Photography is seeing?

February 6th, 2023 by Carl D
Backlit brown bear Katmai National Park, Alaska
A backlit brown bear, with a nice halo around the silhouetted body of the bear as it searches for salmon. Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
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Night Time Photography – the Test Shot

January 24th, 2023 by Carl D
Mt. Sanford, Mt. Drum, the Copper River and the Night Sky.
Mt. Sanford, Mt. Drum, the Copper River and the Night Sky. The moon rise to my left threw a nice soft light on the fog over the Copper River Basin. Click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

With a host of people heading north this winter/spring to photograph the aurora, I thought it might be of some interest to talk a little about the process of shooting photography at night; I know a lot of people have little experience with that, and it really can be a challenge at times. Particularly on a cold frozen night in Alaska when the northern lights start going crazy overhead.

So, the first thing I’d suggest, if you haven’t already, is read over my 3 part article on shooting the northern lights. There’s a downloadable PDF at the end of that article you can keep for future reference.

So, now that you’re prepared, consider the moment. It’s dark. It’s cold, maybe minus 20 degrees F; cold enough that your hands start to really feel it after a few minutes. It’s dark. You have a headlamp on, and that gives you a little bit of vision out to maybe 30-50 yards or so. After that, you can’t see too much at all. The aurora starts to fire up, and you want to shoot it.

You can’t see your foreground and composition. Its dark. You don’t even know if the foreground is worth shooting. It’s dark. You can’t walk around all over and use your headlamp to see, because (a) there isn’t time, (b) there are other people trying to shoot, (c) you don’t want to track up all the snow by stomping around in it. So setup your test shots. This is probably the most important part of the process. Set up and do your test shots.

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Sidehilling? What is it?

January 17th, 2023 by Carl D
Sidehilling our way up Harry’s Gulch

What is it?

I’ll tell you what it is.

It’s something we need a new term for.

The word “Sidehilling” just doesn’t really convey what it is. It certainly doesn’t convey how it actually FEELS.

When I talk to people about a trip and I use the word “bushwhacking” , they generally get it. 

It doesn’t sound fun. It doesn’t sound easy. It sounds, to most ears, downright hard.

And it can be.

But sidehilling just doesn’t carry that ominous ring to it.

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We’re headed to Denali

December 21st, 2021 by Carl D
Backpacking in Denali National Park

Hey Folks

Guess where we’re headed in 2022?

Denali National Park Backpacking Trip

That’s right. Good guess.

And we’re stoked about it. Rachel is leading a Guides’ Choice trip to Denali in 2022, because Rachel, a guide, chose to go to Denali. That’s how “Guides’ Choice” trips work. Simple enough.

Our newest trip we’re super excited for: Denali National Park backpacking Check it out.

Wanna come?

Hit me up.



Best Place to Backpack in Alaska?

December 17th, 2021 by Carl D
Backpacking the 7 Pass Route Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.
Backpacking the 7 Pass Route Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Hey Folks,

A favorite topic of mine.

Where do I want to backpack most?

It’s impossible to say. In some ways, I’d simply suggest (and often do) “wherever you happen to have good weather”

And I’ve done more than a small share of backpacking in Alaska. I’ve backpacked in the arctic, walked the shores of the Arctic Ocean, and I’ve backpacked in temperate rain forests of SE Alaska. I’ve also traversed many, many points in between.

I’ve enjoyed them all. Really. I can’t think of any place I didn’t enjoy backpacking the wilderness in Alaska. I’ve had some trips that were harder than others, I’ve had some trips with less than favorable weather, I’ve had some trips that I’d love to have another jaunt at and do a “take two”. But I’ve certainly found positive experiences on all of them.

There’s something about Wrangell-St. Elias National Park that just holds me. That could be the alder of the Chugach mtns, LOL. 

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Photography Tips – Less is More

December 10th, 2021 by Carl D

Camera gear isn’t always your friend

A polar bear in Beaufort Sea, ANWR, Alaska.
Polar Bear Portrait

Hey Folks

We all know this saying, but most of us rarely apply it.

When it comes to camera gear, most of us have WAY too much. I know I do. But I’m trying to shoot with less gear and more consideration to what I want the image to be.

