Northern Lights – Polar Bears – Landscapes & Wildlife Photo Tour
11 days, all inclusive, $9250 Fairbanks/Fairbanks
- Trip #1, September 28 – October 8, 2017 (Full – with Hugh Rose & Ron Niebrugge)
- Trip #2, October 9 – 19, 2017 (with Hugh Rose)
- Length: 11 Days
- Cost: $9250
- Participants: 8 Maximum
- Destination: Fairbanks – Brooks Range – High Arctic – Brooks Range – Fairbanks
- Physical Requirements: Good to excellent condition.
- Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Difficult.
- Degree of Weather Difficulty: Moderate to Extreme
- Agility: Good (for traveling on uneven terrain in the dark).
- Mental Requirements: A flexible and positive attitude.
- Activities: Photographic forays and short hikes in snow and/or icy conditions, (some in the dark) on uneven tundra and terrain. Getting in and out of boats.
- Photography Skill Level: Beginner to professional.
- Weather Conditions: Windy, cold, snow likely. (-10 to +20 at night on average depending on location)
- Transportation: Vehicle, plane, boat.
- Accommodations: Hotels in Fairbanks and Prudhoe Bay, rustic but comfortable cabins with shared bath facilities in the Brooks Range, and basic but comfortable rooms with shared bath facilities at Waldo Arms hotel in Kaktovik.
- Guides: Hugh Rose, Patrick Endres, Ron Niebrugge
- Instruction: Informal one-on-one in the field and indoor discussions about RAW image processing and review of images taken during field excursions.
- Required Reading:
- Cold Weather Photography (supplied by us)
- How to Photograph the Northern Lights, eBook by Patrick Endres
This trip is all inclusive, you land in Fairbanks and put your wallet away, save for personal gift items. We cover a lot of ground on this journey and the photography is diverse, ranging from a variety of Arctic wildlife and landscapes to the northern lights and polar bears. Although we can’t guarantee anything, our success rate over 15 years on aurora is 90% and 100% with polar bears. Our goal is to safely lead and instruct you in some amazing photography experiences, and share with you the great wonders of the Alaska that we enjoy so much.
Your Guides: Hugh & Ron
We are long time Alaskans, working professional photographers and guides, legally permitted for guiding in the locations we visit, and have extensive experience traveling all over Alaska – specifically the Arctic. We have trekked, photographed and explored Alaska’s Arctic for two decades, and collectively have logged over 170,000 miles driving the Dalton Highway. We have been guiding photo tours throughout the world for more than 20 years, and have been guiding aurora and polar bear tours in Alaska’s Arctic for more than a decade. We live here; we know the place; we know the people; and if you choose to join us, we gladly share our experience and insight about Alaska and the many nuanced details of photographing in this great landscape.
Hugh Rose: Email – 907.388.2554
Hugh Rose has photographed and lived in northern climates most of his life with the latter part of it in Alaska. Compelled by Alaska’s natural beauty, he left a 10-year career in geology to explore and photograph the vast landscapes and wildlife of the north. Both nature and a camera have intrigued Hugh since childhood and he continues to explore and interpret the world’s natural beauty through his photographs.
As a photographer Hugh has spent a significant part of his career photographing in the Arctic and feels that this environment offers some of the most incredible raw beauty in North America. His photographs have appeared in Sierra Club Calendars, NorthernLight Calendars, Denali Wilderness Calendars, National Trade Magazines, Frommer’s Travel Guide, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Outdoor Life, BBC, National Wildlife Federation, and numerous other publications. He was a featured photographer in the acclaimed book “Arctic Wings: Birds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge“.
In 2002 Ron, along with his wife Janine, decided to follow his passion for photography on a full time basis leaving comfortable corporate jobs for the unknown life of a professional photographer. Niebrugge Images, LLC was born and Ron has never looked back. Ron’s images have caught the attention of many and he is pleased to have among his clients such businesses as National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Walt Disney World, Smithsonian, National Park Service, US Forest Service, Sony, Ford and Holland America.
Ron’s images have appeared in many books and publications including Sunset, Alaska Magazine, Audubon, Sierra Club Calendars, Country and Fortune Magazine to name a few. Several years ago Ron decided he wanted to share his passion of photography with others and began offering photo tours and workshops. Over the years this has evolved and Ron now offers tours throughout the US and guides tours for others internationally.
Please sign up on Hugh’s email notification list, which is used to launch booking information.
This tour focuses on the diverse photography opportunities in Alaska’s Arctic that range from macro photography of ice crystals to telephoto photography of wildlife. We cover a lot of geography and topography due to Alaska’s great size, so be prepared and willing to travel long distances in a vehicle.
- Skill sets vary among the participants from beginners to professionals.
- Group size is limited to 8 people
- Two vehicles are used to offer sufficient space for photography.
- Each person has window access.
General photography occurs both from the vehicle as well as taking small forays across the tundra. Polar bear photography occurs from within a vehicle, and depending on weather conditions, from a small boat. We do not engage in extensive hiking but one should be in good shape and mobile enough to easily do the following:
- get around well on uneven and snowy tundra surfaces,
- quickly enter and exit a vehicle,
- straddle the side rail of a boat when entering and exiting,
- navigate dimly lit, uneven surfaces at night when photographing the aurora.
Teaching and Instruction
We provide assistance throughout the trip regarding all aspects of photography. In addition to instruction in the field, there is generally time for small group discussions around a laptop in which we address topics like file management, image processing in Lightroom, proper exposure and other specific questions.
