Grizzlies in the Fall

The Great Bears of Katmai. Alaska. You. And Your Camera.


  • 6 nights camping with the bears
  • Small, private group, 5 photographers max
  • All food, camping gear included
  • Reliably up to 60 bears in the area
  • Optimal time of year for bear photography
  • 2 week option available
  • Unsurpassed grizzly bear photography opps
  • Local Alaska licensed and insured guide
  • I've been photographing here, and these bears, for over 15 years
  • There's not another tour like it. Anywhere.

A photo tour to Katmai National Park and Preserve. We’ll be basecamping in remote southwest Alaska. Photographing grizzly bears dawn til dusk for a week. Great times!

This is a photo tour. Not a bear viewing tour. The focus is all about photography. Your photography. The bears are the subject on this tour, a tour that I’m proud to claim as one of the best grizzly bear or brown bear photo tours on the planet.

Bar none.

Grizzly Bears

Katmai National Park is home to some of the largest grizzly bears (or “brown bears” as they’re often called in this region) in the world.

Feeding largely on salmon from some of the richest salmon runs in Alaska the bears are magnificent creatures and there’s no better time to photograph them than in the fall. This trip offers an unsurpassed opportunity to photograph wild grizzly bears in a remote and brilliantly wild setting and promises some simply incredible photographic possibilities.

Bear population density in the area increases dramatically in the fall as food sources concentrate. The bear numbers vary year to year. The bear population here is often over 50 with highs of more than 70 bears in recent years. We’ll have the opportunity to photograph bears of all sizes. Massive 1000 pound boars, tiny young spring cubs. Bears walking, running, fighting, playing, fishing, napping, climbing, swimming, etc, etc.

As fall winds up the bears look better and better. Their coats fill out, the bears fatten up and lose their shaggy, lean summer look. Some males will gain as much as 500lbs in a few short months gorging on rich Sockeye Salmon (also known as red salmon) and Coho Salmon (silver salmon). The vibrant peak fall color of the transitional boreal forest provide a backdrop as photogenic as any. Photography in the fall here simply can’t be beaten.

A Potpourri

There are often various other species of animals in the area, including mink, fox, wolf, lynx, least weasel, occasionally moose, and a variety of birds, including 3 species of gulls, magpie, bald eagle, Common mergansers. Our concentration will be on grizzly bears in the prime time of their yearly cycle.

All you have to worry about is photographing the great bears. Sunup to sundown.

2 More Options

One option is Katmai Bears of Summer. We are adding this trip coming 2020. July 28 Aug 4. Different location, many of the same bears, typically even more fishing activity from the bears, in a wild remote backcountry camp. Special Added 2019 Dates  *We have now added a new trip, to a different but equally exciting location. July 28 – Aug 4, 2020 (space available). This is a great backcountry camping location, with bear chasing Sockeye Salmon. Contact me for details.“>. This trip will fill quickly.

Because this trip is so often full far ahead of schedule, we have another to the Katmai Coast Aug 28 – Sep 3. Similar arrangements but a different location with some fantastic photo opportunities. No fall color, but more fishing activity and a simply stunning location. This trip leaves out of Homer, Alaska. The price is $4500.00 per person.. Please take a look at this tour or contact me directly if you’re interested in this trip.

Note: If camping isn’t your gig, have a look at the Coastal Brown Bear Photo Tour; this is a first class tour with myself, Greg Downing (of Naturescapes), Chuck Keim and his charter boat, Coastal Explorer.

Photo Tour Location

The Katmai area was declared a National Monument in 1918. In 1980 the boundaries were greatly extended and the region declared a National Park and Preserve. At 4.2 million acres Katmai National Park stands as a sizable chunk of land set aside for the preservation of an amazing abundance of wildlife. Sovereign of which is the grand old Grizzly bear.

Katmai National Park and Preserve lies southwest of Anchorage on the Alaskan Peninsula and is arguably the greatest grizzly bear viewing and photography location in the world. The prodigious salmon runs attract and support a grizzly bear population density that is among the highest in the world.

It’s also among the safest places to photograph wild grizzly bears given their plentiful food sources and tolerance of human presence. The bears are generally extremely tolerant of people. This combined with the high bear population density (as many as 70-80 bears in the area) makes it possible to shoot literally thousands of photos in a few short days.