Often I’ll bring one lens on an outing and shoot with that. Or not shoot and simply observe.

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Specialize And Narrow Your Focus

November 9th, 2021 by Carl D

Focus Your Photography

A bull moose in DenalI National Park, on tundra in rich fall colors.
A bull moose and fall colors, DenalI National Park.

Hey Folks

Pick a subject, and work it. A shotgun approach to a trip of trying to shoot lots of different subjects is more likely to just yield a bunch of mediocre images.

Spend time with your subject. The best images typically will take time. Give yourself that opportunity to really make something special happen.

It’s nice to come home with lots of different images of lots of different things, but it’s really nice to come home with really strong images. In my experience that works better when we focus on a subject and work it. Work it some more. And continue to narrow that idea down.

Less really is more.



Correct Layering for Backpacking Trips

October 21st, 2021 by Carl D

Hey Folks,

Layered and ready for hiking in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska.
Rhane layered up in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

I think one of the most commonly misunderstood phrases/ideas in the backcountry is “layering” (along with “if your feet are cold, put a hat on your head”). I’m not about to tell you NOT to layer, but I do want to shed a little light on what all this means.

The single most common ‘mistake’ (I use that term very loosely; it’s far too subjective to be seriously called a mistake) I see people make on their Alaska Backpacking Trip is bringing a whole bunch of  thin to medium layer in the hope of staying warm. Baselayers, polypro layers, lightweight fleece, etc are all great pieces of gear, but you don’t need to swamp your pack down with them. You need, at most, 2.

Rarely, if ever, do I need to hike with more than one layer on my torso;  if it’s super warm, I’ll wear a polypro t-shirt. Generally, though that single layer is almost always a single long-sleeved nylon (tight-weave so it’s bug proof) shirt. You know the generic ‘safari-style’ shirt you find in any outdoor store; dawky looking, button-down, collar. and rolled up sleeves. If it’s raining, I’ll throw a thin, breathable waterproof-breathable shell over my shirt. That’s it.

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Wildlife Photography Tips

October 19th, 2021 by Carl D
Wildlife photography tips from professional photographer and photo tour leader, Carl Donohue and Expeditions Alaska.
It’s all about the light.

How to improve your wildlife photography

Hey Folks

I guess it’s safe to say at this point of my life that I’ve been doing this a long time. For better or worse. 😗

Not just photographing wildlife and studying wildlife photography, but taking folks like yourself out into the field and shooting together. I’ve been guiding wildlife photo tours for nearly two decades now. And I figured it might be a good opportunity to share some tips for budding photographers. Tips based largely on what I see people do, or not do, on our tours.

So I’m starting a little section on my blog that you’re welcome to subscribe to. Every so often I’ll include a short piece on how you might make yourself a better wildlife photographer.

Obviously short brief pieces and tips aren’t designed to turn you into a pro (if such a thing as “Pro wildlife photographer” actually exists any more; a separate conversation worth having at some point).

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Requests and Asking for gear information

October 18th, 2021 by Carl D

Hey Folks,

Supper under a tarp, Denali Natilonal Park backpacking trip, Alaska.
Supper under a tarp, Denali National Park backpacking trip, Alaska.

This is a post you might be able to use regardless what you’re wondering about (we’re all wondering about something, right?). One of the things I see most common when I cruise around the web at different forums, blogs, websites, check my email, etc, etc is requests for information about gear. Whether it be camera gear, ski gear, backpacking gear, rafting gear, paddling gear, biking gear, mountaineering gear, whatever. So many people post requests for information about gear choices without offering much, if any, idea on their intended use.

Backpacking Gear Questions

Example; “I’m looking for a good pair of hiking boots for the winter”. This kind of request is, in most forums, useless. before offering any kind of recommendation at all, I’d need to know more information. A lot more information. What kind of hiking? On trail/off trail? Winter where? Alaska, or Florida? Hiking, as in dayhiking, or backpacking trips? You wanna go backpacking in Denali National Park? Or Gates of the Arctic? And on and on. Without even discussing the nuance of individual fit. style, taste, etc (particularly important with boots), it’s about impossible to really offer any useful information to the request.

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