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Puffin Photography Tour and Seabird Adventure

St. Paul Island, Alaska, USA

Horned puffin in flight © Greg Downing

This exciting puffin photography tour takes us to the tiny remote island of St. Paul in Alaska’s Pribilofs to photograph puffins and a plethora of seabirds!

Situated in the Bering Sea, St. Paul Island, Alaska attracts hundreds of thousands of seabirds to nest in its vertical cliffs and the majority of the world’s population of northern fur seals to bear and raise their young on its shores.

Parakeet auklet © Alan Murphy   Black-legged kittiwake nest © Greg Downing

Visit the “Galápagos of the North,” a Remote Location with Abundant Wildlife

Photographic opportunities on St. Paul Island range from capturing perching seabirds, to set-up shots with songbirds and shorebirds (Alan’s specialty!), to open access to the seal blind to safely watch and capture captivating images of seals raising their young.

Rock sandpiper © Alan Murphy

This puffin photography tour is timed when parakeet, crested, and least auklets will be brooding young, while tufted and horned puffins deliver fish to their offspring waiting in their nest cavities—sometimes flying and landing within close range! The timing of our stay on the island will also coincide with puffins feeding their young, providing the best chance at capturing action shots of adults bringing in fish.

Least auklet © Alan Murphy

Tufted puffin portrait © Alan Murphy

Among the auklets and puffins are thousands of other seabirds including northern fulmar, red-legged and black-legged kittiwake, glaucous-winged gull, and thick-billed and common murre. Ruddy turnstone, rock sandpiper, lapland longspur, snow bunting, and winter wren all nest on the island, as well as the St. Paul species of the rare grey-crowned rosy finch—an incredible treat to see!

Rock sandpiper portrait © Greg Downing

Gray-crowned rosy finch in grass © Alan Murphy

There is also a growing colony of Arctic fox (blue phase) living on the island. During previous photo tours an active multi-family fox den provided us with lots of photographic opportunities at the base of Zapadne. With no predators on the island and little fear of humans, they are often easy to photograph from a safe distance out in the open.

Fox kit, St. Paul © Greg Downing

A rare but possible treat to witness and photograph is one of St. Paul’s herds of wild reindeer.

Wild reindeer St. Paul, Alaska © Greg Downing

Tour Designed Exclusively for Photographers

During our puffin photography tour we will have EXCLUSIVE use of our own bus and a professional local guide with us in a small group setting. This valuable flexibility will afford us the freedom to call the shots and take advantage of every opportunity available to us.

Photographers of all levels willing to meet the challenges at St. Paul Island are encouraged to participate in this workshop for the experience and images of a lifetime! The environment of St. Paul offers exciting challenges for even seasoned photographers to meet. The climate of St. Paul is typically cloudy with fog and strong winds, although blue skies and sunshine are possible.

“Prior to the workshop Greg requested that each participant express their personal goals and expectations of the trip. Within one hour of meeting with Greg he had checked all the settings on my camera body to ensure proper settings from the start. Greg was able to balance the needs of each person to ensure their expectations would be met. He spent valuable time with each person in the field and set aside time to spend with me one-on-one to go over exposure in simple terms. Greg is a knowledgeable, talented photographer and also a very good instructor. This was an incredible experience and overall awesome trip. I learned a lot, had an outstanding time, and made some great friends. This workshop definitely exceeded my goals and expectations.” –Karen S.

Lapland longspur © Alan Murphy

Why travel to St. Paul Island with Greg and Alan rather than take a regular tour through St. Paul Island Tours or with another leader?

  • Greg and Alan are both expert birders and photographers, each offering their own style and unique skills when it comes to not only teaching the nuances of bird and puffin photography but also working with photographers in a small group setting. They will both cater to your needs as a photographer in an approachable, friendly manner without an ego. While working with you individually and as a small group, they will ensure you receive not only the instruction you need but the images you desire.
  • Greg has been visiting St. Paul Island for over 15 years and knows the island intimately. He and Alan will be sure your time is not wasted finding the best photography locations under the varying weather conditions we will encounter.
  • If you were to try and travel to the island alone or as a smaller group you will be stuck on a bus with birders and tourists and will not be able to focus on photography.
  • We will have a professional guide with us who will be there solely for our group. This means we can go anywhere we want on the island and concentrate on photography when the light is just right!
  • When the weather turns bad we will have access to a comfortable and casual space to download and work on images, learn post-processing from Greg and Alan, or just take a break and relax.

St. Paul Island shoreline © Greg Downing

Accommodations

Our lodging arrangements on St. Paul Island are very basic dormitory style and clean, with shared His and Hers bathrooms at the end of a long hall, each with 3 or 4 showers, sinks, and toilets. WiFi is also accessible (when it works). There is one general store on the island where you can get just about anything.

