In the tall grass at Kuliak Bay, a bear pauses to peer at the human observers who have ventured near. While
bears have a fearsome reputation, most are timid around people. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, EF 500mm f/4.0L IS.

On the Katmai Coast

We arrived at the Katmai coast via Kodiak Island, which is reached through Anchorage. In Kodiak, we boarded a beautiful 6-seat Dehavilland Beaver float plane for an hour-long flight to Katmai, arriving late in the day at Kinak Bay. We barely had time to drop our bags on the Kittiwake, our shipboard home for the next 3 days, before grabbing our cameras and departing by skiff for our first brown bear encounter. Although the weather was drizzly and the light waning, I managed to shoot a few interesting pan-blurs of the bears charging for salmon in the shallow inlets. 

I have photographed polar bears in Churchill, Canada from the safety of high-wheeled tundra buggies. Here, eerily, we were on foot. There was nothing separating us from the bears but their good graces and our careful behavior. It took a little time to get used to the notion that we weren't likely bear food. But our guide, biologist Brad Josephs, knows the bears well, and assured us that they are timid if not directly threatened.

The Kittiwake and her sister ship the Waters are operated by Katmai Coastal Bear Tours out of Homer Alaska. Owner John Rogers has spent his summers along the Katmai coast for over 15 years. Rogers has escorted numerous wildlife research and photographic expeditions to this coast, with clients such as the BBC, Geo magazine, and IMAX film producers.

The Kittiwake (left) and the Waters at anchor in the late afternoon light in Kuliak Bay, Alaska. Canon EOS 1Ds
Mark II, EF 70-200mm f/2.8LIS, EF Extender 2x.

 

Our Andrew Airways float plane pilot, Fred, gears up for take off out of Kodiak, Alaska en route to the Katmai
coast. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L.

 

From the air, the coastline around Kodiak island and the Alaskan Peninsula is strikingly beautiful. Perhaps because
of the volcanic geology, the landscape has a lush, almost semi-tropical appearance during the warm months.
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L.

 

In a moment of seemingly rare directional light, a bear pauses in the grass near Kuliak Bay. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II,
EF 500mm f/4.0L IS.

 

Salmon fishing in the shallow streams near Geographic Harbor. During the high tides, the bears will spend hours
charging for fish. Some of them are better at catching the fish than others. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, EF 500mm
f/4.0L IS.

 

Success! Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, EF 500mm f/4.0L IS.

 

A rain-spotted eagle scavenges for the remains of a salmon tossed aside by a bear in an inlet near Geographic
Harbor. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, EF 500mm f/4.0L IS, EF Extender 2X.

 

Did I mention that it rained? A group of photographers stays in good spirits despite the weather. Once the action
began, the rain was all but forgotten. Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L.

 

Two young cubs nuzzle each other while waiting patiently for mom to catch a fish. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, EF
500mm f/4.0L IS.