I wouldn’t say that these are my “best” but they are all photos that I love and that capture the local inhabitants of places we went this year. Happy New Years to all!
If you’ve been to this blog before, you know I love reflection photos. Here’s a few that I haven’t shared before that I like. I had previously posted a photo of this bear staring at his reflection but it was more of a closeup without the landscape behind. I took this one at the same time but wanted to “flip the horizon” and capture the surrounding landscape in the reflection rather than directly. I think it is an interesting composition….
The second photo is a more traditional reflection photo – taken at Homer Alaska harbor on a perfectly beautiful and still morning….I think the vertical posts with the diagonal of the docks make this photo.
The last one is from a lake at the Kenai Wilderness Lodge. I always look at this photo and think that there must have been spots on my lens causing distortions until I look closer to see that it is really just the misty clouds on the mountains being reflected on the still lake.
Last week there was a special photo challenge on Inspiration with the stipulation that it had to include me in the picture. I thought I’d post again on the same subject without yours truly ruining the landscape. As you may recall, my earlier post had to do with nature and the outdoors as well as sharing that environment with friends. Here’s another view, from the same spot in Hallo Bay Alaska that also captures that inspiration. This photo shows the “galley tent” of our camp at dusk (probably about 10 or 11 in the evening) with a nice little sunset over the mountains. It was one of the few sunsets without overcast so it was a notable event on our trip. I hope this inspires you as much as does me……
The Daily Post today featured this challenge which is supposed to be a photo of ME doing something which inspires me. I don’t normally have many shots of myself as I am always too busy taking other shots but this photo came to mind…. This photo was taken by Ross Forsyth a great Scotsman and fine photographer who shared last year’s Bear expedition with my wife and I and with Jamie, an Aussie and another fine photographer, who is also featured in the photo. It shows us walking up the beach in Hallo Bay Alaska after a hard day of taking Brown Bear (and Wolf) photos. Being out in the elements and enjoying all of Nature’s incredible creations is as inspiring as it gets.
Well, our american elections are over – back to the harder job of actually governing the country. I hope that our representatives, both new and incumbent, try to keep in mind that “doing the work of the people” is what we actually expect from them. In any case, being the optimist that I am, I thought I’d post this photo trying to capture both the thought of a new beginning and a path (even if it is narrow) ahead. This was taken in the early morning at Hallo Bay, Alaska before we went out to play with the brown bears last summer.
I thought I’d post this photo of one of my favorite Bears from our trip. This guy was out all by himself on the tidal flats clamming as we were waiting for airplane to come pick us up from the beach. We first walked out without cameras just to spend some time with the bear before we left. After about 10 minutes we all realized that this was a special bear – both very photogenic and very cooperative in posing as he was going about his searches on some of the rocky areas of the flats. We ran about a quarter mile back to the beach to get our cameras and spent about 20 minutes with him before the tide started coming in (quickly). It was a great way to end our stay with the bears and the perfect bear to provide the final fond memory of our week.
Last week I posted a picture of a red fox on the beach. We also saw this guy – first in the weeds and then out on the beach. If you compare the two, they have entirely different coloring with this one being kind of a chocolate brown. I looked for pictures to match this one and came across a “cross fox” which I found differing opinions on – whether it was a red fox with a seasonal coat or whether it is a different species. In any case he was very daper in his different colors and he gave us quit a chase before we got any photos of him.
We didn’t get to see any serious bear fights in Alaska as we were past the prime mating period. We did however, get to see a couple of play fights among sub adult males. These two went at it for quite a while including chasing eachother from one side of a stream to the other and then re-engaging. They were fairly rough but you could tell that it didn’t have the intensity or the intent that a real fight has.
We had been hoping that we would have some good opportunities to see wolves while in Hallo Bay. As it turns out, we saw lots of “evidence” of wolves but not many wolves in the flesh. In fact, I think we only really saw one wolf – but we saw him twice in the same place. Our guide had told us he had seen wolves along a string of tidal driftwood in the meadows. While near there, I caught a glimpse of what I think was a large grey wolf but he disappeared very quickly and did not reappear. While keeping a lookout for that wolf, we found this youngster sitting atop a rocky outcropping just surveying the meadow. We took a long and circuitous route to approach him without disturbing him and we were able to get some decent, long distance photos. This is my favorite, with him just relaxing and watching us from his perch. It was a great thing to see and capture in the wild. I hope you enjoy!