The beauty of a fall trip is that we get the place largely to ourselves. Along with dozens of bears, thousands of salmon, some bald eagles, the odd wolf, gulls, waterfowl, and assorted other wildlife.

Safety

Respect for the subject is absolute.

Your and the bears’ safety is paramount. We maintain a “safety-first” standard at all times. We have a thorough safety talk before the trip and closely adhere to the most current protocols on safe travel in bear country. Safety-first means caution. It means responsibility and it requires an excellent knowledge of the area: the terrain, wildlife, backcountry camping, etc.

Your guide is also a certified Wilderness First Responder.

We make a concerted effort to not harass and/or disturb the wildlife. A smaller group size not only ensures you the photography opportunities you need but also that our group doesn’t bother the bears. We understand the difference between nature photographers and the paparazzi. We will neither approach too closely nor stay too long.

Group Size

By keeping our group size small your trip remains about you and your photographic experience with the bears. Group size is restricted to 4 or 5 people (depending on circumstances). Exceptions will only be considered on a case by case basis.

I think group size is a critical part of the experience and don’t like to see hordes of photographers bunched around a subject, crowding and pushing for photos.

Less is more.

Schedule

In order that we maximize your time in the park you will meet in King Salmon, Alaska and take a charter flight from there to our camp before lunchtime. It is critical you schedule your arrival in King Salmon the day before our trip begins (accommodation not included).

We’ll get a chance to shoot the first afternoon and evening, then have 5 more full days of shooting before our final night in camp. We then have a couple hours to shoot in the morning before a midday charter flight back to King Salmon.

It’s only a little more than a one hour commercial flight from King Salmon to Anchorage so most folks can be back in Anchorage that evening if they wish.

Outfitting

Expeditions Alaska provide high quality, comfortable tents and we will have an electric fence around the campsite. This trip will be outfitted completely. All camping gear will be furnished for you. You need to bring your personal gear (sleeping bag, clothes, etc, of course). We take care of food and shelter and have our own camp cook.

We’ll have solid, secure gear and food caches, plus weather-protected wooden shelters for inside dining in wet weather; even in harsh weather the camping is more than comfortable. If you need assistance with any gear, please don’t hesitate to ask. We also carry a satellite phone, as well as both First Aid and Basic Life Support kits.

Guide & Tour Leader

Carl guiding Alaska.I have over 10 years experience photographing grizzly bears and many trips to Katmai National Park, as well as guiding extended remote wilderness backpacking trips. I work impossibly hard to ensure trip participants have a safe trip and a fantastic experience.

The advantages of being a local Alaska business include knowledge of the place; the relationships of the history, the geography and ecology of the area, promising trip participants a fascinating adventure.

I offer a first rate trip because we keep it small and maintain the utmost respect for the places we visit. This translates to an unforgettable photo tour that I’m more than sure you’ll absolutely love. Read more about me and Expeditions Alaska on the About page.

A Review

“Carl,

I think you have raised the bar for photographing bears with your tour. The experience of being with those magnificent creatures will last a lifetime. Everyday brought new and exciting opportunities, being in the water or on the river bank made it so much better. ….

Mark was fantastic, his meals were varied and delicious with an international flavor. The fresh fruit and vegetables were an added bonus. His meals were timely and he worked very hard at keeping everybody well fed and taken care of. His backwoods knowledge added a great deal to the overall experience.

A fantastic experience that I would highly recommend.

Thanks” — Bob Schlatter, Sunny CA.

Bob shooting bears

The Photography

This trip is perfect for the intermediate to advanced or professional photographer looking for a small group to join for a week of concentrated grizzly bear photography. The photography requires some walking, so being in reasonable shape is important. Special attention is given to capturing unique and creative grizzly bear photos, so we make the extra effort to put ourselves in the best spots to shoot from.

By camping on site, we’re able to be in place to photograph during the best light; this isn’t a vacation and bear viewing trip, but a photography trip. Meals will be scheduled around our photography, ensuring we don’t miss any great light or bear action.

Carrying long telephoto lenses, plus other camera gear, we’ll walk several miles each day. It is hard work – you’ll be tired at the end of a long day and ready for some great hot food and good times by the campfire.

