"Hey Bear!"

I've had a few close encounters with bears over the years, but nothing like the encounter I had this past spring while out for a walk in the woods. I hiked into an area where I, with the help of trail cameras, had been monitoring the movements of a black bear sow with two coy. The previous day I was able to photograph this small sow, a beautiful cinnamon-colored bear, but unfortunately she had her cubs stashed somewhere else. My wife and I never did see the cubs that day, but did have a fairly close encounter with the sow as she approached, unaware of our presence.

I decided to return to the location the next day, in hopes of locating her and the cubs. I moved quietly and cautiously, stopping to scan the woods with each step. I continued up a sparsely forested hillside until I reached the edge of a small meadow where we had spotted the bears the day before. I found a cluster of trees where I would be concealed in case they were to show up.

From my slightly elevated perch, I had a complete 360 degree view of the surrounding terrain. After only a few minutes had gone by, I turned around and noticed a light brown-colored bear about 150 yards downwind of me. The bear was moving through the trees at a steady pace, nose to the ground. Assuming it was the cinnamon sow from the previous day, I sat there quietly behind the tree and readied my camera. When I slowly rose again, hoping to see the cubs in tow, I got a chilling surprise. Less than 25 yards away and with its nose still to the ground, the bear was clearly following my scent trail. When the bear finally raised its head I caught a glimpse of the distinctive hump on its back, my heart skipped a beat. This was no black bear.

The grizzly was covering ground fast and there was not a doubt in my mind that we were on a collision course if I did not do something, and quickly! I clenched my bear spray, ready to discharge it at a moments notice. Camera in the other hand, I fired off a handful of frames, at the same time yelling "HEY BEAR!". The expression on the bear's face was one of utter shock and confusion, and a few seconds later the bear was high-tailing it as fast as it could go through the trees and deeper into the forest. PHEW! That was CLOSE!

Despite being less than 10 yards away, the bear never did see me concealed in the trees. I was able to remain calm and focused throughout the entire encounter. The last thing you want to do is panic, or worse yet, run from a bear! While hiking in bear country it is absolutely imperative to always carry bear spray, have it readily accessible, and know how to use it. It also pays to be extremely alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. You must never become complacent in the woods, bears can show up in the unlikeliest of places. This encounter took place in the middle of the day.

If I was able go back and do one thing different it would have been to make noise sooner, before the bear closed the gap between us. Those few seconds of hesitation on my part allowed the bear to approach within a very uncomfortable distance. Luckily this encounter ended as it should, with the bear running away. The image you see here was captured during this wild, hair-raising encounter.

Hey-Bear.jpg

Behind The Lens: New Releases

Throughout my travels, I am constantly striving to come up with unique ways to capture the natural world around me. One of my goals as a photographer is to communicate my own unique point of view on the natural world. In turn I hope to invoke an emotional reaction, a sense of wonder, in those who view my imagery. I’ve recently released a large collection of work from this past Spring/Summer. Most of my new work is concentrated on western Montana, including Glacier National Park.

Within this new collection there is a variety of subjects. Everything from big, bold scenics, to wildlife, and my personal favorite, owls! Below I’ll share a few of my favorites from the new collection, and talk a little bit about the back story of each.

I believe the best way to enjoy my photographs is not by viewing them on a computer screen, or worse yet, a mobile phone(!), but rather by having a physical print to hang in your home. The level of detail in a large print is truly striking.

"CURIOSITY"

“Curiosity”

One of my most memorable wildlife encounters of this past spring was a fox den that I came across in western Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley. After locating the den, I constructed a small photo blind a safe distance away, and returned several times over a period of two weeks to photograph the kits.

