Polar Bears Photo Workshop
Sept 26-Oct 1, 2021 - One Male Spot Left!
Journey to the remote depths of the arctic to photograph the largest and most majestic of the land carnivores! Polar bears will be plentiful and with expert guides you will be able to photograph them up-close from the safety of a small boat. You will see them swimming, playing, exploring, or just lounging around all from an eye-level perspective! Our photo shoots are timed for the best hours of the day. And if the Aurora Borealis is active at night, we'll venture out to capture it! The workshop is all-inclusive and is rated Easy for all activity levels.
- Photograph the magnificent polar bears in their natural habitat deep in the Alaskan Arctic!
- The bears are plentiful and you'll be able to capture adults, sub-adults, and cubs from stunning low-angle perspectives while they are swimming, playing, and walking around.
- From the safety of our private boat and with expert guides, you'll feel a personal connection with these giants of the north
- Lead photo guide David Swindler has led many polar bear workshops and will help you get the best possible photos.
- The workshop is all-inclusive with lodging, meals, charter flights, boat excursions, and ground transportation included. It is rated easy for all activity levels.
- If the aurora borealis is active in the evenings, we will go out to capture the nights skies!
Due to the unpredictability of weather in the high arctic, the itinerary below is subject to change. We will optimize our time to give you the best possible polar bear photography experience.
- Day 1 (Sept 26): Having arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska (FAI), we meet together in the evening for a mandatory orientation session. We discuss the trip logistics, answer questions, and cover many of the shooting techniques you'll be using for both wildlife and aurora borealis. If the Northern Lights decide to make an appearance, we'll go out to photograph them!
- Day 2 (Sept 27): After breakfast, we drive to the airport for our charter flights to Barter Island. The views from the plane are nothing short of impressive as we fly over the stunning Brooks Range. After landing, you'll get your first glimpse of Kaktovik, the remote Inupiat villiage that will be our home for the next 4 days. After lunch, we settle into the hotel and then head out on the boat for our first polar bear session! The boat is captained by a highly experienced Inupiat driver that knows the bears intimately. We photograph many different bears, including cubs and family groups up through sunset.
- Day 3 (Sept 28): We are up early to board the boat before sunrise. Today we find several bears swimming in the water and we get some shots as they play and interact with each other. We return to town for lunch, review our images, and discuss some post-processing techniques. We head back out in the afternoon and photograph the bears through sunset.
- Day 4 (Sept 29): It's another exciting day of polar bear photography with a sunrise outing on the boat! After lunch, we walk around town and see the husky puppies and get to know the village. We return to the boat in the afternoon. The weather is breaking today and we get some wonderful warm light on the bears. The playful cubs we find at sunset melt our hearts and we get some amazing backlit shots! After dinner, the skies are clear and the aurora borealis is active! We venture outdoors and get some nice shots of the Northern Lights before retiring to bed.
- Day 5 (Sept 30): We have our final sunrise outing on the boat today and then return to the hotel for lunch and board our flight back to Fairbanks. We meet together for our group dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town to celebrate this amazing experience and the new friends we have made.
- Day 6 (Oct 1): Airport transfers and flights home. For those wishing to extend their trip, we invite you to join our Sept 22-26 or Oct 1-4. Arctic Landscapes and Wildlife Workshop
What to Expect
Expert wildlife and landscape photographer David Swindler has led many arctic workshops and knows how to get you the best shots! He has contracted the most experienced boat captain in the village who will get our group in the right spots. Our private boat has plenty of space for everyone to shoot and has an enclosed cabin if you need to warm up or get out of the wind.
This trip is rated as easy since there will be very little walking required. Since the best photography is done from a low angle, you should be comfortable kneeling or crouching (there are life jackets you can kneel on).
Will you see polar bears? Absolutely! There are many bears in the area and you will photograph them swimming, playing with each other, or just lounging around!
Weather in the arctic is notoriously unpredictable and every year is different. Some years we have a lot of snow and ice. Other years there is no snow. No matter what happens, we'll make sure you get the best photos possible. If skies are clear in the evening, we'll be watching for the Northern Lights. If we see them, we'll be out photographing! Being this far north, we can often see the aurora even with low Kp activity.