Chest waders are necessary for both safety and optimal photography opportunities. We (and the bears) spend a good deal of time in the water. I’ll provide you with more information regarding clothing choices upon your reservation.

2 camera bodies are optimal and you’ll also want to bring plenty of extra batteries, memory cards (or film), backup storage, warm clothing, rain gear, and a range of lens choices, from wide to telephotos. All that and a bundle of enthusiasm will make your trip a memorable and successful one.

See a whole of of helpful information on the photo tours FAQs page.

Watch A Video

Trip FAQs

  • An impossible question. Some days we might walk 5 or 6 miles, other days we might walk 1. Rarely would we cover more ground than this.

    The hiking isn’t terribly difficult but can be slow going through forest and over the marshy ground near parts of the river.

  • This one is very difficult to gauge for people. You DO need to be in decent shape and be comfortable carrying your gear.

    You must have no mobility issues and be fine hiking several miles per day, as well wading (at times) in a river. It’s not terribly difficult but it’s also not for everyone.

    We do this every day, and at times twice a day. So don’t overestimate your ability. I have other similar trips that are a great option for those folks who might not be up for this level of activity.

  • Mosquitoes are generally gone by the end of September. We do have small gnats known as White Socks which can be a pestilence.

    Typically they’re few in number this late in the year, but that varies with the weather and other conditional factors. If you’re bug sensitive, be sure to bring a headnet. I’ve never needed one on this trip in over 15 years. Your mileage may vary.

  • I’m a big believer that you can never have too much focal length for wildlife photography. Big fast glass is still premium factor for wildlife photography.

    My lens of choice is a 500mm F4 on a full-frame body, or a 80-400mm zoom on a crop favor body.

    Bring a teleconverter.

  • We adhere to best and current practices and protocols for bear viewing and bear photography. Katmai NP has long established regulations on bear viewing, and we stick to those at all times.

    Move slowly and quietly, stick together in our group, maintain your situational awareness at all times, do not approach the animals and respect their body language.

    Listen to your guide.

  • Yes. It’s limited availability, but yes. Best practice is to attempt to bring enough battery power to last you the duration of your trip.

  • This is Alaska. End of September. The temperature can be down in the mid-high teens, or 60˚ F. it can rain, snow, hail, blow hard, or be calm and sunny and tranquil.

  • No. The two weeks are adjacent. I can’t think of a place in the world where one particular weeks reliably “better” than either the preceding or following week. It doesn’t work like that.

    We’ve had great weather, great bear activity and great fun both weeks. We’ve also had slow times, drizzly cold spells and less fun on either week as well.

    If one week were reliably awful, I’d no longer go that week and change my schedule.

  • Each guest will have their own tent, unless you’re a couple, etc and have someone you wish to share with.

    Tents are large teepee-style 5 person tents, so they’re spacious and comfortable.

    We use premium Exped insulated sleeping pads which have been a great hit with everyone. They’re awesome.

  • Well, this could be quite a discussion. And it varies somewhat, year to year. Trips change and situations change really a bit more rapdly and frequently than you imagine. But this post will hopefully help clarify some of the differences between each of our brown bear tours a bit.

    I’ll mention each trip and then outline a few of the factors unique to that trip as well as what some of the differences might be:

    Alaska Brown Bears and Coastal Wildlife

    The Brown Bears and Coastal Wildlife Tour is NOT a camping trip.On this tour we stay on board an 80′ boat and are well taken care of by Captain Chuck and his partner Olga. Great people.

    You can charge your batteries, laptop, etc as well as yourself on the comforts of Chuck’s boat.

    We travel stretches of the Katmai Coast, going to shore each day to photograph the bears. We typically go to at least 2 or 3 different bays, but this does depend on weather, conditions, bear activity, etc, etc.

    This trip we also aim to find some other creatures; primarily marine mammals like seals and sea otter, as well as eagles. We’ve had some decent luck with wolves on this tours as well. Superb backgrounds and mountain scenery.

    Hiking and difficulty level is low. This trip works well for most folks, beginners to experienced, and you do not need to be in great shape.

    Departs from and returns to Kodiak, AK.

