5 Easily Accessible Alaskan Photo Ops

by | Aug 26, 2014 | Impressive Places | 2 comments

0574_Hatcher Pass -Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 33 mm, 1-60 sec at f - 16, ISO 200

For the rest of the CAPTURE Alaska workshop, we stuck pretty close to the road for our shooting excursions. Number one, it takes a lot of time to backpack out to different locations, and for this workshop once was enough. There were many things to cover in the classroom plus learning how to use Lightroom for downloading, editing and processing our pictures. Secondly, one of the photographers on the team was feeling under the weather, so we simply didn’t want to hike out far for taking pictures.

Here are the places we visited in the second half of the workshop, which I think any photographer should take advantage of if they are in the area:

1. South Fork Eagle River Falls

Exact location on Google Maps (green arrow marks the overlook)

This falls is off the beaten track and ripe for exploring different angles. It’s an easy half-mile hike to a beautiful overlook, but make sure to follow these trail directions closely. These falls are a gem not too many folks know about. Go in the afternoon or evening if you don’t want the sun to be shining on the falls. It’s very difficult to get to the base of the falls but it’s worth it for the photo op. If you go down to the base of the falls, make sure to bring along a plastic bag to cover your camera from the spray. You can compose you’re shots through the plastic bag, removing it momentarily for when you take the shot.

Here’s a shot from the overlook at the end of the half-mile hike:

9647_Chugatch State Park-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 4.0 sec at f - 22, ISO 100

And here’s a shot from the base of the falls, a steep and slippery decent from the overlook:

0452_Chugatch State Park-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 20 mm, 1-4 sec at f - 9.0, ISO 200

2. Eagle River Nature Center

Exact location on Google Maps (green arrow marks the viewing deck)

Once you drive to the Nature Center (which requires a $5 parking fee), it’s an easy walk through the forest to a viewing deck offering unobstructed views up the valley. Though not much room to explore on the boardwalk, there are enough foreground elements in the vicinity to find and set up some nice shots. Before you come here, check out where the light will be in a program like Google Earth. It can be a spectacular location for sunset because the valley runs northwest/southeast, but we totally missed the light on the mountains because we arrived too late. The sunset in the opposite direction was still pretty nice though from the viewing deck.

From the viewing deck. The mountains would have been bathed in golden light earlier in the evening.

0493_Chugatch State Park-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 19 mm, 5.0 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 400

And this is looking up the valley. The mist appeared for about 1 minute and I didn’t have time to compose a better shot. Oh well.

0494_Chugatch State Park-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 2.0 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 400

3 Hatcher Pass

Exact location on Google Maps (green arrow marks the ridge above the pass)

At the summit of Hatcher Pass is a small pull off and an unmarked trail that heads straight up the mountain to the north (coming up from Independence Mine, on the right). The ridge, being above the tree-line, offers fantastic views in both directions, the sunset on one side, the mountains and valley on the other side. Hike as far as you want. No parking fee here but be prepared for some very steep hiking. Again, find out where the sun will be from this location for the best shots.

Looking to the northwest:

0569_Hatcher Pass Public Use Area-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-25 sec at f - 22, ISO 200

Looking to the east from practically the same spot:

0556_Hatcher Pass Public Use Area-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 400

Looking down the mountain:

0543_Hatcher Pass Public Use Area-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 200 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 800

4 Gold Cord Mine

Exact location on Google Maps (green arrow marks the building below)

Independence Mine and Gold Cord Mine are right next to each other, and accessible from the same parking lot (which requires a $5 parking fee). They are less than a mile apart and though Independence Mine offers many more buildings to photograph it is much more popular, so I like the private setting around Gold Cord. There are some private homes around so it’s difficult to shoot, but I enjoy the challenge of eliminating these distractions from my compositions. The light in this area isn’t ideal because the buildings sit in a bowl, but the surrounding peaks do make for excellent background. I tend to say morning is best because the light does arrive relatively early in comparison to how soon it leaves the afternoon, but I’ve not shot here in the afternoon so you’d just have to do your research on Google Earth for the time of year you’re here.

0711_Hatcher Pass Public Use Area-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-6 sec at f - 13, ISO 200

5 Independence Mine

Exact location on Google Maps

This mine is very popular so come during a weekday or in the morning before 10:00am. Morning light is better at this location anyway (which I didn’t have the privilege of shooting this time around because I was up a Gold Cord). I could spend days shooting here, there are so many possibilities. It’s truly a unique Alaskan photo op.

0748_Hatcher Pass Public Use Area-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 22, ISO 200

0779_Hatcher Pass Public Use Area-Alaska-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 1-640 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

For more awesome locations close to the road, check out landscape photographer Michael DeYoung’s post, 10 Alaska’s Scenic Gems: 10 Road Accessible Landscape Photo Ops. That’s where I found out about the Eagle River Nature Center viewing deck.

For even more shooting locations, check out my blog post, Quick Update From CAPTURE Alaska

2 Comments

  1. Bethany

    Looks like you had some great experiences. Have you been to all the ‘out-of-the-way’ places that you said were too far of a hike?

    Reply
  2. James Staddon

    Short walks from the road you can see a lot, but that is like a fraction of a percent of all there is to see and explore in Alaska. I have done very little hiking beyond a just few miles from a trailhead. That’s what is most conducive to a normal CAPTURE Workshop. In the future, with more experience, perhaps there will be opportunity to penetrate deeper for an advanced CAPTURE with an advanced team . . .

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send the next blog post straight to your email inbox!

Thank you for subscribing!