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Photography Tips – Bad Weather | Good Photo Ops

Sunset Photo Safari is a 4 Hour Photo Tour That’s Full of Surprises

The Sunset Photo Safari delivers a surprise every time.

The day began with low clouds and flat light, but the ceiling broke late in the afternoon and by early evening, the sky was golden and promising. The Sunset Photo Safari follows a loose route that varies with time of season and conditions, but there are just too many variables such as weather, wildlife, and natural events to make it possible to predict what’s going to happen next. This night was no exception.

Our first stop was a bluff on the Cook Inlet Coast. Commercial jets sometimes line up with the Anchorage International Airport runway here, which are fun for aviation enthusiasts to photograph on approach over coastal waters. But this particular night, air traffic was sparse and going the wrong direction.

Oh well… on to the next stop just 2 minutes down the road. There is a picturesque reflective pond at Point Woronzof that’s a favorite moose browse location. The previous week we’d photographed a cow moose placidly munching aquatic plants while her newborn calf attacked the pond like a kid at a summertime pool party. Sadly, not a moose was in sight.

Next stop, Lake Hood: the busiest floatplane base in the world. Throughout summer, there is almost always some floatplane action. And if conditions are right, opportunity to photograph brightly painted bush planes reflecting on the water. But the light had gone flat again and wind was picking up, ruffling the water and killing any chance of capturing a takeoff or landing, or even reflections.

Moose don’t mind the weather, so we decided to go look for them at Kincaid Park. This stop yielded a few captures of ripe red berries and autumn leaves, but no moose sightings. The sky was becoming even more sullen as we headed to one of our most reliable destinations: McHugh Creek. Nestled in a mountain ravine, this picturesque creek almost always provides the kind of light that allows for slow shutter speeds, even without an ND filter. It’s a great place to capture water cascading over green mossy rocks. We spent a little extra time at McHugh because sunset didn’t look like it was shaping up to be special. So it was only 15 minutes before sundown when we spun northward on Turnagain Arm, with intent to make Glen Alps by twilight.

That’s when it happened. Rounding a curve just south of Potter Marsh, the clouds split, throwing pink and golden god rays across shimmering mudflats and bathing Cook Inlet and Sleeping Lady in luxurious warm light. The best view was from a place we don’t normally stop, but we made it one that night. Descending to the flats and setting up tripods as quickly as possible, we happily savored the final surprise of the day.


A colorful sunset reflects on the mudflats of Turnagain Arm.

Nikon D800 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 1/40 sec | f/9 | ISO 400

Alaska Photo Treks offers photography tours year round.  Sunset Photo Safari operates May- September.  Twilight Photo Tour runs September-April. Departure times for both tours are dependent on sunset, which at this latitude changes dramatically throughout the year. The times for each week are posted on the respective pages for each tour. Cell phone photographers will enjoy the fun, fast-paced InstAlaska Smartphone Photography Tour. Winter months also include the northern lights viewing adventure, Anchorage Aurora Quest. Explore Alaska Photo Treks to learn more about these excellent, instructional day tours and multi-day tours and workshops.


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