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CHURCHILL CANADA

Summer Adventure 2024

#belugawhales

#polarbears

#northernlights

#borealforest

#colorsofthetundra

Churchill Jen W32 copy.jpg

Photography Workshop in
CANADA

 

08/11/24 - 08/17/24

Summer Bears, in the Fireweed by the Bay

The Churchill Summer Experience

Churchill is located approximately 1000 km North of Winnipeg on the shores of Hudson Bay. This Epic Photo Escape operates on Treaty 5 land, the traditional lands of the Cree, Dene, Inuit, and the Homeland of the Red River Métis. 

Known as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” Churchill is home to about as many humans as Polar Bears. Each year a sub population of roughly 800 Polar Bears migrate through the area from July until November while patiently waiting for sea ice to form again. 

Our workshop gets you eye level with these amazing bears.  Unlike other polar bear tours which put large groups in tundra buggies, with the use of our guide's 4×4 vehicles, our small group explores a network of trails along the Hudson Bay shoreline smack dab in the middle of a Polar Bear migration route. Our expert guides and their permits allow us to exit the vehicle to create some of the best photo opportunities, giving you the best angle and experience with these amazing and powerful bears! We'll also get a unique perspective from the water on chartered Zodiak boats, while surrounded by Beluga Whales - an experience that only the summer offers. 

 

Immerse Yourself in a Vibrant, Wild and Cultural Adventure:

Embark on the photographic journey of a lifetime in Churchill, Canada. If all goes to plan, we’ll encounter majestic polar bears, playful beluga whales, bouncy arctic hares, as well as myriad birds including eagles and sandhill cranes. If we're lucky, we'll also take in the mesmerizing dance of the Aurora Borealis. We'll explore this amazing place by land, by boat and even by dog cart! Join us and share in this incredible opportunity to capture nature's most captivating spectacles through your lens with mentorship and guidance from the two of the best in the industry, Jen Waicukauski and Erica Robinson (learn more about them further below)!

What Awaits You:

🐾 Polar Bear Encounters: Get ready to capture the Arctic's apex predators in their natural habitat. Our expert guides will ensure a safe and respectful distance while allowing you to photograph polar bears in their stunning tundra surroundings. Seize the chance to document their raw power and serene moments as they roam among the blossoming fireweed, trundling through the boreal forest and along the rocky shorelines of the Hudson Bay.

🐋 Beluga Whale Spectacle: Explore the water world of Churchill's Hudson Bay and photograph the curious beluga whales in their element. Our experienced team will guide you to prime locations for exceptional shots of these friendly and inquisitive creatures. Your lens will be your window to their underwater symphony. It will also be a treat for your ears; our guides bring along a hydrophone so that we can listen to their beautiful underwater songs.

🌌 Aurora Borealis Extravaganza: While this time of year can have cloud cover, on a clear night we may witness the night sky come alive with vibrant hues of green, pink, and purple as the Northern Lights paint a celestial masterpiece. Learn the art of capturing this ethereal phenomenon if it makes an appearance during our Trip. One of the Trip Leaders, Erica Robinson, is a night sky photography expert and has planned a class on this topic just for you! With an average 300+ nights a year of visible Northern Lights, Churchill remains one of the best destinations on earth to experience the Aurora Borealis. Uniquely situated directly under the Auroral Oval, even on nights with little solar activity the odds of catching a glimmer of Aurora are high provided the skies are clear. 

🐺 Dog Sledding & Cultural Talk: Enjoy an enriching talk on Dog Sledding, Métis Culture, and life in Churchill, Manitoba. Learn about the symbiotic relationship between humans and huskies, the rich Métis heritage, and the intricacies of life in this Arctic wonderland. Then brace yourself for an exhilarating adventure as you hop onto a dog cart (it’s August, so we’ll use carts instead of sleds) and tour the enchanting boreal forest. Feel the rush of fresh Arctic air, hear the rhythmic patter of paws, and capture the untamed beauty of the landscape—all through the lens of your camera.

📸 Guidance & Education by Professionals: Jen and Erica are seasoned photography mentors and will lead optional classes during the Trip. Whether you're a hobbyist looking to build your basic skills or an experienced photographer aiming to refine your techniques, Jen and Erica will provide personalized guidance to help you achieve your creative vision.

