Go Wild Gallery: Blog https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog en-us (C) Go Wild Gallery [email protected] (Go Wild Gallery) Thu, 18 Nov 2021 19:11:00 GMT Thu, 18 Nov 2021 19:11:00 GMT Where Eagles Soar - Photographing Bald Eagles in Alaska https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/11/where-eagles-soar---photographing-bald-eagles-in-alaska Bald eagle sitting on a tree in Haines, AKBald Eagle on Tree in Haines, AK November 15, 2021A proud bald eagle sits perched on a tree


Every November the largest gathering of Bald Eagles happens at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve near Haines, AK.  Between 1,000-3,000 eagles come together to feast on a late run of salmon.  The eagles draw birders and photographers from around the world to view the spectacle.  Haines even hosts an annual Bald Eagle Festival celebrate the gathering of eagles.

By far the biggest challenge of photographing the eagles is the weather.  It can be bitter cold, snowy, rainy, icy, blustery or all of the above. I recently returned from Haines and cut my trip short because over a three day period it was supposed to receive 10” of snow on day one, snow and rain on day two and highs in the teens on day 3.   

There are essentially two ways to visit Haines: ferry or small plane from Juneau. The ferry is a five hour ride and in the fall leaves Juneau three days a week.  Alaska Sea Planes has several daily flights from Juneau to Haines.  These are small 10 passenger planes and flights are often canceled because of weather.

Several companies offer photography tours of Haines.  Unless you are looking for photography instruction, a tour is not needed to see the eagles.  They tend to congregate on a 3 miles stretch of land that off a major road and there are frequent stops to view the eagles. 

At the bottom of the post is a quick video to give you a better feel for the location and the shooting conditions.   

Eagle Photographers November 2021 in Haines AKEagle Photographers November 14, 2021 -09208Photographers stand on the river banks in Haines AK

Tips on going to Haines, AK

  • Haines is a small town and many businesses shut down in the winter.  There are several hotels to select from, but no major car renal companies.  The Captain’s Choice Hotel rents all wheel drive Subarus for around $75 a day.  I stayed at the hotel and rented a car from them and it was simple. 
  • There is no cell phone service where you view the eagles.  Signal is lost about 10 miles out of town.
  • Most restaurants are closed, but there is a health food market and an IGA supermarket in town.

Bald Eagle Haines AlaskaBald eagles comes in for a landing in Haines, AKBald eagles comes in for a landing in Haines, AK

Eagle Photography Tips

  • Because of the lack of daylight, there is a small window to photograph the eagles.  If the sun is out there tends to be decent light from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.   
  • Bring as long a lens as you have.  The Eagles tend to be 50’ away or more. You can consider using a teleconverter, but because there is a need for fast shutter speed you will have to balance with a high ISO.
  • Be prepared to have bad / off days because of weather.  I would plan on spending 5 days in Haines and hope that you see the sun on 2 of the 5 days. Below is this week’s weather (Nov 18, 2021) and as you can see not much sun.
  • Photographing in snow has unique challenges: Autofocus systems don’t like to focus on snow (but they should do a better job on the eagles); gray skies and fog mean you need a higher ISO for motion capture so consider using shutter priority with auto ISO; and you will be cold and wet so pack appropriately for both yourself and your gear.   
  • Have a spotter.  Eagles will tend to fly in and out quickly.  Having a friend spot when birds are coming into an area is helpful.  You may be with groups of other photographers and someone may shout out “coming in from the left” etc. It helps.

Haines AK WeatherHaines AK WeatherHaines AK Weather

A young eagle takes off in Haines AKA young eagle takes off A young eagle takes off in Haines AK

Quick video on photographing the eagles:



[email protected] (Go Wild Gallery) Alaska bald eagles camera eagles lens Photography tips travel wildlife photography https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/11/where-eagles-soar---photographing-bald-eagles-in-alaska Thu, 18 Nov 2021 19:00:37 GMT
Is the Sony 600mm F4 GM Lens worth more than $15,000? https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/is-the-sony-600mm-f4-gm-lens-worth-more-than-15-000 The Sony G Master 600 mm F4 lens is more than $15,000.  For the same price you could purchase a new Sony A1 camera body, along with the 24-70, 70-200 and 200-600 G Master lenses.  Is the lens worth the investment?  I recently spent three months in Africa shooting on the 600 mm and this video will provide my thoughts and insight on purchasing the lens.


Sony 600 mm F4 Lens Review

[email protected] (Go Wild Gallery) 600 mm 600mm camera F4 G Master lens sony wildlife photography zoom https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/is-the-sony-600mm-f4-gm-lens-worth-more-than-15-000 Wed, 27 Oct 2021 17:29:31 GMT
What is like on a wildlife photo safari https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/what-is-like-on-a-wildlife-photo-safari This video will give you a quick preview of  what it is like on a wildlife photo safari.  Join me for a few minutes in the Masai Mara and I'll explain the need to be patient and some of the equipment and vehicles used on a photo safari.

