St. Paul Island, Alaska
Trip Dates: July 16 - 21, 2020 (6 days, 5 nights on the island)
Photo Tour Fee: $5800 - all inclusive from Anchorage. This covers the flight from Anchorage to St. Paul Island, all lodging and food on the island, ground transportation and in field guiding.
Deposit: $1800 (leaving a balance of $4000 due 90 days prior to the trip).
From: Anchorage, Alaska
Leaders: John Crawley
Target Group Size: 5 photographers
St. Paul Island stands unparalleled for nature photography in Alaska. Almost constant action and cooperative subject matter ensure a highly productive trip. Puffins, Murres, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, and 3 species of Auklets nest among beautiful sea cliffs and boulders. Arctic Fox roam the wildflower meadows and Northern Fur Seals play and fight on almost every beach on the island.
View the gallery below for some images by the trip leader John Crawley from his last two trips to the island:
The gallery below contains images by Matthew Studebaker on his last three trips to the island:
Travel considerations: Fly to Anchorage, Alaska. We recommend allowing two extra days in Anchorage after the trip in case the island gets fogged in and flights are delayed a day or two. It's not common, but it does happen some years.
Equipment: I recommend bringing a digital SLR with matching lens. On this photo tour, we will want a wide variety of lenses. A long lens will be useful for detailed portraits of sea birds and passerines. With a careful approach, it may be possible to get within 100mm range of many birds allowing photographers to include some of the dramatic cliff and ocean backgrounds. I found my 70-200mm to be perfect for flight shots. We also will have opportunities for landscapes so bring a wide angle as well. Bring a tripod, and binoculars if desired.
Likely Species on the trip. Opportunities in bold will be the easiest/most common -
Northern Fur Seal
Arctic Fox (Blue Subspecies)
Gray-crowned Rosy Finch
Lava rock cliffs
Rolling hills covered in wildflowers
What to pack
Boots: Waterproof Hiking Boots
Jacket: You will want a coat. Be prepared for temperatures in the lower 40's with a moderate wind at times.
Hat and Gloves: I recommend wearing a ski mask to keep your face warm if it is windy. A warm hood could be nice as well. Gloves are optional if you have extra room in your luggage.
Camera Gear. Bring your longest lens, and landscape lens, and if you have room something in the 200 – 400mm range as well.
Cell Phones and Internet: Internet will be very slow at the hotel. The hotel has a pay phone. The only cell phone network on the island is GCI.
Laundry: A washer and dryer is available to guests.
We will meet in Anchorage on the first day. After flying to St. Paul Island as a group, we will begin photography right away. During our full days on the island, we will start with a brief early breakfast at the cafeteria, and then spend all morning in the field. We will have a brief lunch break and continue photography through the afternoon and early evening until dinner with the group.
Transportation: Plane ride from Anchorage and a van transport on the island are included in the tour fees.
We will stay at the only hotel on the island. It's a bit humble but should suffice.
Meals: Meals are included in the tour fees. We will have three cafeteria style, tasty meals per day at the only restaurant in town.
Early Arrivals: Since I have pre-booked the plane from Anchorage, I'll presume that you will arrive and depart with the rest of the group unless you tell me otherwise.
Learning / Slideshows:
My clients on this trip are usually very experienced photographers, and unless you tell me otherwise, I am presuming that everyone is taking this trip more to maximize productivity than to learn how to use their gear. Along with a few brief slideshows and discussions. I will try to talk about my photographic vision for each situation and spout off my camera settings in the field as well as peek over everyone's shoulder from time to time to check histograms and exposures. Aside from that, I'll need YOU to tell me if you have additional questions, learning objectives, or concerns. I think all of you know your way around your camera fairly well but please don't hesitate to let me know if you have questions. If I don't know the answer, I'll do my best to find out.
View the gallery below for photos by previous participants on the St. Paul Island Photo Tour:
My job is to know the area, do many hours of research, know and be able to ID the animals instantly and understand their habitat and behaviors, drive you to the most productive areas at the right time of day, be prepared to attract the animals or assist the group in stalking them, advise on how to make the most of each photo opp, ensure that everyone has their physical needs met, and ensure that everyone gets the most and highest quality images in the time we have.
Your job is to communicate your needs and have fun. I want to emphasize that each of you please communicate and keep me aware of your needs.
Several shooting locations are right next to the road and require almost no walking. Two of my favorite locations require up to a mile hike and these will be optional. If you are not able to hike a mile or two, I will be prepared to have an alternative for those who wish to skip the more strenuous trecks.
Nesting seabirds and puffins are first priority, along with Arctic Fox and Northern Fur Seals. An occasional landscape may be possible as well. I will structure the trip to allow plenty of opportunities for both traditional and artistic shots of all subject matter.