Hi, I'm Terry Boyd, owner of Denali Photo Guides. I grew up in Arkansas and spent my younger years mountain biking and fishing as if my life depended on it. But, in my early 20s, I decided that I might not make it to "the pros” in either of those fields, so I walked into a pawn shop and bought a used 35mm camera. I knew absolutely nothing about photography and had never even touched a camera with more than one button before – all we had growing up was an old Polaroid.
The first time I photographed a sunset from a bluff over the Arkansas River, I knew this was the path for me. Since then, I have dedicated my life to the light, doing my best to be in the right place at the right time.
I first traveled to Alaska in 2003 and have returned every summer since, working in a variety of positions until I started offering photography tours in 2010. I am truly living my dream, sharing my passions with others, all while in a setting I consider to be one of the most captivating places on Earth.
Along with my wife, Bethany Boyd, and guides Eva Capozzola, Todd Whetstine, and Jesse Campo, we look forward to seeing you in Denali soon!
What we'll do
Watch & photograph wildlife behavior unfolding before your eyes!
Want to know the secret to success for wildlife photography? While there isn’t one simple answer to this question, any committed wildlife photographer will tell you that the best images were the result of time and patience. New for 2021, Denali Photo Guides is offering the chance to truly immerse yourself in the landscape of interior Alaska and watch wildlife behavior unfold before your eyes. Join your guide in a wildlife blind set up next to a scenic pond which is home to beavers and attracts moose and various species of birds.
With a maximum of only 2 participants per tour, this is a special opportunity to appreciate undisturbed wildlife.
You will go to one location during this excursion where you should be prepared for sitting quietly and patiently to not disturb wildlife in their habitat. We will provide foam cushions to sit comfortably and stay dry. Supportive shoes are recommended for the 20-minute walk to location on uneven ground.
Wildlife photography ethics will be strictly followed for the safety and well-being of the wildlife and guests. Wildlife is just that, wild. While we cannot guarantee that wildlife will be there during every tour, we have designed this excursion to increase your chances of being able to see wildlife in beautiful light.
This excursion is suitable for beginner photographers as well as seasoned experts. Your guide will offer technical instruction that is appropriate for you and your level of expertise during your approach and will provide support for exposure and composition throughout the experience.
The best camera is the one you have! Our tour is designed to benefit all skill levels with any type of camera (smart-phones welcome). No matter what gear you have, our guides will be able to help you progress as a photographer.
What to expect / what's provided
*Duration: 4 hours
*Maximum 2 participants per tour
*Professional tripods and filters are provided
*We provide 100 mm to 400 mm lenses for Canon and Nikon camera bodies.
*If renting a camera, rental cameras have an all-in-one zoom lens - great for quickly changing from a wide angle for landscapes to telephoto for wildlife. One standard 8GB memory card is included and you keep the card.
*We do our best to create opportunities for viewing wildlife and "The Mountain" (Denali), but we cannot guarantee it because the weather and behavior of animals are out of our control
*Guides will take guests to the best locations given the current weather conditions, light, and wildlife activity.
*Safety and quality of experience are our top priorities
*Digital cameras with long zoom lenses are available to rent, and guests keep the memory card
*The activity level is easy
*Weather can change quickly in Denali so bring an extra layer and a raincoat.
*Comfortable shoes are recommended - there may be some walking on variable terrain (optional)
*Snacks and water are available. In an effort to reduce waste, please bring your own reusable water bottle
*This trip is suitable for all skill levels and all cameras.
*Don't forget your camera, lenses, and an extra battery!
*Transportation is provided to and from all Denali area hotels. Tours begin upon pick up; there is no shuttling and no caravanning.
*Tours travel to multiple locations in a luxury truck that is easy to get in and out of
*Maximum weight: 300 pounds
*Minimum age: 8 years old
*Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
*Alaska State law requires use of a car seat or booster seat for children under 4’9’’ or less than 65 pounds.
*Guests are responsible for providing their own safety seats if needed
*The number one thing that our guests say about our tour is that they wish they had taken it at the beginning of their trip – that way they would be prepared to capture their adventures into the park and during the remainder of their travels in Alaska.
