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Page 10 Ed Cordes (Part 1)

Written By onci on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 | 8:24 PM

Photographing Grizzly Bear In Katmai National Park
By Ed Cordes
(Part 1 of 2)

We have all seen the wonderful images of Grizzly Bear posted on the various forums. If you are like my wife and me you often say to yourself “Wow! I wish I could make images like that”. Well, you can. There are several tours and workshops that go to grizzly bear country. Without a doubt one of the best areas is Katmai National Park in Southwest Alaska.

Katmai is especially good due to the conservation efforts of the Park Service. The bear are plentiful and, since they are not threatened, they are not afraid of people. The park is remote so while getting there is a challenge and somewhat more expensive than a trip to Denali, it is not generally the place the average tourist goes to. Therefore, the bear are exposed to people who have a keen interest in nature and respect them as magnificent animals to be cherished, photographed and preserved for the future.

My wife, Gail, and I chose to travel to Katmai using the outfitters at Hallo Bay. I do not want to imply that other outfitters and tours are not as good, it’s just that at the time (2004) we were new to serious nature photography and made this choice based on our needs. A quick internet search will reveal many other outstanding opportunities to get to where the action is.

We flew to Hallo Bay via bush plane from Homer Alaska. Since the weather is often totally unpredictable don’t be surprised if your departure is delayed a day or so. In fact we left 1 ½ day late due to fog in Homer and high winds and poor visibility in Hallo Bay. Your return to civilization should also include a safety day as it may be that you will not leave the Hallo Bay camp on time, again due to weather. Some of the outfitters operate from seagoing ships as “home bases”, then taking Zodiac boats ashore when bear are spotted. The decision of how you get to Katmai is your choice.

Once the plane lands on the gravel beach you are taken to your assigned Quonset Hut which will be your home. It is very comfortable and safe. A course of bear safety and Park/Hallo Bay rules for safety is conducted – then the fun begins.

The groups were not more than 6 photographers and a guide but usually only 4 photographers. We made a short walk to a nearby river where salmon were running at about high tide. While on the way we could see several bear lounging around and sleeping waiting for the tide to go down. The group would select a good area to see the bear and set up our gear to await the action. In a short time the bear began their fishing and shutters would click. The first time you see a large bear only a few yards away standing up in a river searching for fish gives you chills of excitement (it did me anyway). (Part two coming up next page)

Ed Cordes
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