There is something about bears.
Bears are majestic, they’re mythical.
If one, while out hiking, sees a bear footprint in the dirt, his or her heart starts beating a bit faster. It’s downright exhilarating to see a bear, even just the possibility of seeing one is exciting enough. Bears can be scary with their huge and powerful physical presence, and they can be entertaining as they playfully forage for food.
But one thing is certain. We all want to see one (from a safe distance, of course)! And nature photographers like us want to capture them on camera.
In folklore, bear is often portrayed either as an enforcer-like figure who punishes disrespectful or improper behavior among other animals and people, or as a humorless “straight man” for weaker but cleverer trickster characters to play against. Bear personalities in these stories range from wise and noble, to morally upright but somewhat stupid and gullible, to aggressive and intimidating, but in most cases, they do not bother people who have not done anything wrong.
Bears figure prominently in the mythology of nearly every Native American tribe, they are often considered a medicine being possessing magical powers. Symbols of strength and wisdom, they often play a major role in many religious ceremonies.
Although only eight species of bears are still in existence, they are widespread, found on the continents of North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.
Wildlife photographers travel near and far to find these majestic beasts, yearning to photograph them undisturbed while in their natural environments, doing the things they do. Whether it be black bear cubs playing amongst wildflowers with a backdrop of mountainous terrain, a big grunting brown bear snagging a salmon out of a rushing river, or two massive Kodiaks fighting over mating rights, bears can create photographic situations that make for excellent compositions. If, of course, the photog is lucky enough to be in just the right spot, at just the right time, and are actually able to hit “click” at just the right moment!
This is why Backcountry Journeys offers four distinct tours dedicated to finding and making professional quality images of bears. We’ll get you to just the right place, and at just the right time, but will leave it up to you to hit “click” at just the right moment.
We think Alaska is just the right place to go!
Alaska boasts more bears than any other state or province in North America, with more than 40,000 brown/grizzly and 100,000 black bears roaming wild!
Brown Bears (3 Different Trips)
Grizzly bears once roamed all the western states from the Arctic Circle to southern California. They are now found in only a few areas in the lower 48 states, but Alaska still has historic numbers.
Grizzly are called “brown bears” when they live near the coast. Seasonal feeding, especially in regard to coastal brown bears, can make it relatively easy to find these happy hunters as they depend on the annual salmon runs as a mainstay for their diets.
And our tours are designed to have you at just the right place, at precisely just the right time. Travel with Backcountry Journeys to get your fill of brown bears on one of three tours:
Coastal Brown Bears
On this five day tour/workshop we will immerse ourselves in brown bear country in June, when the local bears get extremely active along the coast as they gorge on abundant sedges and dig for clams. The bears congregate in food-rich locations along the coast of the Alaskan Peninsula every year after snowmelt in order to fatten up after their long hibernation.
We’ll spend three nights camping along the coast of Lake Clark to maximize our photography during peak lighting conditions. Being right there gives us excellent access to the action going on around the bay and you will be able to capture thousands of excellent Brown Bear Photographs in just a few short days.
On past tours we’ve on more than one occasion have photographed 30-40 bears in one area as they fish, play and wrestle. Cubs this time of the year are still tiny and our camp is in a prime location to view and photograph mother’s as they walk along the shoreline with their young. Incredible images of giant Alaskan mountain backdrops are possible along the coast of Lake Clark National Park.
Aside from Brown Bears we may also have the opportunity to photograph other species such as moose, fox, wolf, bald eagles, sea otters and harbor seals
We’ve all seen Brooks Falls in nature films documenting the bears of Katmai as they fish the salmon. July is the peak of the sockeye salmon run, creating a great time to photograph bears fishing and fighting over their catch!
We’ll spend three nights base camping right at Brooks Falls to maximize our photography during peak lighting conditions. Being right there gives us excellent access to the action going on at Brooks Falls and you will be able to capture thousands of excellent grizzly photographs in just a few short days. Brooks Falls is the highlight of this trip where we’ve regularly spotted over a dozen bears at a time fishing for salmon.
Aside from grizzly bears we may also have the opportunity to photograph other species such as moose, fox, wolf and bald eagle.
Embark on the journey of a lifetime to the remote wilderness of Katmai National Park, Alaska to photograph grizzly bears up close and personal! Katmai is one of the largest National Parks in the United States at over 4 million acres and is arguably the single best place on Earth to photograph grizzlies in their natural environment. Situated on the Alaskan Peninsula, Katmai is some 300 air miles to the southwest of Anchorage and 170 miles from Homer. There are no roads into Katmai and so the only access is by float plane!
We’ll spend three nights base camping right at Brooks Falls in order to maximize our photography during peak lighting conditions.
The bears are active in September as they begin to fatten up for winter. During the fall months bears have a healthier, shinier coat as they have been gorging on coho and sockeye salmon all summer. Brooks Falls is the highlight of this trip where one can spot over a dozen bears at a time fishing for salmon.
If you’ve ever seen a photograph of a bear catching a salmon from a waterfall it was most likely captured at Brooks Falls.
Polar bears live along shores and on sea ice in the icy cold Arctic. When sea ice forms over the ocean in cold weather, many polar bears, except pregnant females, head out onto the ice to hunt seals. Polar bears have been spotted on sea ice hundreds of miles from shore. When the warm weather causes the sea ice to melt, polar bears move back toward shore.
Polar bears primarily hunt seals by resting silently at a seal’s breathing hole in the ice, waiting for it to surface. Once the seal comes up, the bear will spring and sink its jagged teeth into the seal’s head.
Sometimes the polar bear stalks its prey. It may see a seal lying near its breathing hole and slowly move toward it, then charge it, biting its head or grabbing it with its massive claws.
A polar bear may also hunt by swimming beneath the ice.
A solitary animal most of the year, they pair up briefly during the mating season. Cubs remain with their mother for about a year, who protects which prevents them from being killed by the adult males.
Travel with us in September to find polar bears of the Alaskan Arctic:
This trip will take us to an isolated Inupiaq Eskimo Village situated on the shores of the Beaufort Sea in the heart of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Each day we will head out in our privately chartered boat, along with an Inupiaq boat captain, to photograph polar bears as they swim, play, wrestle and forage for food along the icy shores. We should often get as close as 90 feet from these bears, so phenomenal close-up images are possible with focal-lengths of 300mm to 400mm..
Fall is the optimal time of year for photographing Polar Bears in the Alaskan Arctic as they are waiting for “freeze-up” when they can begin their migrations across the vastness of the frozen Arctic Ocean.
Each evening we will retire to our rustic village accommodations where you can relax in the warm great-room. Meals and conversation in this remote corner of the world are almost as fantastic as the bears!
We at Backcountry Journeys are in the business of providing not just award-winning photography tours, but vacations full of memories that will last a lifetime. Come join us, and the bears, this year!
Kenton Krueger has spent the past several years guiding guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks as well as in the Grand Staircase Escalante in southern Utah. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, newspaper photographer and writer. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.
Don’t Miss the Next Session of BCJ “Live”
Backyard Bird Photography: Simple Techniques for Wildlife Close to Home
with Russell Graves
Tuesday, March 9th, 2021 at 11 am (Mountain)