His list reads like an Indiana Jones adventure: mysterious ice caves in New Zealand, giant hungry grizzly bears in Alaska, colorful and glittering jewels in Ecuador, ghost towns baking in Wyoming and unpredictable, angry volcanoes in Iceland. We’ve all got a bucket list, places we’d love to visit if we had found a pile of gold at the end of the rainbow. My Dad is no exception. His bucket list, however, revolves around places with outstanding photographic possibilities.
He’s been to some of these spots, but it was usually for a commercial advertising shoot on a tight schedule. Dad would love to go back and explore on his own. (Incidentally I plan to stowaway in his camera cases for these adventures since I’m currently lacking a pot of gold.)
10. Wind River Valley and Mountains, Wyoming:
With a motto of “Where Real Cowboys Work and Play” how could you go wrong visiting the area around Dubois, Wyoming in the Wind River Valley? The valley, located in northwestern and central Wyoming, overflows with century old ranches, alpine meadows teaming with wildflowers, petroglyphs, ghost towns, rodeos, and wildlife. The valley lies below the impressive Wind River Mountain range that stretches 100 miles through Wyoming. The Continental Divide marches through the range too.
Dad could easily fill all three categories of our website (old West, landscapes and wildlife) with stellar new images. The wildlife alone would make him a happy camper. You can find pronghorn antelope, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, eagles, badgers and bears roaming the land.
He could also shoot his latest interest, gorgeous nighttime skies filled with a canopy of stars. And the landscapes! Oh my. Seven of the largest glaciers in the Rocky Mountains inch through the Wind River Mountains. The sculpted, giant spires and peaks in the Cirque of the Towers provide a spectacular backdrop for impressive landscape images. Massive rivers sculpt the land and crystal clear lakes dot the landscape.
No matter where you look both the Wind River Valley and the Wind River mountain ranges are a photographer’s dream.
9. Absaroka Mountains, Wyoming and Montana:
Next on the list, the Absaroka Mountains. Nope it’s not the fictional Absaroka County, WY of “Longmire” fame, but a mountain range near the eastern border of Yellowstone National Park.
The mountains cross the border of Wyoming and Montana and stretch for 160 miles. This bad boy of ranges contains multiple peaks that reach 10,000 feet or higher many of them whittled into unique shapes. The climbs can be treacherous due to the crumbling “kitty litter” of rocks.
The Absarokas are one of the most remote areas in the US brimming with wildlife, stunning landscapes, thick forests, active glaciers, tundra plateaus and mountain lakes. Again, Dad could easily fill our website with old West, landscape and wildlife photos. You can even go ice climbing on numerous frozen waterfalls at the south fork of the Shoshone River in the southern portion of the Absarokas. Now that would make an interesting picture!
Dad also could capture images of grizzlies, wolves, big horn sheep, mountain goats, marmots, elk, deer and black bears while exploring this area. In fact, many local guides lead popular hunting expeditions and packhorse trips into the mountains.
No matter where you look in the Absarokas, there’s a picture lurking.
8. Oregon and Washington State coasts:
Dad’s actually done many commercial shoots in both of these states, but he never had time to explore the coast. Simply driving along US 101, which closely follows the coastline, provides enough eye candy to keep any photographer happy. Sea stacks, beach caves, tide pools, sand dunes, lighthouses, shipwrecks and wildlife abound along this stretch of highway. With so many great photo subjects, the trouble maybe tearing yourself away from one photo op to drive to the next.
The Golden State overflows with great scenic spots. Dad would love to explore in great detail Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Sequoia, Yosemite and Redwood National parks. He’d happily return to Mt. Shasta too. All of these locations have outstanding landscape possibilities as well as abundant wildlife opportunities. Dad will get to shoot at a few of these sites soon since I recently moved to the California. Plus he gets the bonus of free room and board at my house during his photo expeditions. Throw in the free location scouting and taxi cab service I provide and Dad’s got it pretty easy in California.
Without a doubt, Alaska is synonymous with landscape and wildlife photography. While Dad has been to Alaska several times, he’d gladly return. Living glaciers, forests, stunning mountains and beaches make taking landscape photos easy.
The wildlife is impressive too, but three areas hold Dad’s interest. Kachemak Bay near Homer teams with marine life in the protected Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. You can also find gobs of bald eagles. If you want to capture our national symbol in flight, Kachemak is the place.
Admiralty Island near Juneau also has eagles. In April and May it’s common to have over 800 bald eagle nests on the island. Admiralty, also known as the island of the bears, really does have a whole lot of bears, about 1,600. So if they don’t eat you for lunch, you have a pretty good chance of capturing them with your camera.
At Lake Clark National Park and Preserve west of Anchorage you can see bears as well as a plethora of volcanoes, glaciers, salmon, moose, seabirds and pristine lakes. What’s not to like?
For the truly adventurous, Saint Paul Island in the Bearing Sea between Alaska and Russia is the place to photograph breeding seabirds and northern fur seals. It’s also a major flyway for migratory birds. It’s not, however, for the faint of heart. Saint Paul is considered a polar climate because even during the summer temperatures it only reaches a high of 50 degrees. During the winter, temperatures dip into the negatives. And there’s only one city on the island, Saint Paul. We don’t know if you can see Russia from your backyard while on Saint Paul, but you sure can get some stellar shots of birds and seals.
No matter where you look in Alaska, there’s definitely something to shoot.
Join us next week when we reveal the remaining top 5 locations that have Dad drooling over polar bears, ice caves, volcanoes, jewels of the garden and reindeer.