BEARS OF BROOKS FALLS
VISIT TO DENALI
After the Inaugural AK Photo Fest ended, I was fortunate to have Olis Garber, a good friend and outstanding photographer, accept my invitation to shoot bears at Brooks Falls in Katmai, Alaska. Sure we'd be tenting, but there is a lodge a short walk away that made it almost like "glamping" in that we could sit around the circular fireplace, order drinks at the bar, and eat bountiful meals that we did not have to prepare in the rain. But first, we spent a day in Denali.
The first set of images which follow were either taken from the bus into Denali or on one of the few stops. It should be apparent which were taken en-route, as I decided to enhance, rather than fight, the constant motion of the bus. It's really torture for a photographer to pass such spectacular scenery. It stings even more when the bus driver tells us all to put our cameras away and just enjoy the view. Yes, they will stop on occasion by request; usually for wildlife, rarely for scenery....
Despite the forecast for rain, Denali was visible for at least our journey to the Eielson Visitor Center!
By the time we headed out, clouds rapidly started moving in.
Colors this year were scarce. Most leaves on everything from ground cover to trees turned brown & fell off. After almost 30 yrs here, I've had the opportunity to experience it in its full glory.
Colors in Denali, particularly in Polychrome Pass are usually out of this world.
Olis is a master of landscapes (among other things); I'm a floral fanatic. It was clear by what we were drawn to and how we shoot, our gear, and the rush to upload and edit. I admire the amount of preparation required to help ensure a good landscape; being in the right place at the optimal time of day in the preferred season. Weather conditions may or may not play out. Clouds, rain, snow, and wind are just some of the factors.
And then there's the bus...
On the trail to the platform at the falls, we give way to the bears. On this occasion, we ceded to the bear with Ranger Carl while the bear passed by (below). It was a treat to be able to stop and look out from the woods with the perceived protection of a Ranger close by. I felt free to observe the myriad plant life on the forest floor . The small orange mushroom (above) held on to late summer; most of the others were already gone.
On our second night we were held up at the Bridge due to bear activity. As others were making their way back before nightfall, they, too, were stopped and joined the growing crowd at the top of the platform. One of the sows (#402) decided to pay a visit with her two cubs and adopted cub (Princess?). She and the two cubs decided to nap (above) and, just like a kid, one of them couldn't resist playing (below)... The adopted cub wandered off and decided to snack on some fish (also below). Then another nap. And other bears... The Bridge closure lasted nearly four hours! Needless to say, we got back to camp as night fell.
To jumpstart the morning, Walker and the young bear known as "Cub Adult" got into a little scuffle. It lasted almost 20 minutes; enough time for the light to increase and time to allow me to dance up and down the ISO scale to improve my chance of getting a decent image.
We saw many bears bedded down approximately 15-25 feet from the trail along the beach in the morning. As we left the campground, we passed bears waking up, bears sauntering by, and others lazily hanging out in the tall beach grass... Sows with cubs in both directions closing in one morning kept Olis and me, along with Ed & Jan Biller, at bay wondering just what we were supposed to do in THAT situation! The stealth of these large creatures was astounding. We watched them slip into the forest and disappear. Silently. Right before our eyes.
Even the trees have eyes. In this tree trunk is the presence of a weathered soul, a sentinel over the creatures of the forest.
After about 10 minutes after consuming yet another of many salmon, Walker dared to go steal Otis's fish. Normally mellow, Otis swiftly put him in his place. Look at Otis's eyes (above) turned toward Walker as he approached. And after Walker retreated, Otis seemed to be saying, "Don't even think about trying that again. I'm keeping my eyes on you!"
Ed & Jan Biller who I discovered had good friends, John & JoAnne Dillon (Lobello) in common! Olis & Me, pictured to the right above. Ronnie, Lisa, & Shannon, friends on the Explore.org Bearcam, met in real life to celebrate Ronnie's Birthday - and the Bears!
Luggage for all types of travelers. The backpack frames with camping gear in the rear (you know who you are...!), the bright pink and spanking clean duffles, and the Think Tanks and roller bags on the right (photographers, no doubt!). As darkness descended, so did the rain. Although I wished for clear skies, the incoming droplets washed up the late-night revelers & sent them straight from their firepit and beer to their tents. Katmai in September is not the same as Katmai in July when days are long. Not many are willing to brave the trail in darkness so, coupled with rain, the short days ensured that we got a decent amount of sleep. It wasn't until the last day that a cold started to take hold.
A beautiful sunrise (above) at 8:08am with a little photoshop. I added the bear which did actually lay down right there at 4:01pm later that day.
Please treat yourself to a look at Olis Garber's images on his blog from our trip.
2017 Bear Calendars
ORDER NOW HERE!