    Grizzlies in the Fall Tour

    The Grizzlies in the Fall Tour is the most “luxurious of those, with (limied) National Park Service services available, and some infrastructure to help your comfort somewhat. An outhouse, covered shelters, etc. It’s pretty comfortable and easy camping conditions for just about anyone. Being later in the year it is likely to be the cooler of the tours.

    We spend some time in the river, but due recent park service changes and increasing visitation levels we don’t do that as much as we used to.

    This trip works great for instruction and learning photography. Non-hikers and those with mobility concerns will be OK on this trip.

    Great for bear portraits, cubs and great big fat bears.

    Yes you can recharge you camera gear.

    Excellent for camera and photography instruction and more of a workshop today.

    Departs from and returns to King Salmon, AK.

    Grizzlies in the Mist

    The Grizzlies in the Mist Tour is as remote as remote gets, no infrastrcuture or services or facilities of any kind. Camping is primitive, not designated sites or anything. No outhouse, etc.

    Photography is excellent. Shallow waters, smaller creeks and hungry bears combined with abundant spawning salmon equal excellent photo opportunities for bears chasing salmon. Very, very few people or plane traffic. Incredible mountain backdrops. Have had some luck with wolves on this trip, but not something I specifically promote it for. They’re a treat that appears as they choose.

    Hiking is easy-moderate.

    Coastal Alaska can be wet, and it can be cold; we’ve had frosts at least twice here.

    You have to be battery power independent.

    Departs from and returns to Homer, AK.

    Brown Bears of Summer

    The Bears of Summer TourGeneral Brown bear photo tours

    All these tours are in Katmai National Park. None of them involve backpacking with camping gear. All can be buggy, but generally none of them are even what I would call “moderate” for bugs. Everything’s relative though.

    There’s no way this kind of short post can answer al yoru questions, but hopefully this outlines most of the significant differences between each of these brown bear photo tours.

  • I’m a guide. I guide trips for a living. I guide and lead trips for a living with nearly 15 years experience running my own guiding business. I’m a photo tour leader, not simply a photographer. Those are 2 very different things and my experience guiding and trip leadership set what I do apart from many of the other photo tour operators.

    — I live here in Alaska. I think one of the most important facets in putting together a photo tour is not simply how well you plan things out but how well you’re able to respond to what you didn’t plan out. In other words what resources do you have available for your plan B, C & D when plan A fails. And as nature photographers we all know how easy it is for plan A to fall by the wayside. The resources here in Alaska available to me to accommodate changing plans, unforeseen circumstances, inclement weather, etc are vastly greater than someone who arrives in Alaska from Florida the day before your tour begins.

    — I have my Alaska State Business Licence, insurance and all necessary Park Service Permits, etc. Be aware that in order for ANY business to operate inside Alaska an Alaska state business license is required. Most operators from outside Alaska who lead tours here don’t maintain a current business license from the State of Alaska or permits from the relevant land management agency (such as Commercial Use Permits from the National Park Service). This will inevitably lead to issues. This might not be a big deal to you but it will be to the insurance company you call should anything go awry on your trip.

    — I’m a Wilderness First Responder. A lot of times in the field here in Alaska you’ll be photographing far from any immediate assistance. If it were me heading out into the field on remote location, I’d want to have some information on what level of first aid assistance is provided and readily accessible. Look at a map and see for yourself how remote a place like Katmai or Lake Clark is.

    — Smaller groups. I keep group size limited to 5 photographers and I think that really makes a big difference to how productive the shoot might be. I see some other bear photo tours out there with 8-10 and even more people all trying to shoot together and getting in each other’s way. Inevitably some people miss out simply because there are too many people all vying for that one special angle or perspective.

    — Environmental concern. I don’t know of a single other photo tour operation that has put both their money and time into conservation of the subjects we shoot here in Alaska. I’m currently organizing a photography contribution, for example, to oppose the development of the proposed Pebble Mine near Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks. Pebble Mine is an extractive development project which presents an immeasurable threat to the bears we all so love to photograph. aga_logo_circle-smaller

    — I’ve also just had my business certified by Adevnture Green Alaska Gold Level Standard (one of only 10 businesses statewide in Alaska to qualify) in environmentally friendly and sustainable travel. Expeditions Alaska is also a member of Sustainable Travel Internation, and contributor to many of Alaska’s most important environmental organizations. For more information read the Treat Lightly – Our Planet page.