Tufted puffin cliffside © Greg Downing   Crested auklet group © Greg Downing

St. Paul Island on map

Includes

  • All photographic instruction from Greg and Alan
  • Round-trip air transportation from Anchorage, Alaska
  • All ground transportation at destination
  • Private guide and sightseeing services
  • Shared accommodations on the island

Does Not Include

  • Meals; meals are roughly $50 per day and are served cafeteria style
  • Gratuities; suggested amount for our local private guide is $10–$15 per day per person
  • Incidentals

Rates

  • Single supplements can be arranged at an additional $470 for those wanting a single room, but spots are limited.
  • Cost for non-photographers is $4,995 and requires a separate registration and deposit. Please indicate “non-photographer” next to your name in the registration form.
The dates above are for 2018 and are subject to change by a day or two. We will confirm the exact dates no less than 12 months before the trip.

If you would like to register for this workshop please fill out our registration form. A non-refundable deposit (listed above) is required to reserve your spot. Please refer to our workshop information section for our cancellation and refund policies.

Workshop Information
  • Dates: July 15-20, 2018 (11 openings)
                July 22-27, 2018 (9 openings)
  • Cost: $5,995
  • Deposit: $1,000
  • Participants: 12
Sign up for both workshops and save: $750
Non-photographer Discount: $1,000
Single Supplement: $470

The dates above are subject to change by a day or two. We will confirm the exact dates no less than 12 months before the trip.
The single supplement fee reflects our actual cost and is subject to availability. If you are a single traveler and we are unable to place you with a roommate, you will be placed in a single room and charged the single supplement fee.
Leaders

Greg Downing

Greg Downing

Greg has been traveling the world teaching professional and amateur photographers for more than 15 years hosting his instructional workshops and seminars. Instructing photographers of all experience levels Greg has earned a reputation for his gracious and generous teaching style.

Greg’s images are known for their unique style, exacting composition and strict attention to detail. Continue reading »

Alan Murphy

Alan Murphy

Alan Murphy, an award winning photographer, grew up in England and is an avid birder. Upon immigrating to the States Alan picked up a camera and began pursuing his vision of how birds should be photographed. Alan has developed a style that is very recognizable with stunning portraits of birds on beautiful perches. Alan turned a full time professional bird photographer a few years ago and is now in demand to speak at festivals, conferences and photography clubs around the nation. Continue reading »

Testimonials
I cannot begin to explain what a wonderful field experience you (Greg and Alan) provided on St. Paul Island. You compliment each other very well and made the trip not just a good trip but a great trip. I know from experience each group/class takes on its own personality. You adjusted to our collective and unique needs very well. I really appreciate all of your help both in the field and with post processing. I learned a lot from you and from others in the group. I hold you both in high regards for you knowledge, willingness to share and your thoughtfulness. Thank you for great experience!
Ken Blye
Puffins and More Adventure - St. Paul Island, Alaska
I attended the St Paul Alaska avian photo workshop with Greg Downing in 2003. A year in advance Greg was able to provide me with trip dates and likely species to be photographed. Greg had previously scouted this remote island on a separate trip and his familiarity with St Paul insured our success on his workshop. Several months before the workshop Greg sent email notification of recommended gear, clothing, travel arrangements and other pertinent details for the trip. We met Greg at the Anchorage airport and off we went on our remote island adventure.

For the next eight days, Greg worked with members of the group nonstop. Because of the prolonged hours of light, it was common for the group to be together sixteen or more hours each day. The workshop of course featured key species like puffin and auklets but was also tailored to the concerns of the participants. Caribou are rarely seen on the island, even by natives. Two of the group participants were interested in spending some time trying to find them. Greg and the guides were able to locate the elusive herd on the first evening. Greg was very willing to provide time on the workshop for other non-avian species as well, including Artic Fox and Northern Fur Seal.

Some of the group members had considerable experience with their gear and seemed very content learning by observing Greg's techniques as he made images. Others came on the trip with a list of specific concerns. Greg spent a great deal of time on a one on one basis with one of the participants working out exposures and the reciprocal relationship of F- stop and shutter speed. Taking something that seems complicated and making it seem simple is summarizes Greg's teaching style. I was particularly impressed that Greg went through the participants gear and camera settings at the very beginning to make sure all custom functions were optimized for the expected photographic conditions.

In closing, it was a trip of a lifetime and anyone considering a workshop with Greg Downing should have no reservations about coming away with successful images, learning new techniques and having a great time to boot.
Dennis Olivero, Minneapolis
Puffins and More Adventure - St. Paul Island, Alaska
Thanks to the both of you (Greg and Alan) for putting on such a good workshop. I think that all the folks regardless of ability level got something out of the workshop. Also, thanks for being so flexible in getting people to the places that they wanted to shoot. Alan thanks for the setups, a cursory look at my photos shows that I have some ones that I will like very much. I know that Judy and I enjoyed ourselves - thanks for the fun workshop!
John Sturtevant
Puffins and More Adventure - St. Paul Island, Alaska