An aggressive female chases away a younger sow who has caught a salmon too near to her. (The orange dots
flying through the air are are the unfortunate salmon's roe.) Brown bears can move with a speed and agility that
takes your breath away. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II, EF 500mm f/4.0L IS.

Photographing the Coastal Brown Bears of Alaska

In September 2005 I traveled to Katmai National Park and Preserve in southern Alaska to photograph that region's famous coastal brown bears. With me were several other accomplished photographers, including Microsoft's David Vaskevitch, Bob Kennewick of Voicebox Technologies, and my friend Jim Lewis of the Lewis Group, who organized the trip.

And a whirlwind trip it wasóI was in Alaska for just 3 daysóbut every day was better than the last, with increasingly wonderful encounters with these impressive animals. it was somewhat eerie, however, to know that we were photographing just a few miles from where Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard were killed at Kaflia Bay in 2003. I am sure that Treadwell was familiar with most of the animals that we saw.

One appealing aspect of this trip was that we were photographing in a region of the Alaska Peninsula accessible only by float plane or boat (see map). There were no roads, no camps, no lodges, and hence no tourists (other than us). In fact, we had to overnight on the boat and take a skiff to shore each morning.

Because of this isolation, the sense of being directly immersed in a pristine, wild habitat was far stronger than in Africa or other national parks I have photographed in. Just about everything was perfect--except the weather! We had rain for 2 of the 3 days we were shooting, but we were prepared and made best of it.

The following galleries contain images of the bears and other wildlife we encountered, as well as images of the trip itself to give you a sense for what it was like.  I hope you enjoy them.

Alaskan coastal bears officially are classified Ursus arctos horibilis, also known as grizzly bears, but are commonly called brown bears to distinguish them from their more inland cousins.

What is it like to be part of a bear viewing expedition to the Alaskan coast? I'll tell you. You'll meet biologist Brad Josephs and John Rogers, the captain of the Kittiwake and the Waters. In fact, the only thing you'll miss is the rain!

The Katmai coast along the Alaska Peninsula is a natural habitat for brown bears, marine mammals and seabirds. Stormy and marked by volcanic activity, this place is a rugged paradise for outdoor photographers and wildlife enthusiasts.