Kamchatka: Diverse Wildlife and Volcanic Landscapes

Kamchatka is a bucket-list dream for many photographers—a magical corner of a far away country. The earth is hot with the breath of dormant volcanoes and hot springs spouting from under foot. We invite you to visit this amazing region at the end of summer, when nature spreads a lavish carpet of gold and crimson, and the rapid rivers are filled with salmon going upstream to spawn.

The workshop is designed for us to see and photograph the two most impressive features of Kamchatka: the active volcano Mutnovsky with its ice caves and geothermal features, and the world-famous Kuril lake. Here, dozens of bears are beginning to gorge on salmon, putting on weight for the winter, You will never forget this trip, with twelve days of the most unreal, fantastic adventure that you could experience.

The trip is an expedition, which means that most of the time we’re going to travel by off-road vehicles and stay in a field camp. This will allow us to be close to the areas we want to photograph, and experience the severity and beauty of the landscape and wildlife of Kamchatka. At the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the itinerary there will be stops in the hotel, in the centre of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Throughout the whole journey, we are going to move on six-wheel all-terrain vehicles, either Kamaz or Zil. This workshop will suit the active and adventurous traveler. We’ll climb several volcanoes during the trip, although all the hikes are easy to moderately strenuous, with no special climbing gear involved. The tour involves a mix of hotel stays, camping, off-road driving, and trekking, with an average elevation of 1,200m above sea level.

This workshop is not for everyone! You must have an absolute love for not just photographing the outdoors, but being in it, hiking in it, and yes, sleeping in it! Kamchatka has no real road system, so we‘ll travel in a 6-wheel drive truck called a Kamaz. Roads can be very bumpy, and two of our rides are 10–12 hours long, with another two that are half of that. In between, we'll travel by giant helicopter. Hiking? There's plenty of it, with hikes on two of our days of 10 and 12 km. Most other hikes are short, 1-2 km. But you must be able to handle uneven ground and remote, sometimes rough, conditions. And you‘ll need to be able to carry your photo gear on these hikes. Average elevation is 1,200 meters above sea level. Anyone in moderate physical shape with the right mental attitude about this workshop will have a great time! We have a mix of camping in tents and lodgings in hotels. We will travel with our own private chef, photo guide, translator, and at times, armed ranger. 

Are you ready to join us? Read on...

Location:

Kamchatka, Russia

Tuition:

$12,995

Dates:

August 30–September 14, 2020

Fitness Level:

Moderate
Plenty of hiking and walking on uneven ground, hikes up to 3–5 kms with photo gear, clothing, water for the day

Availability:

Open for Registration
Limited to 8 Guests

Juan was a great teacher, always supportive, very knowledgeable, funny and talented. He paid close attention to all students and met our various experience levels. As one of the less experienced people in the group, I never once felt out of place or disregarded. Thanks for a great experience.
— Kathy Martin, Acadia ’15, Yukon Northern Lights ’16, Norway ’17, Greenland ’17, Antarctica ’17 Patagonia, ‘17
Vladimir was our photographic guide at Lake Baikal in March 2017. We were very lucky to have Vladimir as our guide, he has excellent local knowledge of the best photographic spots and also the right timing to catch the best light. His critiques and image reviews were great!
— Dr. Boon Hong Seto

Itinerary and General Information

August 30, 2020: Arrive Petropavlovsk, Russia (PKC airport code) anytime before 4:00 PM this day. Transfer to hotel. We meet for dinner and talk about the two weeks of adventure ahead.

August 31–September 3, 2020: Our first main location aim is the Tolbachik area. We have a long day’s drive of 12–13 hours from Petropavlovsk to our Tolbachik campsite. Tolbalchik’s eruptive history stretches back thousands of years, but the most notable eruption occurred in 1975, commonly known as "The Great Tolbachik Fissure Eruption”. It was preceded by an earthquake swarm, which led to a successful prediction of the eruption by scientists from the Russian Institute of Volcanology. The eruption created several new cinder cones, and in terms of volume of lava emitted, was Kamchatka's largest basaltic eruption in historic times. There have been major eruptions as recent as 2012. Here we will spend two days camping near our photo targets, the impressive landscapes panoramas of Tolbachik and lava fields. Expect to shoot them at sunrise and sunset and as much in-between as possible!

September 3, 2020: We’ll start early with our long day’s drive from Tolbachik back to Petropavlovsk, where we’ll have a much-deserved night in the hotel.

