Excellent Photo Adventures…Alaska Wild…Bears, Bears, Bears

I go to Alaska for the bears!  Plain and simple…the rest is icing on the cake and yes, it is quite the wonderful icing but, it all pales in comparison to my feelings when I am in the presence of the greatest creatures in North America; Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears (cousin to the grizzly bear).  These magnificent creatures have the demeanor of the gentlest of dogs and yet can turn into a ferocious fighting/killing machine at the slightest provocation.  And, that’s the key…we do not provoke these great creatures; we observe them and when they allow us into their lives we accept with the utmost respect.  Knowing the difference between a bear that shows it’s teeth as it chews on sedge compared to one who is agitated, upset for some reason or another is what keeps us safe in their presence.  Understanding bear behavior is paramount to a positive experience for both photographers and the bears.  If we provide them with a positive experience, one where they didn’t feel crowded or threatened, they will be accepting of our presence in the future and we can co-exist in peace.  This bear was actually sniffing our scent as we were downwind of it…

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Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II ISO 200 f5.6 @ 1/250 sec

 

Most photo opportunities in the spring are of bears grazing in the lush green sedges.  Photographing from the boat I chose, once again, to use the AF-S 80-400mm 4.5-5.6 VR II with a TC-14E II attached for the extra reach.  With the increased magnification and movement of the boat, I chose to set the camera to Auto ISO with a minimum shutter speed of 1/500 sec.  This enabled me to handhold from the boat and concentrate on working the subject while my camera selected the best ISO for the situation and my settings…

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Nikon D4, AF-S 80-400mm 4.5-5.6G VR II with TC-14E II (handheld from boat) ISO 1250 f8 @ 1/500 sec -.5 EC

 

Or, at low tide, you can find them clamming in the mudflats.  It’s fascinating to watch the various ways they open the clams.  Some crush the clam against a rock or hard surface, while others break them with their jaws slurping ourt the meat and spitting out the shell.  My favorite method is when they ever so delicately pop the clam open with their claws.  How can such huge creatures have such a delicate touch…

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Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II ISO 320 f8 @ 1/500 sec -.5 EC

 

Whenever possible I set my tripod up so I can shoot from a low angle.  It not only throws the background even farther out of focus for a nice diffused look while emphasizing the incredible power and size of the bears…

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Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-14E II ISO 450 f8 @ 1/500 sec

 

And when they get too hotm they simply find a stream to lie down in.  We were fortunate on several occaisions to photograph this behavior.  The low camera angle and the tight framing along with the bear staring into the lens provides the in your face look I was after…

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Nikon D4, AF-S 500mm f4 VR with TC-20E III ISO 160 f8 @ 1/500 sec

 

After spending quality time with “the bears” it’s unanimous…everyone is humbled, flattered and simply thrilled at the experience.  There’s more to come, stay tuned…