Photojournalism professor Kent Miller began his love affair with Alaska on a family cruise in 2008.
He had always wanted to photograph the scenery and wildlife there, so he contacted the National Park Service and sent in his portfolio. He was hoping to be invited to stay four days and shoot at Denali National Park. Instead, he was invited to stay for 10 days, and he has been invited back every year since then.
Miller taught a workshop from Aug. 26 through Sept. 1 at Denali National Park. The Road Scholar program, titled “Photographer’s Paradise, Denali in Fall Foliage,” was a combination of classroom and hands-on learning.
“We were in the prime of photography heaven with the fall colors,” Miller said.
Miller enjoyed capturing the scenery and the wildlife, while helping his group of senior citizen students learn to master their cameras.
“Alaska is almost like a foreign country. It is so different and wild,” he said.
Miller’s volunteer work with the National Park Service and his photography have helped him establish internships for CMU students at three of Alaska’s national parks. Since 2009, students have spent their summers working as assistants to the parks’ media specialists at Denali, Kenai Fjords and the Southeast Utah Group. As a result, their photographs appear on the web sites of those parks, exhibits in visitor centers, bulletin boards, government publications and multimedia presentations.
“There’s an emphasis on the skills they learn here that gets super emphasized there,” Miller said about the internship program.
Miller checks in with the park rangers throughout the summer to help evaluate the students. He said they have really grown as photographers and expanded their skills after their experiences in Alaska.
It is Miller’s hope that his students will continue to challenge themselves, as he does in the classroom, to go outside their comfort zones and find what inspires them.
“Being a photojournalist is not only a great way to get things published, but it’s almost spiritual when you form relationships with people,” he said.