Southcentral Alaska is a fall color photographers dream. Yellow aspen, birch, and cottonwood trees combine with the surreal orange and red of the tundra. And the colors burst through everywhere—from rugged mountains and glaciers to the state’s many rivers and lakes. Two factors make shooting in autumn especially appealing: First, far fewer people make it here than to the easier-reached fall-color destinations of the Lower 48. And second, you can photograph many of these amazing fall color scenes right from the highway system.
You’ll also head into the backcountry, where excursions include bonuses like seeing rutting moose in scenic valleys or witnessing sweeping glacier views via helicopters, off-road vehicles, and boats. The icing on the cake is the potential for dramatic displays of the Northern Lights. Aurora activity is more frequent around the equinoxes, which occur around the same time as the tour.
In between shoots, there will be informal yet valuable image critique and processing sessions to get the most out of your newly created imagery.
This photo tour is personally crafted and led by Michael DeYoung and his wife, Lauri; they make up one of Alaska’s most seasoned travel and adventure photography teams, bringing more than 30 years of experience photographing and adventuring in this area.
This small group will travel in a roomy high-top van and stay at quintessential Alaska lodges (except for the first and last nights in Anchorage). Throughout, you’ll be photographing and experiencing some of Alaska’s most beautiful wilderness—without leaving modern amenities behind. And as big supporters of sustainable tourism, the DeYoungs support local businesses with a commitment to quality and service; at each photography location, they practice Leave No Trace principles.
The detailed itinerary below is tentative and may change based on weather conditions to facilitate the best photo opportunities. Every night offers the potential for aurora displays; when possible, the next day’s schedule will be adjusted for sleeping in.
Tuesday Sept. 13 | Arrival in Anchorage
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Arrange your own transportation to Anchorage and meet up with your group at 4 p.m. in the hotel conference room. You’ll get an orientation and motivational presentation on photography in Alaska, along with details of the adventure, followed by a group dinner. Plan to arrive no later than 2 p.m. on the first day.
Wednesday Sept. 14 | Moose & Fall Colors
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You’ll get an early start, meeting at 6:15 a.m. and heading to Chugach State Park, where you’ll meet your guide and hike up to 2.5 miles (one way) in search of moose gathering for mating season. After an early lunch, you’ll head northeast toward Matanuska Glacier, stopping at several scenic locations to photograph the spectacular Chugach Mountains and the miles of fall colors. After checking in to rustic cabins, you’ll enjoy a delicious dinner followed by more evening landscapes nearby. Conditions permitting, you may be able to photograph the aurora, too!
Thursday Sept. 15 | Glacier & Landscapes via Helicopter Access
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Start with a sunrise landscape photo shoot at one of several nearby mountain lakes before returning to the lodge for a late breakfast. There will be some time for image critiquing and post-processing, or catching up on sleep from aurora shooting the previous night. In the afternoon, a helicopter will ferry the group to a remote area with sweeping glacier views and ablaze in fall colors. Conditions permitting, you’ll do aerials and shoot down right on the glacier to capture its dramatic features. There will be time for some road-based sunset photography before dinner.
Friday Sept. 16 | Boat Charter & Glacier/Iceberg Landscapes
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Wake up for a sunrise shoot and breakfast, then drive 80 miles to Palmer and check in to your next accommodations. Then head out for another unforgettable backcountry photo excursion, traveling via charter jet boat to a moraine. Here you’ll shoot glaciers, icebergs, and more fall colors for a couple of hours, possibly until sunset, and return for a late dinner.
Saturday Sept. 17 | Denali Sunrise & Fall Landscapes
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Today and tomorrow, you’ll have the opportunity to catch the sunrise of a lifetime! It will be an early morning and a 2-hour drive, but the payoff is one of the best views of Denali. With clear weather, you can catch the incredible alpenglow and first light on the glacier-clad Alaska Range above fall colors. If there is strong potential for aurora displays the night before, we’ll adjust the schedule to shoot the lights, then travel a short distance for sunrise. Afterward, we’ll return to the lodge for a well-deserved meal and some sleep. No clear weather or aurora? No problem! Alaska is full of jaw-dropping scenery; we’ll head to great spots near Hatcher Pass, which offers endless quality photography…even in inclement weather.
Sunday Sept. 18 | Fall Landscapes
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We’ll check out of our B&B around 11 a.m. and check back into the first night’s lodging in Anchorage. If there’s clear weather, there will be plenty of time before checkout to catch that incredible sunrise on Denali. After checkout, there will be lots of quality options for fall color and mountain landscapes in Hatcher Pass or Chugach State Park.
Monday Sept. 19 | Moose Round # 2 - End of Trip
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The tour’s not over yet! This morning you’ll get an early start and have one more chance to photograph impressive moose. You’ll return to the hotel by 11 a.m. to say your goodbyes, reminisce, and compare photos of the experience you have just shared. Be sure to book your flight after 3 p.m. to enjoy a relaxing trip to the airport.