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Featured Adult Male Brown Bear Fishing in Katmai

Discussion in 'Other Animals' started by drr1531, Sep 23, 2018.

  1. Coastal brown bears each have their own style of fishing. This particular large male stood up and walked upright in the water in order to get a better view then lunged after the fish. It worked for him pretty well. He has an odd look with all of his fur shed down to summer length except for the back of his head/neck.

    All shot on a rainy day with Nikon D850/200-500mm f5.6 handheld. Rain gear on both photographer and equipment were thoroughly soaked through by the end of the day. Images are posted to fit the narrative and not necessarily in the same order that they were shot.

    1) Here he is walking up at the bank of the creek to his favorite fishing spot. 500mm, 1/800s, f5.6, ISO500

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    2) His uncommon style of fishing, more specifically how he spots fish. Check out the muscles in his "arms". 500mm, 1/800s, f5.6, ISO900

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    3) Going for it. 210mm, 1/800s, f8, ISO1000

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    4) Score. 480mm, 1/640s, f5.6, ISO320

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    5) Some bears eat the fish right there in the water. This guy preferred to take it onto the bank. He has a chum salmon also known as a dog salmon because the natives dry them to feed sled dogs over the winter. 360mm, 1/640s, f5.6, ISO1400

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    6) And a portrait opportunity albeit not of the most photogenic bear, what with the hair style. 370mm, 1/800s, f5.6, ISO2000

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    7) And an action portrait. Unfortunately I clipped his hump. I've never been much good at zooming during action and it is even more difficult with the 200-500mm. 410mm, 1/800s, f8, ISO1400

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  2. OMG these are unbelievable Dan
  3. Great sequence - right away in the first one I noticed how big the paws were. 3 and 5 are my favorites!
  4. Fascinating photos and narrative. Very enjoyable!
  5. Great set with a story Dan!
  6. Thanks for the comments, folks. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    Allan, I think this guy has above average sized paws.
  7. Dan, these are excellent! I love the look your getting in #5. These males have an interesting look with a much boxier snout than the sows. I like the atmosphere added by the rain. Worth your soaking!
  8. Thanks, Mitch. There is actually quite a bit of variability in shape of their snouts. My friend and I were talking about how long the snouts are on the bears in this location compared to other places we've shot. Though even at this one location they vary widely. Some of the sows look like the classic grizzly bear with round faces and relatively short snouts. While others' snouts are so long and narrow that they look almost like wolves in the face. When I get a chance to process a few more images I'll post some shots of the biggest boar in the area. He was likely a thousand pound bear and had a really long snout and massive jaws. Could easily fit a human head in his mouth :eek:  He also had the longest, goofiest ears I've ever seen on a brown bear.
  9. These are incredible images, with #5 being stunning.
  10. Thanks, Louie. I like that one too. There are several frames either side of that one with various head angles as he turned around to keep an eye on us and the other bears in the area. I wish I had he presence of mind to have zoomed out far enough to get the feet in the shot. But once I start shooting a sequence my mind goes into zoom lock mode :( 
  11. By the way, the D850 shooting at 9fps is pretty amazing. Though loud...
  12. socrdude


    Jun 5, 2009
    Dan.. when you go to Katmai.. how do you go, how long do you stay, and where do you stay if I may ask.. as I am trying to plan a trip for my wife and I in 2019.
  13. I've been to the coast of Katmai three times. Once in a base camp and twice based on a boat. Unless you suffer severely from motion sickness I highly recommend the boat as the way to go. There are several operators that provide tours based off of boats. Depending on what time of year you go they boats basically follow the bears to the various bays. June is clamming, sedging, and mating season and also when the new spring cubs are out. The bears are still looking good in full winter coats. June is also typically the driest, most settled weather. The first salmon begin to show up in July and the bears start migrating toward the bays with salmon rivers flowing into them. The bears begin to molt and are typically at the least photogenic stage by mid-July. August is full on salmon season. It is also fall. So weather starts to get less settled. You can almost count on rain 3-4 days per week and wind a couple of days per week as low pressure systems roll through. The bears will be in various stages of shedding, some with last winter's coat in various stages of decay, some fully in slick summer coats, and some already filled out ready for next winter. This is typically when the highest concentration of bears will occur. There are also daily flights to various locations on the coast but weather is hit or miss. The same plane companies fly people to/from the boat based tours so they know where the bears are too.

    The other primary place to go in Katmai is Brooks camp, home of the famous Brooks Falls where all the photos are made of bears catching salmon in mid air. July is prime salmon season there though it lingers all summer/fall. Brooks can be awesome if you are lodging/camping there. During the day there are literally hundreds of people flown in on day trips and there is a waiting line to get on the viewing platform. You get one hour then go to the back of the line again. But if you are staying there you get all the time you want before 9am and after 4pm when the day groups aren't around. You can either camp or rent a cabin. You used to be able to rent individual beds in the cabins but now they only rent the whole cabin. I think they all have either four or six bunks so unless you fill it up it is pretty expensive.

    As far as how long to go, in June/July when the weather is better you can get away with a three or four day trip and count on getting some shooting. Even if it does rain it likely isn't sideways which means you can still shoot. I would not go for less than six days in August/September due to probability of down time due to weather. Regardless of what time of year make flexible travel plans in/out of Alaska as you might get stuck in Katmai for a day or two.

    Any of the options are expensive.
  14. outstanding(y)(y)(y) Wow...and Gosh I want to be there to see this in person.( though I don't do well in crowds!) Till then - keep these fantastic images coming. You sir are a fortunate man to live where you are and be witness to these wonders.
  15. ?? with the Nikon grip?
  16. socrdude


    Jun 5, 2009
    thank you... yes.. its all expensive what I see..
  17. Top notch Dan. Great story to go with these stunning images. The combo of the D850 and 200-500 in your hands worked very well.
  18. No crowds where these were shot. Very remote location. Brooks Camp is where all the people are.

    Yes. With the grip and using the EN-EL18 battery.

    The 200-500 was perfect for that location. The bears would walk up/down the creek from a couple hundred yards away stopping to fish here and there, often times right in front of us. At times 200mm was even too tight but in my experience I rarely like the results shooting wider than that. So when they get that close I usually go the opposite way and start shooting tight portraits etc.
  19. Dan, what did you put on that lens during that kind of rain? I'm always concerned about that type of zoom that extends the barrel allowing for water intrusion. I'm much more confident with my prime lenses when the weather gets bad. Thanks for your thoughts.
  20. I was using a LensCoat Raincoat 2 Pro which has sleeves for both hands. The camera got pretty wet but the lens not so much. I will say this was probably the longest continuous exposure to heavy rain that I've ever shot through. There was a lot of bear activity so we stayed in the field all day without a break.

    I've been using a LensCoat Raincoat for years. I've got a lot of hours in the rain with them. They don't have an eyepiece like some of the other brands so when you shoot the camera gets some level of exposure. That works OK when using a tripod because you can take your hands off the camera and pull the cover back over it while nothing is happening. It doesn't work as well when handholding. When you let your arms down water tends to run down your arm inside the cover and it is harder to keep the end pulled over the camera yet still loose enough to access quickly. One of the people shooting with me was using the ThinkTank with integral eye piece and her gear stayed pretty dry.
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