World Bear Day
For “World Bear Day”, here is a coastal brown bear from Alaska, last June. It’s all about the claws.
1/1000 @ F11, ISO 4000, +1 exposure compensation, 700mm (R3 + 500F4 + 1.4X) mounted on Skimmer ground pod. Almost full frame.
Reflections on 2022
My golden doodle contributed to the inspiration of this post with her reflection in my entryway, which was taken with my new RF 50mm 1.2 lens. You may wonder why someone focused on wildlife photography needs a 50mm lens. Well, I’ve read that it makes a good portrait lens, more on that later.
2022 ended up being a great year from a personal, professional and photography perspective.
On of the highlights from this year included taking the dive into mirrorless photography in March with getting a Canon R3. I’m loving the features in mirrorless cameras and haven’t touched my 1DX III since picking up my R3. I’m really glad that I didn’t wait for the R1 to come out.
Took a couple of amazing trips to Yellowstone in January and Alaska in June. This was my 4th trip to Yellowstone in winter and it likely won’t be my last as it’s such an amazing place. Got my dream shot on this trip of a black wolf staring at me with his yellow eyes.
Made my second trip to Alaska for coastal brown bear photography, which is my latest obsession. The bears were amazing, although we didn’t see the cubs like last year. However, made up for that with my first attempts at taking video with my new camera. Got some amazing slow-motion video of bears opening clams with their claws. Video adds another dimension to the storytelling of my wildlife photography, and it has been very exciting to add it to my portfolio.
After returning from Alaska in June, spent some quality time taking photos and videos at Bolivar Flats, on the Texas gulf coast. Quickly found that it was a little more challenging to take video of fast-moving birds than the slower moving bears. However, I’m very pleased with the results. Have been collecting some of my favorite bird videos to enter into the 2023 Audubon photo contest, so be on the lookout for them.
In total, made 50 trips to local areas around Houston for wildlife photography. Can’t wait to see what photo ops 2023 will bring.
The major highlight for 2022, and the reason to get a 50mm lens, is that my daughter is pregnant!! We are thrilled for Heather and Jack with their baby due in May. Next year will involve lots of baby photo shoots with some outfits already being purchased for Christmas gifts this year.
Happy New Year everyone!! 2023 is going to be amazing! Hopefully will have time for some wildlife photography. Already have two major trips planned with hopefully a third one as well. More on those later.
Breaking the Rules
It pays to break the rules sometimes, and in this case, a butt shot paid off. This bear was walking away but I kept shooting as my autofocus stayed on her head. You never know what you may get, and in this case, it’s a very unique perspective showing off the bottom of her foot and claws.
Lying in the wet mud while photographing bears at ground level in Lake Clark Alaska is an incredible experience that continues to fill my soul with pure joy.
1/640 @ F8, ISO 2000, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation, 500mm (R3 + 500F4) mounted on Skimmer ground pod with Wimberley gimbal, cropped
The large boar is showing how hot and bothered that he is while chasing his potential mate. That isn’t dust around him. It is steam coming off his hot body in the cool Alaska morning air. Used negative exposure compensation to darken the scene to emphasize the highlights.
It was towards the end of mating season for the coastal brown bears from Lake Clark National Park. Love was in the air with lots of mating action going on.
1/2000 @ F7.1, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, -2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm, R3 + 100-500, uncropped
Brown Bear in Lupines
We caught this coastal brown bear walking through the lupines along a bear trail at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Alaska. Our guide and trip leader lead us to the end of that trail when they saw her enter that area. Was great timing as she slowly walked towards us, and we got out of her way.
The RF 100-500 worked very well on this trip with using it everywhere except the mudflats, where my 500F4 was the workhorse. It was much easier to lug around.
1/2000 @ F8, ISO 5000, evaluative metering, 451mm, R3 + 100-500
Back to Alaska
Made it back to Lake Clark in Alaska for some more bear photography this year with Marc and bear guide extraordinaire, David Rasmus. Had a great time to say the least.
Last year was spent following Crimp and her cub around. This year, we saw Crimp on our first day and she was mating as she had kicked her cub out a few weeks ago. We did see her 3rd year cub and he pretty much looks the same, just larger. He was hanging out with Old Sow’s 3 year old cub on one of the days.
On this trip, we spent more quality time with the bears digging up clams on the mudflats, which I loved. Being able to get full framed shots like this still blows my mind. This bear is displaying an interesting behavior using the top of her paw for a table to eat the clam, which I don’t recall seeing last year. They have amazing dexterity with their claws and use them like fingers to pry apart the clams.
1/1600 @ F11, ISO 6400, evaluative metering, R3+500F4 on Skimmer ground pod, uncropped
Clam Tasting Close-up
Here is a very close-up shot of an adult female coastal brown bear (grizzly) eating a clam at Lake Clark Alaska. The bears make their way out to the mudflats at low tide when they smell the clams. The tides are intense as they rise/fall 17 ft so when it starts coming in you had better get to higher ground.
