How Does A Professional Photographer Tell A Story? Overland’s Luke Madden in Alaska

In this post, we’ve asked professional photographer, Luke Madden, to tell us a bit about some of his favorite Overland photos in Alaska. For anyone who aspires to be a professional photographer, these photos and comments can show you how a seasoned pro does it.

Some of my favorite places I’ve photographed in Alaska are the valleys that run in between these beautiful bare ridges on Overland’s Alaska Expedition. Given the rivers running through them, the vegetation is incredibly lush, and there’s almost always some fog hanging around. I couldn’t believe it when we stumbled across this field of wildflowers next to the river on the way to our backcountry camp site. I will admit I asked the leaders to cross the river twice…

Glaciers are one the natural wonders that I’m grateful to have experienced with Overland multiple times on their Alaska Explorer trip. They are beautiful from every angle, up close or far away, and in any weather. The colors are constantly changing, and being able to kayak up to where they meet the water is something special. Kayaking on Overland’s Alaska trips is wildly different from the hiking portions, so being able to do both in one trip is a fantastic opportunity to experience two very different parts of the state.

I could talk about the terrain of Alaska for a long time. It is massive, it is foggy, and it has an incredible complexity of colors. This image was taken with the drone right after two days of heavy fog finally lifted on the Alaska Expedition trip. I was starting to think the day would be a bust for photos, then the clouds parted and I saw where we were standing and how the green faded into volcanic rock. It was one of the most exciting reveals I’ve experienced while photographing.

Service and Hiking Alaska is a wild trip. The service element of the trip is undeniably tough, though I have also seen the most growth come from Alaska service work than from service work anywhere else. Doing that type of labor in the Alaskan wilderness makes you feel both tiny and stronger than you ever have felt before. Even in the pouring rain, the candid smiles are happening all the time. To this day, this is one my favorite portraits from any Overland trip.

Overland doesn’t do ice climbing any more, but I had to include this image in the series. It is one of the coolest activities I’ve done on a trip, and one of the most photogenic. We spent two full days climbing on the Matanuska Glacier outside of Anchorage and it went by in a flash. The gear and methods used to climb ice are completely different from rocks, which is another Overland activity. I loved being able to actually walk on a glacier (and drink glacial water straight off the ice)– it was unforgettable.

Luke has been photographing for Overland since the role was created around 2010/11. Working with the Overland team, the role of Overland photographer has evolved into a critical means of sharing the Overland story with families, leaders, and the outdoor community. Luke has traveled across the country, to the Virgin Islands and Costa Rica, and throughout Europe to capture the experience of Overland’s students. During the rest of the year, Luke lives in Maine and does freelance work for a number of nonprofits which specialize in education and research/conservation.

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    Tom Costley

    When Tom Costley founded Overland in 1984, he sought to create experiences for young people that were fun, where new friendships could grow, where natural beauty was embraced, where there were real and varied challenges, and where Overland’s students would achieve something of importance to them. Overland’s focus on small groups, carefully crafted trips, and superlative leadership has made it a leader in the summer camp world. Overland’s commitment to excellence in everything it does has led to its success: over the past four decades, Overland has served 40,000 students and 5,000 trip leaders. Tom writes about the outdoors and travel from Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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