Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Photographers & Brown Bear

Photographers and coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos)

I shot this image of a group of photographers that traveled on a ship from which they had been taken ashore by an inflatable boat in Katmai National Park (AK). After a while, a brown bear nonchalantly walked by them in search of salmon.

Since I was shooting into the sun, I opted for a silhouette, which simplifies the composition and gives the image more of a graphic feel. Shooting from a low angle of view makes viewers relate to the bear’s perspective. Finally, the compression effect that is typical of a telephoto lens, such as the one I used for this shot, emphasizes the feeling of closeness between the bear and the photographers.

What do you say: too close or just fine?

For more information about this image, please click on it. If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)

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28 thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Photographers & Brown Bear

  1. Dina

    Dear Stefano,
    great to have you back -surely you must have had a wonderful time in NY at the slow wine event.
    The compression effect in your outstanding photo is amazing and has a thrilling effect! Ha, it’s perfect! 🙂
    I have made a virtual trip to Katmai National Park in Alaska,it looks so inviting! Do you mind telling us how you got there? Did you go on ship like this photographers or did you go directly to the Park and stayed there? Alaska is high up on our bucket list, you see…
    Big hug from the four of us
    Dina

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Dearest Dina,
      Thank you for your kind words: I am glad you liked the shot. As I mentioned, life these days is super intense for me…
      Katmai is a beautiful, remote park. I did not go on a ship as I kind of don’t like the concept, because you keep moving around and your sightings greatly rely on the luck of being in the right spot at the right time. I will email you separately with more details.
      Alaska is a nature and wilderness paradise: I think that you four would love it. 🙂
      A big hug to the Fabulous Four 🙂

      Reply
      1. Dina

        Thanks a lot, Stefano. What you write, corresponds with my feelings too. Please take your time, there’s no hurry!
        Best wishes! We’ll keep our fingers crossed for a medium intense period as from now.
        Happy hugs from us,
        Dina xo

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Mary 🙂 Bears at that time of the year are very focused on salmon and especially (unlike in other more heavily visited national parks) bears do not associate humans with food because people are careful not to leave any food item behind, which (together with common sense) significantly reduces the risk of conflict.
      Glad you liked the shot! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Lyle Krahn

    The birds, the bear and the photographers all doing what they do in the same wonderful photograph. The compression effect certainly adds drama and you don’t really know how close they were.

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Hi Tracy! Well, they weren’t at arm’s reach so to speak, but the bear walked by pretty close to them – 12 to 15 feet I’d say? Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      Reply
  3. caleephotography

    I would say it’s way too close to be comfortable! and nowhere to hide.. Or perhaps the compression makes it look like they’re much closer than they were. I really like this picture, the silhouettes and warm tones are very nice.

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you very much, Camilla: glad you liked it! 🙂
      Like I said in response to prior comments, the photographers must have been some 12 to 15 feet away from the bear. Bears at that time of the year are very focused on salmon and especially (unlike in other more heavily visited national parks) bears do not associate humans with food because people are careful not to leave any food item behind, which (together with common sense) significantly reduces the risk of conflict.
      My personal experience is that they just see you as another animal in the environment and, as long as you do not do anything stupid (especially in the case of sows with cubs), they just give you a cursory glance and carry on undisturbed. Which is pretty cool. Let me add, however, that I would never go by myself (always in a small group) and that we have always hired experienced local guides to go with us.

      Reply
  4. Just Add Attitude

    I love this image Stefano. The bear, the birds and the photographers all seemingly so close together and set against the empty landscape is so powerful and also paradoxically peaceful. 😉

    Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you so much, B! I really appreciate your words and am happy that you liked the image. I can confirm that the scene was very peaceful even at the time it took place, with humans, wildlife and nature getting along just fine and peacefully. 🙂

      Reply
    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you very much, Elena: yes, being in bear country with such an abundance of animals and being able to spend time with them in relatively close proximity without bothering them or encroaching on their comfort zone was both exciting and rewarding an experience. 🙂

      Reply
  5. the winegetter

    I’ll never forget walking into a black bear mom with two cubs on a walk in Alaska. While Nina ran in the opposite direction, our dog ran at the bear, and I was just puzzled. Nina started screaming for the dog, and the mother was turning our way, while the cubs took off….that’s when I started running too. I like my bears far away…the dog made it, btw. 🙂

    Reply

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