🗓️ Logistics: First, you’ll need to get yourself to the wonderful City of Winnipeg. From there, we fly together to Churchill. Once in Churchill, this Epic Photo Escape is all-inclusive covering accommodations, meals, transportation within Churchill, and of course photography mentoring and guidance (see the registration page for a full list of inclusions and exclusions).

Book Your Spot Today:

Seize this unique opportunity to create captivating photographs and video of polar bears, beluga whales, arctic hares, migratory birds and the Aurora Borealis. Space for this exclusive adventure is limited to just eight students. Join us on this Epic Photo Escape to learn, explore, and capture the Arctic's wonders in the most stunning way possible.

What You'll See
(All images by Trip Leader Jen Waicukauski, during a workshop in Churchill, August 2023)
Timeline & Activity Schedule

Education

  • Twenty minute 1-on-1 sessions with Jen Waicukauski and Erica Robinson. During these sessions, you will review your raw images from your first day(s) of photographing. These sessions are vital in making sure that your photographs are both technically correct as well as showing off your unique voice.

  • Optional classes on editing, camera settings, night sky photography, and the art of nature and wildlife photography.

  • Optional group image shares each night with critiques for growth and critical thinking. 

  • Daily assistance during in-the-field shoots from both Jen and Erica.

  • Evening editing time with Jen and Erica on hand to answer questions.

Conservation is Core

 

At EPIC Photo Escapes, animal conservation and ethical travel are at the core of everything we do. We believe that as photographers, it is our responsibility to protect and preserve the wildlife and their habitats that we capture through our lenses. That's why we only work with outfitters and partners who share our commitment to sustainability and responsible tourism practices. We strive to ensure that our workshops not only provide incredible photographic opportunities but also make a positive impact on the environment and the local communities we visit. By promoting ethical travel and animal conservation, we aim to inspire others to use their cameras as a tool for change and help create a better world for all.

Your lead instructor, Jen Waicukauski, is a certified naturalist and volunteers her time for various conservation and nature restoration projects.  In all workshops she encourages techniques for using your photography to benefit this planet's wildlife and wild spaces.

The Process is Super Easy

RESERVE

After you review the Trip Agreement and have your questions answered, reserve your favorite adventure with a deposit or full registration.

WELCOME

We'll send you an official welcome letter with more details. We'll also send you the Trip Agreement to sign electronically via secure Docusign.

ZOOM

When we're closer to the Trip Date, we'll schedule a Zoom chat with group to go over preparation recommendations as well as answer questions.

ADVENTURE

It's time! We'll all fly in on our various flights to our first get-together as a group! Let the adventure, great wildlife experiences & photography begin!

Your Instructors

You're In Good Company.

  • How close do we get to the bears?
    Bears are individuals just like people. Each bear will have a different tolerance level for how close it will be comfortable with us approaching it. We often approach to 50 yards and bears will occasionally wander past us as close at 15 yards. Our guides are able to read the bear's body language and know just how close is a safe distance. We have many bears that we have identified and watched for years. There are a few sows that we have watched raising 3 generations of cubs. These momma bears have learned that we are not a threat to their cubs and will often come lay down to nurse very close to us.
  • What can you tell me about the meals?
    The lodge has a long standing reputation for fine dining. Meals prepared fresh daily under the experienced eye of our chef. We cater to both meat lovers and vegetarians. If you have special dietary restrictions please let us know a month before our trip.
  • Is there a weight limit on baggage?
    No weight limit! Your first 50 pounds is free. You will be charged $1.60 per pound excess baggage fee by the air service for anything over 60 LBS but there is no limit as to how much you can bring provided you are willing to pay for the overage.
  • How do I get to the final destination of Iliamna?
    To get to the Lodge you will need to take a flight from Anchorage to the remote Village of Iliamna. There is no road access to this wilderness. We will make the reservation for you on Lake & Peninsula Air, but you will be responsible for the roundtrip cost which is usually around $600.
  • How many guests can stay at the lodge?
    Only 12 guests will be at the lodge during your stay. We prefer the dynamics of a small personalized operation so we can customize each day's activities to the desire of our guest. We split into two or 3 groups each day. With 1 guide for every 4-6 guests.
  • Does the lodge have Internet and phone service?
    Cell Phones will not work. There is a lodge satellite phone that you are free to use for non international calls. Our satellite Internet has very limited bandwidth so only emails that do not have attachments can be sent or revived.
  • What wildlife might we see?
    Bears, Walrus, Wolves, Eagles, and Dall Sheep.
  • Is late June a good time to photograph bears?
    Late June is a great time to photograph bears! The bears are often walking on the low tides to search for claims. They also spend a lot of time roaming the fields looking for berries. It is also a great time to see little cubs. Salmon begin to arrive in late June, and that is when the fishing can start. And of course, this time of year typically offers weather that is wonderful for hiking and treks!
  • How physically demanding should we expect this Workshop/Trek to be?
    This trip can have a lot of hiking involved. You will need to be able to hike up to 10 miles in the rugged Alaskan wilderness carrying all your camera gear for the day. We will mostly be off trail and in the real wilderness. Hiking will take place in our waders as some parts may be hiking over rocks hidden in flowing water. You will also need to be able to get on and off small float planes.
  • What are the lodging accommodations like?
    The main lodge, is right on the shore of the lake and the gathering place for our guests. You'll enjoy the warmth and atmosphere around the stone fireplace reliving the day's adventure, project images on a large screen, play pool, and plan tomorrow's adventures, all while taking in a 180 degree panoramic view of Alaska's largest lake and the glacial filled mountains of the Alaska Peninsula. We have 5 comfortable cedar guest cabins next to the main lodge. Each cabin has a private bathroom, shower with unlimited hot water, heaters with thermostat so you can set the heat where you like it. There are 2 full sized beads in each cabin and you should expect double occupancy.
  • What happens if there is a medical emergency?
    We will be in remote Alaska but are incredibly fortunate to have a fully equipped medical clinic only 7 miles from the lodge that is accessible 24 hours a day, emergency evacuations are always available. Guides carry Satellite phones during the day.
  • How physically demanding are the wildlife safaris?
    Our safari vehicles will be doing all the work. So sit back and enjoy being driven around to see, experience and photograph the wildlife.
  • Do you have a recommendation for travel insurance?
    We do not necessarily have a recommendation at this time, but we personally use a policy by Allianz Global.
  • How many guests are in each safari vehicle?
    Maximum 4 guest in our 4x4 land cruiser (that seats 7 in the back), so you will have a window seat and lots of room for your gear.
  • Does Kenya require that we have a travel VISA?
    Yes, Kenya currently does require a visa. It is an easy online application that needs to be done before travel.
  • What animals might be we see on this adventure?
    Lions, leopard, cheetah, zebras, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, wild dogs, serval cats, antelopes, kongoni, lesser kudu, Oryx, klipspringer, impala, stripped hyena, ostriches, gazelles, buffaloes and many more. Kenya also has a ton of beautiful bird life, my favorites being the Secretary Bird, Hornbill and the Lilac Breasted Roller.
  • Will we have Internet and/or phone service?
    The lodges will have spotty wifi services. We have found that we often get reception with our international T-Mobile plan inside the game parks. We are happy to provide our phone number (in the case of an emergency only) to family back home.
  • What shots and vaccines will I need prior to traveling to Kenya?
    You will need to talk to your own travel doctors about your recommended shots and medications. To get an idea, we usually check the Traveler's Health area on the CDC website for Kenya.
  • How do I get to the workshop location?
    You will need to fly in to and out of Nairobi International Airport. On the last day make sure you have an evening flight that departs after 8pm (most flights are around 11pm).
  • Is February a good time for encountering wildlife in Kenya?
    We have been back and forth to Kenya since 2006 and can truthfully say, February is our favorite month. Not only is the wildlife in abundance, but the tourism is down. When we asked our guide what his favorite month is, he immediately said February, which is what started our February trips. Being the dry season, animals gather at the watering holes that make it easy to see and photograph while the migratory birds fly overhead.
  • What happens if there is a medical emergency?
    One of the drivers can help take you to seek medical care. We do require that everyone has medical insurance. If this is a concern, we recommend talking to your insurance company about what it provides. Some policies will even do medical evacuations so you can get treated at home.
  • What animals might we see?
    Wildlife sightings can vary based on factors like weather, luck, and the specific habitat we're exploring. We hope to see Polar Bears, Arctic Hares, Arctic Foxes, Red Foxes, Ptarmigans, and other birds.
  • Do we need a travel VISA for this workshop?
    Canada does not currently require US citizens to have a visa for stays under 180 days.
  • What type of vehicle will we be in as we travel to see the wildlife?
    We are not in one of those huge 40-person tundra buggies that are common for polar bear trips, instead we are in 4x4 GMC Savanna vans with doors on both sides and step stools for easy access. Originally configured for 10 passengers they have been modified to fit 5 photographers comfortably.
  • Do you have a recommendation for travel insurance?
    We don't necessarily have a recommendation, but we personally use a policy by Allianz Global.
  • How many guests are in each of these vehicles?
    Maximum 4 guests, one instructor and one guide in each vehicle.
  • Is November a good time to photograph Polar Bears?
    Yes! This time of year is often referred to as the "Polar Bear Season" in Churchill because it coincides with the annual migration of polar bears to the shores of Hudson Bay as they wait for the sea ice to form. The congregation of polar bears near the coast during this time means that there is a higher chance of encountering multiple bears, making it easier to capture various behaviors and interactions.
  • How physically demanding is this adventure?
    Our vehicles will be doing most of the work. We can sit back and enjoy being driven around to see and experience the wildlife, while capturing the moments with our cameras.
  • How do I get to the workshop location?
    You will need to fly into Winnipeg on November 11th and out again on November 19th. You are welcome to arrive early (early arrival is encouraged in case of flight cancellations or delays), but all costs outside of our trip dates will be your responsibility. From Winnipeg, you will fly to Churchill. The Canada domestic flight is included in the Trip price and scheduled for you by Epic Photo Escapes. The flight to Winnipeg from your location and back home again is NOT included in the Trip price.
  • What type of vehicle will we be in as we travel to see the wildlife?
    We are not in one of those huge 40-person tundra buggies that are common for polar bear trips, instead we are in 4x4 GMC Savanna vans with doors on both sides and step stools for easy access. Originally configured for 10 passengers they have been modified to fit 5 photographers comfortably.
  • How physically demanding is this adventure?
    Our vehicles and zodiacs will be doing all the work. So sit back and enjoy being driven around to see and experience the wildlife.
  • How do I photograph Belugas?
    While we can’t get in the water with the whales, underwater shots are quite easy with GoPro devices, underwater cameras such as the OM System Tough Cameras, phones with underwater housings, and cameras with underwater housings.
  • How many guests are in each of these vehicles?
    Maximum 4 guests, one instructor and one guide in each vehicle.
  • What animals might we see?
    While no wildlife is guaranteed, that is why it is wild, we hope to see Polar Bears, Belugas, Arctic Hares, Arctic Foxes, Ptarmigans, Bald Eagles and a variety of other birds.
  • Do we need a travel VISA for this workshop?
    Canada does not currently require US citizens to have a visa for stays under 180 days.
  • Do you have a recommendation for travel insurance?
    We don't necessarily have a recommendation, but we personally use a policy by Allianz Global.
  • Is August a good time to photograph Polar Bears?
    National Geographic and other publications have been showing lots of photos recently of Polar Bears amongst the fireweeds, which is from this time of year. We believe that there are compelling images of the polar bears on land. According to our tour operator there is very little tourist traffic at this time, and it isn't uncommon to see and mom with her cub for a full hour with no other people around. Plus, it is the best time of year for the overlap of Polar Bears, Belugas and Northern Lights. Also, a huge bonus is that it will not be 40 below, which to us is a big plus.
  • How do I get to the workshop location?
    You will need to fly into Winnipeg on August 11th and out again on August 17th. You are welcome to arrive early (early arrival is encouraged in case of flight cancellations or delays), but all costs outside of our trip dates will be your responsibility. From Winnipeg, you will fly to Churchill. The Canada domestic flight is included in the Trip price and scheduled for you by Epic Photo Escapes. The flight to Winnipeg from your location and back home again is NOT included in the Trip price.
  • Does the lodge have Internet and phone service?
    Cell Phones will not work. There is a lodge satellite phone that you are free to use for non international calls. Our satellite Internet has very limited bandwidth so only emails that do not have attachments can be sent or revived.
  • What wildlife might we see?
    Bears, Walrus, Wolves, Eagles, and Dall Sheep.
  • How close do we get to the bears?
    Bears are individuals just like people. Each bear will have a different tolerance level for how close it will be comfortable with us approaching it. We often approach to 50 yards and bears will occasionally wander past us as close at 15 yards. Our guides are able to read the bear's body language and know just how close is a safe distance. We have many bears that we have identified and watched for years. There are a few sows that we have watched raising 3 generations of cubs. These momma bears have learned that we are not a threat to their cubs and will often come lay down to nurse very close to us.
  • What are the lodging accommodations like?
    The main lodge, is right on the shore of the lake and the gathering place for our guests. You'll enjoy the warmth and atmosphere around the stone fireplace reliving the day's adventure, project images on a large screen, play pool, and plan tomorrow's adventures, all while taking in a 180 degree panoramic view of Alaska's largest lake and the glacial filled mountains of the Alaska Peninsula. We have 5 comfortable cedar guest cabins next to the main lodge. Each cabin has a private bathroom, shower with unlimited hot water, heaters with thermostat so you can set the heat where you like it. There are 2 full sized beads in each cabin and you should expect double occupancy.
  • How physically demanding are the wildlife safaris?
    Our trips are Moderate Difficult but tailored to your individual needs. With our 4 bush planes, jet boats, rafts and kayaks we can accommodate anyone in reasonable shape. You should be able to walk 4 miles a day to consistently see wildlife from the ground.
  • What can you tell me about the meals?
    The lodge has a long standing reputation for fine dining. Meals prepared fresh daily under the experienced eye of our chef. We cater to both meat lovers and vegetarians. If you have special dietary restrictions please let us know a month before our trip.
  • What happens if there is a medical emergency?
    We will be in remote Alaska but are incredibly fortunate to have a fully equipped medical clinic only 7 miles from the lodge that is accessible 24 hours a day, emergency evacuations are always available. Guides carry Satellite phones during the day.
  • How many guests can stay at the lodge?
    Only 12 guests will be at the lodge during your stay. We prefer the dynamics of a small personalized operation so we can customize each day's activities to the desire of our guest. We split into two or 3 groups each day. With 1 guide for every 4-6 guests.
  • How do I get to the final destination of Iliamna?
    To get to the Lodge you will need to take a flight from Anchorage to the remote Village of Iliamna. There is no road access to this wilderness. We will make the reservation for you on Lake & Peninsula Air, but you will be responsible for the roundtrip cost which is usually around $600.
  • Is there a weight limit on baggage?
    No weight limit! Your first 50 pounds is free. You will be charged $1.60 per pound excess baggage fee by the air service for anything over 60 LBS but there is no limit as to how much you can bring provided you are willing to pay for the overage.
  • Is September a good time to photograph bears?
    The lodge owner expressed that this was his favorite time of year! Here is what he said: “The truth is if you have the access and know where to go, bears are actively fishing from late June until mid October. My personal favorite time is the first 3 weeks of September. The weather may not be as good and we are more likely to lose a day because of weather conditions, but the fall colors make for a fantastic backdrop.”
  • How close do we get to the birds?
    The hummingbirds use the feeders all around the lodge. So close sometimes that we find using a 70-200mm lens works great!
  • Does the lodge have Internet?
    While the lodges have wifi, it can occasionally go out. But for the most part, yes.
  • Who do you recommend for Travel Insurance?
    We do require travel insurance for our trips. Most airlines have an option to add on a policy when buying your flights. We personally use Allianz Global.
  • Can you tell me more about the food/meals?
    The lodge has a long-standing reputation for fine dining. Meals prepared fresh daily under the experienced eye of our chef. We cater to both meat lovers and vegetarians. If you have special dietary restrictions, please let us know a month before our trip. The chefs use local and in season fruits, herbs and vegetables from local communities and sometimes from their own gardens. Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements and/or allergies.
  • How many guests are at the lodge?
    All our lodges are small lodges, so not many other guests. Each lodge may have day tours that come through so you will notice more people at lunch time.
  • How physically demanding will this trip be?
    As demanding as you want it to be. Most of the photography will take place at the lodge. We have short trails all around the lodges that you have the option of taking to find toucans and other birds.
  • Is April a good time to photograph birds? 
    Yes! The birds are very active at this time and in abundance.
  • Do you recommend insurance for camera gear?
    I do recommend insurance for camera gear, and it can be as easy as calling whoever you use for your home or auto. I personally have a policy with PPA. Make sure and ask for a policy that covers you internationally.
  • Do you have advice regarding the high altitude of this location?
    Quito lies at just above 9,000 feet in elevation. We suggest avoiding alcohol on your flight over and until you acclimatize. If you are prone to altitude sickness please talk with your doctor and consider arriving a day or two early to rest up before our trip. While the activity level is low, please take it easy when arriving and drink lots of water.
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