It’s Fun Fact Friday, folks! Did you know that the average weight of an Alaskan brown bear in Katmai National Park (after eating lots of salmon) is 1,000 lbs (~454 kg)? That’s a bunch of bear!
Tag Archives: bear
Wheeee! TFW (that feeling when) you know it’s Friday and you have a fun weekend planned.
The National Parks Traveler has just published my latest article to their site. Click on the photo to be taken there. And while you are at it, check out my previous article as well.
Howdy Everybody! If you are interested in seeing the kind of landscape images you can capture at Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska, then click on this link to be taken to the National Parks Traveler website, where is published my latest article for their Photography In The National Parks column. And while you are at it, go over to the National Parks Traveler’s facebook page and Like them.
Talk about iconic.
When I told people that I’d been to Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, each and every one of them would give me a blank stare. Whereupon, I would ask them if they’d seen photos of the bears standing at the waterfall with their mouths open, catching the salmon jumping up the falls. Then, the light bulb would turn on for them. Everybody is familiar with these iconic images, even if they don’t know the exact location.
Unless there is a sow with cubs at one of the other viewing platforms, the Brooks Falls Platform is by far the busiest, most crowded, most popular platform. So busy, as a matter of fact, that there is a ranger there during peak hours, clipboard in hand, taking names and allowing 1 hour of viewing time before those names are called and people are asked to move to make room for others waiting their turn.
The photo above makes it look like there’s not many people at the platform, but I can tell you for a fact that when this image was taken, both lower and upper tiers were crowded cheek-by-jowl with photographers, their tripods and their supertelephoto lenses. It was only thanks to a couple of forbearing photographers that I was able to squeeze in to a spot between them with my own tripod and (rented) supertelephoto.
My first morning at the falls presented me with just one bear and no salmon jumping. So, I screwed my 4-stop ND filter onto the lens and got in a little “silky water” practice….handheld! You see, the tripod bore the 500mm lens, so rather than take time to change out camera/lens combos, I just steadied my camera and 100-400mm lens on the railing of the platform and successfully achieved some silky-water shots.
Silky water shots aside, I definitely acquired my most dramatic bear images here at this platform.
My current plans – barring any unforeseen circumstances – are to return to the park in 2014. I urge those of you who can, to travel to the wild, remotely beautiful state of Alaska and visit this park to see the bears for yourself. It’s an amazing opportunity to view these creatures closeup and in their own environment (well, as close up as the National Park Service allows – if you are a photographer, a telephoto lens sure helps).
Oh, and if you are interested in knowing the details of where I stayed while in the park, go to this link. If you want to know about my gear and also the best times for photography at Katmai, click on this link to go to the article I wrote for the National Parks Traveler website. And, while you are at it, go to the Traveler’s Facebook page and Like them.
A bear and a bird in the riffles downriver
My last “Behind The Scenes At Katmai” post highlighted photographs taken of and from the Lower Platform, just across the floating bridge from Brooks Lodge, in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.
This post shows you photographs taken from the Riffles Platform. This place is sort of like the middle child of viewing platforms in the park. Everybody either sees lots of action at the Lower Platform or the more iconic Brooks Falls Platform, so they may tend not to spend as much time at this platform, located just a few hundred yards downriver from Brooks Falls.
Looking upriver toward Brooks Falls
The Riffles Platform received its moniker from the numerous small, shallow rapids (riffles) in front of and to the sides of this viewing area. Our photo tour leader informed us that this is the area where we would see sows with their cubs because, unless desperate for food, the sows would stay clear of the falls where most of the males staked out spots. While I was there, I did not see any momma/cub combos – I saw those at the Lower Platform. What I did see were younger, more inexperienced bears and older bears looking for easier fishing.
To me, the Riffles Platform was analogous to an overflow parking lot at an event venue – when the Brooks Falls Platform got too crowded, people would come on down to this platform.
I didn’t see as much action at this platform as I did the others, but what action I did see yielded some very nice images.
Next post: The Brooks Falls Platform
In a previous post, you got an idea of the layout for Brooks Lodge. Now, it’s time to take your camera and start viewing the bears.
