Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Bear Photography in Katmai Coast 2

The 2nd day in Hallo Bay was a beautiful sunny day. After having breakfast with the other guests, we were divided into two groups. Each group had its own guide. Following our guide, we walked along the beach, and then entered the dense woods. We walked on the trail, but there are some bear trails that cross the human trail. Bears can pop out behind the trees at any moment.

The view was opened up in front of us; The scenery was breath-taking - tidal coves and snow covered mountains were the backdrop. And, there were bears down below!! Two bear families - each had 2 cubs! They were digging clams on the beach. We were looking at them from the hill at the edge of the woods for a while. One mother bear laid down on her back and began nursing! Her 2 cubs nursed on her for a while. That was a beautiful moment. We walked down to the tidal flat and enjoyed seeing those 2 bear families from a far. They were digging clams for a while, and the 2 cubs began play fighting... I still couldn't that it was a real experience out in the wilderness - it was like a being in a nature show.
Then, the mother bear walked toward us gradually - followed by her 2 cubs. Looking with my telephoto lens, they got closer and closer... Actually, they were coming close to us. They were only 20 feet away; the mother bear stopped and sniffed the air. according to our guide, bears can recognize an individual by the smells like dogs can. Oh, my goodness, she was very close! I was about to back off, but the guide told me not to move. Bears may think I'm prey if I move quickly. The bear family walked by 10 feet in front of us. One cub curiously approached within 5 feet of us. Even a cub, he is bigger than me! The guide showed him a flare and calmly told the cub, "no, no..." My heart was beating hard, fortunately, the cub turned to the mom and passed in front of us.
The mother bear stopped at a rock very close by, and licked at the little shells covering the rock. One of the cubs copied her. My finger was on the shutter button. She climbed on top of the rock, and sniffing the air for a while as she paused for the camera! It was a perfect shot!

After the bear family left, a fox showed up on the beach. He was also digging clams just like a scene in the movie: "Grizzly Man."

We already saw a lot in morning, but there were more bears at the meadow near the tidal flat. We explored the meadow at the evening.

This story will continue...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bear Photography in Katmai Coast 1

I went back to Alaska again... Photographing bears is one of my passions now.

At this time, I stayed in Hallo Bay, located on the remote coast of Katmai National Park, on the Shelikof Strait. Getting to Hallo Bay was an adventure... I flew in a small old Cessna from Homer that was delayed for many hours by the weather. The plane took off late in the afternoon, even though it was supposed to fly in the morning. On the plane, I flew close to the mountain tops, glaciers, and volcanoes. The plane landed on a sandy beach - no runway!

The evening we arrived, there were 9 new arrivals including my husband and myself, a guide took us on an introductory walk to the beach. Since we were deep in the area with highest population of brown bears (grizzlies) in the world, we weren't allowed to wander around without a guide. Bears would even sometimes wander right by the Camp area! Bears might came out from anywhere! So, we always have to walk with a guide and stay together in a group. Bears don't attack a group of people. The Camp wants to keep the perfect safety record.

The coast was truly wilderness, Hallo Bay Bear Camp in the only bit of civilization in this remote bear habitat. If you ever heard about Timothy Treadwell (in the documentary movie "Grizzly Man"), he was camping by himself at the south of Hallo Bay for 13 summers among bears, until he and his girlfriend were killed and eaten by a bear in 2002. A woman working at the Hallo Bay Camp saw him a few times. "One day, he was wearing camouflage and had painted his face to black, then the next day, he was wearing a 3 piece suite in this wilderness, " she described.

During our first walk, we walked along the beach, crossed a little stream, and looked at shells including razor clams which the bears had dug up and eaten during the low tides.

Suddenly, a bear popped out from the bush ahead! The bear wandered along the beach, then ate the grass for a short while, and then disappeared into the bush again. That was the highlight of the short walk.

The next two days, I experienced many intimate bear encounters.

This story will continue to my next blog.

I hope you enjoyed my first blog.

- Sunny K. Awazuhara-Reed

If you haven't checked my web site, please visit: http://www.spiritofnaturephoto.com/