Photo Safari Basics - Understanding an African Wildlife Photo SafariPhoto Safari Basics - Understanding an African Wildlife Photo Safari

[email protected] (Go Wild Gallery) camera lens lion Photography safari travel video wildlife wildlife photography https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/what-is-like-on-a-wildlife-photo-safari Wed, 20 Oct 2021 21:49:21 GMT
Fuji GFX 100S Medium Format Camera for Wildlife Photography Video Review https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/fuji-gfx-100s-medium-format-camera-for-wildlife-phorography Please enjoy this short video review of the GFX 100s Medium Format Camera for wildlife photography.  I tested this camera in September 2021 on a wildlife safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya and would not recommend this camera for wildlife photographers.  

Fuji GFX 100s Camera Review for Wildlife PhotographyReview of Fuji GFX 100s Medium Format Camera for Wildlife Photography

[email protected] (Go Wild Gallery) 100s camera fuji fujifilm GFX GFX 100s medium format Photography video review wildlife photography https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/fuji-gfx-100s-medium-format-camera-for-wildlife-phorography Wed, 20 Oct 2021 21:01:45 GMT
Brooks Falls - Tips for Photographing Grizzly Bears https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/brooks-falls---tips-for-photographing-grizzly-bears Katmai Bear waits for lunchKatmai Bear waits for lunch

If you have ever seen a picture of a bear eating a fish on a waterfall, chances are it was taken at Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park Alaska.  National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore captured his iconic grizzly image in 1999, but one doesn’t need to be a professional photographer to take an amazing picture at Brooks Falls.  The key to taking a great picture at Brooks Falls is just getting there.

Brooks Falls is a now famous location for watching bears eat salmon as they swim upstream.  It is only accessible via sea plane (essentially a taxi ride in Alaska), and if you are a bear or wildlife lover, it is one of the most amazing places on earth. 

Unlike visiting Barter Island, Alaska to see the polar bears, you do not need an organized tour to go to Katmai.  Brooks Lodge which is the only hotel in Katmai will take care of everything.  Essentially from the Lodge you walk a short distance to a viewing platform to see the bears.  I see little benefit in paying extra money for an organized tour, as everyone goes to the same viewing platform and stays in the Lodge.

Brooks Falls and the Lodge area have several elevated platforms and walkways to observe the bears.  While the falls is best known, you will get to see bears in many different environments.  It seems like everywhere you turn you see a bear. I am not a fisherman, but apparently this area has some of the world’s best fly fishing, and it is interesting to watch people fishing in the river along with the bears. -

Tips on going to Brooks Falls

  • Reservations at the Brooks Lodge are coveted and there is a lottery system to book hotel rooms.  I was flexible in my dates and was able last minute to find two available nights.
  • Camping is also available next to the Lodge in a fenced in area to stay safe from the bears.  This is an economical option to see the bears.
  • It is possible to fly to Brooks Lodge for a day trip.  Sea planes arrive in the morning and fly out in the afternoon.  If you are not a diehard bear fan or photographer a day may be ample time to photograph the bears.  My personal recommendation is try to stay at least one night but the more the better.
  • You do not need professional camera equipment or super long telephoto lenses to take great pictures.  From the platform you are not far away from the bears, and a cell phone can capture great shots.
  • The Lodge is made up of small cabins that have several bunkbeds. One cabin can easily sleep a group of 4.   
  • Peak bear viewing is late July, and there can be a wait at the viewing platform to see the bears.  

Caught-Grizzly Bear in Katmai AKCaught-Grizzly Bear in Katmai AKA grizzly bear catches a Salmon at Brooks Falls in Katmai Alaska.

Bear Photography Tips

  • Alaska is one giant rain forest and it rains a lot. Be prepared for bad weather and bring gear to keep your camera and other equipment dry.    
  • A 200-400mm zoom lens is ideal.  On the platform you are not too far away from the bears so you don't need to worry about an extra long zoom lens or bring a teleconverter.  
  • Set your camera to a moderately fast shutter speed (1/400) and try to have a fast frames per second.  The fish jump the falls quickly and sometimes a fraction of a second can make a difference between a good shot and a photograph that is amazing.
  • Bears are essentially monochromatic.  A vibrant fish or water from the falls can add a splash of color that makes the photograph pop.
  • A tripod cam be helpful especially if you want to get an image of milky water over the falls.  There is a railing at the falls where you can balance your camera, but a tripod would be usefully.  Numerous other photographers will be using tripods.   

Swimming Bear in Katmai AlaskaSwimming Bear in Katmai AlaskaA grizzly bear takes a swim at Katmai Alaska near Brooks Falls

[email protected] (Go Wild Gallery) Alaska bear bears brooks falls camera grizzly grizzly bears Katmai lens Photography salmon travel wildlife photography https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/brooks-falls---tips-for-photographing-grizzly-bears Tue, 19 Oct 2021 18:37:47 GMT
Photographing Polar Bears in Alaska https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/photographing-polar-bears-in-alaska Polar Bear walking in- AlaskaRed Faced Polar BearPolar Bear walking in Barter Island, Alaska after having eaten whale.


