Sitka black-tailed deer waiting for their close-up.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
If you’d like to see animals without the adventure of traveling to a park, visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Located on the Seward Highway in southern Alaska, the center serves as a sanctuary for orphaned and injured animals. Bison, foxes, owls, lynx, bald eagles and reindeer are just a few of the animals you will encounter.
And here are a few key photography tips:
- Travel light so you’re not held back by heavy camera bags.
- Taking photos of animals is best when you get on their level (which can mean everything from lying on the ground to climbing a hill for an elevated view!).
- Work quickly as nature’s finest are often fleeting.
- It’s best to shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon for incredible light.
- If you’re using your smartphone, become friends with the panorama feature which is ideal for the Alaskan landscapes.
- And last but not least, put the camera down and take time to enjoy the scenery!