At this time of year, temperatures can range from 15°F to as high as 40°F. Being a maritime environment, it will often feel colder than what the actual temperature suggests, especially if there is any wind.
This workshop is all-inclusive and everything is included once we meet up together! We take care of your food, hotel stays, boat trips, charter flights, and more. All you need to worry about is taking some incredible photos.
After you register, we'll be emailing you detailed information on how to book your flights along with checklists for clothing and gear to bring. We will continue to stay in touch as we get closer to ensure you are setup for success!
Plan to arrive in Fairbanks (FAI) no later than mid-afternoon on Sept 26. We recommend planning return travel on Oct 1st in case we have any delays getting back to Fairbanks on Sept 30th. If you would like to extend your trip, we recommend joining our Arctic Landscapes and Wildlife Workshop. Sept 22-26, or Oct 1-5!
Accommodations in the Arctic are in short supply and very expensive. Even though we are staying at the nicest hotel in Kaktovik, it may feel rustic by normal hotel standards. There are NO private rooms. Each room will be shared by 2 guests and has a private en-suite bathroom. If you would like to stay in a room shared by 3 guests with a public bathroom and shower, please let us know and you will get a $150 discount. For the 2 nights in Fairbanks, all guests will have a private room.
Our charter flights up to Kaktovik have a total weight limit that is strictly enforced. We will need all participants to pack light for our days in Kaktovik and extra gear can always be stored at the hotel in Fairbanks. We will communicate the exact weight allowance as we get closer to departure as it will depend on the total person weight of our group.
There is always a chance that weather could delay our flights into or out of Kaktovik. If we are stuck in Kaktovik for any extra days, all participants will need to pay $500/night for each additional night we have to stay at the hotel. Situations like this are beyond our control and this is why we highly recommend you purchase Travel Insurance. We will require you to sign a consent form if you wish not to purchase Travel Insurance.
Meals will be served at the hotel in Kaktovik and they can accommodate specific dietary needs if we tell them ahead of time. If the boat cannot go out because of high winds, we may have to do the bear viewing from a vehicle. You may be entitled to per-diem refunds if the boat cannot go out.
$8995/person + Tax
- 2 Nights Single-Occupancy Lodging in Fairbanks, AK.
- 3 Nights Shared-Occupancy Lodging in Kaktovik, AK. Discounts are available if you would like a room without an en-suite bathroom.
- All Meals and Snacks.
- Daily Polar Bear Boat Excursions while in Kaktovik.
- Flights To/From Fairbanks and Kaktovik.
- All Ground Transportation.
- In-Field Photography Instruction
- Post-processing and Image Critique
Trip Does NOT Include:
- Transportation to/from your home to Fairbanks, AK.
- Alcoholic Beverages. Due to village laws, no alcohol is allowed in Kaktovik.
- Hotel charges if we must spend additional nights in Kaktovik due to weather.
When you complete the checkout process, you will be given the option to either pay the full amount or put down a 50% deposit. If you pay the deposit, the remaining amount will be charged 90 days prior to departure. See the full Terms and Conditions.
We are an authorized permittee of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
Instructor - David Swindler
A carefree childhood amongst the rolling landscape of Iowa ignited David Swindler's passion for the wild and his unquenchable thirst for exploration. "I am the oldest of five kids so I was a bit of a ring-leader. We were always up to something." From crafting an improvised raft to sail down a local river to biking the vast countryside, young David realized that he is happiest when surrounded by nature. At age ten, he saw the Grand Canyon for the first time and that experience changed him forever. "My grandpa and I were camped at the edge of the North Rim. I got out of the tent at night and saw the Milky Way for the first time. I think all I managed to say for the next 30 minutes was WOAH...while my jaw was hanging open. It's impossible to describe how one feels when they see the Milky Way for the first time. Any words feel like an understatement."
Years later, while feeling restless as a chemical engineer, the memories of that starry night inspired David to start Action Photo Tours, a boutique photo-workshop operation. Trained as a classical pianist, David has always been artistic. But his engineering background in optics and photolithography give him an edge in understanding the technical aspects of photography. When on tour with David, you can expect in-depth discussions on composition, photographic techniques, and post-processing tricks. Yet the real gem is his boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm for exploring the great outdoors!