An amazing variety of opportunities await photographers in Alaska. Polar bears to puffins, eagles to ermine, glaciers to granite, sunsets to starfish. Subjects and landscapes of limitless variety. Once off the limited road system, however, things get pricey due to air or boat transportation. Here are places to go, separated by ease and cost.
For beginners, or budget minded, Westchester Lagoon and Potter Marsh in Anchorage, and Creamers Field in Fairbanks, offers excellent photographic opportunities for waterfowl and other birds. The Sandhill Crane Festival in August at Creamers is a good bet for flocks of cranes and Canada geese. Denali National Park and Preserve can not be beat for a sampling of Alaskas large mammals and stupendous scenery. Although often crowded, this accessible wilderness is affordable and safe for less-experienced outdoor travelers. The spectacular mountain scenery of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is accessible from the end of the McCarthy Road east of Chitina. Here photographers snap away at mountains, glaciers, and historic mining relics and buildings. Exit Glacier near Seward, in Kenai Fiords National Park, offers up-close views of ice, and sometimes mountain goats and marmots.
For intermediate level photographers, with a broader budget, Pack Creek on Admiralty Island near Juneau, offers up close and personal encounters with brown bears under the guiding hand of a refuge employee. From the covered platform at Anan Creek near Wrangell, photographers snipe at numerous black bears, and an occasional brownie. For birders, the annual spring shorebird migration at Cordova, is a must see destination. Tens of thousands of sandpipers and dunlins congregate on the near-town mudflats. Charter boats out of Juneau, Sitka, Kodiak, and Seward set out on day trip in search of whales and marine mammals. One of Alaskas best, and most reasonably-priced, photos trips is the all-day excursion from Seward into Kenai Fjords National Park. Orcas, sea otters, sea lions, and puffins, may make appearances alongside tidewater glaciers and sea stacks.
For advanced photographers, with outdoor savvy and plenty of cash, the Pribilof Islands offer superb opportunities for close-ups of puffins, seabirds, fur seals and arctic foxes amid lush fields of wildflowers. St George Islands cliffs are the pinnacle of the Bering Sea experience. One of the worlds great wildlife spectacles is the gathering of brown bears at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. The record count of 68 bears congregated along a quarter-mile stretch of river near the falls is unequalled anywhere. Permits to access McNeil are awarded by lottery and are tough to get but the lucky few often run out of film and digital memory before they run out of subjects. For wilderness experts, with generous funds, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuges is the place for wildlife amid un-sullied tundra and mountains, often bathed in the magical light of the midnight sun. Here the sweet light may last hours, not minutes. The tumultuous seas that pound the rugged shores of Round Island in Bristol Bay make access difficult but the islands gathering of walrus, seabirds, and red foxes are worth the effort. Here the day is filled with wind, and often rain, but images of foxes in flowers, and hundreds of bull walrus tusking it out over patches of beach gravel.