USA, Alaska, Katmai National Park, Brown bear (Ursus arctos)

At the end of August, I embarked on a dangerous expedition to the Katmai Coast to photograph brown bears. The trip required my friend Paul Souders & I to depart from Kodiak and cross the always treacherous Shelikof Strait using my 22' C-Dory. There are safer and more expensive ways to visit the Katmai Coast, but none of these options would have allowed us to spend as much time so intimately with the bears. To say that I was scared when we entered the open ocean in less than ideal conditions is an understatement. However, we successfully motored across to our first destination, the spectacular Kukak Bay. After we anchored, we immediately set out for shore to walk amongst the bears. I've been around my fair share of bears, but nothing quite prepared me for spending the first day amongst them at such close range. I do not advise people to be foolhardy and run up to brown bears, but they are also not going to attack and eat you under most situations. For instance, this beautiful bore was waiting for a salmon and nonchalantly watched us as we set up our cameras and moved in close enough to take his picture. He drifted in and out of sleep as we observed him for several hours. I'll share some images soon where he rolled on to his back and stretched, but this low and tight portrait is my favorite. In order to render the distant background pleasantly out-of-focus, I laid on the ground on my stomach to get as low as possible with my Canon 7D and 500mm f4 IS lens. I then waited for him to look straight into my lens whenever he opened his eyes. This image is a single-exposure which required minimal processing using Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS5.

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