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Photo Tours – FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

• Complimentary pickup at your Anchorage hotel or the airport on Day 1.
Please notify us where you are at least 48 hours before you arrive.
Vans will pickup around 8:00AM on the morning of your 1st day.
• Round Trip transport in a 12 passenger high-top luxury van from Anchorage to/from and around Kenai Peninsula. 
If you arrive by cruise ship or ferry, we can pick you up at Seward or Whittier for an additional fee.
You can also choose to rent a car or fly down separately to the Kenai Peninsula at extra cost. 
• Helicopter flightseeing above glaciers in Kenai Fjords National Park and to dogsledding mountain. 
•Dog power around the dogsled glacier! 
• Round trip floatplane, boat or helicopter flights past volcanoes, glaciers and forests to bear viewing area & lodge.

• Seven nights accommodations.

• All meals from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day.

• Group and individual instruction in preparation and photographic techniques on land and air.
• Transportation to/from Alaska. 

• Your photography gear, clothing, toiletries and outerwear. 

• Snacks and beverages at meals away from the bear camp lodges.

• Any alcoholic beverages.

• Gratuities for your guides/staff/pilots, etc.
Some of the lodges may charge resort fees in the range of $5-10/person/day that may cover equipment or services such as nightly happy hour, fishing equipment, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, etc. 
Please see the general Itinerary page for more info.
The order of days and locations is generic here so that we can make changes along the way due to weather, road or other conditions.

Leaving a buffer day in your Alaska arrival/departure dates will allow us room to pick you up or drop you off a day earlier or later, if weather or other circumstances dictate a change. 

For more “voluntary” changes or adjustments not necessary for safety or weather, or those changes not dictated to us by pilots or bear camp vendors, we will only adjust if all in the group are able and willing. 

You will receive a more detailed schedule approximately 30-60 days before you arrive. This will show the exact number of days and locations promised in our ads.

The constant variable! 
Alaska’s weather is unpredictable and can change quickly. We try our hardest to plan flights and locations ahead of time, but the truth is, we can’t be sure until the day of departure.

It’s possible the weather may not be safe to fly on the planned flight day, or the flight times may change due to weather. 
We will have alternate Plans B and C to rearrange your itinerary and get you on the same flight a different day or time. 
Alaska Photo Adventures is not responsible or liable for any cancellations, expenses or delays incurred as a result of weather or other conditions over which we have no control. 

The only thing we can be sure of is that safety is more important than pushing beyond common sense and best practices. 
The risk of bad weather is always with us, and your ability to accept that risk, trust us and be patient with any changes we may have to make will be hugely appreciated. (See Travel Insurance below).

A few bright notes: Beautiful photos can be shot under any conditions. Rain can bring rainbows, and the thought of a grizzly sow and cub with a glorius rainbow in the background can only happen under marginal conditions. 
Similarly, storm lighting can be some of the most outstanding dramatic light for photography. Sometimes it takes weathering through the bad weather to get shots that fair-weather shooters will never witness.

Clothing: Think layers. Keep in mind that max traveling gear for flightseeing is ~20 pounds per person.
Here is a basic Alaska list. (see Photo Equipment separately)​
1) Gloves:  2 pairs: liners for shooting, and a heavier pair for weather and walking with gear.
2) Hats:  A sports cap (billed) for rain and sun, and/or a flexible wide-brimmed nylon-type rain hat; a wool-type stocking cap for warmth on windy/rainy days.
3) Pants:  Cotton quick drying pants (and/or a pair of zip-off shorts) with or without nylon shell.
Blue jeans are durable but heavy and take forever to dry.
4) Socks: Preferably wool. (your socks will get wet at some point). Bring at least 3-4 pairs.
5) Long underwear: Top and bottom breathable type, polypro or newer proprietary blends (REI)
6) Rain/wind shell: Breathable, waterproof top and bottom, with hood.
7) Boots and shoes: Good hiking shoes (preferably water resistant or waterproof). Perhaps also lightweight camp shoes or sandals. (Waterproof calf boots will be supplied for you in the bear camps, but when we drive around, or fly/land on the glacier, you will appreciate good hiking or walking shoes). 
8) A few T-shirts. Quick drying nylon/rayon and cotton.
9) A warm fleece sweater or jacket. Synthetic fiber, no goose or duck down.
Other items to consider:

