Archives for June 2011

Alaska Brown Bear Adventure…All Before Noon

You never know what activity there will be or when at the lodge. Before we could even head out for the boat, a bear came into the yard and began grazing in front of the cabins. We all gathered around and began photographing him when he suddenly became alert, looking beyond us. That usually means one thing…another bear in the vicinity. Sure enough a female came around the side of the lodge. They both headed to the beach and were about to mate when they both became alert, broke apart and the sow stood up to get a better look…


Nikon D300s with AF-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR II and TC-20E III

Around the corner came a big bruiser of a bear and both the bears took of at a run towards the island. The big boar followed along sniffing as he went. Once they disappeared from view, we continued on our way to the boat. We hadn’t made it more than a hundred feet when the three bears emerged from the island, the sow coming at a full run, looking over her shoulder as she ran…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

The first boar was hot on her heels and running towards us. They passed within yards of us, too close to photograph with the lenses we had out so, we simply stood and watched the drama. I heard a woof and the sound of feet in the wet mud and turned to see the big boar about twenty feet behind us. I had time to grab one shot before he too, was way too close to photograph…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

He hardly gave us a glance as his attention was on the other two bears. They all continued around the corner and disappeared from view so, we finished out walk to the boat and headed out to see what other subjects we could find. In an environment rich with wildlife, there is always something to find. We decided to see if we could find the sow with spring cubs and sure enough, not far from where we had seen her the day before, she was grazing with her cubs. She seemed nervous, looking to her right and sniffing the air and standing up to get a better look while the little ones kept close to her watching her every move. There must have been another bear in the area because she moved off into the bushes. We did get a few shots before she disappeared…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

All this excitement built up our appetites so we stopped for lunch. As we ate two eagles flew in and perched on a cliff nearby. I grabbed my camera and left the boat to photograph them…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

After lunch we continued cruising the bay alert for bears on the beach. We often think we see a bear and it turns out to be a log or a rock. But one particular lump on the beach turned out to be a sleeping bear who barely raised it’s head as we approached…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR

We moved in even closer, he raised his head again and gave us one more look before dropping his head once again and falling fast asleep. I love to get those tight shots with the claws visible to show just how long and sharp they are…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

Not wanting to bother him any more and with dinner time approaching, we left him to his nap and headed back to the lodge. Stay tuned.

Alaska Brown Bear Adventure…An OMG Day!

There are those days when you just get lucky and amazing things unfold before your very eyes. Today was one of those days. We started off looking for the mating pair of bears that we worked yesterday but, they weren’t to be found so, we headed over to a small island where we had been seeing a sow with a second year cub and they weren’t there either. We then decided to visit the “Garden of Eden” where there is a profusion of flowers blooming. Using my 70-200mm with a teleconverter as a macro lens I worked some of the flowers…


Nikon D3X with AF-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR II and TC-20E III

But, before we worked the flowers there was a bear eating the grasses. We were hoping he would go into the garden and pose amongst the flowers but, he had other plans and proceeded to go on up a nearby hill. At one point he stopped and turned to take a look at us. I like the distant mountain in the distance as a background which makes the bear pop and the upward angle that adds to the majesty of this wonderful creature…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

With a low tide it’s fun to fine harbor seals lazing on the rocks and we found a particularly interesting seals with a wonderful mottled pattern and her youngster who was a beautiful creamy color…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

Since we weren’t far from one of the eagles nests that we had been watching we decided to stop and see how the chick was doing. It’s amazing at how it has grown from a wobbly little bird who could hardly hold it’s head up to an alert and proud young eaglet. I liked the way the parent was looking down into the nest so intently. Neither mom nor her chick were bothered by our presence…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

