Photography: Alaska Sled Dog Races
mbark on the adventure of a lifetime by taking a journey across Alaska’s quiet and frozen landscape on dog sled, or take part watching local races that celebrate the great Alaskan tradition of dog mushing.
Mushing is represented throughout Alaska’s history, but most learn about mushing through the iconic Iditarod sled dog race. The Iditarod has been dubbed “The Last Great Race On Earth,” the famed Iditarod trail pits men, women, and dogs against Alaska’s bitter arctic cold, raging blizzards, and unforgiving mountain terrain as they wind their way north along frozen rivers and historic trails.
Dog sled races aside, visiting Alaska in the winter offers anyone the opportunity to ride or drive your own dog team. It’s a chance to experience of pure untouched Alaska wilderness, with sounds of sled runners carving through snow, and the beating energy of dogs running in rhythmic sync before you.. These are the moments that bring it all together. It’s a lifetime opportunity to connect with the land, history and culture of mushing in Alaska – Something you’ll talk about forever!
There is no doubt you’ll want to capture your experiences and events you witness. Winter photography in Alaska can be challenging to say the least, but with a few handy tips you should do just fine!
- Keeping your camera warm: I’ve seen sub-zero temps freeze both consumer and pro level cameras solid. Taping or using a rubber band to attach hand warmers to a camera is a common practice for many photographers. However, I’m a big believer in camera storm jackets. Relatively affordable, keeps things simple, and they keep the warmth of hand warmers in the bag and also protects the camera from the elements.
- Keep your camera cold: Tempting as it may be, don’t put your camera back in your pocket or jacket – condensation will build up and if it’s cold enough and freeze when exposed to cold again. This same rule applies when you return to your vehicle, keep the camera cold. Before you enter a vehicle, put your camera in the camera bag and keep it in there until you return back outside. If you’re done for the day, keep the camera in the bag for several hours allowing the internal temperature to match room temperature.
- Keep your batteries warm: It’s nice keeping your gear together in a bag, but warmer batteries will last a lot longer. I keep my batteries in a pocket close to my body. I also keep my batteries in a plastic zip lock sandwich bag, this prevents condensation from my body from collecting on the batteries.
- Static Electricity: Cold dry weather in Alaska can mean static electricity, and you’ll want to protect those precious photos while swapping out your memory card. Always touch your tripod or something metal before engaging with the internal components of your camera.
- Setting your tripod in snow: Keep your tripod legs together when placing them in the snow, forcing them down and apart will cause damage and often snap them off. If you’re shooting in deep snow, try placing 3 Frisbee on the snow as a platform. Manfrotto offers Tripod Snow Shoes as a hassle free solution I quite like.
- Dress for the weather: Layering for the day is key, and you should consider synthetics over cotton. To begin I recommend long underwear, fleece pants topped off with snow pants. For your core, a moisture wicking t-shirt, layered with a long-sleeve t-shirt and parka. Smart Wool socks are musher recommended to stay on theme here. Don’t cheat yourself on a good boot! Keep your fingers warm without loosing touch with your camera – AquaTech’s Sensory Gloves are a great solution!
The Dog Team Experience:
Whether you’re looking for a 2-3 hour or 3-day sled dog adventure, I highly recommend Iditarod Veteran Vern Halter’s Dream a Dream Premier Iditarod Kennel. Last winter I had the opportunity to tour, ride, and drive my own dog team through some amazing wilderness, and they do it right! Vern Halter offers the complete Alaska musher experience, from Bed and Breakfast, getting your hands dirty by learning the ropes as a handler, or out driving a team if you like.. They’re passionate about their dogs as much as the history behind mushing.
Alaska Mushing, Local Sled Dog Races, and Events:
- The Yukon Quest
- Fur Rondy
- Alaska Sled Dog & Racing Association
- Alaska Dog Musher Association
Experienced mushing, have a favorite race, or tour operator you like? We’d love to hear about it! Drop a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.