Welcome to Mark Lissick Review.
My name is Michael Lambert. My wife Audrey and I like to travel and have been touring the world for the past 25 years. Audrey and I take turns picking travel destinations and Audrey wanted to see Polar Bears. I wanted to be able to photograph the bears at ground level and while researching the possibilities on the internet came across Mark Lissick’s web site advertising a “Polar Bears and Wildflowers” tour based out of Kaktovik, Barter Island, Alaska. The trip was July 19 - 25, 2012.
I did some research on the web to see if I could find any bad reviews or reports of problems with Mark Lissick. I did not find anything of note and after speaking with Mark to confirm we would be shooting bears at ground level I booked the trip.Things went bad at the start and it was all downhill from there. The guide(s) that were supposed to meet and assist us were unreliable and frequently did not show up at all. One left town around the time we arrived and to my knowledge never returned. Everyone we met indicated that we were there at the wrong time to see polar bears. It didn’t take long for us to realize that the chances of seeing a polar bear on Barter Island during July ranged between slim and none.
Mark Lissick failed to procure any reliable transportation. We were staying at the Marsh Creek Inn which was a nice place considering the remote location. Mr. Lissick was using the hotel van for our transportation needs. We later found that his contract with the hotel allowed him only 2 hours use of the hotel’s van on both our arrival and departure day. (He later got an earful about this from Marsh Creek Inn owner Kurt Winkler who arrived one day to find the van was gone.) As we were not heading out to photograph polar bears we took a walk around town.
Kaktovik is a small city (population 258 per Wikipedia) of primarily Inupiat people on the Beufort Sea north of the Arctic Circle. While walking around town we spoke with several of the locals. Upon inquiring about the purpose of our visit to Kaktovik all were surprised when we said we were there to see polar bears. Every local we spoke with indicated that July was not the time to see polar bears. A common remark was “come back next month”. From about mid-August through September the Inupiats go whaling. The are allowed to kill up to 3 whales per year. After the Inpuiats process the whale removing all the meat and blubber, they add the remains to what they call the “bone pile” which is on a spit northeast of town. Information on the Barter Island polar bears can be seen on this U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Arctic National Wildlife Refuge web page.
Mark Lissick indicated that he had spoke with “the local representatives of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife division in Kaktovik” who had advised him that the ice would be gone from the region by early July and we would be able to see the “arrival of the polar bears back from their long winter hunting for seals on the polar ice.” I tracked down one of the Fish & Wildlife Service researches who has published research on the Barter Island polar bears. She indicated that “July would not be a time when one could reliably expect to see polar bears on shore on Barter Island”.
This brings us to what I consider to be the deceptive nature of Mark Lissick’s web page advertising the Polar Bears and Wildflowers tour. Let’s go through some of the aspects of the page I find deceptive.
The lead image of Mark Lissick’s page advertising the Polar Bear tour shows a polar bear in a nice field of wildflowers. According to a local filmmaker I met at the Kaktovik Community Center the wildflower and polar bear viewing times are “mutually exclusive”. There were some wildflowers to be found but not large fields of them as shown in the photo. In addition, the local filmmaker indicated that he did not believe the photo had been taken on Barter Island.
I later learned from Mark Lissick himself that the photo was not taken there. In fact he had not been to Barter Island during July previous to this trip. Furthermore, Mark indicated that it was not his intention to imply that the photo was taken on Barter Island or represented what we might see on the trip. I found this an astonishing admission. The polar bear in wildflowers photo was the primary reason I was interested in booking the trip. I was hoping to see and photograph a similar scene. Note that Mark Lissick is a “professional photographer”. That he would use a photo to sell an adventure/workshop that is not representative of the location being advertised seems very deceptive to me.
If we were going to see polar bears, the most likely location would be at the bone pile or city dump. No mention is made of the bone pile on Mark Lissick’s web page advertising the trip.
Here is a sample of some of the other statements made on the web page along with my comments:
After our Polar Bear fiasco, we continued on with Mr. Lissick to Lake Clark National Park to see grizzly bears. This portion of the trip went fairly well for us but I suspect this is only because Mr. Lissick essentially just resold us a trip to the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge. The Silver Salmon Creek Lodge was great. Our guide Dave was excellent and the food was wonderful. If you are interested in going, I would recommend just booking directly with the lodge. I can virtually guarantee that you will see bears here!
Mr. Lissick’s presence here was superfluous at best (and frankly irritating after our experience in Kaktovik). We did get some advice from Mr. Lissick befitting his status as a professional photographer such as warning us not to point our camera lenses into the wind during travel and my favorite ”don’t shoot the bear until he puts his head up” when the bears were grazing.
It should be noted that not everything was satisfactory in Lake Clark. Mr. Lissick overbooked the trip. His web page indicated the trip was limited to 4 people. When we arrived at the lodge we had 7 clients and Mr. Lissick. After having presumably booked a double, four of the women ended up in one cabin. Audrey and I had to share a cabin with Mr. Lissick and another client. This was not what we were expecting. The first couple days the lodge had to reconfigure a communal sitting area as a dining area to accomodate us as we could not all fit in their dining room.
We later found that the check Mark Lissick used to pay for our stay at the lodge in Lake Clark bounced. (The check was for over $20,000.) The owner is currently pursuing legal action against Mark.
Allow me to point you to a few items of interest related to Mark Lissick and Wildlight Nature Photography on the web...
The trail never seems to end! I recently (Nov 2012) received an unsolicited email from a former employer of Mr. Lissick describing yet another incidence of malfeasance by Mark:
That’s all folks. If you found this site while researching Mark Lissick’s Nature Photography Workshops and Adventures I hope the information provided here helped with your decision. - Mike Lambert