Tag Archives: bears

Must You Visit A Place In Order To Connect And Want To Protect It?

Alone In The Falls

That’s a question asked in one of today’s articles in the National Parks Traveler. It uses Katmai National Park and Preserve as an example. I found it to be a very interesting, well-written read, and it not only brought back memories of my own 2013 visit to this amazing park, but it also left me feeling a little weak, as well. Personally, I don’t need to visit a place to care about it’s welfare, although having actually experienced a place does go a long way in getting a person to connect. I’ve certainly met enough people who have never ever visited a national park or national monument who could care less about its welfare, simply because they have never been able to experience what it’s like to be in that place.

To read the article for yourself, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.



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Filed under Alaska, Katmai National Park, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography, Travel

Photography In The National Parks: All About The Bears

A Morning Stroll Along The Beach


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.

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Filed under Katmai National Park, Lake Clark National Park, National Parks, Travel and Photography

Katmai Landscapes

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.

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Filed under Alaska, bears, Equipment, Katmai National Park, Landscape, National Parks, Parks, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography

Behind The Scenes At Katmai–The Brooks Falls Platform


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.

Brooks Falls And The Platform

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.

Alone In The Falls

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.

Caught One

Portrait Of A Bear

Caught One

Caught One

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.

Becky At Brooks Falls


Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, wildlife

Behind The Scenes At Katmai–The Riffles Platform

Out In The Riffles

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 Toward Brooks Falls

A Bear And A Bird At 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.

Bear On A Rock

Bear Water Seagull

What Are You Lookin At Buddy

Standing In The Riffles

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


Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, wildlife

Behind The Scenes at Katmai – The Lower Platform

Action At The Lower 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.

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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 Bridge and The 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.

Bridge To The Lower Platform

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.

Salmon Underwater

Who's That Knocking On My Door

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.

The Floating Bridge

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 On The Lower Platform

Set up for action at the Lower Platform

A Little Bear Porn

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.

Court Play

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 Space

Sharing the beach with the bear

Mommy and Spring Triplets

A sow and her spring triplets

Just Standing There

Alone on the road

Looking Toward The Oxbow

Looking across the Brooks River oxbow area to the mountains beyond

Hi There

Yearling triplets at the Lower Platform

At The Mouth Of The River

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.

Alaskan Splendor

Alaskan Splendor

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.

Becky On The Bridge

Next Post:  The Riffles Platform

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Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, wildlife

War Wounds and Battle Scars

Head Wound

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.

Rear Wound

Neck Wound

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.

Teeth Marks

Teeth Marks Closeup

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.

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Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, wildlife

Photographing the Bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Boom, boom, boom! This is the latest of my articles written for the National Parks Traveler website. It’s different from the previous one about Katmai because this one deals solely with photography, cameras, equipment, and the best times for photographing the bears at the platforms.


Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography, wildlife

Brooks Lodge and the Bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska

If you are thinking about traveling out to this park, or just interested in knowing more about the layout, then please click on This Link which will take you to my latest article for the National Parks Traveler website.

And, if you like what you see, then subscribe to their weekly newsletter and visit the Traveler on their Facebook Page (and Like them, while there).

Becky At Brooks Falls

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Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, Lodging, National Parks, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography, wildlife

A Bear-Viewing Day Trip With Regal Air

Regal Air Van

In July 2013, I took an absolutely incredible trip to Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska to photograph the brown bears (the term “grizzly” is apparently reserved for the inland bears and not these coastal ones).   I went with an organized photo tour and can’t say enough wonderful things about the tour operator.

Since I knew I would be in Anchorage a couple of days prior to the start of the tour, I looked at this particular website dedicated to the Anchorage area in search of possible day trips.  There, I noticed an ad for Regal Air.  After reading about the bear-viewing day trips offered and the good reviews from other participants, I decide to send a deposit to Regal Air for a trip to photograph the bears at Silver Salmon Creek in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

Lake Clark NP Patch

Regal Air

Yes, I knew I would be devoting several days photographing the bears in Katmai, but since I had lugged a rented 500mm lens with me, I wanted to get as much out of it as possible and figured Lake Clark NP might present a different photographic environment since it’s located northeast of Katmai NP.

Like most other flightseeing operations around the Anchorage area, Regal Air offers a number of options for trips.  Their staff is very friendly and helpful, providing tips on other places to see and things to do while staying in Anchorage and Alaska as a whole.  And, like other flightseeing operations, Regal Air keeps their plane windows nice and clean for people like me who want to photograph the amazing Alaskan scenery while in the air.

Above Alaska

Alaska from above.  Anchorage is way off in the background.

Here’s how my day went: I arrived at Regal Air’s small office around 7:45AM for an 8AM departure. Because of the weather (cold, foggy, and rainy), takeoff was delayed for about 45 minutes.  You see, these small 5-seater planes do not have auto pilot; everything is by sight.  This makes weather situations problematic and pilots keep a “weather eye” (pun intended) out for not only takeoff but also flight path and landing destination conditions.

Once in the air, we donned our padded earphones to keep out the plane drone and communicate clearly with one another without resorting to shouting above the din.  During the 1-hour flight, our pilot pointed out various geographic points of interest and spotted things I and the other three passengers would have never noticed (such as the white backs of beluga whales surfacing for air as they swam near the mouth of a large river below us).

Alaska From Above_U9A3880_thumb

Offshore Rigs_U9A3929_thumb[4]

Offshore rigs – I counted 15 of them.

We flew in a wheeled plane rather than a floatplane, so we landed on the sandy beach at low tide.  Our guide James Isaak, proprieter of Alaska Homestead Lodge, Inc., picked all of us up in a sort of modified ATV “carriage”.

Alaska Homestead Lodge and Scenery_U9A4093_thumb[3]

James Isaak’s Alaska Homestead Lodge and the land around it.

First order of business was to take a bathroom break at the lodge, then slip into rubber boots for walking on the wet grass and beach since it was cold, overcast, and raining.  James offered bright yellow rain slickers to any of us who had not brought along our own gear.  Having checked the weather reports for both Anchorage and Lake Clark NP, I had the foresight to bring along my waterproof field jacket and protective rain coverings for my cameras and lenses.

Plane Beach and Daytrippers_U9A4072_thumb[3]

Then off we went in search of the bears.


Chowing Down

Looking Around

Testing The Air_H5T2161_thumb[3]

Most bear-viewing trips last anywhere from 6 hours to 10 hours. This includes the hour or so to get to the destination, 1.5 – 2 hours for bear viewing, 1.5 hours for lunch or dinner – depending on the tour – and an hour to return to Anchorage.  Regal Air now offers a 10-hour photographic workshop which includes an instructor for the day, a box lunch, and the private aircraft for the day.  For more information on Regal Air, email them at info@regal-air.com or visit their website www.regal-air.com

Becky and Regal Air Shirt

Stay tuned for more photos and stories of this particular trip as well as my Katmai and Alaska trip as a whole.

Bear Butts_H5T2127_thumb[4]

Bear butts


Filed under Alaska, bears, Lake Clark National Park, National Parks, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography, wildlife