Intimate Alaskan Brown Bear Photography
September 3–11, 2024
- Our small private ship gets us up close and personal with coastal brown bears.
- Experienced local guides take us by zodiac to places you can’t get to by land.
- We can quickly move to where the bears are.
- Many more photo ops than other land-based Katmai photo trips.
Katmai National Park and Preserve is most widely known for its bears—more than 2,000 of the magnificent creatures are thought to inhabit the area. This is most evident in the summer months when bears (as well as many of the park’s forty or so other species of terrestrial mammal) gather near the coast to feed on a seasonal abundance of salmon. The park also hosts at least 137 species of birds, many using the region as a migratory corridor in spring and summer. Several species of marine mammals, including harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, river otters, and humpback whales, frequent Katmai’s coastline. Belugas, orcas, and gray whales feed along the Shelikof Strait just beyond Katmai’s boundaries. It is an area dense with life and one of the wildest and most unaltered places left on the planet.
To best photograph and explore this wild place, we’ve chartered a private expedition ship with a captain and crew exceptionally well-versed in the region. Functional and well-suited to our photographic purposes, our ship will act as our base and means of transportation around this roadless region. Two Zodiacs will enable us to get up close to our subjects. We’ll be photographing both from the Zodiacs and onshore—but don’t worry, our local guides are experienced and knowledgeable, and the bears are well-fed and relaxed. Unlike other bear viewing areas, there is no hunting here, and plenty of salmon means the bears are very non-confrontational so we can get very close. Don’t try this elsewhere! There may also be opportunities for kayaking.
Your expedition leaders will not only help assure that you are safe and comfortable but also that you come home with some great shots and learn some new photography skills. We will work with you on the finer points of wildlife photography, spending time on the technical and artistic aspects. In addition to instruction in the field, we will make time for our signature Lightroom instruction and image reviews.
Up-close with the brown bears of Katmai National Park
Few wildlife experiences rival being up close with bears during a salmon run in Alaska. Find out why a trip to Katmai is memorable for wildlife photographers.
About the wildlife: This workshop offers significant opportunities for photographing wildlife, and while we do our best to maximize our wildlife encounters—based on past experiences, local knowledge, and the current conditions—we need to impress upon you that the wildlife really is wild and that we don’t control it.
This itinerary is subject to change due to weather, local conditions, and other factors.
September 3, 2024: Arrive today at Kodiak Airport, accessed via regular flights from Anchorage. We’ll gather at our hotel in Kodiak for a welcome dinner.
September 4, 2024: This morning we’ll fly by seaplane to either Geographic Harbor or Kukak Bay, where we will meet our expedition ship, the M/V Dream Catcher. This will be our jumping-off point to the coastal areas of Katmai National Park and Preserve, a 6,395 square-mile wilderness region located on the Alaska Peninsula.
September 4–10, 2024: We’ll be aboard the ship these days, exploring the region’s many inlets, rivers, and bays, looking for wildlife. Our itinerary will vary based on bear activity and sea conditions. Locations we may visit include:
Geographic Harbor. A secure anchorage, Geographic Harbor, is an outlet for numerous salmon streams, and both bears and wolves frequent the area. The outer bay is an excellent location for spotting marine birdlife and even rafts of otters.
Kuliak Bay. Kuliak Bay has deep pools of salmon and a waterfall, often visited by swimming bears.
Hidden Harbor. An outlet for three salmon streams and a popular place for bears working the beaches. Also, an interesting location for fans of geology, as one can spot volcanic ash deposits from the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Hidden Harbor is a short Zodiac ride to Hidden Valley, where bears can be seen fishing in a stream at low tide. Between Hidden Harbor and Kinak Bay, we can stop (conditions permitting) at a small seal colony.
Kukak Bay. Kukak Bay has tidal flat areas where bears & wolves frequently fish the river.
Hallo Bay. The bears work the tidal flats of Hallo Bay for clams, fish the stream for salmon, and graze on the bay’s extensive surrounding grasslands. This is a great place to see sows and cubs. The backside of Ninagiak Island is home to a fairly large puffin colony, and bears sometimes swim out to the island to lay in the grass and hunt for sea otters hauled out on the beach.
