What to Expect for a Typical Day Photographing at Brooks Camp
NPS Visitors Center
Bridge (new walkway)
The “cutbank” an area where will photograph when wading
Restrooms (outhouse) on way to the falls and trail to the falls. No restroom at the falls, use this when you can as it is a pain to walk back to it from the falls…
The Falls Platform
Brooks Lake float plane base, used on “East Wind Days”
Normal Float Plane Base.
“The Beaver Pond”
Lower River Platform
Brooks Camp area, hover over the numbered hot spots for additional information.
Below I describe a typical day photographing at Brooks Camp, Katmai National Park. This should help you prepare for your upcoming trip.
We will be eating all of our meals at Brooks Lodge. This saves us time, allows more time for being out in the field, and their food is very good. Vegetarians will have good options available.
Breakfast hours: 7:00 AM – 8:30 AM (aim for 7:00 AM – 7:30 AM)
Lunch hours: 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Dinner hours: 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM (aim for 5:30 PM – 6:15 PM)
When we are at Brooks Camp we will be in our waders and wading shoes for most of the day. This gives us flexibility in where we photograph (river or viewing platforms). We usually will not go back to the campground until we are done for the day. We can leave our waders at the lodge if we decide to take a break from wading (remember to put your regular shoes in your river pack and leave them at the lodge when we venture out to go wading).
For those days we opt for backcountry photography, we most likely not be in our waders, unless we decide to visit some of the marshy areas in search of lynx or wolves. This year, 2022, seems like the snowshoe hare cycle is at a peak, which means an increase in lynx. I base this on a ranger friend who has already seen 4 lynx at Brooks Camp — very early in the season.
The most efficient, practical, way to pack for the day is to use your dry-bag daypack (“river pack”) for the entire trip. This allows you to wade or hike to the falls. We often switch between wading and using viewing platforms multiple times per day. If it rains, your river pack will keep your stuff dry. The dry pack also helps protect your valuable camera gear when wading deeper water or if fall into the river. Although we will be cautious where we wade and cross the river, it is prudent to stow your camera/lens in the dry pack before wading challenging sections of the river.
In your river pack you should have:
- Stowable rain jacket (your chest waders function as your rain pants). Avoid black/brown clothing (you do not want to look like a bear)
- Bug protection. I like to bring a couple of Buff scarves, spray one down with strong insect repellent, and keep the other one fresh (no bug spray). Before your trip spray down a wide brim hat, and a long-sleeved shirt, with Permethrin (follow safety instructions)
- Extra camera cards, extra batteries, lenses
- Water bottle (no additives/flavoring allowed)
- No food, gum, fragrant items
- Sun hat, sunscreen, Buff, bandanna
- Hiking shoes if we leave our waders at the lodge, leave your hiking shoes at the lodge when we wade.
- Battery charger(s) — can leave at the lodge, put your name on it. We can charge batteries at the lodge
- Hiking/Trekking pole (collapsable/extendable), used for wading, with leash and carabiner tied to it.
We can leave gear and food in the caches located by the NPS Visitor’s Center. We can also leave our bigger lenses at the lodge. I like to leave my laptop in the lodge while I am out photographing.
There are flush toilets at the lodge, pit toilets in the campground, near the NPS visitor center, and at the junction of the falls trail and the road to Brooks Lake. Please plan accordingly as there will be times when we are far from the restrooms.
Typical attire for the day. In waders, wading boots, with waterproof river packs. Margot Creek, Katmai National Park
A typical morning schedule is:
- 06:30 AM (optional) Sunrise photography by the lower river. Tripod-based landscape photography, hoping for a bear wading in the warm light. This is usually very quick, 20 minutes. I usually then go to the lodge and nap before breakfast by the fire.
- Breakfast at Brooks Lodge 7:00 AM – 7:30 AM.
- 7:45 AM ~ 11:30 AM Photograph in the field. Usually, I aim for wading the river in the morning as the light angles are best then for wading, as opposed to the Upper Falls and Riffles Platform. The Lower River Platform is excellent in the morning light, the light at the Falls Platform is best around 8:00 – 9:00 PM
- Break time, usually back at the lodge, or back in camp. I strongly encourage you to wear a COVID mask in Brooks Lodge.
The light before sunrise is often stunning on the lower Brooks River and Naknek Lake.