Katmai, days 6-7

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Thursday (September 1) Geographic Harbor: We visited the beach (and bears) in the morning. It was a beautiful day, with the clouds passing over and through the hills surrounding the bay. Read on, though, for photos of the bears and other wildlife spotted this day!

Landscape (with bear), Geographic Harbor, Katmai.
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Katmai, days 4-5

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Tuesday (August 30) Kuliak Bay, Hidden Harbor, Geographic Harbor: An early breakfast allowed us to reach the beach by 8am, where an immature bald eagle was perched on driftwood as if waiting for a dozen photographers to capture its portrait. My favorite photo from the sequence came moments after it launched from its beachfront perch. What else did we see in the next two days? read on.

Bald eagle (immature) on shore at the head of Kuliak Bay.
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Katmai, day 3

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Monday (August 29) Kuliak Bay: Today we decided to move to another bay, also well known for bears: Kuliak Bay. So we spent a few hours motoring out from Geographic Harbor and Amalik Bay, then northeast through the Shelikof Strait along the Katmai coastline. It was a gorgeous day with calm seas and scattered clouds, with snow-capped peaks in the distance behind the coastal hills. Read on to see what we found in Kuliak Bay…

Panorama from offshore Katmai National Park – click to see fuller size.
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Katmai, day 2

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

This post is part of a series about our photography trip to Alaska.

Sunday (August 28) Geographic Harbor: We rose for an early breakfast so we could return to the beach during low tide. Many bears were out today, as was another group of photographers. There are no lodges or cabins or roads with access to the extensive shoreline of Katmai National Park, so visitors all arrive by ship or plane and groups (like us) sleep on-board ships. Throughout the trip we were often the only group in a bay, and thus on shore; sometimes there was one (or maybe two) other boats sharing the same bay (and beach). Rarely, we’d see a small group of day-trippers arrive by floatplane. The guides, like our Captain Rob, all knew each other, and there was a tacit understanding that groups stayed out of the way of each other; still, it was sometimes possible to photograph bears as they passed by another group.

Coastal Brown Bear passing close to another group – Geographic Harbor, Katmai.
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Katmai National Park, Day 1

A week off the grid on the coast of Alaska – photographing bears.

Brown bear, just after catching a salmon – Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park.

My father and I spent a week on a photography workshop in Katmai National Park, on the southern coast of Alaska west of Anchorage. The trip was organized by Muench photography workshops and was an outstanding opportunity to refine my photography skills in a beautiful setting – up close and personal with Alaskan brown bears as they feasted on the annual salmon run. We spent seven nights on the Dreamcatcher, a small ship that allowed us to anchor in several bays along the Katmai coastline, using its skiffs to visit shore two or three times daily. We saw dozens of bears, as they were feasting on the annual salmon run, up close and personal. I snapped over 8,000 photos and it will take me many weeks to find time to sort, process, and share them all – so I’ll share the best photos in future posts. For now, I’ll post retroactively in segments – with a few preliminary/teaser photos. Read on!

Continue reading “Katmai National Park, Day 1”

Black bear burgles birdseed

I should know better.

It was 4:00am and, it being a lovely summer’s night, the bedroom windows were wide open. In a few minutes, as the dusk softened, the birds would start to chatter and sing, waking me for a new day. Instead, I awoke to hear a clattering out on the deck, like the sound of a hanger being tossed around on a clothes rack. I knew what was happening even before I got up to investigate.

We are fortunate to live in a rural area with nearly every sort of wildlife – bear, moose, deer, fox, coyote, bobcat, fisher, mink, groundhog, beaver, not to mention birds and countless small critters. I’ve had even greater good fortune to see each of those, and to photograph a few. We know bears are hungry in the spring, and it is well known that bears will seek out birdfeeders, as birdseed is rich in fat and nutrients. I failed to bring the birdfeeders inside last night, as our black-bear neighbor discovered on his morning rounds.

A black bear tears down our birdfeeder for breakfast.

It was still rather dark, and although I could see well, the iPhone XR doesn’t quite have sufficient dynamic range. After the bear polished off one birdfeeder, and headed for the second, I turned on the outdoor lights. That didn’t faze the bear at all, but allowed me to capture the final four minutes of his visit on video. At the end, you can see our cat, watching intently, growling softly.

This behavior is not good for the bear, or for us. Or for the birdfeeders 😉. It’s my responsibility to remember to bring in those birdfeeders every night… or to delay using birdfeeders until later in the summer.

Bear crap

Big and hairy.

As the weather warmed, our local population of black bears started to stir. Since there is little natural food available yet, our birdfeeders and compost bin are an easy target. We try to remember to bring in the bird feeders each night, but sometimes forget… leading to damaged feeders and a hugely diminished supply of birdseed.

This weekend, while out for a stroll across the yard, I found this fresh evidence of our overnight visitor. Click on the photo and zoom in if you dare!

Two days later, after repairing our compost bin, he was back…