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Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK

  
 
DivineFocus
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


I love tight shots. As far as I'm concerned you can never have too much lens. Last week out on Prince William Sound I had the opportunity to put my theory/philosophy into practice. It's salmon season which means it's also bear season. Just like the brown bears of Katmai and other famous locations the black bears on the shores of PWS come down to the salmon streams to feast. But unlike brown bears they don't kindly share space. So over a period of several hours one by one as their rank/dominance dictates they come down to the creek to feed at lower stages of the tide.

Shooting from a kayak offers some unique opportunities. First off the bears have no natural/inherent fear of things on the water. Even if they see you but don't catch your scent they'll be overcome by the lure of the fish and come down to feed. So as long as the wind is working in your favor you can usually have a good shoot. And 90 percent of the time wind blows downstream off of creeks/falls in the morning and upstream in the afternoon. Low tide a couple of hours after sunrise is ideal. Secondly sitting in the kayak provides a naturally low POV. And finally as long as you stay in deep water it provides a natural safety barrier between you and the animals. And in some cases the water is several feet deep right up to the rocks/shore. So with a bit of patience and paying attention to the animals' body language you can safely work quite close to them without disturbing their feeding time.

A couple of days last week conditions and the timing of the morning tide were ideal.

Technical note: I rarely shoot in vertical format. The portrait format shots below are full vertical crops out of horizontal frames.






1) First bear of the morning checking me out.

  NIKON Z 9    NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens    400mm    f/4.5    1/400s    12800 ISO    -1.0 EV  







2) Different bear a little later in a prime fishing spot

  NIKON Z 9    NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens    400mm    f/4.5    1/400s    2200 ISO    -1.0 EV  







3) Same bear as no.2 up close(shot in DX crop mode)

  NIKON Z 9    NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens    400mm    f/4.5    1/400s    2800 ISO    -1.0 EV  







4) Looking for the right fish among hundreds.

  ILCE-1    FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens    459mm    f/6.3    1/500s    1000 ISO    -1.0 EV  







5) They do keep an eye on you.

  ILCE-1    FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens    600mm    f/6.3    1/640s    2000 ISO    -1.0 EV  







6) Headache?

  ILCE-1    FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens    433mm    f/6.3    1/640s    1600 ISO    -1.0 EV  







7) Sometimes it's hard to judge their size but in general their ears and legs appear in inverse proportion to the size of the bear. This is a big boy.

  ILCE-1    FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens    335mm    f/6.3    1/640s    1600 ISO    -1.0 EV  







8) They were digging something out of the gravel that was apparently even better than salmon.

  ILCE-1    FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens    600mm    f/6.3    1/640s    2500 ISO    -1.0 EV  







9) That's it come on in.

  ILCE-1    FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens    600mm    f/6.3    1/640s    3200 ISO    -1.0 EV  







10) Bubba

  ILCE-1    FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens    600mm    f/6.3    1/640s    3200 ISO    -1.0 EV  







11) I'm a sucker for the raised foot/mid step

  ILCE-1    FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens    600mm    f/6.3    1/640s    2500 ISO    -1.0 EV  







12) But eye contact is hard to beat.

  ILCE-1    FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens    600mm    f/6.3    1/640s    2500 ISO    -1.0 EV  




Aug 05, 2022 at 11:35 PM
Bobby V
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Very nice...the yellow algae really pops! What a spectacle that must have been from the boat.


Aug 05, 2022 at 11:48 PM
DivineFocus
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK




Bobby V wrote:
Very nice...the yellow algae really pops! What a spectacle that must have been from the boat.


Shooting from a boat can be awesome. The black bears against the yellow provides a unique opportunity. But it plays havoc with auto WB.



Aug 06, 2022 at 12:04 AM
johnohio
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Nicely done, i agree with the previous post, the yellow does give them a different look than what I'm use too.

John



Aug 06, 2022 at 12:06 AM
FoleyAMG
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Great shots, can not wait to get up there in September...


Aug 06, 2022 at 12:09 AM
kdacharya
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


love these in your face shots, Divine. also like the smattering of yellow. voted.


Aug 06, 2022 at 01:01 AM
morris
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


The first two with all the environment are very pretty

Morris



Aug 06, 2022 at 07:04 AM
DivineFocus
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


johnohio wrote:
Nicely done, i agree with the previous post, the yellow does give them a different look than what I'm use too.