This post deals with the Lower Platform and photos you can capture from that vantage point.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
The path through the lodge complex parallels the shoreline of Naknek Lake. Rangers advise visitors to keep to the paths, though, since the beach is the purview of the bears…..actually, everywhere in the park is the bears’ purview and sometimes one sees an 800 lb bear ambling up the path to plop itself down in front of one of the buildings for a quick rest before the rangers try to chase it away with loud voices and clapping. While it’s one thing for the bears to move along the path through the lodge area to get from Point A to Point B, it’s another thing for a bear to start making itself comfortable in a lodging area inhabited by larger numbers of humans; rangers and volunteers definitely work at discouraging that behavior.
The path continues away from the lodge buildings down to the bank of Brooks River and a floating bridge connecting the lodge with the first of three viewing platforms (the Lower Platform).
The view of the bridge from the bank of the Brooks River. That bus you see in the distance is your ride to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes – if you’ve purchased a ticket for about $90+ which includes a box lunch for the day-long tour.
The platform not only affords ample bear-sighting but also offers expansive views of the mouth of the Brooks River and a portion of Naknek Lake. From this vantage point, you can see bears, fishermen (and women) and floatplanes landing and taking off. If you have your polarizer filter attached to your lens, you can also see the salmon swimming en mass in the shallower portions of the water.
This is one of the thing that will cause a “bear jam”, closing the bridge at both ends and moving back anybody waiting at the river bank.
Hard to tell with this upload, but there is a bear parked right in front of the gate right at the very end of the bridge.
Set up for action at the Lower Platform
Catching the action. My organized photo tour group’s first day in the park at the Lower Platform was quite the experience – especially when an amorous boar chanced upon this willing sow right next to the viewing platform.
Playing in the distance. Caught this shot with my rented 500mm lens and then did some cropping to focus more on the bears.
Sharing the beach with the bear
A sow and her spring triplets
Alone on the road
Looking across the Brooks River oxbow area to the mountains beyond
Yearling triplets at the Lower Platform
The view toward the mouth of the Brooks River and Naknek Lake beyond, on my first day there – a very overcast, rainy day. Compare this image to the image below, taken a couple of days later, late in the evening (yes, it’s that light at 10PM), while I stood on the bridge with my tripod and camera.
For more information on the cameras and nitty-gritty photography info regarding the park and the platforms, click on this link to get to the article I wrote for the National Parks Traveler website.
Most of the images you see here in this blog post (and my other Alaska blog posts) are for sale on my website, and you can order my various 2014 Alaska calendars by clicking on any of the calendar images on the left side of this blog site.
Next Post: The Riffles Platform
While photographing the brown bears in Katmai National Park, almost every bear I saw (not all, but almost) sported some sort of wound in varying stages of the healing process on the face, across the snout, on the neck, back, or butt. Some of the wounds were quite new, while others were healed or almost so.
The thing about bear wounds is that these bruins have incredible healing powers. And, oftentimes, the fur may or may not grow back; if it does grow to cover the wound, it’s not as thick. Therefore, scars can be a key characteristic for park biologists in identifying a particular bear.
Yes, those are puncture wounds made from the teeth of another bear.
Some bears get their injuries through a fall (as in falling from the top of Brooks Falls or falling down a mountainside), while other (probably the majority) get their wounds via altercations with other bears battling for mates, prime fishing ground, or some other territorial or food dispute.
I learned that – as a rule – bears prefer not to get into a serious fight. Instead, their disputes generally consist of much posturing, loud roaring (which can be heard a mile away – I can attest to that), and a display of teeth. Sometimes, though, as the pictures above indicate, things can get pretty serious.
The arguments above looked serious, with the bears trying to bite each other. However, their fights were over as quickly as they began, and of the disputes I witnessed, none ever drew blood.
Even though I and the rest of my photo tour attendees only were able to spend 4 days within Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska, we still learned so much about the coastal brown bears inhabiting the park.
We learned about their fishing methods, for instance.
Some bears stood in the water and constantly moved their heads from left to right, looking into the water for that flash of movement signaling a nearby salmon.
Some bears stood in the water and felt the movement of the salmon around their paws
And some bears snorkeled.
This bear actually squeezed beneath the floating bridge and re-surfaced on the side you see here.
Snorkeling with nose and eyes below the water.
Did it catch anything? No, but not for lack of trying.