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Phil Douglis | all galleries >> Gallery Eighty-six: An American safari -- wildlife photography in southeast Alaska’s wilderness > Ready and waiting, Cannery Cove, Pybus Bay, Alaska, 2013
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Ready and waiting, Cannery Cove, Pybus Bay, Alaska, 2013

Ready and waiting, Cannery Cove, Pybus Bay, Alaska, 2013

This is the most startling image I’ve ever made of a brown bear. As with nearly every bear we encountered in Alaska, it was grazing on lush grasses that bordered a beach not far from our fly-in fishing camp. Pictures of feeding bears with their heads down and often with their backs turned are usually not very expressive. The best advice that I can offer those making photographs of bears is to have the patience to be willing to wait for the bear to do something other than eat. We floated down to this bear and anchored just off shore. I watched it graze for more than fifteen minutes. Suddenly it stopped, turned towards me, and reared up on its hind legs. I was looking at 1,500 pounds of bear, standing nearly nine feet tall. Our guide told me that bears would sometimes do this to identify a threat. Its claws are held in readiness at its waist – it most likely thinks that we might be threatening its food, and is ready and waiting to defend it. It held this position for about a minute. This is the image that best expressed the moment.

Panasonic LUMIX G5
1/250s f/5.6 at 175.0mm iso1250 full exif

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Phil Douglis21-Oct-2013 20:03
And that is the quandary that wildlife photographers often face, Iris. When faced with danger, we must always weigh our personal safety against the chances for an evocative image. And that is why I choose to always be accompanied by an experienced guide or naturalist in such situations as this.
Iris Maybloom (irislm)18-Oct-2013 00:25
I don't think it's worth sticking around to find out if it's curiosity or the perception of a threat that accounts for this bear's posture. It is, however, worth sticking around to get this wonderfully expressive image.
Phil Douglis01-Sep-2013 20:48
This image works in many different ways, Tim. To me, this image is all about a wild animal responding to a human being in its territory. Logic and experience tells us that this bear stands in order to threaten us with its size. On the other hand, I can certainly see how someone might think that this bear stands in order to see us better -- perhaps it is, as you say, simply curious about us. I sincerely doubt if this bear is wishing for a camera at this moment -- as we all know, Alaskan Brown Bears only use Kodaks, in honor of their brethren on the Kodiak Peninsula. And Kodak no longer is in business.
Tim May01-Sep-2013 16:02
There seems a sense of curiosity here. I know that the guide said it was a stance of threat, but it almost seems as if the bear is wishing it had a camera to take a picture of the strange creatures in the boat.
Phil Douglis07-Jul-2013 22:42
The bear's sudden pose was a bonus, a treat that capped the entire Alaskan experience for me. I composed this picture to contrast the upright stance with the horizontal thrust of the landscape -- a rich, vibrant green carpet of high grasses and emerald green water. You are right -- the grass is the key to bear survival, and the reason why so many of them live in Southeastern Alaska, where rain is abundant year round.
sunlightpix07-Jul-2013 20:48
Expressive and exciting! The intense green vegetation holds the key to the bear's food and ultimately survival. The bear's posture is incredible! Bravo! V
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