Van Os Photo Safaris logo
Worldwide Photography Tours since 1980

Bald Eagles, Sea Otters & Coastal Wildlife of Kachemak Bay, Alaska
2024 Trip Report

During my first year in Alaska, I kept a journal of my new experiences. Reflecting on my first winter’s journal entries, I noticed a recurring theme: the distinctive quality of light in the far north. Whether it was the warm sunlight hues, the cold blue shadows, or the low angle of the winter sun that transformed the scenery, these observations prompted a renewed focus on my photography. This captivating winter light has been a constant draw for me, even after three decades of capturing Alaska’s beauty. Winter wildlife photography here on the Alaska coast is just as much about this seasonal light as it is about the winter concentrations of wildlife that call this stunning landscape home.


Our two 2024 photo tours were treated to a variety of weather conditions, which was exactly what I had hoped for. The diverse coastal climate provided dynamic lighting and shooting opportunities. On clear, calm days, we captured magazine-quality images of eagles set against stunning backdrops. Meanwhile, the blustery winter days challenged us to push our cameras high-speed drives to seize the dramatic action of eagles swooping and diving over Kachemak Bay’s icy waters.

We structured our photo sessions around two daily boat excursions. Weather permitting, we would embark at dawn to capture the early morning light that bathed Kachemak Bay’s sublime landscape. Typically, these morning shoots lasted around three hours. After a midday intermission to warm up, have lunch, and recharge our equipment, we’d set out for an afternoon session, concluding our day with the sunset. Only twice during our two tours did we have to sit out a period of rough weather due to challenging seas.


Our boat was skippered by one of the most knowledgeable local captains and hard-working first mates. The brand-new boat provided not only comfortable travel but also a stable platform for our group to capture the wildlife action from the deck. Eagles swooping to snatch fish from the water were a sight to behold and could be comfortably photographed from the boat’s rails. Meanwhile, curious sea otters floated by, offering us their cautious gaze as photo opportunities.

When anyone felt the need to get out of the weather, the warm cabin supplied an easy place to warm up. The boat’s innovative drop-down bow facilitated effortless shore landings, allowing us to transition our eagle photography seamlessly from sea to land.


Creating A Lifetime’s Worth of Eagle Photos in the Span of One Trip

Bald eagles have always been a familiar sight over Alaska. Things were much different from the rest of North America. I remember my first encounter with an eagle in the wild—long before my time in Alaska. At that time, bald eagles were so scarce in the lower forty-eight states that they were deemed endangered. For a wildlife photographer, capturing the elusive beauty of a bald eagle was a distant dream, hindered by the rarity of sightings and the limitations of photographic equipment. However, thanks to the Endangered Species Act and concerted conservation efforts, eagles have rebounded and are no longer on the endangered species list. It was these initial scarce encounters that planted the seeds of fascination, leading me—and many of our photo travelers—to Kachemak Bay.


But this trip is not just about the eagles. It’s about the eagles set against the breathtaking coastal backdrop of Alaska. It’s about the dynamic scenes created by having hundreds of eagles within reach, each day presenting new opportunities to photograph them perched, soaring, or diving to pluck fish from the bay’s tempestuous waters. Our chosen locations often featured over fifty eagles performing aerial acrobatics. With favorable winds, we could predict their flight paths, allowing for intimate close-ups and striking images that fully captured the essence of these aerial masters.


During our photography sessions, we dedicated time to exploring the offshore islands, sheltered bays, and hidden coves teeming with wildlife. It was here that we captured images of sea otters as they navigated the rocky coastline and possibly mountain goats deftly traversing the seaside cliffs. Stellar’s sea lions, effortlessly slicing through the bay’s inky dark waters, became a favorite subject, creating ripples in the serene coves. Each group had the opportunity to cruise by a beach that harbor seals frequented as a safe winter haul-out. The quiet water of this coast would also provide ample opportunities to photograph waterfowl with plenty of wintering golden eye, harlequin, and long-tailed ducks. Often while engaged in one photo subject or another, a common loon or pelagic cormorant would pop to the surface near the boat to inquire as to what we might be up to.


Remarkably, moose sightings were frequent enough that we didn’t have to venture far. Both photography groups enjoyed multiple encounters, often spotting them during our short commutes to the harbor or enroute to the airport. One memorable moment for our second group was witnessing a moose casually strolling through our hotel’s parking lot as we returned for lunch.


You might wonder how a group of photographers could spend nearly a week photographing eagles. The answer becomes clear after witnessing the stunning Alaskan backdrop, the abundance of eagles, and the diverse wildlife. The thought that more time is needed than initially planned is inevitable. From the remote beaches to the deck of our rugged boat, Kachemak Bay offers many close-up encounters with Alaska’s incredible coastal wildlife.

Upcoming Related Tours

Bald Eagles, Sea Otters & Coastal Wildlife of Kachemak Bay, Alaska

A spectacular wildlife shoot amidst Alaska’s most photogenic settings. Five full days of photography from a chartered boat along the Kenai Peninsula to capture dynamic in-flight and perched eagle images, endearing close-ups of sea otters, and wildlife in rugged winter landscapes.

February 16 - 22, 2025
More Information