1/800 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, uncropped @ 500mm from Skimmer ground pod.
Coastal brown bear take a break and rests on mom
Lake Clark Alaska
1/2500 sec @ F13, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, +1 1/3 exposure compensation, 500,, handheld, full frame with pano crop
Close Encounters of the Bear Kind
This photo sequence was a major adrenalin rush to say the least. One of my favorite bear encounters of my most awesome Alaskan adventure in Lake Clark Alaska with coastal brown bears.
Started out with mom and her cub playing near the shoreline.
Following his typical behavior, the cub took off running and he ran right past us. Tracked him while lying in the mud with my ground pod and got off a few shots while he gave me the side-eye.
Thought that was very cool experience but it got really interesting when mom decided to chase him. Glanced back to my right and saw mom coming my way. Didn’t have time to get worried or think but just react.
My years of experience with shooting from a ground pod came in very handy and quickly pivoted around on my stomach and focused on her as she “beared“ down on us. Mom was doing her “happy run” with swinging her head from side to side, which is a behavior that we witnessed several times that week.
Just follow your nose….
Very little time to react as this entire sequence with mom lasted only 4 seconds. Was challenging to try to keep her in the frame. Major rush…
She kept getting closer…
Then, direct eye contact with a full size grizzly bear as she runs past me. Doesn’t get much better than that. Didn’t know that I got this shot until getting home and downloading my photos to the computer. Couldn’t take my laptop with me due to the bush plane weight restrictions.
She kept going and I kept shooting…
She kept running past us with this being the last frame that I captured in this series. Just wow!
Another one of those once in a lifetime encounters on this trip that I kept having and must repeat.
The beginning of the eagle saga starts when the cub takes off running and flies by us and out towards the water. Mom then takes off after him and shows us her happy run when she would swing her head around.
The cub had found a bald eagle on a kill and was making a b-line for it. More to come…
The cub catches some air with all four feet off of the ground as he picks up speed. Had no clue on where he was going at this point.
Spun around on my stomach with my ground pod to capture him in partial silhouette as he hit max Q.
Mom followed him and was giving us her happy dance run when she would swing her head back and forth. A very happy bear once she figured out where junior was going to.
The cub was running to take away a fish that the bald eagle had caught.
This Alaskan coastal brown bear cub was full of energy and personality. He kept trying to get mom to play and she sometimes would indulge him and sometimes not.
In this instance, they were walking along the shoreline of the mudflats while we were further up on the beach. Caught him with “that look” where it looks like he is asking mom, wanna play?
Didn’t like the background on my original photo so cropped it vertical to emphasize the interaction and mom’s claws. Converted it to B&W using NIK silver effects pro to give it some drama and bring out the detail in their fur.
Taken with Canon 1DX Mark III, 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld
1/2000 sec @ F13, ISO 2500, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm
Ground Pod Bear Photography
The best piece of camera equipment that I took on my bear photography trip to Alaska was my ground pod. If you follow my blog or on Facebook, you know that I love to use my ground pod for getting low to take shorebird photos. Never dreamed that I’d get the opportunity to take grizzly bear photos from a ground pod.
A few weeks prior to our trip to Alaska, we had a zoom call with our workshop leader and he described the mudflats at Lake Clark. When I asked him if I should take my ground pod, he said yes. Best advice in the world on this trip. Only used my tripod once but used my ground pod on a daily basis. The mudflats looked just like Bolivar only much larger, better backgrounds and with bears on it.
This first photo is a cell phone shot by our outstanding guide and very good photographer from Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, Dave Rasmus. Mom and her cub were working their way toward us while 3 of our group, along with Dave, were standing up taking photos and I’m the one laying down with my ground pod just shooting away. In this photo, I had already turned my camera vertical so they were getting close @ 500mm, see the 3rd photo below.
This next photo is almost full frame when they were walking towards me. Mom was off to my left but I maintained focus on the cub as he was adorable, although those claws could do some serious damage.
1/1600 @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +2/3 exposure compensation, 500mm from ground pod
As he got closer, here is where I rotated my camera on my gimbal head to the vertical position to help try to keep him in the frame. He ended up getting very close before the guide turned him around by talking to him. Mom was a ways away and couldn’t have cared less about us.
1/1600 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm, uncropped from ground pod
Mom later walked by and showed off her claws in this full frame/uncropped photo. Off the charts fantastic experience for sure. Wouldn’t try this anywhere but this location where we had a very experienced guide with bear spray that knows their behavior, the bears are used to people, we aren’t in their food chain, people don’t hunt/harass them.
1/800 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1 exposure compensation, 500mm, uncropped from ground pod
This young coastal brown bear stole my heart when in Alaska a couple of weeks ago. He was very animated and had quite the personality. The look he gave me in this photo was “do you want to go play in the mud”? Of course I said yes, many times. More to follow.
1/2000 sec @ F11, ISO 1600, evaluative metering, +1/3 exposure compensation
Taken with Canon 1DX III with Canon 500mm F4 IS II lens, handheld