*Our guides make the most out of the conditions and you will learn a lot and have a great time no matter what time of day or season.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the activity level?
The activity level is easy. Your guide will do the driving and stop at several locations to get out and shoot pictures. You have the option to walk on the landscape if desired. There are no trails. Comfortable shoes are recommended.
How long is the tour?
Tours are approximately 3 to 3.5 hours from pick-up to drop-off. Your tour begins as soon as you are picked up at your hotel and your guide will answer questions and start giving you tips and pointers on the way to the first location.
How do I get on the tour?
We will pick you up! If you are staying at any of the Denali area hotels, your guide will pick you up outside the main lobby. If you are staying in Healy, we ask that you drive to McKinley Chalet Resort, park, and we’ll pick you up outside the lobby. We will confirm pick-up location and time with you upon booking.
What should I bring with me?
Weather can change quickly in Denali so bring an extra layer and a raincoat. Comfortable shoes are recommended – there may be some walking on variable terrain if desired. Don’t forget your camera, lenses, and extra battery! We provide tripods, polarizing filters, and graduated neutral density filters.
Is there a bathroom?
There are limited opportunities to use a bathroom on the tour, however there are many "facili-trees” that you can use at any time. We do not have scheduled stops for bathroom breaks but we will stop if needed. There is a gas station and a coffee shop that could be used after the first 40 minutes to an hour and again in the last 40 minutes. The bushes are always an option and we carry toilet paper, trash bags, wipes, and hand sanitizer in all of our trucks.
When is the best time to take this tour?
At our northern latitude, the light in Denali during Summer is truly a photographer’s dream. Thanks to the lower angle of the sun, summer in Alaska offers good light around the clock, whereas in most places, afternoon light in particular can be harsh and challenging. If the weather offers a clear view of Denali, the morning and early afternoon light on the mountain has more dimension than 5 -7:00 AM, making our 8:30am tour the best time for morning light. Keep in mind the sun rises between 3:00 am and 5:00 am so our morning tour takes advantage of the better light angles in relation to our preferred locations (ideal for circular polarizers) and participants get a little more time to sleep in. The lower angle of the sun extends the shadows and usually softens the wind. The long sunsets allow us ample time to go to multiple locations to savor the alpenglow during our evening and midnight sun tours. Mountain weather changes fast – we sometimes have clouds, storms, low visibility, while other days are clear blue skies or offer dramatic sunset colors. The conditions from day to day and even hour to hour are out of our control, however our guides are experts at reading the conditions and will bring you to the best possible locations for the conditions you are experiencing. We rarely cancel trips – there is always something to gain from going out, especially for beginners who are looking to learn how to use their gear and better understand exposure. Shooting in challenging weather helps us grow as photographers – some of the best images are captured in the dramatic light on the edge of a storm, or after a rain-storm has moved through.
Will I see wildlife?
Our guides do their best to find wildlife on every tour, but wildlife sightings are not guaranteed. Most tours see moose, and sometimes they are right next to the road. Caribou sightings occur occasionally and bears are spotted less often. Contrary to what the advertisements portray, animal density is actually quite low in the Denali area. The best way to see wildlife is to cover a lot of ground over a long period of time – which is best accomplished by taking a bus tour into Denali National Park. We recommend taking our tour before you go on the bus tour so that you can acquire the skills you need to photograph the animals and beautiful scenery. If you take a bus tour into the park, we highly recommend the green shuttle bus to Eielson Visitor Center for photographers – on this bus you have the option to get off when and where you want, then just flag down another green bus heading in your direction when you want to continue. The other option is the tan tour bus, which costs much more and you cannot get off except at designated rest stops. Both options travel the same road, but you have the choice to travel farther distances on the green shuttle bus.
Will I see Denali?
"The Mountain,” as it is commonly referred to by locals, is officially known as Denali, and previously known as Mt. McKinley. Standing at 20,310 feet high, it is the tallest mountain in North America. As such, it has a way of creating its own weather and is often shrouded in clouds. The average visitor to Denali only has a 30% chance of seeing any part of the mountain. In addition to the weather, the location of the roads in relation to the mountain also makes it difficult to see. There are 90 miles of other mountains between the highway and Denali, so you can only see it if you drive to particular locations on the highway (or take a flightseeing tour above the range). If the mountain is out, your guide will take you to the best locations to see and photograph it.