1) Pocket knife or multi-tool. Remember not in your airline carry-on bag!
2) Sunglasses with retainer strap.
3) Small daypack. (~1500 cubic inches), rain/windproof, or a boat dry bag with backpack straps. (This is in addition to the camera bag/pack listed under Photo Equipment to bring) 
4) Insect repellent. Possibly a headnet (not required; only if you are really sensitive to mosquito bites)
5) Personal first aid kit (with earplus, eyeshades, sunblock, non-stick tape, motion sickness pills, etc.)6) Water bottle.
7) Ziploc plastic bags for smaller items, batteries, etc.
8) Binoculars – Compact, preferably waterproof.
9) Duct tape or electrician’s tape.
To be safe, you should be in moderate to good physical and mental condition. We will also be traveling on rocks, mud, through puddles, uneven trails and tundra, as well as stepping into aircraft and/or boats, riding in ATVs, or sitting for long periods watching animals. 

Portability, weight and quick access are always good characteristics of photo and travel gear. Consider a photo vest (see What to Bring above) as a substitute for a (second) small backpack. 

As far as emotional requirements, it is always best to have a patient, flexible and positive attitude. There will always be hiccups or some stress during a trip, with logistics, travel or personality differences in a group. 

Having patience, flexibility and an attitude of finding common ground (wildlife? photography? gorgeous scenery?) can make all the difference in a successful and truly memorable experience for you and everyone in the group.
At the bear viewing areas, though there will be either ATV or boat access to some of the popular spots.
We could walk up to 2-3+ miles, depending on where the best or most bears are that day. 
Most of the other days, we will be driving around looking for great light and animals. 
We have some favorite places to see moose, bald eagle nests and other wetland or forest areas.
Unless the group is fully agreeable to strenuous trail climbs for some worthwhile views, the walking will be at a leisurely pace generally as fast as the slowest person.
That of course depends on what kind of condition or surgery you’ve had, and whether your doctor has given you any restrictions on the type and length of physical activity you can do. 
Ultimately it is up to you whether you feel up to the relatively flat hikes we will take, and whether you think your pace would slow the group down noticeably. 

We will not be hiking at high altitudes (other than flying up to a few thousand feet) The highest walking will be at 3,000 feet at the dogsled glacier. 
Most of our hikes will be at the bear camps, where we will have 1-2 extra guides with us at all times. We will help in any way we can to make you comfortable during the walks and the tour. 

There are questions on the Reservation Form that allow you to tell us about any health, medical or dietary issues or concerns you may have. Please be honest about your answers so we can provide you with the best experience possible. 
APA, lodging and transport personnel are very experienced and accommodating, but they ultimately cannot be responsible for your medical condition and/or exercise decisions. We’ll be glad to discuss any concerns with you ahead of time.
Please see our extensive Aerial Photo Tips page. 
We will be flying in helicopters up to our dogsled rides on the glacier near Seward, and our flightseeing over the oceans, glaciers and forests of Kenai Fjords National Park. 

Helicopters offer the best mode for spectacular flightseeing experiences in Alaska. And doors-off flying offers the ultimate experience for photographers to get unobstructed, un-tinted and undistorted images of spectacular scenery. 
Fixed wing aircraft are cheaper, so we can go to farther places or spend more time in the air. They can also generally take more people and gear. Because of longer flights to the bear viewing areas, these are usually in fixed wing aircraft. 

Please note that no matter which form of aircraft we take (we’ll probably be using both types), you will need to provide the accurate weight of each guest at time of booking. This is imperative for airplane safety and loading. If an individual does not want to give an individual weight, weights of the group may be combined but need to be accurate. 
There is an option to take a helicopter to/from the bear viewing camp. Cost would be roughly an additional $1000-1500 pp, based on minimum 2 people. Please contact us if you are interested and we can quote a more specific price.
Re: airsick: This depends on how sick you tend to get, or how long it takes you to feel queasy.
Most of the flights are 30-45 minutes long and are generally very smooth. 
Dramamine and other therapies (wrist bands, etc.) may be appropriate (see What to Bring). 

