January 26, 2012

Katmai Brown Bears - Fishing for Supper

The Katmai brown bears series continues at the Brooks Falls fishing hole!  

There are a lot of considerations that go into photographing these big furry creatures while they are fishing. First of all, they are far quicker than the your trigger finger. When they catch a fish, you need to be ready to snap that shot! And you better have your camera setting on a fast speed or else that bear will turn into a blurry mess. 

At the same time, you have to consider the subject’s background. Do you want it in focus or out of focus? How is the quality of light? Is it sunny, cloudy, or raining? What direction is the light coming from? Front, side, back? Where are the shadows? Glare is coming off the water, so how much is it tricking the camera meter? Which lens should you use? Of course, the longer the telephoto, the more impact any motion will have on image sharpness. Adding to all the technical restrictions, you are literally wedged on a platform, elbow to elbow, with a multitude of other photographers. So you can’t move around for an optimum shot. The list goes on. What you see is what you get. Deal with it! 

And as you are doing the mental gymnastics about all of those factors and making camera adjustments, those bears are not going to wait and pose for you. They don’t care if you get a good shot or not! They want their fish! The big boys at the Brooks Falls fishing hole were definitely a challenge to photograph. I was really pleased this particular image. It’s a tight shot and sharp. I was able to catch a straight-on position of both the bear and the fish. A viewer gets the impression of being right there in the water with the bear, perhaps located only an arm’s length or two away. The droopy ears and the overall soggy condition of the bear are downright comical. Drips of water cascading off of the bear and the fish help tell the story of how fast the action happened. The river beneath the falls is so turbulent that it foams. And the expression on the fish is priceless. This photo was one of my favorites of the bears. 

Most of the time, I was mentally pleading with the bears to pose for me when they caught a fish. “Hey, mister bear! Turn around! Pretty please, with honey on top?” Not a chance. If they stood still for a millisecond, they would be pointed the other way. What to do? Take the picture anyway! 

Ah, but then there were the scavenging bears. They would let the big boys do the hard work of fishing. After a salmon meal was finished, then a member of the cleanup crew would venture forth and compete with the seagulls to pick up the scraps. Now these fellows were easier to photograph! Can you see that this bear has some scars on his noggin from a previous tussle? 

The next post in the series is a fishing tale!


  1. Oh I knew it was going to be good when you said it was your favorite, but oh my! That shot is amazing. I think it could be sold to National Geographic or, better yet, L.L.Bean or something. That fish's expression is comical and I've had that expression more than once. It should be named. I'll go first...Between a Rock and a Sharp Place.

  2. Did they pay any attention to your presence. Like not wanting to be there.

  3. Good question, Irene! I have to say that they pretty much ignored us. Every now and then, one of the bears would look at us, but it was really rare. They are so used to people up on the platform, they sort of zone out and forget you are there! There are park rangers there to make sure that everyone obeys the rules and rotate out every hour for someone else's turn. Quiet is maintained too. Obviously, no food at all is allowed to be carried outside of the cabins or lodge. You can carry plain water only.

  4. Oh my I can tell you that I would walk away with a camera card full of blurry shots but oh WOW that first one is just amazing. I agree with Vee it belongs in a magazine somewhere. It's perfect

  5. Awesome---Awesome--Awesome, Donna... You got some fabulous photos... Wow!!! Thanks for sharing.


  6. And that's why I let you do all the work. I can just come here, sit back and enjoy the pictures. That first picture is FABULOUS. I love it.

  7. oh wow...great shots! Picture nymber 1...poor fish looks to be in major pain there LOL!! Love the mister Bear video also ( to the right) we are waving back to ya from Illinois...thanks for the series!

  8. All three are amazing! So just how close are you?

  9. ALL of your photos are My favorite!Hahaaa...I could never be able to choose...
    These are Beautiful Donna!!!
    Have a great weekend!
    Oh, Brenda's photo challenge has been postponed until Next Saturday...
    PS- can't wait for the fish!

  10. You are one extremely talented photographer Donna. That first one does deserve NatGeo attention. Seriously. Wow.

    I know you've worked long and hard to perfect your talent and gosh does it show!

    Mine would all be blurry LOL

  11. The water is dripping from his ears...amazing photography! I love the close ups, Donna! I'm glad you took them....not me! They are just SO huge! It's hard to tell in a photo but they are gigantic! ♥

  12. Wow Donna! That first shot just blows me away. Faced with these I'm not sure I'd keep my calm and keep shooting or be like in such awe I'd be transfixed. Love the detail of that one bear's head with his battle scars. Amazing!
    RYC: I had a pinched nerve in my elbow that was causing numbness in my hand. Not fun and had to be dealt with.

  13. So good. Just amazing. I haven't the patience to be a National Geographic photographer like you. I'll stick with the landscapes and sunsets - they hold pretty still for me. :)

  14. The fish did look surprised. Don't tell PeTA or the enviromento-whackos that fish are being brutally killed. They might get a case of the fantods. But the scavenger bear is my favorite. That's probably the kind of bear I'd be: the lazier variety.


Marty, here! Donna loves comments, and I faithfully pass them on to her. Thank you so much for visiting!