We're going into Denali National Park, right?
The park does not allow commercially guided trips so our tour travels on the edge of the park boundaries and into a nearby wilderness area via the Denali Highway, which offers equally stunning vistas as the park road. See the above topic on wildlife for more information about getting into the park. What if the weather is bad? Actual weather conditions vary greatly from weather forecasts and conditions change rapidly in Denali. Storms move in and out very quickly and the weather is likely to change several times over the duration of your tour. This can be really exciting and can provide some great opportunities for cloudscapes and dynamic lighting on the mountain range. We rarely need to cancel due to weather, but in the case of a weather cancellation, participants who cannot reschedule will receive a full refund. Weather cancellations are at the discretion of Denali Photo Guides. We do not make decisions based on weather prior to the day of the tour, and we usually cannot make the call until right before the tour starts. Typically, your guide will meet you at the start of the tour to discuss the current conditions, your skill level & expectations, and determine the best option for each guest. Safety and quality of experience are our top priorities.
Can you accommodate special needs?
In most cases, we can accommodate limited mobility. Individuals requiring wheelchairs can take this tour if they are able to get in and out of the truck at least once (at pick-up and drop-off) either on their own or with assistance from a companion. Guides may not be able to provide assistance. Please let us know your specific needs before booking so that we can make sure this tour is suitable for you.
Is there a minimum to book?
There is no minimum to book, but we do have a three-person minimum for a tour to run. If in the rare case the minimum is not met one day prior to the reservation, we will try to reschedule or issue a refund.
My companion who isn't that into photography wants to tag along. Can they come for free?
Because our maximum capacity is limited to only 4 guests, we cannot offer any seats for free or at a discount.
I only have a camera on my phone, can I take this tour?
Yes! The best camera is the one you have. No matter what camera you have or your experience level, our guides are here to work with you and your own gear.
I have several lenses and I'm wondering which ones will be the best for this tour and for Alaska?
The scale of Alaska is massive and due to limited road access, we are still miles from the mountains themselves. Wide angle lenses (12-24 mm) typically used for landscape photography can almost be too wide. A lens in the range of 24-105 mm is ideal for the Alaskan landscape and a telephoto lens (200-500 mm) is ideal for wildlife, as sightings can be close or quite far away. We do have DSLR bodies and 28-405 mm zoom lenses available to rent. See our gear page for more information and recommendations.
Will I get swarmed by mosquitos?
Temperature, time of day, amount of wind and general weather conditions all factor into how many mosquitos will be out. As guides, we always wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect ourselves from bites. In locations where the bugs find us and become a nuisance, then we will use bug spray sparingly on the outside of our clothing and hats. Guides carry bug spray, but if you are extra sensitive, we recommend bringing your own bug spray or wipes, and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your skin.
Can I bring my drone?
We allow drones but due to time limitations, we do not allow drone photography unless booked privately.
Reservations may be cancelled up to 3 days (72 hours) in advance and will be fully refunded. Reservations cancelled with less than 3 days (72 hours) advance notice will not be refunded. Tours may be rescheduled up to 12 hours in advance based on availability. Changes made with less than 3 days (72 hours) advance notice will be subject to a 20% change fee. Extenuating circumstances will be considered on an individual basis.
Actual weather conditions vary greatly from weather forecasts and conditions change rapidly in Denali. Storms move in and out very quickly and the weather is likely to change several times over the duration of one tour. This can be really exciting and can provide some great opportunities for cloudscapes and dynamic lighting on the mountain range. We rarely need to cancel due to weather, but in the case of a weather cancellation, participants who cannot reschedule will receive a full refund. Weather cancellations are at the discretion of Denali Photo Guides.
We generally do not make decisions based on weather prior to the day of the tour, and we usually cannot make the call until right before the tour starts. Typically, the guide will meet guests at the start of the tour to discuss the current conditions, skill level & expectations, and determine the best option for each guest individually. Safety and quality of experience are our top priorities.