Once we had had our fill of photographing the eagles we headed down the bay to what is known as the corner. As we approached, we glassed the grasses and saw a few bears and a bull moose! It was the first bull we have seen in the area but, he was too far away and acting nervous with all the bears around so we simply watched until he disappeared into the bushes. Perry, suggested that we head to the end of the bay to see if there were any bears there and have lunch. We did see three more bears off in the distance but, it would have been a brutal hike across the boot sucking mud of the tidal flats to se watched them as we ate our delicious wraps that chef Shawn had prepared for us. I happened to look out into the water and saw something swimming toward us. I knew it wasn’t a seal and if it was a sea otter it was in a strange position so, I put the binoculars to my eye and to my surprise it was a bear swimming across the bay right towards us. We hopped out of the boat with our tele lenses and began firing as he got within range…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR

As he neared the shore, I told everyone to be prepared as he would shake when he emerged from the water and the shutters were clicking wildly as he did just that…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR

After he shook the water from his fur he continued on down the beach towards the other bears. As we watched him go, I saw his tracks in the mud and suggested that we go take a look at his tracks. The slippery, mucky mud showed his tracks beautifully and I asked Perry if we could make a plaster cast of one. While we were playing in the mud building a moat to hold the plaster Leon from Australia turned to look out towards the water and exclaimed “It’s a bloody moose!”. We all turned and to our amazement saw the bull moose we had seen earlier swimming right in the same route as the bear had taken just minutes before. You can believe that the shutters were clicking like crazy again as he emerged from the water and turned to look at us…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR

He trotted off through the water and we watched him until he disappeared into the brush on the far bank. We could hardly believe our good fortune at not only seeing a swimming bear but a swimming moose as well. How could it get any better than that you ask? Well, it did… Bob radioed that he had found the first sow with springs cubs of the season so we headed in that direction and couldn’t find them anywhere. We cruised around a bit and as we passed the area where they had been spotted, we suddenly saw the sow with her two young cubes on the hillside. She didn’t even raise her head from grazing but, the little cubs were very curious and stopped playing to watch us photograph them….


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

The sow grazed her way up the hill and into the bushes with her cubs close on her heels. What a thrill it was to see the cute young bears. All too soon, our day was over and we headed back to the lodge anxious to download our images and review the days events in photos. My time at Katmai is nearing it’s end. We have two more days left…stay tuned.

Alaska Brown Bear Adventure…A Little Diversion

We took a float plane ride for a different perspective of the area…

All images created with Nikon D3X and AF-S 28-300mm VR

Alaska Brown Bear Adventure…Bear Alert

While we go out each day to find bears farther down the bay working the sedge grasses there are bears that come right through camp on a daily basis. As the tide drops, the bears come out into the tidal flats to clam. Or, they may simply pass through munching on the grasses and plants. We have a deal that whoever spots a bear will send out an alert to the rest so we can all enjoy the sight. Over dinner, we could see a mating pair of bears off in the distance clamming so we kept an eye on them. As they worked their way closer, we grabbed our cameras and headed to the beach…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

The sow kept clamming while the boar kept a close eye on her lying down nearby…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR

It was great fun to watch as she would stop, he would lie down, she would move away, he would get up to follow and lie down again. He would appear to doze off but, the minute she moved a short distance away, up he would get to follow. This behaviour continued as they drew closer and closer…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR and TC-14E II

She finally reached the beach and headed towards the grasses. We watched while she stopped to urinate in a patch of dirt then moved on. The boar came behind, stopped at the same patch of dirt and proceeded to sniff, dig and roll around in it…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500mm f4 VR

The bears continued on their way into the woods and we all bid each other a goodnight as it was getting late (all this happened around 10:00PM). I had no sooner changed into my sweats when I heard crunching on the gravel just outside my cabin and then a knock on my door. When I opened the door there were the same two bears right in front of my cabin munching on the grasses. It’s pretty amazing to be standing on the porch to my cabin photographing head shots of bears…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 500m f4 VR and TC-14E II

As they made their way through camp, I grabbed my camera with a shorter zoom lens in order to capture them as they wandered through the yard totally unconcerned by our presence…


Nikon D3S with AF-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR II


Nikon D3S with AF-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR II

They finally moved off around 11:30PM and I headed back to my cabin to download and review the recent events images. Stay tuned.