Langell Photography, LLC
2023 Summer in Review

Alaska: A dream realized this summer

How it started

My Alaska dream started in 2006. I was an educational psychologist consulting with the State of Alaska’s Department of Education. Most who make their first trip to Alaska take a cruise, visit Anchorage, or head to Denali. Not me. My first visit was to Akiak, AK by small bush plane. It was the first of many extremely remote trips I made to tiny schools in Native Alaskan villages. My task was to help teachers and students improve learning outcomes. That’s when I first fell in love with Alaska—and it was well before I was anything more than a photography enthusiast (which I still am!).

Fast forward to today, after 54 trips to Alaska, a lot of serendipity, hard work, and experience (I’ve lead 37 Alaska photo workshops since 2012), I have finally realized my dream of spending the summer in Alaska.

A dream realized this summer

We, (Mason Mullally, my long-term boyfriend/partner our two cats—Felix and Aspen—and I) arrived in Kenai, AK with our passenger van, travel trailer, a lot of work, plans, and excitement before us. We were spending 139 days in the 49th state to lead 13 wonderful groups of “Magicians,” six days a week, on our Magic of Alaska photography tour through both the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska and Lake Clark National Park. To say this was a challenge is an understatement. But we were up for it! We had been planning for over 18 months to carve this dream into reality.

May & June Highlights

Birds and wildlife babies were the highlights this time of year! With the migration just arriving in May to Alaska, there were plenty of horned and tufted puffins, murres, bald eagles (and tiny eaglets), myriad songbirds, shorebirds, ducks and grebes filling trees and streams along the Kenai Peninsula. We also spotted rafts of northern sea otter with pups, Stellar sea lions, humpback and orca whales with babies, harbor seals, Dall porpoise, moose with calves, and sandhill cranes in their summer plumage raising their colts amidst fields thick with wild iris, accessible only by boat, along the sleepy Moose river.
Spring was about two weeks late due to a really cold winter with record temperatures and snowfall. We worked around those challenges and still had a glorious season. The incessantly overcast and somewhat rainy skies were unusual for the Kenai peninsula in late May and June, but the up-side of the cooler temps and rainier weather meant gorgeous soft, saturated light for wildlife photography! The weather brought out the animals from the woods at all hours of the day and night. Though we were skunked one day on our bear sightings, the rest of the tours produced beautiful bears to photograph. This gave us so many wonderful photographic opportunities! The weather also provided my favorite kind of light for High Key photography! I was in heaven while teaching our “Magicians” how magical High-Key style photography can be in this type of weather and light! I can say for certain that no one walked away from the workshop not knowing how to execute great images in high key style.

July & August Highlights 

The first two weeks of July made the flora and fauna kicked into high gear!  They offered massive, colorful patches of Arctic lupine that were over three feet tall—so, so fun to photograph!  We created high-key flat-lay style images photography for our Magicians as a new skill for photographers—while incorporating the abundant native wildflowers that were planted on the lodge property—including Alaskan poppies, wild iris, Sitka roses, Alaska Shasta daisies, forget-me-nots (the state flower of Alaska), dwarf fireweed, tall bluebells, bunchberry and ferns. 
From May through September, we travel to some of the most coastal brown bear-infested habitat in the world. In May and June the bears feed largely on sedges and clams.   By mid- July through September,  they engorge themselves on spawning salmon which concentrates the bears to the rivers and lakes in Lake Clark National Park.  It’s possible to see 15-25 bears in relatively small area!  Of course, this is a delight to photographers! 

In addition, we photographed marine life and sea birds in Homer, on the Kenai River, and Skilak Lake.  Every day was filled with photography and happy photographers! 

Autumn in Alaska—the Highlights

As the saying goes, when one door closes, a window opens, right? September is a time for the reverse migration of birds, the changing of colors in the trees, and a crispness in the air. Our last groups traveled to Lake Clark for three days of tremendous bear photography while also taking in the beautiful colors of the fall season. The Kenai River, Skilak Lake and Kachemak Bay tours produced gorgeous eagles, mergansers, harlequin ducks, both black and coastal brown bears! Our very last group even got the chance to photograph a beautiful Aurora on display for most of the night!

What we remembered most

I sat with our Magic of Alaska team (Mason, Barb—our chef, and the co-leaders that attended to assist us throughout the week). We discussed the season and what we remembered most. Honestly, the sightings were awesome, but we truly were amazed at how the 80+ participants who came were each delightful! The Magic is truly in the attitudes, positivity, creativity, and camaraderie we shared throughout the season. Each group worked like a team. We kept each other uplifted and recognized how special Alaska is, how it changes you for the better when you are here, and how when you leave, it never leaves your heart.
I'm thrilled as we approach the year 2024, and I'm eager to share some exciting news regarding our upcoming season, albeit in a different location. While we had dedicated two years to the idea of purchasing the Sterling lodge, which had been my trusted base for 12 years, fate had other plans for us. As they say, the best-laid plans can often take unexpected turns.

Mason and I have embarked on a new journey, one that opens up fresh horizons and possibilities within the contiguous United States during the months of July and August.
Back to - SUMMER OF 2023 IN REVIEW
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram