Musings Of A Fellow Adventurer…Alaska Brown Bears

Thirteen days – two very long travel days, four days on Kodiak Island, seven days in the Katmai Wilderness, my birthday, photography with a great group of new friends, and the “Excellent” adventure with Laurie Excell……it can’t get any better!

Photo by Laurie Excell


Hi, I am Jack Holmes.  I retired from industry three years ago and started my consulting company.  In my second year I started my business venture of photography.  Having been “in and out of” photography over the previous 30 years, I thought I knew something about photography……was I ever wrong!!!!

I am a Canon shooter – yes, an anomaly on this “excellent” adventure.  Like the “Harley versus Honda” jabs, I enjoyed the teasing between me and the other photographers….and it was started by me one day when the clouds broke, some blue sky appeared, and the sun peaked out from behind the clouds, mist, fog and rain.  I said, “Look, it’s a CANON kind of day”!

As I write this “guest” blog and reflect on my two-week experience, the memories and the photographs cause me to smile and say “WOW”!!!  I truly enjoy landscape and wildlife photography….a passion.  Laurie and the group (Don, Dylan, Linda, and Greg) gave me great pointers and showed me their photos to help me capture some really good photos.  I downloaded over 150GB of photos and burned through many CF cards.

It doesn’t take long to really see Kodiak.  I arrived well ahead of the group and spent my days driving the island to see what I could photograph.  I covered the length of the island – from Kodiak south past Pasagshak State Park, to Fossil Beach, and then north past Kodiak to Monashka Bay….several times.  The Kodiak harbor is quite interesting and a great place to capture some photos.

Canon 5D MK II, EF 24-70mm 2.8L ISO 400 f16 @ 1/30


Canon 5D MK II, EF 24-70mm 2.8L ISO 1600 f11 @ 1/40


Laurie arrived Friday evening, and three “adventurers” arrived Saturday just ahead of heavy clouds, fog and rain.  We sat in the hotel lobby and talked photography for hours.  Our last adventurer was diverted away from Kodiak after the pilot made three attempts to “see” the runway to land…. unsuccessful!  This last member of our group had his own adventure when he decided to leave Anchorage Sunday morning, get to Homer and book a floatplane to deliver him to Katmai.  Our group waited in the hotel lobby on Sunday until the ceiling lifted just enough for Andrews Air to get us off the island and fly to Katmai.  We all arrived at the lodge just in time for a quick snack, put the gear in our rooms, rest a little, and then sit down to a huge dinner… photography this day…..but some great food.

The next 6 days was all about the bears……and, a little about the seals, otters, eagles, porpoise, fox, and other wildlife…..but, the BEARS!!!!  Shooting in the fog, drizzle, rain, and wind is not the most pleasant, and surely not ideal for a “canon shooter” [big grin here].  However, when the bear walks within 12 feet of you, the issues are forgotten.  Several times we had bears come close to us…..and I mean CLOSE!  I have never felt such excitement and fear all at the same time.  But, when our guide Perry said, “Okay, everybody be cool”, and “Bear, you know the rules”, that reassuring voice made me, and hopefully the bear, feel confident enough to keep the camera going.

Canon EOS 7D, EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS ISO 800 f4 @ 1/2000


Canon EOS 7D, EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS ISO 1600 f5.6 @ 1/250


Canon EOS 7D, EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS ISO 100 f5.6 @ 1/100


Canon EOS 5D MK II, EF 400mm f2.8L IS ISO 400 f5.6 @ 1/400


This was truly an experience of a lifetime.  It was my first adventure with Laurie.  I did a lot of research before I booked with Laurie.  All of my research paid off….smaller group, personal instruction from an expert, working with a lady who has more energy that any 15 year old, and a well planned, organized, excellent adventure.  The long hikes to the boat each day, the long hours in the field, the meals, the staff at the lodge, the friendships that were born – ALL contributed to the best photography trip I’ve ever had.

I said above this was my first adventure with Laurie.  It is not my last!  I am booked with her for the Yellowstone Fall Rut and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.  I can’t wait.  Oh, and by the way – I WILL return to Katmai.  This was a 10!!!!!

Thank you Laurie, Don, Linda, Dylan, Greg…..and thank you Katmai staff – Angela, Perry, Bob, and Shawn…a fantastic chef!!!!  (Yes, I gained weight.)

Website –

Blog –

(I will be posting more in the coming days)

Facebook –