Just so you can understand the distances, this photo was taken at 60-70 yards away and is cropped to highlight the wolf. When we first saw this wolf he looked like this (through a 500mm telephoto lens) at a LONG ways away…
Last week I posted a photo and description of Brown Bear sex lives. I thought I should also mention that we saw another instance where a male bear approached a female and just kind of gently nuzzled her before just wandering away. I know that I am probably humanizing this behavior but it appeared to us that this was a kind of show of affection. It only lasted for a few seconds but I did get this photo showing the two together – you be the judge….
I went to see the movie “Ted” yesterday afternoon – enjoyable but not great. All through the movie I was picturing the Bears of Alaska compared to the live action Teddy Bear in the Movie – what do you think????
First the real thing…..
and the poster from the movie – pretty good likeness?
While walking across the meadow one morning, we saw two bears locked in their mating embrace off in the distance. We started to head that way, anxious that we were going to miss this “event” but when we arrived (at least 5 minutes later) things were still in progress. It was apparent that this was neither a quick thing nor a tender engagement. It was lengthy, rough, and particularly unpleasant for the female. The male was much larger and easily manhandled (bear handled?) her in any way he pleased. He would also get a jaw lock around her neck to ensure her compliance. We watched the proceedings for at least 10-15 minutes before the couple finally parted and the female escaped the scene. While it wasn’t a particularly pleasant thing to watch, it was interesting to see this facet of the Bear’s lives.
I know its been several days since I’ve posted a bear picture so I thought you guys might be getting “bear withdrawal”. I’ll try to help with just this short post today to “scratch that itch”. This is the way the bears do it….
Actually, I have no idea whether this is a male or female. We had hoped to see many foxes while at Hallo Bay unfortunately, the grass had grown so tall in the meadows (due to the rain) that it was extremely difficult to see them. This little scrawny fox was just walking down the beach at about 10 PM while we trying to photograph one of the few openings we had seen in the cloud cover. We all had wide angle lenses on our cameras so I ran back to camp, got my bigger zoom lens and returned to get a few shots of the intruder. He was carrying what looked to be some kind of sea urchin in his mouth but was still looking for something better on the beach. He looked kind of undernourished but it was probably more that his full coat hadn’t grown in yet. This is my first photo ever of a fox – another species captured for my files!!
This will be my last post for a few days while we take our annual backpacking trip in the Sierras. I’ll have more bears and other great animals next week! Hope you enjoy.
The Bears of Hallo Bay have two pretty good options for plentiful food – the grasses of the meadows and the clams in the tidal flats. It was really interesting to watch the Bears at low tide on the flats find and eat the clams. They kind of wander around sniffing the ground, find a promising spot, and dig a hole with a swipe or two of their powerful claws to get to the clam. It was very unusual to see any of them dig a hole that didn’t contain a clam. It was also interesting that each of the Bears seemed to have their own method for opening and eating the clam. This one would put the clam on the back of one of its paws and then open it with its jaws – others had different methods.
As in the meadows our approach to the bears was to stake out an unthreatening position (kneeling with lots of room for the bear to move around us) and let them determine how comfortable they are with our presence. We had a great view of them and they had an equal view of us as there was no foliage or cover out on the flats. In general we found them to be very comfortable with us and more times than not, they approached our positions pretty closely before moving on about their business. It was a very exciting (but not frightening) experience to have them approach, cast a glance our way, and then continue the feeding ritual. This photo gives a pretty typical view of what it looked like as they approached our positions – pretty cool, huh?
We didn’t have much great weather while at Hallo Bay but we did have one morning which had some sun and blue sky before it disappeared again before noon. Luckily, that morning we decided to walk down the beach to see what was going on before heading towards the meadows. This photo shows the lone bear that was out on the clamming area that morning. He was considerate enough to position himself directly behind some residual pools on the tidal flats. This of course yielded some great reflection shots – I hope you enjoy this one. It looked to me like he was either trying to figure out who that was staring back at him, or he was checking his hair to make sure it was suitable for the photographic session….
A change of pace to a different inhabitant of Hallo Bay. There were numerous bald eagles perching and flying around the area there all week but I managed to scare pretty much all of them away. I got some decent stationary shots but none that I was particularly happy with until I got this sequence. We saw this particular eagle perched in the same place several times but he always flew away before I could get a lens on him. I finally got him near the end of the week…..a beautiful bird for sure!
I especially like these because of the snowy mountains in the background.
After two fairly long posts and a look at some of the more aggressive actions of the bears during our visit, I thought we should turn back to the more endearing side of these animals. There is reason why many kids play with stuffed bears – they can be incredibly cute while just enjoying their environment. Does it get much better than this little bear?
We almost walked right by this guy – he was well hidden in the grass and seemed to be very comfortable.
