Today we go into depth about wildlife photographer Kevin Dooley's safaris into Alaska and its rewards and challenges.
Can you describe what a trip to Alaska means to you?
It's a place so completely beautiful that nothing rivals its amazement. A land of Grizzly Bears and Salmon, stunted pine trees, and the beautiful flowers of the fireweed plants. Eagles that soar high with the kind of pride that we can only dream of. A place where those who are most passionate about photography, fishing, wild places, and raw nature will thrive in the simple tasks of its very essence.
How is Alaska different from Africa?
The remote African camps differ from Alaska in so many ways. You have luxurious tents with pools, smartly dressed wait staff attending to your every need, guides offering French press coffee and freshly made muffins. Huge comfortable beds, vanity kits with top quality products resting in decorated containers. A place where your clothes are washed, pressed, and returned in a beautiful and thought out presentation. Four course meals and high teas. All in the most remote places on the African continent. Africa really spoils you; it's easy to become soft in Africa. Yet the wildlife there is abundant and encompassing.
Alaska is completely different, yet equally as inviting. Everything from the weather to the lodges are completely different. A place where the French press coffee and muffins are replaced by cold mountain water and fresh salmon cooked on the river's edge. A place where beautifully ornamented tents and chalets are replaced by simple one room wooden cabins and community showers. Where we change from khakis to flannel, from shorts to waders, from decked out safari vehicles with cushioned seats to boats with ice chests and metal crossbars to sit on.
It is so complex to get supplies and just daily needs into the remote camps of Alaska. Everything from the simple snacks to the guides have to be flown in by bush planes or carried by small river boats for miles into these Bear rich environments. It's a place where permafrost and weather control your daily decisions. A place where it is not uncommon to have days of drizzling rain or where the simplest of meals can be a challenge to prepare. There is something so real and so enriching about the simplicity and unglamorous, yet adventurous life in the Alaskan wilds.
Which of the two is your favorite location? Is it Alaska?
I am not sure I have one favorite over another. I love both places yet I love each of them for different reasons. Alaska is really quite an amazing place. Wild in every sense of the word. A place where losing your way could mean losing your life, a place so vast that there is bound to be earth where man has never set foot. A place where the rivers run so cold, that even in the middle of summer, it can draw out the life in you. I used to say that if I could live out my perfect dream, I'd spend half of my year in Africa and the remaining six months in Alaska. However, I am not sure I feel that way anymore. Maybe four months in Alaska and the remainder of the year in Africa. The drizzling rain and lack of sunshine in Alaska would eventually get to me. I do love my sunny days.
Yes, I could easily spend six months in Africa. I never seem to tire of Africa. The wildlife is so diverse, the people friendly, the food simply delicious. On any given day in the wilds of Africa, you come to life with the sounds of the wild waking up and you fall asleep to the sounds of the wild saying goodnight. Africa is very close to my heart and always will be. After all I even married a girl from Africa.
Yes I love both places, A favorite might go slightly to Africa, but its a close call.
what keeps bringing you back to Alaska?
It is so complex to get supplies and just daily needs into the remote camps of Alaska. Everything from the simple snacks to the guides have to be flown in by bush planes or carried by small river boats for miles into these Bear rich environments. It's a place where permafrost and weather control your daily decisions. A place where it is not uncommon to have days of drizzling rain or where the simplest of meals can be a challenge to prepare. There is something so real and so enriching about the simplicity and unglamorous, yet adventurous life in the Alaskan wilds. I simply love the adventure of it all. I also love photographing Grizzly bears, they fascinate me beyond end.
In Alaska, during the time when I spend most of my time on Bear safaris, the nights are short in darkness with the sunrise and the sunset taking place during the hours where sleep is at its best. If you do manage to stay awake for sunset or sunrise, chances are a thick batch of clouds and drizzling rain will be in the air. An often struggling sunrise may fight to find its way through the thick and foggy sky.
Alaska and Africa are so completely different that an explanation without physical experience is a true injustice to its real feeling. Experiencing one end of the world without experiencing the other is almost cheating yourself of the true meaning of each of these wildlife photography destinations.
I love them both with all that I am. For they define me and what I am about. They bring happiness to the very depths of my heart. They are my excuse to be a photographer, my reason for being an adventurer, my breath and hope on sad days. My new mornings and dreams to fall asleep to. May I have many more sunrises and sunsets with wild bears and roaming elephants to photograph.