Polar Bears and Aurora – Barter Island


Your base camp in the Inupiat Village of Kaktovik on Barter Island puts you close to the rich habitat of the polar bear and at the edge of the Arctic Ocean. The barrier island terrain and coastal zone provide a sublimely serene setting for this photo excursion.

Given the wildlife opportunities available, the primary focus of this photo excursion is wildlife, and composition and photo technique will focus on how to successfully capture stunning wildlife images. However, with this starkly beautiful location, there will also be a secondary emphasis on landscape photography, with opportunity for one night of capturing the nighttime landscape and hopefully some aurora borealis. Carl will offer tips on nighttime landscape photography and technique that will round out your instructional experience.

Day One

You should arrive in Fairbanks this afternoon, where you will be provided transportation from the airport to your hotel. We will meet for dinner in the evening to discuss the itinerary and photo opportunities for the days ahead. We will also discuss basic information such as settings, gear, and conditions. Weather permitting, we will head out of town this first night to capture the aurora borealis.

Day Two

This morning, we will ride together over to the check-in counter for Ravn Alaska, a regional airline that will provide our flight to Barter Island. You’ll start the day with an orientation and gear check once at our lodging in Kaktovik, as well as introduction to our guide, Steve Kasklowski, the photographer behind the book The Last Polar Bear. He works with local Inupiat Jack Kayotuk, who operates Akook Arctic Adventures. With their combined knowledge, we will be in good hands for polar bear photo opportunities. With our gear organized, we will head out as a group for four hours of time in a boat to view and photograph the object of our excursion – the magnificent polar bear.

Day Three Through Four

We’ll spend eight hours of our days in a boat admiring these immense and majestic creatures. Approaching by boat allows for unobstructed view of the bears and the landscape. With copious amounts of daylight, we’ll head out in early light, spend hours behind our cameras, and enjoy the silence and solitude of being on the water in the Alaskan Arctic. In the early morning and late evening, Carl will also emphasize landscape photo opportunities when available. And, for one of our nights, we will head out to capture the aurora borealis and the nighttime landscape. Throughout the entire trip, Carl will offer personalized photo instruction to meet your particular skill level.

Most of our field photography will occur between morning light and evening light. We will head out for two four-hour sessions on the boat each day, returning to our lodging for a meal in between outings. Weather will dictate which night we use for our nighttime landscape photography. We will travel in a vehicle together and utilize a guide for the nighttime part of this photo adventure. It is important that we always travel and photograph as a group for safety reasons, as the polar bears are roaming freely in the vicinity of the village. In the evenings, we will conduct a review of photos taken during the day to help skill development during the workshop.

Day Five

We will have one last morning photographing the polar bears, spending about four hours out in the boat. With the memories of this amazing journey fresh in our minds, we will gather our gear and head back for our flight to Fairbanks. After we check in to our own hotels and enjoy showers, we will meet up for a celebratory dinner, take some time to share captured photos and stories, and allow the satisfaction of the experience soak in.

Whats Included:

  • Transportation between Fairbanks and Kaktovik, Alaska
  • Lodging the first night in Fairbanks, and all nights in Kaktovik
  • All meals and snacks up until and including lunch on September 20
  • Guiding and instruction

*Whenever possible we endeavor to follow our itineraries as written. However, on occasion our trips deviate from the written itinerary due to weather conditions, group preference, specific safety considerations, or unforeseeable circumstances; collectively what some have called “The Alaska Factor.” Therefore we suggest that you approach any adventure in Alaska with an open mind.

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Polar Bears and Aurora

September 16-20, 2018


Yes! I want to attend the following tour or workshop(s) with Carl Johnson! I understand that attendance is limited and that my registration will be processed on a first-come, first served-basis. I also acknowledge that, by submitting my registration, I agree to the General Terms and Conditions for tours and workshops. Each tour or workshop includes visiting the locations described in the workshop description plus instructions and handouts on how to complete the photographic skill exercises specific to your tour or workshop(s). Carl will work with you (and with each participant) one-on-one to help you with these exercises and will be available to answer your questions.

Fees related to the guided boat activities will be paid directly to Left Eye Productions, Inc. Contact us to determine how to make payment on that portion of your workshop fees.


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