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Best Anchorage, Alaska landscape photo ops

Bob McInnis , Mar 14, 2002; 01:01 p.m.

I know there have been many questions about shooting around Anchorage, and great answers, but I'm hoping the Anchorage experts will help me out with some of their expertise.

I'm travelling to Anchorage for work in early June and would like to take an additional week there to try to shoot some landscapes in the area. So far, most of my shooting has been in the Northeast US, where my subjects are typically yards away from where I parked the car and my biggest worry has been mosquitos. To be honest, I'm a bit apprehensive about going into the wild (lions and tigers and bears), and a little overwhelmed with the enormity of Alaska.

Especially since I'll be with my wife and 5-month-old, not sure how I'm going to do it. Typically, I stake out a shot during the day and then return at sunset or sunrise the next morning to make the shot. I don't have the equipment or speed to shoot wildlife, so I'd like to stick to snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and other stricking landscapes from land.

I understand why this is a ridiculous request, and I'm not looking to put my tripod inother people's tripod holes, but does anyone know of exceptional locations around Anchorage where I could drive right up to them, leave my family safe in a hotel nearby, and not worry about becoming prey? I'd love to hike in and camp, but under the circumstances I don't see how that would work.

I've only got a week, and I work slow, so I could probably only try to do two or three locations justice. I'm looking for things I couldn't really shoot out East. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I'm attaching a sample of my work to show my style, in case it helps.

This is just a sample of my subject matter


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Scott Bacon , Mar 14, 2002; 03:26 p.m.

There is a park straight west of the city (take Northern Lights Blvd.) that offers easy walking trails, views of the inlet and the city. Hwy 1 South of the city offers many pull-off views of Turnagain Arm and its large tidal variance (DO NOT walk on the mud flats, though - quicksand). Continue down Hwy 1 and Portage Glacier is less than 1 hour away. There are many, many landscape photo opportunities in the Portage area - glacial valleys and silted rivers, rugged mountains, clear lakes, etc.

Enjoy! And don't forget your rain gear and bug repellent.

Portage Glacier

Mike Sirott , Mar 14, 2002; 03:37 p.m.

If you're looking to stay within the city limits of Anchorage, try renting a bike, or skis, and traveling south on the Coastal Trail from downtown toward the airport. The views of the city and the mountains are really nice at sunset. An especially nice area is the lagoon which is near downtown. If you care to venture outside of town, there's probably hundreds of great areas to go. Check out my Anchorage snapshots for some examples from when I was up there last fall.

Yaron Kidron , Mar 14, 2002; 04:59 p.m.

Gosh, there's lots to see in that area. Take a trip to the Kenai peninsula through Portage to either Homer/Seward. Most of the way is spotted with small towns and villages (to Homer: Ninilchik, Soldotna). The Kenai Fjords national park (accessible from Seward) is a photographers wet dream.

There would be tourists there, I promise you, after all, it's the busy season. I would head towards Seward, and make a small stop on Portage. You can easily lose the crowds in these areas. It's about an hour drive from Anchorage (Portage), 2.5 hours to Seward. The road from Portage to Seward is full of opportunities, just drive slowly, there aren't many signs there.

As for mosquitos: Honestly, give up on the hope of not getting bitten. I tried every chemical known on the planet, every martial arts technique, and every foul word to fight them off in Denali, they just enjoyed the challange even more. (What you can do, is Pray for snow, it kills them all).


More Portage

J. Scott Schrader , Mar 14, 2002; 05:20 p.m.

I would also recommend Portage and Turnagain arm. Great locations down that way. I also was very impressed with the photographic opportunities at Exit Glacier but it sounds like that is farther than you want to travel. (It's down on the outskirts of Seward.)

Yet another look at Portage.

Tony Rowlett , Mar 14, 2002; 05:31 p.m.

The "Hillside" area, foothills to the Chugach mountain range just east of town, is beautiful and underphotographed. Some great hiking trailheads with parking lots. Bears are a concern, so wear bells and sing. Some trails, like Flat Top Mountain trail is so well traveled you don't have to worry about bears. Eagle River north of town about 12 or 13 miles is also underphotographed but lots of beautiful hills nestled next to mountains. Knik (pronounced 'ka-nick') Arm, a bit north of Eagle River, is also breathtaking with mountains so beautiful that it's actually dangerous to drive by them due to the driver staring at them instead of the highway, and especially at sunsets. Westchester Lagoon has landscape possibilities but with scattered man-made things. Anchorage has some good industrial landscape possibilites with the Alaska Railroad yard in the Ship Creak area in north Anchorage. In season, people go combat style salmon fishing on their lunch hour, sometimes with a suit and tie. There are numerous parks and lakes in town that are beautiful as well. You will have a difficult time making up your mind where to go when you get here. You being here for a week to photograph is like my soon-to-be-bride spending only 10 minutes shopping at Nordstroms! :-)

Jim Strutz , Mar 14, 2002; 09:37 p.m.

One of my favorite spots is Sixmile Creek, about 70 miles south of Anchorage, headed towards Seward. The Creek is right alongside the highway and extending down the Hope Cutoff. It's difficult to hike down into the canyons but the best views are there and worth it. Ask the local kayakers & rafters (plenty around on the weekends) for the easiest/best ways to get to the bottom. As others have stated, the drive down this way offers superb viewing.

The view from the west end of Northern Lights Blvd is also very good.

The best chance in Alaska of seeing/photographing a moose is on the edges of town. Just drive out Abbott Road and Hillside Drive late at night. It doesn't really get very dark in June but sundown is a little before midnight and sunrise a bit after 4 a.m. The moose are most active when the sun gets low in the sky. They usually move slow and don't get too excited about cars and setting up photo tripods.

Mike Crist , Mar 15, 2002; 10:40 a.m.

I highly recommend going to the former gold mining town of Hope which is off the Seward Highway and is located on the opposite side of Turnagain Arm from Portage Glacier. It is about a two-hour drive from downtown Anchorage, and is easy to access. The views from the road into town are terrific, and the weathered buildings all around that area make for interesting subject matter, especially with the mountains and the Cook Inlet as a background. Take your wife and child with you as they will have a multitude of visual treats to enjoy in great safety while you concentrate on your photography.

As for becoming a grizzly bear's lunch, it is very unlikely that you would have anything resembling a close encounter in that area unless you go busting through the bushes down lesser used trails. FYI, the sun rises very early and sets quite late at that time of year, so your light will be wonderful for much longer than it is at lower latitudes.

June weather in Alaska is very unpredictable, from warm and sunny to cold and overcast(and windy)in a matter of a few minutes, so keep "worst case" clothes and rain gear handy for you and the family along with some large ziplock bags for your equipment. Cell phone coverage is surprisingly good on the Kenai, and there will be lots of fellow tourists willing to help if you need directions or assistance. Go forth with confidence and lots of film!

Bob Feinberg , Mar 15, 2002; 11:54 a.m.

Talkeetna, just north of Ankorage if I recall. Gateway to Mt. Mckinnley,

Mt. McKinnley

Sal Santamaura , Mar 15, 2002; 11:58 a.m.

You say you're going to be in Anchorage in "early June." Depending on how early, insect attacks may not be a problem. The hatching of Alaska's state bird (mosquito) supposedly takes place around June 15, and they last through the early part of August. I scheduled my (only, so far) trip to The Great Land for late August, and wasn't bitten at all, even using no DEET, everywhere from Anchorage to Fairbanks. Of course, these dates are theoretical; hopefully Anchorage locals will chime in here to tell us how much variation occurs year to year.

You're on your own with bears.

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