As I said yesterday, today’s post is about how we camped for the week in the Hallo Bay environment. I figured I would start with this photo of a bear basically roaming through our camp area to give you an idea of things that we needed to be aware of. There is a longer story behind this bear’s “visit” but I think I’ll cover that in more detail (and with more bear photos) tomorrow.
We started the last leg of our journey to Hallo Bay from Homer Alaska after spending a few days with friends. The Bay is located in the Katmai region of Alaska which is part of the Alaska Penninsula. The airplane was a single engined Cessna 206 equipped with Tundra tires which can land on a variety of unprepared airfields including the Beach at Hallo Bay. We flew past several volcanos on the way to camp and also had some great vistas like this one with glaciers melting into their own lakes.
After a smooth landing we carried our gear to the camp that our guide had prepared about 50 yards off the beach. It had sleeping quarters for 4 guests plus the guide and his daughter who looked after our needs and took care of the camp while we were gone each day. Our tent had a large vestibule for storing gear and we actually had cots and sleeping bags for our beds. The camp also had a large tent with table and chairs and cooking facilities for our mess area. We spent quite a lot of time in there together when the weather was just too bad to go out in (the bears aren’t very active in really bad weather either). Another notable feature of the camp was a small outhouse tent especially for our 3 female campers. Here’s a photo of our camp – notice the beware of dog sign posted to scare the bears away! Kidding aside, the string that surrounds the camp is actually an electrified fence – it certainly won’t stop a marauding bear but it might deter them if they are just wandering past. The other notable feature of the camp area was that there was an active bear path just in front of our communal tent – during our stay, the bears tended to veer around the camp area by about 10 yards off that path. OBTW – the pyramid shaped tent in the background was occupied by the only other longer term visitor to South Hallo Bay – an Aussie by the name of Jonathan that was staying in the area for pretty much the entire summer.
All of our basic needs were taken care of – the tents were very sturdy and withstood some really terrible weather, the food was good (real eggs each morning, a packed lunch in the field, and a meat course every night for dinner), and easy access to the meadows and beach for animal watching. All in all, we were as comfortable as you could be in a wilderness camping environment. We were, of course, very mindful of keeping our food away from the animals, and of not harming anything in this very verdant environment.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you a little story about an exciting bear encounter literally “in” our camp……
Hi Everyone! We are finally back from the incredible place that is Alaska. There are lots of stories to tell but I’ll get to all of them as I post photos from the places we went. But before we get to that I wanted to use this first post to talk about the reason we went there – to photograph the Brown Bear. Alaska has the vast majority of Brown Bears in the US although there are significant populations within the Rockies also. Brown Bears are also commonly known as Grizzly Bears but the Grizzly is actually a subspecies of the Brown Bear family that is used to describe the bears that live inland. The Bears that we were visiting were Coastal Brown Bears in an area called Hallo Bay. The coastal brown bear is primarily differentiated from the grizzly by their size – where an adult grizzly may be as little as 200 lbs, the adult coastal brown bear can reach as much 1500 lbs. The explanation for the size difference is the diets these bears eat in their respective habitats – the coastal bears have the benefit of the salmon to provide a diet rich in protein. As you’ll see during the upcoming posts the coastal bears also dine heavily on the coastal sedge grasses and on clams.
I chose these first photos to give you a close up look at the Bears. The first photo is of a female bear and gives you a nice close-up of their face. Bears this time of year still have much of their winter coat of guard hairs so they look very full and well nourished. I am always struck by their eyes and wonder what they are thinking – especially about these gangly two legged creatures that are invading their territory. While they cast you the occasional curious look, they are very busy grazing and stocking up on food and don’t pay us too much attention. That being said, they are obviously interested and if you sit there quietly, they will often pass close by you just to “check you out”. Speaking of which – you can click on the photos to get a much closer view of these fascinating creatures!
The next photo is of a male bear and is intended to give you a full body view of the bear. As you can see in this and other photos to come one of the defining features are the large protruding claws. While black bear claws are kind of small and not very visible, the brown bear claws are always in view and are definitely imposing. Before someone asks, you cannot tell the sex of the bears by their color – both sexes can be either light or dark. The best way to tell the sexes is to observe how the bears urinate – front “firing”= male.
Thats it for this morning. I hope you enjoyed the intro to the Brown Bears. There is ALOT more to share. Tomorrow’s post will be about camping in Brown Bear territory and a little about OUR environment for the week…..
Well I’m still looking for Scott too!! He was here a couple of days ago but then he left. I guess he went on to the next part of his trip – to the Glacier Fjords. I hope he has better weather than he did while he was camping out with us bears……! I’m sure he’ll write again when he gets back to civilization. Stay tuned.