Polar Bears & Aurora | Barter Island Photo Workshop2020-02-02T15:53:48-09:00

Polar Bear & Aurora Photography Workshop with Carl Johnson | Oct 9-13, 2020

Venture to a coastal zone barrier island that provides a serene setting for this Arctic polar bear photography tour. The primary focus of this photo workshop is composition and photo technique, how to successfully capture stunning wildlife images. Our base camp is in the Inupiat Village of Kaktovik on Barter Island, which is close to the rich habitat of polar bears, and at the edge of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Landscape photography will be a secondary emphasis in this starkly beautiful location. When we return to Fairbanks, Carl will offer tips and techniques on capturing night landscapes to round out your instructional experience.

Day One

Plan to arrive in Fairbanks no later than 5:00 p.m. on October 9. The group will meet for dinner at 7:00 p.m., and then proceed out for an introductory photo shoot of the aurora borealis. We will not be out too late, as we have a morning check-in the next day for our flight to Kaktovik.

Day Two

After breakfast we will take shared transportation to check in at the airport with Ravn Alaska, a regional airline that services Barter Island, where Kaktovik is located. Once at our lodging in Kaktovik, there will be an orientation and gear check. It is there we will meet our polar bear guide, Steve Kasklowski; the photographer behind the book The Last Polar Bear. Afterward, we’ll head out by boat and spend 4 hours at a prime polar bear viewing and photography location.

Days Three & Four

Approximately eight hours per day will be spent admiring these incredible arctic bears from the comfort and safety of a boat. The vessel allows for unobstructed views of the bears and the landscape. Departure will take place at early light, and you’ll spend most of the long daylight hours behind camera, among the silence and solitude of the Beaufort Sea. As time and opportunity allows, we may explore landscape photography opportunities. Throughout the entire trip, Carl will offer personalized photo instruction tailored to your particular skill level.

Most of the field photography will occur between dawn and dusk. There will be two four-hour sessions on the boat each day, one in the morning and one in the evening, with a return to the lodge for meals and potentially short land outings. Safety is the highest priority. It is important that the group travels and stays together, as polar bears roam freely in the vicinity of the village.

During downtime in between boat sessions, we will download images and conduct photo review to go over both field techniques and processing.

Day Five

There will be one last morning to photograph polar bears for about 4 hours from the boat, before gathering gear and assembling for the return flight to Fairbanks.

Whenever possible we endeavor to follow our itineraries as written. However, trips will occasionally deviate from the written itinerary due to weather conditions, group preference, specific safety considerations, or unforeseeable circumstances (collectively what some have called “The Alaska Factor.”) Therefore, we suggest that you approach any Alaska trip with an open mind and an adventurous spirit.

3 cute polar bear cubs on edge of water - polar bear photography tour

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Whats Included

  • Transportation between Fairbanks and Kaktovik, Alaska
  • Lodging for all nights in Kaktovik plus last night in Fairbanks
  • All meals and snacks
  • Guiding and instruction
  • Fees for aurora adventure last night in Fairbanks

Recommended Photography Gear

  • Camera with manual settings
  • Wide angle lens
  • Zoom lens, recommended 200-500 range with 1.4 teleconverter
  • Charged batteries and charger
  • Multiple memory cards
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Remote shutter release

Photography equipment rental available at Stewart’s Photo Shop


This is a moderate activity that involves walking short distances on uneven terrain. It also involves spending several hours a day out in an open boat. Weather conditions may range from snow, rain, wind, and sun, and temperatures from 10°F (-12°C) to 40°F (4°C).


  • Comfortable walking or hiking shoes with good traction and water resistance
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Warm, thick sweater
  • Fleece or other lined jacket
  • Water/windproof outer shell with insulation
  • Warm hat and gloves