Black bears and hawthorns

What wildlife photographer does not like to photograph bears? Maybe it’s the edge of danger, maybe there’s something strikingly human. Whatever the case maybe, there is a certain type off allure to photographing bears. Finding yourself in their presence is spellbinding. We are captivated by their presence.

Bears love berries. Go figure. And this time if year, that is, late summer and early fall, bears are gorging themselves on this tasty sugar filled, high calorie food source as they enter into a phase of their annual life cycle known as hyperphagia. Basically they are in full time eating mode. Every waking second is being devoted to increasing their body fat as they prepare winter. Its the middle of September and it has already snowed twice. Winter will be here soon.

Hawthorn berries prefer deep rich soils and lots of moisture. For this reason, this particular species is very common along the edges of old glacial moraines and in river bottoms – what’s known as riparian habitat around these parts.

So if you want to find black bears this time of year, you have to find berries. In order to find berries, you gotta know where to look first and then get out there and scout out large berry patches. Small stands will bring a bear in from time to time, however, if you want something predictable, you need BIG berry stands… One stop feed lots for the bears.

This particular black bear was no exception to the rule. Hanging out in the upper branches of the black hawthorn bushes, he seemed to defy gravity as he deftly maneuvered his way through branches so thin and flimsy that the breeze shook them about like a flag in a stiff wind.

This particular morning had been seriously dark. Rain showers had rolled through off and on, and the light was practically nonexistent when I found this bear.

This is where the beauty of modern camera technology comes into play. 5 or more years ago, this photograph would not have been possible. Today however, its nothing to crank up your ISO to 2500 or 3000, and produce top quality results. A lot of photographers bemoan the business today because of the flood of images that digital technology created in the market. For me however, I think that this is one of the most exciting times in history to be a photographer simply because of the constant technological breakthroughs that we are experiencing that allow us to take photography to levels never possible before.

Understanding the relationship that ISO has on your exposure is crucial for wildlife photography. At ISO 800, I was left with a shutter speed of around 1/15 of a second. Perfect for blurring a water fall, but a guarantee for failure when it comes to wildlife.

Cranking up my ISO allowed me to increase my shutter speed to 1/500 of a second which was fast enough to stop the action of this slow moving black bear.

This entry was posted in Technical Skills, Wildlife Photography.