If you are absolutely unable to fly, we have options available for taking boats to the bear camp, and/or taking a day-long boat trip in Seward to see whales, ocean mammals and birds, etc. This is also one of our fall-back options if weather is just too bad for too long to fly out to the glacier, dogsledding or bear camps.

Contact us for more info and we can discuss with you. In the worst case scenarios I’ve been in, we’ve always made it out to the bears, and been able to do flightseeing within a day or two of the original scheduled date.

Re: airsick and seasick: If you cannot do flights or boats, we also have some land-based tours and hikes available at no extra charge for the days or hours we would be flying. Since most of our flights are only about 30 minutes, you might consider whether it’s worth being queasy for such a short period.
Generally between 12-75 years old, but young or older are welcome.
Weight should be a maximum of 250 lbs. for flightseeing, and all aircraft can be cramped. 

As long as you can understand and follow directions, feel in generally good health, and are able to stay quietly in one location, you should be fine. 

If you are traveling with a companion who is not an avid photographer, they may want to bring some form of quiet entertainment such as a book, word game, tablet, etc.
Strongly recommended.
Anytime you spend more than $1000 on a trip, the cost of travel insurance really starts to pay off in terms of the premium-to-benefit ratio, and your peace of mind. 
Especially when you are traveling long distances (to/from Alaska, as well as inside Alaska), or depending on weather-related services (helicopters, planes, boats,etc.), things are out of your control. 

Travel insurance gives you back a little of that control in terms of mitigating financial losses should you have to change or cancel your plans. Your own medical and financial situation are important factors to consider in deciding whether travel insurance will be worth the cost for you. 

Consider coverage for costs such as emergency medical care if you are incapacitated and cannot authorize field care yourself, and evacuation costs incurred in getting to a medical facility or back to your home if necessary.

Here are a few reputable travel insurance companies we recommend: 
Yes. We carry medical as well as liability insurance. However, that mostly covers us, and possibly some money for medical costs related to participants. This doesn’t remove the need for each participant to have personal medical insurance, just as we do in everyday life, and as mentioned above, your own travel and medical coverage.
Discounts are offered for participants belonging to certain organizations, military, Alaska residents, returning participants, referrals, couples and Early Bird reservations. 
There are also discounts offered from major national photo retailers, rental houses and specialty companies to APA participants. 
Please see our Discounts page for more up-to-date info and exclusive links.
Since this tour involves tremendous logistics and some of the most popular photo opportunities in the world, there are some important cancel/refund policies to know.
Our policies are actually better and more lenient that almost any other (similar) tour in Alaska. We want you to be happy and secure with your decision, so we give you time to sleep on it, and, depending on when you book, plenty of time to pay your balance, or substitute someone else if you want. 
If you book before December 31, 2018: If you book between January 1, 2019 – March 1, 2019: Deposits are fully refundable up to 2 weeks after you book.
After the 2-week grace period, and before the balance of your payment is due, if you cancel, you will receive 50% of your deposit back immediately. The balance of your deposit will be refunded only if we are able to fill your space, less 10% cancellation fee. 
If you book your tour after March 1, 2019 and then wish to cancel, your payment is only refundable if we are able to fill your space, less $100 cancellation fee and any non-refundable fees that may be charged by lodging or transportation vendors. 
APA reserves the right to cancel the tour for lack of minimal registrants (3) up to 60 days prior to the tour date. If we (regrettably) have to exercise this option, 100% of your deposit and payments will be refunded to you. 
Regardless of when you book and pay for your tour, if you do not want to attend, you may substitute another participant in your place. These substitute participants must fill out and sign the registration forms and any other papers required to participate, and pay any balances due.
There will be the required 3% Kenai Peninsula Borough tax added to the total. Also, all credit card or Paypal payments carry a 3% processing fee. (These are the exact fees charged to us; we do not add anything to them).
If you pay by International bank wire, there may be fees charged to us by our bank or yours, and we will advise you of any (rarely any fees, but if so, they are usually less than $45).
You have the option to pay by bank cashier’s check and mail to us to avoid any extra processing fees. Checks will take 1-2 weeks to clear before we can send your confirmation.
At all times, participants are expected to act according to the Ethical Codes listed on the website and the confirmation receipts. 
These codes are built around respect-synthesizing common elements of photographic and ecological field behavior to minimize disturbance to wildlife, ecosystems, tour participants and future visitors. 