September 11, 2024: We’ll disembark the ship early for our seaplane flight back to Kodiak. We’ll have a final image review today, time permitting, and the last group dinner tonight.
September 12, 2024: Flights home from Kodiak Airport can be made at any time today.
Aboard the Dream Catcher
The Dream Catcher possesses a unique blend of comfort and functionality. Her rugged exterior is tough enough for the roughest Alaskan waters, while her interior is cozy enough to make you forget you are in the last frontier.
Your cabin is comfortable but small and basic, providing sleeping quarters and a quiet place aboard the ship. In addition to a lower and upper bunk and storage for personal effects, the rooms have their own toilets and showers. The staterooms also come with several standard outlets for charging your camera, computer, phone, or whatever you bring that may need a charge during your trip. For your comfort, there is a central forced air heating system, individual electric heaters, and portholes in each room.
On the main deck, you find two lounge areas. The forward TV lounge hosts theater seating, a 42" LCD TV, and a 500-plus film library. The stern lounge offers a secluded, relaxing area with a fireplace, a selection of books on Alaska, and a large selection of board games.
Large viewing windows surround the bridge lounge area. A built-in picnic table and a grill for BBQ meals are on the flying bridge. Our chefs will keep you well-fed with wonderful home-cooked meals.
For your convenience, there is a rear-covered deck area and heated deck storage rooms, so no wet gear ever needs to go into your stateroom.
Moderate: You must be able to get in and out of Zodiacs and walk on uneven, wet, boggy, rocky, possibly slippery ground for up to 1/2 mile. You also must be able to cross shallow running streams with assistance.
Arrive Kodiak Airport (ADQ), Kodiak, Alaska before 5:00 PM on September 3, 2024. Flights out can be made anytime on September 12, 2024.
What to Bring
Please see our page How To Prepare For Your Workshop. We will send you a detailed information document 90 days before your workshop. This document will include specifics of where and when to meet, gear and clothing recommendations, and more.
- Double occupancy lodging. Single available for $300 supplement. (Kodiak hotel nights only)
- All meals, soft drinks, and snacks during the workshop
- All permits and park fees
- Internal flights during the workshop
- All transportation during the workshop
- Tips for crew, drivers, and local guides
- Meals and lodging onboard the ship
- Waterproof boots for shore excursions
- Many hours of basic and advanced Lightroom instruction
- Multiple image reviews and post-processing sessions
- Photographic guiding and instruction from 2 pros
- Image reviews and post-processing instruction
- Adventure, fun, inspiration, and a great time!
- Travel to and from Kodiak, Alaska.
- Passport and visa fees (if applicable).
- Any meals or accommodations before or after the workshop dates.
- Items of a personal nature.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Medical Evacuation Insurance (required).
- Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended).
- Anything else specifically not listed as included.
- Single rooming available for $300 supplement. (Kodiak hotel nights only)
- Your non-refundable deposit of $4,995 will hold your space in this workshop.
- Further non-refundable payment of $4,000 is due by February 1, 2024.
- The non-refundable balance is due not later than May 1, 2024.
- In addition to our standard Terms and Conditions, for this workshop all payments are non-refundable, and this is why we recommend comprehensive travel insurance including trip cancelation.
- Need special payment arrangements? No problem, just ask us.
“I have high expectations when joining a Muench workshop and this workshop did not disappoint. The Dream Catcher is a good solid boat with a wonderful, competent and accommodating crew. Your pros care about improving the knowledge base and competency of the workshop participants. It is a very well run and interesting workshop. I highly recommend it.
The workshop surpassed my expectations. The access to the bears was unbelievable. I never expected to be so close to a brown bear with cubs where I had to pull out my phone to get a wide enough angle to get the shot!
The Dream Catcher is comfortable and stable with a personable and overqualified Captain. He gave the best and most inclusive safety briefing I have ever experienced. The food was very tasty and there was a lot of it. Desserts were to die for and snacks were readily available. They fitted us with wading gear, supplied buckets for equipment and to sit on. Well done!
Muench workshop critiques are legendary. There is never a time where I don't learn something new.
I like the communication offered by Muench workshops. It makes me feel that the company is on top of complexities that go into producing a good workshop and it is not just thrown together. I appreciate that you take the time to make a personal phone call to each and everyone of us. It's a good thing. ”