I’ve had a couple of followers ask how close we really get to the brown bears at Hallo Bay. This really depends on the bears. We never approach the bears very closely. Instead, we find a good spot with bear activity, then wait for the bears to approach us. That way, if a bear does not feel comfortable with us, he stays away. But if we are not viewed as a threat, then the bears will usually approach us, and we can end up being quite close! With that said, the guides always work at keeping the bears at a safe distance and if one approaches too closely, he is “encouraged” to back down. Even so, there are times when a bear gets very close.
Is this dangerous? From my experiences, no. First, the bears are well fed in this area, thus humans are not on the menu. When the the bears first come down out of the mountains from the winter hibernation, there is lush sedge grasses growing in the meadows. Sedge is ~23% protein, so it is a good source of nutrition. And at low tide, the bears will go out on the tidal flats and dig up razor clams. And (usually) by mid-to-late June, the salmon runs begin and run through mid-to-late September. Secondly, the bear camp runs a strict camp with safety rules that must be followed at all times. And with the bears acclimated to visitors in this area, there never has been a real problem with bear-human interactions at the camp.
During my recent camp visit, I was fortunate to have a photographer friend, Chris Anderson (Texas) fly out to camp while I was there and we were able to spend a few days photographing together. I met Chris during a trip to Hallo Bay in 2007, and my recent trip was the first time since then that we crossed paths. Chris, “Crazy Chris” as some would call him, is a wonderful photographer and also a jokester. While we were sitting along Clint’s Creek one day, Chris pulled out a fisheye lens to grab some photos of bears as they walked past our small group. Here are 3 images that Chris e-mailed to me, with the bears and me in the image. Remember, these images with a fisheye lens, an ultra wide-angle lens, makes things appear spread out, so things are really much closer than they appear:
In this first image, I am watching a couple of brown bears, waiting for a good photo opportunity. There is a brown bear fishing in the creek, but can you spot the one that is just below us? It is ~middle of the photo and mostly hidden by the green foliage that we are sitting on:
In this next photo, you can see 2 brown bears, as well as me and one of the Hallo Bay guides (Simyra) standing directly behind me:
And in this last photo, “Crazy Chris” just had to get involved himself! Holding the camera/fisheye lens at arm’s length away, he made this image of himself, and me, photographing a brown bear:
So you can see, we can/do get quite close to the bears at times. If you have any questions I can answer, please leave a comment and I will respond. And thanks, Chris, for sending me these interesting photos, through the eyes of your fisheye lens!