These principles involve walking carefully so as not to unnecessarily disturb physical and biological components, packing out all trash (no matter how small), talking and moving quietly and, in general, maximizing our ability to observe animals behaving naturally and comfortably. 

Participants agree to conduct themselves with respect and sensitivity toward other participants, guides and animals. If there is something they disagree with, rather than engage in rude and disruptive behavior, they should discuss it with an instructor, guide, or vendor in an appropriate manner, without the use of threats, fighting, profanity, personal insults, or damaging of property.
There will be brief informal orientations before each day’s events, and reviews at the end of the day to discuss photos, experiences and any questions. 
Some of the topics covered will include: composition, auto vs manual settings, post processing, how to act around wildlife, equipment to bring/leave at camp for the day, etc.
Because of the cost and adventurous nature of this tour, most participants will be in the moderate to advanced range in skill level and photo experience. However, beginners are also welcome and can get a tremendous amount of information from the guide(s) and other participants. During individual coaching sessions in the field, the guide can “catch up” the more inexperienced shooters on anything they might want to ask about. Everyone will have as much 1:1 time as you want or need! 
As you probably know, single lens reflex cameras with long lenses are ideal. 

Ideal basic gear: (don’t fret if you don’t have all of these):
• 1-2 DSLR cameras. 
• 3 lenses: 24-80 or 28-120mm range for aerials, 80-200mm, and a 300mm or 400mm for wildlife 
• A top quality 1.4x tele extender (Nikon, Canon, Olympus, etc.) is also well worth its weight and cost. 
• A few back up batteries (camera and flash) & charger. 
• Extra media cards for your camera. 
• A sturdy tripod with ball head for longer lenses (Gitzo, Bogen, Wimberely, Really Right Stuff, etc.) 
• Photo vest – great for field use and taking gear on airlines/smaller flightseeing (not counted as carry-on!) 
• Filters: polarizing for saturation on nice days; graduated ND filters for scenes with dark/light areas 
• Detachable flash with either an off-camera cord or ability to trigger with infrared or RF 
• Lens cleaning microfiber cloth 
• Laptop computer with editing software such as stand-alone Photoshop or Lightroom 
• Sturdy camera backpack or flexible carrying case (no large hard cases – hard to use/pack on flights) 

• Extra wide angle lens (<24mm) 
• Point and shoot camera for videos, group shots, backup camera 
• Wrist straps and tethers for cameras (good insurance for aerial shooting) 
• Poncho, umbrella or other rain covers for camera bags, longer lenses and cameras on tripods.
You can rent almost anything in Anchorage at Stewart’s Photo Shop, (907) 272-8581 –
There are also national rental houses that send lenses or cameras out quickly to the nearest UPS, Fedex or USPS facility. 
We recommend: 
This includes a terrific 15-minute scenic helicopter flight up to the glacier, usually with doors off for great photos and breathtaking views of Seward and Resurrection Bay. 
(Doors off are always subject to weather conditions and pilot permission). 

You get to meet real Alaskan huskies, some of which race in the Iditarod race, and, if available, cuddle with adorable sled dog pups. Includes a 30 minute dogsled ride amidst gorgeous mountains in the middle of nowhere. 
You also have the choice of helping mush the team with your guide. 

Then another 15 minute exciting flightsee for more photos on your way back to Seward. The whole experience lasts about an hour and a half per person.
Lodging will often be shared with 1 other participant. On the Kenai Peninsula, you will be staying in nicer 3-4 star hotels like Aspen or Quality Inn, or lodges on or near the Kenai River, depending on our schedule. 
We will give you more specific information within 60-90 days of the tour date. 