John

Thanks, John. Yes it is a different look.
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FoleyAMG wrote:
Great shots, can not wait to get up there in September...

Thanks and hope you have a good trip.
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kdacharya wrote:
love these in your face shots, Divine. also like the smattering of yellow. voted.

Glad you enjoyed the post.
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morris wrote:
The first two with all the environment are very pretty

Morris

Thanks, Morris. Yeah most of the tight shots were made when the bears were on the mud and shattered basalt rock/gravel. Not quite as photogenic as the seaweed and barnacle covered area.



Aug 06, 2022 at 07:50 AM
AGeoJO
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Pretty up and close in some to the bear, Dan and I enjoy the environmental shots, too! You definitely did well capturing those images and the zoom came in handy, huh?

Joshua



Aug 06, 2022 at 08:39 AM
dallvr
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Nice set of photos, very intimate look! I just returned from shooting Grizzlies in AK and now I think I can tell the difference between black bears and brown at a glance.


Aug 06, 2022 at 08:53 AM
 


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DivineFocus
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


AGeoJO wrote:
Pretty up and close in some to the bear, Dan and I enjoy the environmental shots, too! You definitely did well capturing those images and the zoom came in handy, huh?

Joshua

Glad you enjoyed the post, Joshua. Yes the zoom was helpful. I could have moved in/out with the kayak but paddling with the double ended kayak paddle is a lot of motion when so close to the animals.
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dallvr wrote:
Nice set of photos, very intimate look! I just returned from shooting Grizzlies in AK and now I think I can tell the difference between black bears and brown at a glance.

Thanks for commenting. You can consider yourself and expert when you can tell the difference in the scat



Aug 06, 2022 at 01:56 PM
Dave_E
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


These are a great set of images. You're right the eye contact is special #10 as long as someone slower than you is between you and that big bruzzer with the big feet.

Dave



Aug 06, 2022 at 03:35 PM
DivineFocus
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Dave_E wrote:
These are a great set of images. You're right the eye contact is special #10 as long as someone slower than you is between you and that big bruzzer with the big feet.

Dave


Thanks, Dave. That's why I like shooting from a boat.



Aug 06, 2022 at 08:39 PM
dclark
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Excellent set of up-close shots!
Good to hear you were safe.

Dave



Aug 06, 2022 at 09:16 PM
DivineFocus
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


dclark wrote:
Excellent set of up-close shots!
Good to hear you were safe.

Dave


Thanks, Dave. A photo isn't worth getting mauled. But safely afloat I'm mostly concerned with not bothering them and interrupting their feeding.



Aug 06, 2022 at 11:54 PM
sum1sgrampa
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


I also prefer the first two over the tighter shots but all are very nice.
Gary



Aug 07, 2022 at 10:21 AM
runakid
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Amazing photos- loved them all.
Thanks for taking the time to share.



Aug 07, 2022 at 12:12 PM
sathsy2017
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Black and yellow - amazing color combination. Beautiful bear portraits...


Aug 07, 2022 at 01:30 PM
DivineFocus
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


sum1sgrampa wrote:
I also prefer the first two over the tighter shots but all are very nice.
Gary

Thanks, Gary. Yeah the tight shots aren't for everyone. But the rare opportunity presented itself for the portraits so I had to take it. Of course I also took plenty of the more typical shots.
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runakid wrote:
Amazing photos- loved them all.
Thanks for taking the time to share.

Glad you enjoyed them. Thanks for commenting.
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sathsy2017 wrote:
Black and yellow - amazing color combination. Beautiful bear portraits...

Thanks for commenting. Yes it's hard to beat the color combo.




Aug 07, 2022 at 05:03 PM
rand1951
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Black Bear Portraits from Prince William Sound, AK


Great work! Thanks for sharing, loved seeing the images with the Z9 using the 400mm 4.5 and then shots using the Sony with the 200-600mm. They were all excellent! The background with the Sony/200-600mm seemed to have the edge, what is your opinion? Loved the shots showing the area around the bear because of the location. Pretty hard to have too much lens with wildlife when there is enough light. First image was my favorite, but loved the close-ups too.

rand



Aug 08, 2022 at 06:45 AM
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