- day 1: Arrive Fairbanks, welcome dinner and orientation
- day 2: Drive north to the Brooks Range
- day 3: Northern lights and Arctic wildlife in the Brooks Range
- day 4: Drive north to Prudhoe Bay and the arctic coastal plains
- day 5-7: Kaktovik and polar bears
- day 8-9: Brooks Range and northern lights
- day 10: Return drive to Fairbanks and farewell dinner
- day 11: Fly home
Included in the Price:
- Airport transfer in Fairbanks, provided by the hotel.
- All accommodations during the 11 day tour.
- All meals from welcome dinner to breakfast on the final day.
- All transportation on the trip including flights within Alaska.
- Boat excursions in Kaktovik for Polar bear photography (weather permitting)
- Bus excursions in Kaktovik for Polar bear photography (weather permitting)
Not Included in the Price:
- Flights to and from Fairbanks to your home in the lower 48.
- Additional days in Fairbanks before or after the trip.
- Money for personal or souvenir items. (Cash is recommended since credit cards are not universally accepted at all our locations. ATM access is available in Fairbanks prior to departure if necessary).
- Weather related itinerary alterations: Travel in remote regions of Alaska can be unpredictable due to weather. Additional fees may apply if we are required to spend extra nights at hotels.
Payment, Reservation & Cancellations:
- After space confirmation, a non-refundable $1000 deposit per person secures booking. Deposits may be made via paypal.
- Following two payments must be paid by check made in US dollars, (Credit cards may be used but merchant account fees will apply)
- March 30th, 1st half
- June 15th, balance
Mail checks to:
620 Yak Road
Fairbanks, Alaska 99709
- Cancellations, excluding the $1000 deposit, subsequent payments are refundable until June 1st. Refunds for cancellations after June 1st are not guaranteed. For this reason, and for medical emergencies, we require trip insurance. If we can fill the space with another booking we will refund the payments (minus small fees for booking changes with our vendors).
- You will be sent a trip confirmation packet a few months before the trip departure date.
Gear, Equipment & Clothing
We will supply a comprehensive PDF that details our recommendations for camera gear and clothing after booking.
Lenses and Tripods
- A telephoto lens in the range of 400-500mm is recommended (in conjunction with a 1.4 and/or 2x converter as necessary). 600mm lenses are very large, heavy and hard to handle quickly, and are generally not recommended unless you are very adept at handling it.
- A wide angle lens with a minimum of 24mm f/2.8 is essential for photographing the aurora.
- Tall tripods and fast (f/2.8 or faster) wide angle lenses (at least 24mm wide) are essential for effective aurora borealis photography.
- Wimberley tripod heads do not work for aurora photography, and due to the more spontaneous nature of the wildlife photography we encounter, a general good ballhead is strongly recommended.
What are the odds of seeing the aurora borealis (and the polar bears for the October trip)?
While we can’t guarantee things beyond our control, this question is best answered by past experience. To date we have about a 90% rate of seeing and photographing the aurora and 100% rate of seeing and photographing the Polar bears. Weather is an inhibiting factor for the aurora since clear skies are required, it is less of a factor for viewing and photographing polar bears. Every year is different, but every trip delivers many outstanding viewing and photographic opportunities.
Which trip should I take, #1 or #2?
- This is a common questions that we receive all the time, and understandably so. There are some general differences between the trips and it mostly comes down to weather. The month of October is a seasonal transition month and the weather changes are variable as the cold of winter begins to move in. For example: Early October has more daylight, is generally warmer, frequently has less snow, and more open water is present. Later October has less daylight, is generally a bit cooler, often has more snow, and rivers and open water can be frozen over. They are both excellent times with slight variations. For some, the phase of the moon may be a deciding factor, for others, they may want open water opportunities for aurora reflections. But there is great variation in the weather overall, so please take this into account.
Do I have to be an experienced photographer?
No. While the trip is geared for photo opportunities and interests, it is not uncommon for one spouse to be more interested in photography, while the other enjoys the scenery and watching the wildlife. This is fine with us. However, a word of caution to the non-photographer: photographers tend to be pretty intense in their pursuits so keep in mind that this is the major focus of the trip.
Lodging and Airport Pickup
- Your hotel accommodations in Fairbanks, located just a mile from the airport, offer pick and drop off service for free.
- Lodging in the Brooks Range is in a very comfortable and rustic log cabin with shared bathrooms. It gets a complete 5 star review on Trip Advisor.
- Lodging in the high Arctic during the polar bear segment includes one night in an industrial hotel (very clean and comfortable) and three nights at a hotel in Kaktovik, which is warm and friendly, with shared bathrooms.
- Keep in mind the Arctic has ever changing weather with temperatures that can swing from below freezing to warm in a matter of hours at this time of year.
- In October, expect daytime temperatures in the 30’s and 20’s (perhaps as high as the 40’s) with nights below freezing, depending on location. Both rain and/or snow are possible, although rain is less likely.
- In March, the temperatures on average are much colder, with possible low temperatures reaching minus 30 degrees. Snow is possible.
Regional Books of interest
- 1) Arctic Village by Bob Marshall – a summary of the community of
Wiseman in the early 1900’s, which specifically mentions the historic
B&B where we will be staying.
- 2) The Brooks Range, the Ultimate Mountains by John Kauffman. It is a good read on the history of the area and
the value of wilderness in the north.
- 3) Two in the Far North by Margaret Murie – Memoirs of a wilderness
advocate with tales of her life in the early pioneer days of Alaska,
namely Fairbanks and scientific exploration in Alaska’s Arctic.
- 4) Ordinary Wolves by Seth Kantner