Tag Archives: Katmai National Park

Happy Fourth! Bald Eagle

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

Just a quick note to wish all our U.S. followers, readers and friends Happy Fourth of July!

The image above was taken in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and is (of course) of a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus): nothing more appropriate to celebrate Independence Day, I think! ūüôā

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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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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?

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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 :-)

Alaskan Teddy Bear

Coastal brown bear (Ursus arctos) sitting up

In the summer, Alaskan coastal brown bears (Ursus arctos) congregate near the shores of the sea and other bodies of water waiting for wild salmon to come back to the very streams they were born in and swim upstream to reach the headwater gravel beds of their birth and lay their eggs. Clearly, this offers the bears a wonderful opportunity to hunt salmon and feed off of their flesh and especially their eggs, of which they are particularly fond.

The salmon run is particularly important to the bears because the hibernation period is fast approaching and brown bears enter a phase known as hyperphagia where they maximize their food intake (they can eat up to 90 pounds of food per day!) to build up sufficient fat reserves to survive the hibernation months.

However, sometimes the salmon are a little late on their spawning schedule… or the bears are a little early for the party, which means that the bears have some time to kill while they wait for their favorite prey to arrive. So bears go into “energy saving” mode and they just lazily hang out near the water waiting for their lunch to be served.

The coastal brown bear in the image above was just sitting in the sun near a river in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, probably daydreaming of the hordes of sockeye salmon it will soon start chasing all over the place…

To me, it looked just like a teddy bear neatly arranged in a sitting position by a toy store salesperson! ūüėČ

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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 :-)

Sprinting Coastal Brown Bear

Sprinting Coastal Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)

Beside loving bears, which I find truly fascinating animals, I love Alaska: such beautiful country, most of which is still wild and pristine, notwithstanding human efforts to drill more oil out of it (will we ever get rid of so dirty an energy source?…)

I visited Alaska twice, and I hope I will be able to go back in not too long a time. The first time I went to Katmai National Park, and the second time back to Katmai (although in a different area) and then on to the Kodiak archipelago. Alaska and Katmai in particular are among the best places you may be at to observe and photograph coastal brown bears. These are often interchangeably called “grizzlies” but, although they both belong to the species Ursus arctos, coastal brown bears (as the name implies) prevalently live in coastal areas and tend to be bigger than grizzlies who are considered a distinct subspecies (Ursus arctos horribilis)¬†and live inland, away from major bodies of water.

If you travel to Katmai in the Summer, chances are that you are going to witness one of the most exciting phenomena in the life cycle of a coastal brown bear: the salmon run. Around that time of the year, wild sockeye salmon enter their spawning phase, during which they somehow find their way back from the ocean to the very same river where they were born so that they can work their way upstream, reach the headwater gravel beds of their birth, lay their eggs and generally die within a couple of weeks (because when they return to their original freshwater environment, they stop eating and live off their fat reserves).

Clearly, brown bears are not indifferent to nature’s call that brings the salmon back to accessible waterways to reproduce. Since fall and then winter are fast approaching (and with them¬†a long¬†period of hibernation), brown bears enter a phase known as¬†hyperphagia where they maximize their food intake (they can eat up to 90 pounds of food per day!) to build up sufficient¬†fat reserves to survive the hibernation months. In this period, coastal brown bears congregate by the shore or next to river banks anxiously waiting for one of their favorite prey to arrive in huge numbers.

When salmon eventually comes, all hell breaks loose and bears start chasing salmon in shallow waters to catch them and eat them. Bears are especially fond of salmon eggs, so much so that, after a bear has eaten enough fish for a day, sometimes it keeps catching more salmon just to eat the eggs while discarding the rest (for the seagulls’ happiness).

While I was observing a group of about six bears chasing salmon in the estuary of a river in Katmai, this young bear started sprinting in my general direction in pursuit of a salmon (that eventually proved to be faster than the bear) and gave me a great opportunity to freeze the motion of the bear at the peak of the action. The low angle of the image (that I shot kneeling in the sand) accentuates the majestic nature of the bear and creates an eye-level connection with the animal. Hope you like 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 :-)