I’ve had a few exceptional grizzly bear photo encounters in Denali Park over the years, and the session I recently had with this bear ranks up there with them. There are many factors that play into what distinguishes an interesting and enjoyable wildlife sighting between a good photographic one. While I’ve photographed countless bears, they are often traveling across the tundra in search of food or roaming to another location. Rarely, do they relax close to the road, in good light, at the time that you are there, and most importantly, express casual interest by making frequent eye contact-as this bear did. This is partly because there was another larger bear nearby sleeping on a hillside, and this younger bear stayed very attentive by frequently looking at the other bear, making sure all was safe.
I used my 500mm and the 100-400 primarily, preferring the 500 for its sharpness and clarity, but it was slightly tight based on my orientation. Although 1/125 sec is a pretty slow shutter speed, I wanted a enough depth of field for the face and nose to be in focus. Once again, I love the sunroof in my van, as it put me at a near level position with the bear, and served as a great shooting platform, with me contained within the vehicle. To quote a photographer friend of mine who was envious of a similar bear encounter I had in 1995, he said, “you owe that bear donuts!”