Mark Lissick Mark Lissick

Welcome to Mark Lissick Review.
A review of
Mark Lissick’s
Wildlight Nature Photography

I paid Mark Lissick $13,690
to see Polar Bears and saw none.

Don’t let this happen to you!

Mark Lissick’s Felony Conviction

November 9, 2012 Update!! Mark Lissick was arrested in Haines Alaska for the $20,000+ rubber check he wrote. Here’s the press release from the Alaska State Troopers:

Location: Haines
Case number: AK12248279 
Type: Warrant Arrest

Text: The Alaska State Troopers Juneau Post in cooperation with the Soldotna Post 
and the Haines Police Department conducted an investigation which resulted in the 
warrant arrest of Mark Owen Lissick, 61 yoa of Lake Tahoe CA. The arrest took place 
in Haines where Lissick was remanded for an outstanding warrant with bail set at 
$10,000.00 cash only.

Author: UTDB0 
Received Thursday, November 08, 2012 9:08 AM and posted Thursday, November 08, 2012 9:12 AM

12/31/2012: Mark Lissick is now officially a convicted felon. From the Alaska Court Record for case 3HO-12-00524CR:
Lissick Felony Conviction

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 293 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:

  • Four full days plus two half days (weather permitting) photographing polar bears
    Without interference from other groups we will be able to explore the land, coast and islands around the area to achieve the best bear photo opportunities.
    We never saw a polar bear. Weather was not the issue. We were simply there at the wrong time of year. In Mr. Lissick’s defense I can say for a fact that there was no interference from any other groups.
  • Ground/boat transportation (as required)
    Mark Lissick had no legitimate ground transportation available.
    The boats were inadequate. Once we had to go out in shifts because Mark only had 1 small boat available. The boats had no life jackets or even sufficient seating. A wooden bench was brought along on one ride to provide seating. There was no communications available between the boats and shore or even between the boats themselves. One time our boat operator commented that the other operator was being unsafe by approaching the drifting ice too closely. He indicated that should a piece of the ice break off the boat would be swamped. He also stated he had no plans to approach the ice that closely. (Sounded like a good plan to me!)
  • Lots of field shoots with professional guidance.
    In my opinion there was very little “professional guidance”. There was some minor discussion regarding camera settings but nothing like what I expected. (We had never traveled with a “professional photographer” before so perhaps my expectations in this area were off base?) My wife Audrey had a new camera and I was hoping she would become proficient at it with Mr. Lissick’s assistance. I don’t believe he looked at the camera other than to view a photo. Mr. Lissick seemed much more interested in Adobe Photoshop than the details of photography itself. Mr Lissick did give a slide show presentation discussing how he had taken some of the shots - many of which had been processed with Photoshop. One aspect that later turned out to be quite ironic was Mr. Lissick discussing how you had to “know your animal” in order to anticipate its behavior and get the photo you want. If only he had taken his own advice you wouldn’t be reading this.
  • Near the native village of Kaktovik large numbers of these great carnivores have come ashore from the melted polar ice and can be seen and photographed with such relative ease and safety.
    Unlike the more classic images of polar bears taken from the elevated heights of tundra buggies, I prefer to do my photographing of these magnificent creatures from ground level. The connection between photographer and subject (not to mention the viewer) is far more direct and personal. This trip will afford you the very same opportunity.
    The advertisement seems to indicate that there will be an abundance of bears to photograph. Not during the time frame we were there. Note that the page has no disclaimer indicating the possibility that you would not see polar bears other than for adverse weather.
  • The second event is the emergence of the tundra wildflowers. The flowers make a wonderful backdrop and stage setting to photograph the bears and other indigenous wildlife.
    Per the local filmmaker we met, this was actually near the end of the wildflower season. Also, the wonderful backdrop statement supported my assumption that the polar bears will be seen with the wildflowers.
  • The other great event is the arrival of a wide species of birds that nest and raise their young in the area. The lagoons South, West and East of Barter Island provide a haven for many birds, with Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Yellow-Legged Goose and Speckled Belly Goose often encountered. Ivory gulls may be seen inland. On the sea can be found loons, teal, guillemots, king eider and common eiders as well as the beautiful long-tailed duck. We will have a unique opportunity to photograph this amazing spectacle of life being renewed. In addition to the bears and abundant bird life, the area plays host to a variety of other species including caribou, fox (both red and arctic), wolves, and ptarmigan.
    We never saw goose one. We did spend some time photographing birds, and looking for caribou. Mr. Lissick could not accurately identify the birds, and had no field guides available. Audrey and I did see a long-tailed duck but this when when we took a walk on our own to the South shore. As for the abundant wildlife, there were a handful of caribou on the island. We saw snowy owl and I was lucky enough to stir up and photograph an arctic fox. The caribou were migrating nearby on the mainland. This would have been nice to see and since there were no polar bears we certainly had the time. Mr. Lissick did make some inquiries as to whether the caribou could be seen on shore from the boats but to my knowledge, no attempt was made to arrange transportation to go to the mainland and see the caribou.