During this time I placed several trail cameras in proximity of the den site, which was underneath a fallen tree. The cameras allowed me to gather valuable insight as to the movements of the foxes, which were most active after nightfall. After reviewing all of the trail cam footage, I started noticing patterns in their behavior. The information gleaned from the trail cam footage was invaluable, and is what allowed me to precisely place my professional trail camera. This camera, which I constructed myself, is much different than the mass produced trail cameras found in many sporting goods stores. It uses a DSLR camera housed in a waterproof Pelican case. The camera is triggered by a passive infrared sensor, and uses several off camera speedlites that supply fill light in tricky exposure situations. I set up the camera beside a log that the kits would use to get back to the den. When I returned about a week later to check the camera, I was pleasantly surprised when this image appeared on the back of the LCD display!

"CROWN JEWEL"

“Crown Jewel”

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to hike up to the famed Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park. I’ve hiked this trail many times, but this time I had a specific photograph in mind; a sunset image overlooking Grinnell Lake. This beautiful glacial lake, with its sparkling turquoise-colored water, is nestled in a gorgeous valley beneath the aptly named “Angel Wing”, the rounded peak directly in front of Mount Gould.

Along the way I passed numerous hikers, all headed back to civilization. A few of them made note of my late start, little did they know that I had planned it this way! I really wasn’t looking forward to the hike out in the dark, especially since this is prime grizzly country, but I continued on. I arrived here with plenty of time to scout around for a composition before the day would fade into night. This particular spot is notoriously lacking in strong foreground compositions, so I spent the next several hours searching up and down for a balanced composition.

Hours passed by quickly, and the last hikers passed by me about an hour before sunset. After that I was all alone up there. As the sun was beginning to set I had still not found a composition I was really pleased with. I was beginning to lose hope when I came across this colorful purplish-red rock with some nice diagonal lines. I set up my tripod and carefully framed up the shot, just as the last bit of sunlight painted the clouds above the mountains. The waterfall you see here is Grinnell Falls, tumbling nearly 960ft from the valley’s headwall, draining from the famous Grinnell Glacier. Another waning glacier, The Salamander, can be seen clinging to the Garden Wall directly above the falls.

The hike out was uneventful, and I made sure to make lots of noise to warn any potential bears of my presence. When I arrived back at the Many Glacier hotel, a storm was brewing to the west. For the next half hour or so I watched as the storm raged on over Swiftcurrent Lake, and eventually over the area where I had just come from. I was grateful to be back at the lodge, and not still up there!

"STILL"

“Still”

It was an early summer evening, and I was scouting out new areas to place trail cameras. Following game trails through the forest, I came to a small meadow that looked like an ideal spot to place a camera. As I moved across the meadow, searching for a suitable tree to install a camera, I nearly stepped on this little whitetail fawn resting out in the open. I happened to have my camera in hand, and attached to it was a wide angle lens. I leaned over and took a few photos before quietly backing out of the area.

Each year wildlife officials receive calls from well-intentioned individuals who come across what they perceive to be “orphaned” fawns, when in fact it is a perfectly natural occurrence to find a fawn that appears to be all alone in the woods. The fawn’s primary defense against predators is to stay as quiet and motionless as possible in these situations. The best thing you can do if you find a fawn seemingly alone in the wild is to quietly leave the area. The mother is likely nearby, and is fully aware of where she left her young while she is off foraging.

"UNVEILING"

“The Unveiling”

This final image was taken on a chilly early morning hike to Cracker Lake, in Glacier National Park. After a six mile jaunt to the lake, we were met with a wall of low hanging clouds, obscuring most of the massive mountains that surround the lake. We did some exploring around the lake, trying to keep warm in the damp air. The mint green glacial water was certainly enticing, but I opted not to go for a swim that morning. Instead we waited for several hours before the clouds finally began to break up, unveiling this incredible view of Siyeh Glacier and the Siyeh headwall towering above the lake. The subtle reflection in the silty water was icing on the cake!

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post. To view my entire collection of new work, please visit my New Release gallery HERE

A Year In Review: 17 of 17'

A collection of my favorite images from 2017. Enjoy!