Exactly what makes Katmai Alaska such a special place for wildlife photographers? After all huge storms routinely sweep in from the gulf of Alaska with little warning and the animals, from the tiniest of insects to the largest bear, are in charge and humans are not at the top of the food chain. Getting around by air or sea is the only way to go and its expensive and unreliable. With the weather issues, dangerous inhabitants and difficulties getting around why do I keep going back for ten years straight? The photographic opportunities of course!
This juvenile bear and its sibling played in field of fireweed for almost an hour. This is the kind of opportunity that will always keep me coming back for more.
Two spring cubs with milk mustaches take a break from nursing. Hallo Bay is known for its lush green meadows, fantastic light, and for being a safe place for mothers and cubs.
Sometimes a photo opportunity will last only minutes or even seconds so its vital to be able to capture the image before its gone. A lens like the 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS | Sports can be a huge advantage, the capability of a lens like that in the hands of the wildlife photographer is almost unreal.
Brown bears can spend lots of time at play, sometimes a session can stretch more than one hour. My cameras are loaded with 64Gb memory cards for situations just like this.
With this fox less than ten feet away a full frame portrait like this was easy with a super tele zoom lens like the Sigma 150-600 sports lens. A portrait like this be impossible with a long prime lens that normally have a minimum focus distance of around fifteen feet.
This surprised bear was taking a break from eating whale blubber when it realized there was a group of humans pointing lenses at it. People will be telling stories about their experiences in Katmai in 2015 for a long time. Two huge whales washed ashore in May along the Katmai coast and a few people were there early enough in the season got to see the bears and wolves finishing off the remains. It was a once in a lifetime chance to see two full grown male bears fighting on top of a floating whale carcass with wolves looking for a chance to steal their share.
This summer in Katmai was great for cubs. At one spot in August we had six mothers with cubs fishing at the same time along a single stream and only my group was there to capture all the action. Despite all the difficulties involved in photography in Alaska I know I will be going back every year. I hope my images will inspire you to take a trip of your own there someday.
If you have any questions or comments be sure to share ’em in the comments section below.
Robert O’Toole is a Sigma Pro and has been a professional photographer for more than 20 years. As an accomplished instructor, Robert leads photography workshop tours across the US and internationally. For more info visit Robert’s web site at robertotoolephotography.com
Robert OToole Photography