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.)

Allow me to point you to a few items of interest related to Mark Lissick and Wildlight Nature Photography on the web...

  • Mr. Lissick presents other photographers images as his own. Here is a discussion regarding Mr. Lissick's infringement of a photo taken by photographer Bill Lockhart.
  • Publicly available Minnesota Court Records indicate Mark Lissick has been sued at least 9 times since 1995. The most recent judgement against Mark was entered on May 22, 2012 in the amount of $58,120.77. You can search for the cases and judgements online via the Minnesota Trial Court Public Access web site. You’ll find information on Mr. Lissick searching both the Civil Case Records and Judgement Search options. If you examine the Minnesota records you’ll note that typically Mark just ignores the judgements until they expire. You can see a screen shot of the most recent judgement against him here.
  • I found a Minneapolis MN Star Tribune newspaper abstract which indicates Mark Lissick was indicted for fraud in 1995. Note that one of the civil suits seen on the Minnesota Court site lists both Mark Lissick and the Interstar Limited company mentioned in the abstract as defendants in a civil suit filed June 9, 1995.

In November 2012 I received an unsolicited email from a former employer of Mr. Lissick describing yet another incidence of malfeasance by Mark:

Mark Lissick was employed by me aprox 15 years ago. I fired Mark after I discovered that he was embezzling money from me. I doubt if I will ever know exactly how much money he stole from me but it was thousands of dollars. I attempted to get the Minneapolis Police to prosecute but was unsuccessful in that endeavor--police departments are hesitant to get involved in these kinds of cases, and after I fired Mark I had my hands full to rebuild my company and recover my losses, so I deemed it in my best interest to just move on. I can tell you that I researched the possibility of trying to recover my money through a civil lawsuit but came to the conclusion after looking into Mark’s background that even if I won the case (after spending thousands on legal fees) that my chances of recovering any money from Mark were slim to none. Mark has a long history of ripping people off. It has always bugged me that he was able to walk scot free and not pay any consequences regarding his crimes against me and in addition that he was able to continue his scoundrel ways--taking money from innocent people.

I hope your actions are able to put a stop to his thievery for a long time. I don’t know if you will ever recover your losses, for that you have my condolences, I do wish you the best regarding your attempts to reveal Mark Lissick for what he is.

Name witheld by request.

The trail never seems to end! I recently (April 2018) received an an email from a victim of Mr. Lissick's describing an example of Mark taking advantage of a friendship to swindle him:

Thanks for posting your review of Mark Lissick. I have a story of woe to add to it.

Mark lived in Edina Minnesota, and I took a few of his workshops (Oregon, North Shore of Minnesota, Yellowstone). Things didn't always go as planned, but I can't complain and I had a lot of fun. I got to know Mark through these events, so I had him speak several times at our camera club meetings, and again no complaints.

Mark then approached me about making a loan. He said he needed $25,000.00 because he was about to divorce and would pay me back out of the sale of his home in Minnesota, as he was moving to Tahoe. I trusted Mark implicitly as I thought of him as a good friend and mentor. Luckily my banker urged caution and said not to provide the full amount, and I ended up giving him $10,000.00.

He prepared and signed a promissory note, and to his credit offered to give me a lien on his home prior to sale. I told him I trusted him as a friend and simply relied on the note. He sold his house, skipped town and never contacted me, and of course never paid the loan back. I sent him a note asking for payment, and he sent one email claiming he would not forget to honor it. He never did pay it.

Minnesota has a 6-year statute of limitations, so before it ran I contacted him repeatedly to no avail. I then contacted attorneys in Tahoe to try and collect. One told me he had started a foreclosure and eviction against Mark. So I let it go and moved on. The money wasn't a big concern for me, rather I felt horribly betrayed by someone I thought of as a good friend.

I thought about publishing this incident to warn other possible victims, and decided it wasn't worth my time. I am glad you put out this information and would simply add this tail of woe to it, so anyone who would consider doing business with Mark Lissick is forewarned.

Mark K
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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