The biggest problem one faces when photographing brown bears along the banks of Cook Inlet in Alaska, is that they keep getting too damn close. Now, I should admit that I was being stubborn this morning. Back in the little cabin that I was staying in, I stood there staring back and forth between a 200-400mm and a 600mm lens. I wanted to bring both of course. And I could have brought both. But carrying both of these lenses on a four wheeler, hiking across streams, laying down in the mud on tidal flats… well, quite frankly, it just sucks. So against my best judgement, I shouldered the 600mm with my D5 attached and headed out the door.
Initially I assumed that I would be photographing bears fishing at the mouth of the creek where it dumped into the inlet. Wrong. Though we found a solitary bear down there doing her thing, she got bored pretty quickly and wondered off. This left us with a handful of bears out on the mud flats that was exposed from the astronomical low tide. For the record, an astronomical tide is one that is extremely high or low due to the phase of the moon – more commonly known as a “spring tide.”
Switching gears for photographing bears who were in search of razor clams to eat, I instantly knew that the 600mm was a bad choice. Like I said, the bears get close. Really close! And so with a 200-400 I could have just zoomed out. With the 600 however, I found myself in a constant state of backing up.
With the thin veil of water on the flats, I wanted reflections. And it seemed like no sooner did I work my way far enough back to get the bear and the reflection in, then they would come strolling in even closer. On several occasions we had to try and shew the bears back a little. 10 feet is just too close. Man it sure will be nice when Nikon releases an updated version of the 200-400mm with the built in 1.4 teleconverter like Canons.
Although we did not get any good salmon fishing action this morning, the thin veil of clouds and super low tides did allow for a full morning of awesome photography with bears and reflections.