Mike Wardynski - Bucket list photography trips-helicopter

Mike Wardynski’s Bucket List Photography Experiences of a Lifetime

Our beautiful earth is full of amazing photography experiences! From roaming wildlife to iconic landscapes, there’s something for everyone. I have been fortunate enough to do an extensive amount of traveling as a photography instructor and shoot some of the earth’s most incredible locations. In this article I’ll share some of my favorite shooting experiences that you might just want to add to your own bucket list. You can see more of my work at www.wardynskiphoto.com.

Erupting Volcanoes

Shooting an active volcano is one of the most exciting photography experiences you will ever have. There’s just something to be said about watching the earth change before your eyes. It doesn’t even seem real. I was lucky enough to photograph the Hawaiian Kilauea eruption in the spring of 2018. During the shoot I was mesmerized how red-hot lava would break out of a location for a short period of time and then solidify into solid black rock. New earth, fresh out of the oven! There’s really nothing else like it. 

 Volcanoes are in a constant state of transformation which can make them a little difficult to predict. A highly active volcano can just stop with hardly any notice at all. Just as a resting volcano can come back to life after years of inactivity. In December of 2022 the Mauna Loa Volcano in Hawaii roared back to life with an incredible river of lava that lasted just a little over a week before the volcano went back to sleep. 

 Should you decide to photograph an active volcano, make sure you do your research and know what you are getting into. If you are not familiar with volcanoes and lava it is probably best to hire a guide if you will be anywhere near the danger zone of a volcano.

Trekking Through Patagonia

Patagonia is one of the most breathtaking places on the planet. It’s perhaps the most beautiful location that I’ve ever shot. The region is lined with rugged peaks that are accented by massive glaciers and impossibly blue lakes. Located in the southern region of Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is one of the most remote inhabited places on the planet. Because of the previous statement, Patagonia is off the radar of the average tourist. Patagonia is a land that calls out to die hard photographers and hikers alike while attracting a fraction of the crowds that you’d find in American National Parks like Yosemite.

Mike Wardynski - Bucket list photography trips-helicopter

Shooting from a Helicopter

This shot was photographed along the Na Pali Coast in Kauai as a storm approached the north shore. When making this photograph, I made sure to spin my polarizing filter to unpolarized to ensure that the rainbow showed up in the photo. These magnificent cliffs are impressive from land and sea, but there’s nothing quite like shooting them from the air. 

Photographing from a helicopter has led to some of my most memorable shoots. In the age of drones, we’re pretty used to seeing aerial imagery but actually being in the air yourself takes the experience of aerial shooting to a whole new level. Additionally, your hand-held camera has a much better sensor than even the best prosumer drone. If you want high quality, get in a helicopter. When hiring a helicopter there are a few things to consider. First you absolutely need to have the doors off. You will not get good shots shooting though glass. Secondly, you need to have a window seat. It is impossible to shoot from the middle of the aircraft. Lastly, chartered flights will produce better results than tours since you will be in control of where you shoot. Read my article about shooting from a helicopter.

White Horses of Camargue

The white horses of Camargue France are some of the most angelic creatures that I have ever photographed. They had been on my radar for a long time before I was actually able to make it to them. First of all, the south of France is incredibly beautiful from Nice to Camargue. I highly recommend that drive. Secondly, if you’re a horse person, you need to photograph these animals. The shooting happens on private land and secluded beaches so there’s practically no one around except for your group, the horses and the guardians who are in charge of directing the horses. The peaceful nature of this shoot makes it one that you will remember for the rest of your life. Since there are a lot of logistics involved in coordinating a shoot with the horses, it is best to join a Camargue photography workshop to make it happen.

Mike Wardynski - Bucket list photography trips-Underwater photography

Underwater Photography

Perhaps one of the most difficult forms of photography is underwater photography. There are many challenges associated with being underwater with camera gear. We are land dwellers not marine mammals so the entire experience of being under water will feel unnatural to most people. First and foremost, people naturally float so diving weights are required to compensate for the air in your lungs. Furthermore, ocean currents and surf can make it nearly impossible to keep the camera in the same position for very long. As if that wasn’t enough, water filters light differently than air causing the scene to become very blue even at modest depths. Lastly, traditional cameras are not waterproof which means that you’ll need to invest in a dedicated underwater camera or housing. Ewa Marine makes an affordable housing for folks who do not want to buy an underwater camera or invest thousands of dollars in a pro housing. 

 This spinner dolphin photo was taken while snorkeling in the tropical waters of the Pacific using an Ewa Marine housing. These curious creatures came right up to me to get a closer look which made for a great photo opportunity. I photographed the pod for a short period of time before swimming back to shore. When photographing marine animals, it is important to follow local guidelines as to how close you can get.

 If you are thinking of taking your camera gear under water, it’s a really good idea to make sure that you have it insured. I highly recommend taking a look at an insurance policy from Full Frame Insurance.

Mike Wardynski - Bucket list photography trips-Bison in winter

The Bison of Yellowstone in the Winter

Yellowstone is one of the busiest national parks in the United States but in the winter the crowds go away and the park quiets down. In my opinion the winter is the best time to photograph Yellowstone because that is when the landscape is the most beautiful and when the bison are the most photogenic. In the winter time, bison use their large neck muscles to shovel away snow with their heads in search of grass. This results in a snow-covered bison and an excellent photo op. 

If you’re really lucky and the temperature drops low enough, you may even see frosty bison. In extreme cold, frost will collect on the fur of the bison changing their color from brown to white. In addition to bison, Yellowstone is also home to wolves, coyotes, eagles, foxes and more.  Most of the park is inaccessible to passenger vehicles in the winter though. This means that you will have to take a snowmobile or snow-coach tour in order to get into the park. These tours tend to be cheap but not very conducive to photography since you need to stay with the group which will most likely have no interest in sticking around to get a good shot. A charter or winter Yellowstone photography workshop will provide a much better experience to you as a photographer.

About The Author

Mike Wardynski

Hello, My name is Mike Wardynski. I’m a fine art landscape photographer based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. On the forefront of landscape photography, I specialize in premium large format prints, photography workshops and image licensing. Rooted in nature, my landscape photography has brought the joy of the natural world to the walls of homes and offices around the world.

Browse his galleries to see more! 

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