From the Photographer...
My photograph was taken on the bank of Battle River in a remote area of Alaska’s Katmai National Park. Every fall, Alaskan Brown Bears, the largest of the Grizzly Bear subspecies, congregate along streams in this area to feed on migrating salmon. The fat- and protein-rich salmon will help carry the bears through their winter hibernation.
After 25 years of photographing bears in Alaska, I’ve learned that this season, when bears are plentiful and are preoccupied with feeding, is a good time to catch interesting behaviors on film (and more recently, with my digital camera).
The young sow I photographed is probably about seven or eight years old and the branch she has her paws wrapped around is eight feet off the ground. From experience, I knew that bears often came to scratch and leave their scent at this tree not far from our camp. This particular photograph was taken just before a late summer rainstorm arrived, with ominous clouds in the background and a stiff breeze blowing through the trees and tundra.
I set my camera and tripod up in a location that would allow me to catch the background and the subdued light of the approaching storm. I often use long telephoto lenses, but this particular picture was taken from 27 feet away. As always, I made sure the bear knew I was there. I sensed by her body language, facial expression, ear position, actions and sounds that she was not agitated or distressed. Then the bear made the decision of how close she would come to my position.
My interest in wildlife and conservation goes back to my youth working in the woods and fighting forest fires in my native southern Oregon. To me there is no better legacy we can leave our children and grandchildren than the unspoiled wilderness all over the world. I hope with my photos I can help others understand the importance of wildlife and its habitat.
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