Tag Archives: brown bear

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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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.

Fight

Altercation

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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Gone Fishing–The Snorkeling Method

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.

Fishing Next To The Bridge

This bear actually squeezed beneath the floating bridge and re-surfaced on the side you see here.

Up Periscope

Up periscope.

Down Periscope

Down periscope.

Snorkeling

Snorkeling with nose and eyes below the water.

Did it catch anything?  No, but not for lack of trying.

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Portraits

Bear Face

I captured a lot of images of the bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.  The majority of the photos I took were with a rented Canon 500mm f4L Mk II lens on my Canon 1-DX body.  I duplicated many of the originals which I then cropped quite a bit in order to focus only on the faces of the bears (thank goodness for full-frame cameras).  After a time, I began to notice unique differences in each face, their shape, their scars, expressions, and – to some extent – the color of their fur. Here are some of the portraits I took of the denizens of this park.   FYI, I have also created a 2014 calendar with brown bear portraits in addition to other 2014 calendars.  Here is the link to the site where I am selling the calendars, or click on any the calendar images to the left of this screen.

*Note:  the park has stringent rules regarding human/bear interaction.  If’ you read my article about Brooks Lodge written for the National Parks Traveler, you will have read some of the rules I listed and know that all of these photos captured were taken from the safety of the viewing platforms constructed for the viewing of the bears with the super-telephoto lens and then cropped.

Bear Closeup CROP

Portrait Of A Droopy Lip

Sniffing Around

Hiya Becky CROP

Portrait

Look at these portraits and you, too, will notice the characteristics that make each one of these bears as unique as you and I.

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