In bear viewing areas, you will be in permanent framed lodges or meticulously maintained glamour-camps with aluminum frame PVC skin huts, hard floors, twin and/or queen beds, linens, gas heat and separate dining hall. 
There is a common shower house with composting toilets, and full solar panel electricity for lights, computers and charging devices. The lodging areas have boardwalks to sit and enjoy great views of bears and coastal Alaska. 

If you a solo traveler and wish your own room/lodging, we can discuss with you a single supplement fee (generally $500-1000), depending on rooms available at each of our locations.
We keep the group size low and the guide/participant ratio around 1:6. If we have more than 6-7, we’ll usually bring in another guide for certain excursions. 
This maintains an ideal ratio and what sets us apart from cheaper, cattle-call, generic tours. Keeping the ratio low keeps the pace comfortable, makes it easy to hear and observe, and gives you lots of individualized instruction time. 
It also allows us to segregate slightly if there are any significant personality or skill level differences in the group.
There are 3 species of bears in Alaska – Black, Polar and Brown.
We will be seeing coastal brown bears, and possibly black bear. 
The name “Brown” is more of a generic term that includes Grizzly bears which live inland away from the ocean, Brown bears (coastal areas and feed mostly on fish) and Kodiak bears living on Kodiak island and growing larger than the other bears based on a plentiful diet of large salmon.
Bears are no different from any other animal (predator or prey). They all want their space, and are generally as afraid of you as you are of them. Most days, even if the weather isn’t perfect, you’ll be close enough to hear them breathe. Other days will be through binoculars. 

We will always strike a healthy balance between curiosity, desire for photos, awareness of their comfort level, and safety. 
Our minimal impact Ethics Codes allow the bears to remain calm and comfortable in our presence, as they have been for decades in the places we are going. 

Your guides will give you specific tips for specific bears, and how to have this “conversation” with them. 
Ron has unexpectedly been as close as 10 feet from wild grizzlies and never had the “clothes-changing pleasure” of an aggressive bear situation.
Ron has been leading hikes and tours since the late 1970s when he started as a Ranger for the National Park Service on San Miguel Island. He has led hikes and tours in Alaska since 1981.
Since then he has guided day-long and multi-day trips for travelers, photographers, politicians and CEOs on the Kenai Peninsula. He has participated in and/or co-led many tours worldwide, and has learned (sometimes unfortunately) what separates great tours from sub-standard ones. 

Other guides who may be accompanying us have been guiding for years in Alaska and around the US. 
Some are authors, PhDs, wildlife biologists, birders, photographers and/or other equally respectable authority in topics relevant to the tour.

For a more complete answer, see From Alaska to Africa, 10 Tips on How to Choose a Photo Tour. Among other things, the main qualities of a great tour include: 

1) Organization – A well planned supply of good clothing and equipment (“No such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment”), alternate routes, adequate travel times, and ample breathing room built in for unexpected delays. 

2) Redundancy – Enough plans B & C built into a trip to anticipate Murphy’s Law anywhere. Especially in Alaska, weather and driving conditions can produce delays of several hours or days for transportation and wildlife viewing. 

3) Safety – Constant awareness, anticipation of hazards, and habitual use of safe travel practices gives the highest probability of a smooth trip. A set of clear ethical guidelines helps minimize impact on the land and people, and avoids threats from animals or dangerous situations. 

4) Communication – This is perhaps the most important quality of all. A guide’s knowledge and experience mean little if they cannot be communicated effectively to the group. Similarly, the ability to integrate relevant concepts and inspire participants is a quality that makes for a deep and memorable experience. 
Communicating sensitively and respectfully, especially in remote situations in a group dynamic, can allow participants to feel safe, secure and able to enjoy themselves regardless of issues that may arise. 

5) Experience – This sums up all the others. Your guide(s)’ knowledge and experience of locations, wildlife, photography and other aspects of your tour is critical. You don’t want to spend thousands on a tour with a guide who is new to the habitat, wildlife, weather conditions, animal behavior, group dynamics or equipment (including photography).


48599 Gruber Rd, Soldotna, AK 99669
Office: (907) 262-7899
Cell: (907) 252-6931
Fax: (907) 262-7809



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