Photographers! Have you been searching for your next source of inspiration? Have you dreamed of an outlandishly remote journey to places where few humans have rarely ever set foot? The Kamchatka photo tour is one trip to capture it all against majestic landscapes, alive with colour.
Discover a land where you’re not just a camera-slinging tourist, but a real adventurer, trekking for days in a far-flung land in search of the one photo to rule them all. Embark on a mission to explore one of the most extreme environments on earth and let nature’s spectacle take centre stage and keep your shutter button working overtime.
What will you capture?
No more cheesy holiday happy snaps! Photographers, this is where you want to be – surrounded by the might, the mystery, the explosive drama and the volatile power of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka, the subject of 56th Parallel’s incredible photography expedition.
A vast peninsula off the far east of Siberia and part of the Pacific Rim of Fire, Kamchatka is one of the most volcanically active places on earth, second only to perhaps Iceland and Hawaii. The Kamchatka Photo Tour heads north out of Kamchatka’s capital and into the heart of volcano country.
The first leg of the journey will take you through traditional Siberian villages and offer sunrise opportunities for shooting panoramic vistas over one of Kamchatka’s most beautiful volcanic mountain chains, the colours of their snow-capped peaks changing as the day progresses.
Stills in isolated beauty
Next you’ll hike higher into the hills of this windswept wilderness for a photo session with six unusual but undeniably alluring Russian models, the giant volcanoes of Krestovsky (4,057m), Ushkovsky (3,903 m), Kluchevsky (4,750m), Kamen (4,579 m), Plosky Tolbachik (3,082 m) and Ostry Tolbachik (3,672m).
Interact with curious creatures
Not everything worth photographing in Kamchatka is huge and imposing. Back at our campsite, small animals, birds and plant life make fascinating and endearing macro subjects. Now, with a bit of luck, you might meet the most famous inhabitants of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
As you explore the campsite and look for all that you can find, take a moment and capture the panoramic views of the towering volcanos.
Visits from Brown bears
The Kamchatka brown bears sometimes pay a brief visit to our campsites in the morning during the Kamchatka photo tour. These curious, intelligent and social animals are a delight to witness. Photograph them from a respectful distance, and they’ll show the same respect to you.
We travel east in search of a true wonder of the natural world, Mount Kluchevsky, with its flawless conical shape, is considered by some to the perfect volcano. Some of the local indigenous believe it to be the birthplace of the world. This breathtaking mountain towers at 4,750m, flexing its muscles as one of the peninsula’s most active volcanos.
Our next few days are dedicated to the feisty Tolbachik volcano, still blasting out steam and producing lava flows today. Stay behind the lens as you take pictures of the spitting lava flowing through volcanic fissures and hot molten or semi-fluid rock. Moving on to more eerie subject matter, the Dead Forest of Tolbachik is our backdrop for still, haunting, atmospheric images of a lifeless landscape, burnt and desolate since Tolbachik’s devastating Great Eruption.
Your most explosive shots yet
Stay behind the lens as you take pictures of the spitting lava flowing through the volcanic fissures and hot molten or semi-fluid rock recently erupted from the closest volcanoes.
We then continue back toward Petropavlovsk-Kamchatksy and the nearby volcanoes the city considers ‘friendly giants’. Mutnovsky and Gorely provide awesome opportunities for summit hikes. Standing at the top, at the edge of the deep cavity, you feel as if you’re witnessing the creation of the very earth itself. As an extra special treat, this tour takes you to the rarely seen Mutnovsky Ice Cave – the place where mind-blowing images of multi-coloured ice tunnels were captured on camera for the first time in 2012. Amid landscapes that would suit a race of ancient ice giants, you must step into winter’s maw and traverse a volcanic path leading deeper into the ice.
Enter another world in the ice caves
Be swallowed up in the otherworldliness of the Mutnovsky Cave as the ethereal rainbow hues wash over the crystalline walls. Appearing like some Disneyesque light show, they are in fact the work of reflections from an underground river. This is truly one of the world’s most magical places for photographers with a passion for bizarre and beautiful natural phenomenon.
Now it’s time to tackle the mighty volcano head-on with a hike to its steaming craters. Near Mutnovsky’s 2,322m summit is a nest of merged craters, among the most beautiful volcanic phenomenon in Kamchatka. We hike to the rim of the craters via a crack in the volcano’s side. With a bit of courage, you can climb to the crest of the craters. Standing at the top, at the edge of the deep cavity, you feel as though you’re witnessing the earth’s creation, gazing down upon glittering glaciers, the torches of sulphur spewing fumaroles far below and the columns of vapour rising from the active funnel crater.
Hike to Mount Gorley
Our final photo shoot before we return to civilization involves a hike to the summit of Mount Gorely (1,892m). This relaxed climb will reward you with the chance to take fantastic photos of Mount Mutnovsky from a lofty vantage point, and observe Gorely striking turquoise crater lake of hot sulphuric acid. Hiking back from Mount Gorely, we pay our last respects to these mountain gods as our Kamchatka photo tour draws to a close.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out as a photographer, Kamchatka has the compelling scenery, the awe-inspiring volcanic action and the extraordinary wildlife encounters to make that once-in-a-lifetime, National Geographic eat-your-heart-out winning photo a reality. And on top of all that, it’s an eye-opening journey into to one of the wildest, most remote and unspoilt places on earth – The Kamchatka photo tour is an adventure never to be forgotten.
All photos from this blog made by Denis Budkov, a world-renowned photographer, based in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia. You can see more of his work on the NatGeo website.