It has always been a dream of mine to photograph polar bears in the wild.  I was planning on being in Alaska in the fall (September 2019), and this time of year provides the opportunity to see grizzly bears in Katmai National Park and polar bears on Barter Island, Kaktovik, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, North Slope of Alaska.

Kaktovik is a tiny town located on Barter Island a remote region of northern Alaska. Katkovik is approximately 500 miles past the middle of nowhere (literally it is 500 miles north of North Pole AK).   I still don’t quite understand why this town exists (apparently it was of some military strategic significance for a radar site), but now approximately 300 people call Katkovik home. 

I am not the most organized traveler, but one cannot just show up to Katovik and see the polar bears.  Tours and accommodations must be book in advance, and I arranged a photography tour through Akook Arctic Adventures.  It is run by Steven Kazlowski of Left Eye Productions, Inc., a professional wildlife photographer who has been photographing polar bears in the Alaskan arctic for over 20 years. Akook Arctic Adventures essentially handles everything from hotel to photo sessions. There are several other groups that run tours, and essentially they are all the same.  There are two tiny “hotels” on the Island (see pictures) and nothing else. 

Each day we would take a small boat on the water and photograph the bears for about two hours, return to the hotel for lunch and to warm up and then go out for another photography session.  Unfortunately our guide had by far the worst boat (we did not have a heated cabin), so I was cold and wet each time we went out.  But seeing the polar bears made the travel, the cold, and everything else worth while.

Boat at shore at Barter Island, AKBoat at shore at Barter Island AlaskaOur boat for photographing polar bears at Barter Island, AK

Polar bears spend most of their lives on the sea ice, but many gather during the ice-free period in the early fall near Barter Island. The main attraction for the polar bears is feeding on the remains of bowhead whales killed by the native population.  Unbeknownst to me bore my trip, Native hunters are allowed to kill three whales each year.  According to the Sierra Club “Alaska Natives are allowed 67 collective strikes (the take of a whale or attempt of a take) per year, dividing the meat shares between families, captain, and crew within 11 identified Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission communities.”  I was shocked that whaling still exists, especially of federally endangered bowhead whales.  To me, all hunting of these magnificent creates should be stopped.

I happened to be in Katovik when a whale was killed and dragged into town.  As you can see from the photo below, the villagers harvest the majority of the whales and leave a large chunk for the polar bears.  These whale remains are consumed by the bears and provide essential sustenance.  However “helpful” it is for the bears, in my opinion this practice needs to end.  It brings bears to the village where they are shot and makes bears dependent upon humans.

Moreover, over the past few decades, the villagers have piled the whale bones on a small area out of town.  This has created a dangerous whale bone playground for bears.  Had I known in advance about the whale killing, I probably would not have gone to Katovik.  Whaling is a subject the locals do not want made public and tourists were not allowed to go anywhere near the dead whale or witness the harvesting of the whale.  My photograph was taken on a boat as we passed by.  We were told by our captain not to photograph the whale carcass.

Polar bears feast on a hunted whale in Kaktovik Alaska Polar bears feast on a hunted whale in Kaktovik Alaska Polar bears feast on a whale that was hunted Kaktovik Alaska. Parts of the whale are left for bear consumption.

If you can get past the whaling, polar bears are the most amazing animals.  They play together, snuggle, interact and are awesome.  I could watch the polar bears in the damp cold weather for hours on end.  The photographs of the polar bears that I took in Alaska are some of my favorite pictures.  

What you need to know before going to Barter Island:

1) Pre-book a tour well in advance.  Many people fly in and stay one night.  If you are going for photography, I think this is a mistake as the weather can be uncooperative.  Try to stay 2 or 3 nights.

2)  There is no guaranty of seeing polar bears.  There were dozens there during my trip, however I was told if I was there two weeks earlier I may not have seen a bear.

3) The Waldo Arms Hotel is not what you would expect from the name and price.  It is a bunch of trailers put together with a communal dining area and shared bathroom / showers (see pictures).  The people who run the property are very friendly and accommodating.  It is fine for a few nights, but maybe not the best choice for a romantic vacation spot.

4)  Understand that there may be a dead whale carcass in the town.  I was not prepared for this mentally.

5) Arrange for a guide with a boat that has a heated cabin.  You will definitely thank me.


Front of Waldo Arms Hotel In Kaktovik AKFront of Waldo Arms Hotel In Kaktovik AKFront of Waldo Arms Hotel In Kaktovik AK


Inside the Waldo Arms Hotel In Kaktovik AKInside the Waldo Arms Hotel In Kaktovik AKInside the Waldo Arms Hotel In Kaktovik AK


Polar Bears Playing in Water at Barter Island AlaskaPolar Bears Playing in Water at Barter Island AlaskaPolar Bears Playing in Water at Barter Island Alaska

[email protected] (Go Wild Gallery) Alaska bears camera kaktovik lens photo tips Photography polar bears travel waldo arms wildlife photography https://www.gowildphoto.com/blog/2021/10/photographing-polar-bears-in-alaska Tue, 19 Oct 2021 18:28:06 GMT