September 4, 2020: Today is a day in the city, with a visit to the Voclano Mueseum, a short city tour, and our signature image reviews, critique, and post-processing session.

September 5–7, 2020: During the next part of our expedition we will visit Mutnovsky and Gorley Volcanos. To this day a visit to the Mutnovsky volcano crater evokes tremor and the feeling of unpredictability. And rightly so, as it is one of the most active and unsteady volcanos of Kamchatka. We have a 5km hike to the crater. The ascension is along the snowbound path amidst the breathtaking landscapes and boiling mud pools with sulfur steam bursting from under earth. The photographic possibilities are endless, and we will work closely with you to get the best landscape shots of the crater, the geothermal areas, and the ice caves.

Note: It is important to know and remember that the ice caves may be not available to us if weather conditions are unfavorable.

September 7, 2020: Transfer back to Petropavlovsk.

September 8–11, 2020: With an MI-8 Helicopter ride from Petrovlovsk to Kurilskoe Lake, we are at the lake for the next few days. The Kamchatka Peninsula's volcanic terrain is a product of a rapid geological past, when it was plunged in and out of the ocean. The seismic activity is still present with 800 earthquakes registered every year, and 30 volcanoes (300 in total) sometimes remind everyone of their active lifestyle with powerful (and not so powerful) eruptions.

One of the craters of the long-extinct Kamchatka volcano (caldera) is filled with picturesque Kurile Lake. At 77 square km it is the second largest freshwater lake in Kamchatka. Kurilskoe Lake is known as one of Europe's largest locations for Pacific salmon spawning. Many rivers and streams fall into the lake, but only one river flows out of it—the Ozernaya River. The water practically boils when fish are going up against the current. Salmon population varies from 2 million to 6 million! Another unique feature of Kurile Lake is the long salmon spawning period, which goes from from June to March. Both factors attract many brown bears to the lakeshore. Under normal conditions bears avoid each other, but during salmon spawning period they group together. One can observe up to 20 bears near the lake simultaneously: they are so preoccupied with fishing that they ignore not only other bears, but also humans.

We will train our lenses on the majesty of Kurilskoe Lake and the wildlife that inhabits. You can expect to photograph bears hunting, swimming, and playing. We will work to get you in the best position making the best use of the light, scene, and subjects.

September 11, 2020: Today we transfer by MI-8 helicopter back to Petropavlovsk, and we have a night in our hotel.

September 12, 2020: We are in Petropavlovsk. We will have two long sessions doing image reviews, critique, and post-processing.

September 13, 2020: Today we spend the day at sea, boating on Russkaya Bay, in search of bird and marine wildlife to photograph. Cormorant, auklet, guillemot, kittiwake, puffins, and even Seller’s sea eagle are possibilities in the air. In the sea we hope to find whales, seals, sea lions. We’re back at our hotel in Petropavlovsk for a farewell dinner, and to celebrate an amazing photographic expedition.

September 14, 2020: Departures from Petropavlovsk (PKC airport code) anytime this day.

What To Bring

Please see our What to Bring page now for guidelines on packing. Approximately 90 days before your workshop, you will be sent a PDF with more specific instructions.

What’s Included

  • Double occupancy lodging (single available, just ask)

  • All meals and transportation during the workshop

  • All permits and park fees

  • Photographic guiding and instruction from Juan Pons

  • Image reviews and post-processing instruction

  • Adventure, fun, inspiration, and a great time!

Whats Not Included?

Air travel from your home to Petropavlovsk, Russia (PKC airport code), and back. Passport and visa fees (you will need a Russian Visa, we will advise how to get this). Any meals and accommodations before or after the workshop dates. Medical Evacuation Insurance (required). Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended). Sleeping bag, liner, and sleeping pad. Items of a personal nature. Alcoholic beverages. Anything not specifically listed as included.

Payment Terms

Your non-refundable deposit of $4,000 will hold your place on this workshop. Further non-refundable payment of $4,000 is due on December 1, 2019. Final non-refundable balance payment is due by May 1, 2020. All payments are non-refundable and this is why we recommend comprehensive travel insurance including trip cancelation. All of our other standard terms and conditions apply.

Additional Information

If you're ready for beautiful volcanic landscapes, close-up wildlife photography, and an amazing travel experience, click the "Sign Me Up!" button now and reserve your spot. This workshop is only for eight guests maximum and it will fill up fast!