At Natural Habitat Adventures, we endeavor to offer the most inspiring and enriching nature photography adventures available. Want to learn more about our Photo Expeditions? I recently sat down with  Mike Hillman and Jim Beissel, Nat Hab’s Photo Expedition Co-Directors, to hear directly from them what you can expect from these trips.

How do Photo Expeditions differ from other Nat Hab itineraries?

Since 1985, Natural Habitat Adventures has delivered life-enhancing nature and wildlife experiences to small groups of passionate explorers. On Photo Expeditions, we build upon that tradition and maximize travelers’ photography opportunities. As Photo Expedition Co-Directors, our commitment is to provide exclusive access to remote locations, private inclusions and unique itineraries to the farthest corners of our planet.

This commitment to exclusive nature photography experiences can take many forms: private camps within national parks, our Aurora Pod® in Churchill, Nat Hab’s Tortoise Camp in the Galapagos or even our new pop-top, 4WD North American Safari Trucks that get travelers further afield. It also means unmatched itineraries such as Nat Hab’s circumnavigation of Iceland or heading into the remote backcountry on our Ultimate Alaska Wildlife Photo Expedition.

Wild Alaska Grizzly Encounter Photo Expedition, travelers photographing, cameras, sony, Alaska, brown bear

Photographed by Nat Hab traveler © Ron Todd on our Alaska Bear Quest Photo Expedition

“On these nature journeys, we’re always thinking about photography, first and foremost, and the photo opportunities we can give our guests in the field. That focus on photography dictates the locations, activities, trip duration and daily choices Expedition Leaders make so that you get the best photography opportunities and instruction possible.

For example, being out in the field during the right lighting conditions is key. So, changing when meals happen—if sunset’s at dinner, we try to move things around to get that beautiful golden hour light and a beautiful sunset, then have dinner a little earlier. Those are the kinds of choices we make on these kinds of trips.”

In addition, Photo Expeditions have smaller groups to allow for personalized photo instruction and increased baggage allowances for carrying camera gear.

Nat Hab guest on our Galapagos Wildlife Photo Expedition

Nat Hab traveler on our Galapagos Wildlife Photo Expedition © Mark Hickey

Who are Photo Expeditions for? Do I need special photography skills or gear? 

These are trips for everyone interested in photography, from basic to expert level skills, first timer to lifetime. All interested photographers are welcome to join, no matter your skill level.

Our Expedition Leaders meet you at your level and help you explore the world with a camera. They provide an enriching experience that leaves you inspired about the planet and conservation.

Interested to learn more about the gear we use? Check out Nat Hab’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Expedition Leader Court Whelan, doing a deep dive into his camera bag for an upcoming African safari:

Who leads Photo Expeditions?

A Nat Hab Expedition Leader guides each Photo Expedition. Along with a strong naturalist background, they are also expert photographers and instructors. Their naturalist knowledge is key from a photography perspective—they know when wildlife is most active, how to position you for ideal lighting and composition, and which photo-worthy animal behaviors to look out for. 

Our Expedition Leaders are outstanding photographers and superb naturalists who intimately understand the animals and the environment, dramatically increasing your chances of capturing the images and stories you are hoping for.

“We’ve got excellent Expedition Leaders that meet the criteria of being great naturalists and photographers. On top of that, they can translate those skills and knowledge into providing excellent educational experiences.”

Photography Adventures co-director James Beissel guiding in Yellowstone National Park

Photo Expedition Co-Director Jim Beissel guiding in Yellowstone National Park © Megan Brief

What kind of photography instruction is available on a Photo Expedition?

Photography instruction on a trip can vary depending on the itinerary and guests. Mike shared that Photo Expedition instruction can include the following:

  • Field Instruction, getting inspiration and ideas from your Expedition Leader when you’re taking photos out in nature. From camera tips to how to get the right shot, your Expedition Leader is a go-to resource to answer any and all questions you may have and to set you up for success.
  • Formal Photography Instruction, when Expedition Leaders present at mealtimes or during workshop sessions to talk through composition and other elements of photography, so guests can learn as much as possible before heading into the field again to use those skills.
  • Photo Editing Instruction, another big part of what we do. How should you edit a photo to get closer to your creative vision? Our Expedition Leaders demonstrate different editing techniques and have lots of helpful tips to get you started.
Photography Adventures co-director Mike Hillman and Nat Hab guest

Photo Expedition Co-Director Mike Hillman and Nat Hab traveler © Jim Beissel

Photography with a Direct Connection to Conservation

When I asked Jim and Mike what hopes they had for their work as Co-Directors of Nat Hab’s Photo Expeditions, Jim said right away:

Photography can inspire a lot of things: it can inspire you to explore, to be more creative, to connect to nature, to change the world and to make the world a better place.”

There is power in these kinds of experiences and sharing these images. As the conservation travel partner of WWF and a supporter of conservation initiatives around the globe, Nat Hab offers Photo Expeditions that highlight the power of photography in our destinations. We want to motivate our travelers to share their nature experiences and inspire others to protect the planet by becoming conservation photographers.

Nat Hab guests photograph a black-and-white ruffed lemur in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar

Nat Hab travelers photograph a black-and-white ruffed lemur in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar © Greg Courter

Inspiring nature photos have long helped protect wild places; the history of Yellowstone National Park is a great example. It might have never become a national park if photography hadn’t existed. William Henry Jackson, a pioneering photographer, and Thomas Moran, a landscape artist, joined Ferdinand Hayden’s 1871 expedition to survey the Yellowstone region for the federal government. Their images provided the first visual proof of Yellowstone’s wonders and helped persuade Congress to preserve the area. On March 1, 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill to make Yellowstone the first U.S. national park.

“Today, we are traveling to places that not a lot of people are privileged enough to visit; we are seeing things that not a lot of people are able to witness because they’re remote and vanishing in some cases. Our documentation of these species, places and conservation issues is valuable in getting the attention necessary to protect them.”

At Nat Hab, we want to drive home the positive impact of photography and support our travelers in capturing photos in the name of nature, wildlife and conservation. 

Nat Hab travelers experience the natural wonders of North America on our Canyons of the American Southwest Photo Expedition © Courtney Kent

Jim: “The impact we hope to have is not always about taking a photo that changes the world. Participating in this activity, even if it’s just a hobby, is a way of exploring and a valuable way of connecting with nature. It’s a change in values: We’re valuing wildlife and wild places from a utilitarian standpoint and not only as a shift away from hunting for trophies. You can take a photo many times over. And that can support a community for many years versus harvesting an animal once. So you’ve got this recurring source of revenue for local communities, too, and you’re part of something bigger, exploring the world with a camera and feeling inspired by that process and the people around you.”

 Mike: “We hope to create the kind of experience that nature photographers want to be on, that will inspire them, that will take them to places they have been dreaming about to see wildlife that they’ve been dreaming of taking photos of. We hope their experience comes back not just as images they were hoping for but as a more holistic appreciation of that place and the journey. We want to be in—and take others into—nature on its own terms.”

Are you inspired? If you’re looking for a nature adventure that offers exceptional photography opportunities and personalized instruction to take your skills to the next level, choose a Photo Expedition! Check out all of Nat Hab’s Photo Expeditions here.