Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Bears and Salmon in Alaska

Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park is well known for it's gathering of brown bears when the salmon are running, especially during the month of July.  The salmon seem to push upstream in pulses so that minutes can go by where not a single fish jumps and then all of a sudden they start breaking the surface like popcorn, one after another and sometimes in groups like the photo above shows.  The bears position themselves along the top of the falls and wait for a fish to come near enough to grab. Catching one is not as easy as it appears. Some bears are more skilled than others at the technique.  And some choose instead to stand near the base of the falls and try to catch the salmon before they make their swim upstream.

The falls can be reached by flying commercially from Anchorage, Alaska,  to King Salmon and from there going seat fare in the various small floatplanes that provide transportation to the park.  There's a campground and also a lodge at the park as well as a restaurant.  Viewing platforms allow for easy photography at the Falls.  The park has rarely encountered any "bear incidents" but with the bears wandering everywhere a certain amount of common sense and etiquette is required of visitors.

There are so many bears around that you can get good photographs with almost any lens.  For true closeups, though, I recommend at least a 300mm focal length and 500mm for head shots. There is often the opportunity to photograph fishermen, bears and float planes all in the same image.

Mark Newman

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