    — Location, location, location. I wouldn’t keep returning to these places if I thought I needed to go elsewhere to make good bear photos. I’ve put a lot of time into finding locations that work for photo tours.

    — Experience shooting this subject. I’ve been visiting many of the same locations in Alaska for nearly 15 years now. For example, shooting the same grizzly bears, year in and year out. I photographed those bears for over 10 years before I ever led a photo tour there. I know both the location and the subject extremely well. I see a lot of tour operators coming to Alaska who have spent hardly any time at all shooting these bears, in these locations, a year or 2 at most. In some cases, not even that. If you’re looking at other bear tour operators be sure to ask when was the first time they ever headed over to the Alaska peninsula and photographed these brown bears.

    — Isolation. Part of the joy of nature photography is being out in nature. Many of the trips we run we’re not staying at a lodge surrounded by a dozen other guests and tour operators and other lodges around the corner doing the same thing.

  • Photo Tours include the following.

    * Professional Guide Service: Experience is paramount, as is a friendly, flexible atmosphere for your trip and I go out of my way to bring that to the all tours. Backcountry and wilderness travel in Alaska can be intimidating for a novice and even for some intermediate and experienced folks. A qualified guide service can go a long way to minimizing problems that may come up. Customers returning for seven eight ten consecutive hiking trips with Expeditions Alaska speaks volumes for the value of a good guide. What I offer.

    * Travel and Accommodations: This is trip dependent. Some trips are hotel based, others we camp, or charter a private boat for the trip. Accommodations are included on all trips. You’ll want to see the specific trip you’re considering to see necessary travel logistics and accommodation arrangements.

    * Meals: This is trip dependent. On the grizzly bear tours, and typically on the Alaska Landscapes tour I provide all the food, etc. On the Aurora borealis tour we’ll be in Fairbanks and food is not included in the price. The bald eagle tour similarly so. On the coastal brown bear tour and the polar bear tour food is included in the trip.

    * Safety: Any professional guide service puts safety first. A fully qualified Wilderness First Aid certification, and a satellite available for emergency backcountry service if necessary and a backup messaging device as well.. This is an owner-operated business and all participants can feel confident knowing they’re not getting an intern or inexperienced guide for their trip.

    * Instruction: I’ll be glad to offer any assistance I can with photography instruction in the field. Most of these tours are not sold as “photography workshops”, but we generally spend quite a bit of time working on how we can improve our photography.

    Of course, is you have any questions, do feel free to ask.

    What’s Not Included?

    Expeditions Alaska do not provide the following, unless otherwise specified.

    a) Alcohol.

    b) travel arrangements to Anchorage from outside Alaska.

    c) trip insurance.

    d) guide gratuities.

    e) personal gear, camera gear, etc. But if you need something, give me a holler and we’ll see if we can work that out.

  • Reserving your place on a trip requires a 50% deposit. Deposits are non-refundable. All trips MUST be paid in full 45 days prior to the scheduled departure date.

    If the client cancels on a trip paid in full, 90% of the price can be deferred to another trip within the next 12 months, provided that

    i) Expeditions Alaska is able to fill the spot,
    ii) the trip is full and
    iii) 30 days notice is given.

    If cancellation is within 30 days of the trip, only 75% of the fee can be carried over to a future trip. No refunds are given for cancellations within 14 days of the trip departure.

    Expeditions Alaska reserves the right to cancel and/or modify the itinerary of a trip. You will be refunded your payment in full if Expeditions Alaska cancels your trip.

    If weather or other factors delay or impede your trip, there will be no refund of fees. Expeditions Alaska is not responsible for any other costs incurred by the client as a result of the cancellation. Additional costs incurred through weather delays and itinerary changes are the responsibility of the client.

    Expeditions Alaska strongly recommends you purchase Trip Insurance and will provide you with a list of trip insurance agents/companies.

    * May be Trip dependent. See trip details on each page regarding the terms for the photo tour you are interested in.

  • I know you do. As well you should.

    I recommend starting with the General Trip FAQ page

    More questions? Email me or call me  if you like.

    Upon your reservation I’ll send out a comprehensive trip information packet that covers just about everything and more you might imagine about your trip.

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