Posted by: cherylyoung | February 20, 2012

Day 18 Photograph A Wild Bear


Most of my bear encounters have been too fleeting for photographs.

Face to furry face on a trail.

I’m more likely to reach for my pepper spray than a tripod.

“cute, cubs, Winnie. Hold that snarl while I check the light meter.”

Wild bears are generally hungry, self-protective, and unnerved by humans.

Anyone contemplating  an outing to photograph wild bears should consider the wise words of my friend, wildlife photographer Thomas Kitchin: “There’s no such thing as a old, dumb bear photographer.”

Though British Columbia has an estimated 16,000 grizzlies and 80,000 to 100,000 black bears, there are a limited number of accessible places where bears gather in good number and will tolerate people gawking at them.

An Internet search of “bear watching B.C” turns up dozens of companies running coastal tours, from Campbell River to Prinec Rupert.

The Terrace area and Princess Royal and Gribbel islands are known haunts of B.C’s white Kermode “spirit bears” and the provincially protected Khutzeymateen Valley is famous as Canada’s only grizzly sanctuary, but their relatively remote north-coast locations put them beyond reach of many bear viewers.

My favourite spot is Glendale Cove, a six-hour drive up Vancouver Island from Telegraph cove, then a two hour boat trip across Johnstone Strait to Knight Inlet on the mainland.

My last trip there was back in the early digital days of 3.0 megapixel point-and shoot cameras with lenses that zoomed to a paltry 115 millimetres.

Now I’m headed back with a 600 millimetre lens with a teleconverter to extend its reach 1.4 times, mounted on a 10-megapixel Nikon DSLR.  And I have expert instructions from another skilled photographer friend, Tim Fitzharris.

“For the most revealing and dramatic interpretation, try to catch the subject looking into the light.

Fitzharris writes in his book National Qudubon Society Guide to nature Photography. 

“The eyes should be wide open, clearly illuminated, and show a small. Twinkling, natural catchlight. 

Ears should be fanned forward in curiosity rather than laid back in fear or tilted askew”

At Glendale, where visitors can watch grizzlies at fairly close range, anyone can snap a shot for the family album.. But trophy photos require greater knowledge of animal behaviour.

“You’ve got to actually come enough times sto that you can predict what a bear’s about to do.”advises howard Pattison of Tide Rip

Grizzly Tours.  Seasoned bear photographers know to begin clicking the shutter when a big male grizzly hoists its massive head from the water and shakes it furiously in a spray of flying droplets.

Some of Pattison’s guides, photographers themselves, offer helpful coaching to inexperienced bear shooters.

They recommend a lens of 300 millimetres although most guys show up with all the ammo they’ve got”

From mid-May to mid-October, as many as 30 bears inhabit Glendale cove.

Around the viewing stands onshore, the bears have grown accustomed to people and often will walk right below the photographers.

On my last trip to Glendale, we saw 17 grizzlies, some just metres from the boat.  While photographers must stay aboard to get their shots, it is sometimes possible to set a tripod in the mud flats beside the boat for more stability.

When tides are right says Pattison. “we put the skiffs in a side channel that’s in the shade, so wee

Re looking out with the sun behind us at the sunlit bears.  It’s just perfect.

So, I’m ready now to get reacquainted with the Glendale bears:  the Troll the one that lurks under a bridge” Hummer, the bear that “sings” when he breaks through the surface of the river” and tubby Panda with his faithful sidekick, Raven.

When it comes to wildlife in  B.C this is my kind of shooting

Info:  Tide Rip Grizzly Tours  (250-339-5320



SIDNEY B.C  cbythesea@shaw


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: