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The Complete Guide to Photography in Katmai National Park

Updated: Dec 16, 2020


Mount Douglas in Katmai National Park photography

Katmai National Park and Preserve is a land of towering volcanoes, massive bears, and crystal glaciers - over four million acres that encompass some of the country's wildest lands.


Naturally, Katmai is a dream for photographers. It's impossible to take a bad photo here - the park is stunningly beautiful. However, taking great photos in Katmai is harder than it appears.


The national park can be broadly separated into 2 zones. The bear-watching areas, such as Brooks Falls; and the incredible landscapes, like the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes or Mount Douglas, which is depicted above.


I'm going to focus on these hotspots when describing the best techniques for Katmai photography.

Katmai bear photography

Katmai's first and most obvious attraction for photographers is bear-watching. The park is thought to be home to a massive 2,000 bears, and it's not uncommon to see half a dozen bears fishing at one time.


Unless you're watching bears from a controlled, safe environment, like a deck at Brooks Falls, a bus, or hotel room, you're going to need to keep your distance - and that means a telephoto lens.


Using a long lens for photography in Katmai is essential to capturing great images. And, as a general rule, the longer the lens, the better.


Though you may own a 70-200mm or a 75-300mm lens, you have to consider the scale of Katmai. It's the size of some countries!


When you're standing there, in front of a bear, it feels close enough to touch - but it's likely still a quarter mile away. Though that's close enough for a truly incredible experience, your current lenses just won't cover it.