“Do You Ever Get Close?”


You Bet!” This is a question I’m frequently asked when people either see some of my bear images or learn that I travel to Alaska to photograph the coastal brown bears (Ursus arctos).  Here are a few images of such close proximity (these are uncropped images, except for the second one that has been cropped just a very little bit on the top, to clear some of the gray sky from the image).

All 3 images are the brown bear sow, with two 3-year olds, that was involved in the bear fight I featured yesterday. Here, she slowly approaches us, with her 2 “cubs” behind her (not seen in this image):


Brown Bear approaching very closely



When she gets a little closer, she stops to look the group over:


Brown Bear watching our small group



In this next image, she stops to smell for scents (we had just walked through the area shortly before stopping):


Brown Bear smelling the ground for scents



These shots were taken with a 300mm/f2.8 lens. I’m not sure what the minimum focusing distance was with that lens (I don’t use it anymore), but I was at the limit for a couple of the images. So, we were probably about 12-15 feet away. At another visit to the camp, I had 2 cameras out and ready. One was a telephoto and the other was a “standard” zoom lens in the approximate range of ~35mm-55mm. That standard lens had a minimum focusing distance of ~7 feet and we were too close to take photos during one encounter! (Note: our guide prevented that juvenile bear from coming any closer to us. That bear was a lone juvenile that was using our small group as a “shield” from other, larger bears that were fishing in the area. That is a pretty common action when lone juveniles feel threatened by the bigger bears).

But it sounds a lot worse than it really is … the bears here are habituated to people, seeing them from late May until mid-September. They always have food present (sedge meadows, clamming at low tides, salmon runs). And they’ve never caused any problems with people or camp equipment (they run a strict camp there). And we never approach the bears, especially at the distances shown in the images above. But sometimes we are blessed with the bears approaching us for a close encounter, on their own terms of course.






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