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Coastal brown bear rolls in a grassy meadow with its feet sticking in the air. Katmai National Park, Alaska Peninsula, southwest Alaska. Canon 5D Mark III, 500mm f/4L IS w/ 1.4x, 1/320 @ f/5.6, ISO 400.

An open grassy meadow, with white daisies dotting the perimeter serves as a good spot for this brown bear to scratch its back by rolling around on the surface. I liked the display of both the pads of the bear’s feet, and its long, distinctive claws. Those claws can do some serious dirt removal, in addition to very dexterous tasks like extracting the brains from salmon.

Coastal Katmai is famous for its large brown bear population. They forage voraciously during the rich and productive summer season, enjoying clams, fish, berries, and other plants, as they pack on the fat for a winter hibernation. This bear had walked through camp early one morning, so we grabbed our camera gear and followed it into a meadow filled with purple, blossoming lupine wildflowers. While there were great possibilities, the busy bear gave little attention to us, and offered only a few profile shots. This is one of them.

Coastal brown bear in a meadow of lupine wildflowers, Katmai National Park, Alaska Peninsula, southwest Alaska. Canon 5D Mark III, 500mm f/4L IS, 1/400 sec @ f/5, ISO 400.

During the summer months, the Savannah sparrow is commonly seen and heard in the meadows around much of Alaska. They like to perch on the tall plants which, if your timings is right, can be fireweed or lupine. While photographing brown bears in a meadow along the Katmai coast (bears that were so busy feeding that they rarely looked up), I could not resist photographing the many sparrows that would fly from flower top to flower top. The comfortable range the birds seems to be about the equivalent of a 1000mm lens, but on occasion, one would land closer, or allow a closer approach.

Savannah sparrow perches on the wildflower blossom of a lupine in a lush summer feild of vegetation in Katmai National Park, Alaska Peninsula. Canon 5D Mark III, 500mm f/4L IS w/1.4x, 1/320 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 320

Sleeping polar bear received the most votes for the cover. Taken with Canon 1D Mark IV, 500mm f/4L IS w/1.4x converter. Horizontal cropped for vertical layout.

A big thank you to all who have contributed your thoughts on which picture I should use on the cover of my 2014 Profiles in Nature Calendar. I have capitulated extensively in the process, but in the end have chosen the sleeping polar bear. The Muskox was a personal favorite, but I think it has less universal appeal, as some people don’t know what the animal is. Secondly, polar bears are both popular and certainly in the news due to climate change. I also like the simplicity and negative space of the image, and the symmetry is inviting. It was a close call all the way around, and I’ve decided to include most all of the cover options as inside images in the calendar itself.

For those interested, here is the tally of votes from a variety of sources.

  • 15 votes: Sleeping Polar Bear
  • 12 votes:  Muskox
  • 8 votes:  Dall Sheep
  • 7 votes:  Hugging Polar Bears
  • 6 votes:  Polar Bear and Falling Snow
  • 2 votes:  Moose and Denali

Thanks again.

Thanks to all of you who responded last year in my calendar cover selection process. It is that time again, and I’ve thrown together a few mock ups for a possible cover for my 2014 Alaska Profiles in Nature Calendar. The design will see some tweaks for sure, but what I’m looking for is the main image for the cover. When looking at this consider the attraction value, Alaska representation, and buying crowd.

Your comments are greatly welcome. Here are the ones I’m considering.

Sleeping polar bear

Dall sheep

Moose and Denali


Polar bear and snowfall

Hugging polar bears

  • Theresa Grajew - I like the sleeping polar bear – and I think with those bears in the news, it will attract buyers. It does have that cute factor, too. For drama, the dall sheep w/ mountains is great.ReplyCancel

  • Tim Newton - The hugging polar bear photo is saturated with anthropomorphism. Viewers will have an immediate, visceral, emotional connection with the image, which – like all the photos – is also very aesthetically pleasing. I was pretty ambivalent scrolling through all the images, but the last one really jumped out. I mean, they’re all magnificent images, but for a commercial calendar cover, making an immediate emotional connection with a potential buyer seems paramount. For me, the hugging bears photo is the one that would get the second look on the magazine rack. (OK, third look. They’d all get a second look. :-) )ReplyCancel

    • Patrick Endres - Tim,
      Thanks for your thoughtful reply, it was a tough choice, and I did like the emotive feel of the hugging polar bears. Perhaps it will make it in another year.ReplyCancel

  • Colleen - Hugging Polar Bears!!! I love anything that shows compassion and interaction with one another. Even animals have a story to tell.ReplyCancel

  • Patrick Endres - Hey thanks everyone for your thoughtful comments. It’s always a tough decision, as my favorite may not be the majority, or market-buying choice. It is helpful to get additional feedback when objectivity gets lost.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Calchera - We can all use a hug now & then…. the polar bears hugging do it for me!ReplyCancel

  • Mike - Boy, this is a tough one because they are all amazing. I would probably pick the Polar bear and snowfall cover.
    I think this photo is great and will help sell a ton of calenders as well as larger photo prints.ReplyCancel

  • Melanie Wells - Although the musk ox is amazing, I don’t think it screams “Alaska” to the average tourist. In my opinion, the sleeping polar bear will sell the best. Second choice would be Denali because Denali sells. But they are all beautiful, Patrick!ReplyCancel

  • Noemi Ribeiro - The sleeping polar bear is my favorite. The image reflects on the complete inocence of Nature!ReplyCancel

  • Tish Noble - The sleeping polar bear has the “cute factor” and the most universal appeal but I am drawn repeatedly to the musk ox. It makes me want to open the calendar and see what else you’ve got up your sleeve that’s extraordinary!ReplyCancel

  • fran - it’s the musk ox for me (and I love polar bears) what an amazing photo! The dall sheep is a pretty imposing picture as well and then all the polar bears would be my next choices (any; they’re all gorgeous) :)ReplyCancel

  • Bob Turner - I believe the Dall Sheep show both wildlife and the vast landscape of the the last frontier. (From a guy who cannot get enough of polar bears)ReplyCancel

  • Sue - I think that the sleeping polar bar is by far the most memorable and evokes the most emotion. The others are beautiful Alaska pics, but have seen many similar…not the sleeping bear.ReplyCancel

  • Pat Landers - Dall sheep.ReplyCancel

  • Linda Tidwell - They are all beautiful pictures. My first choice would be the Polar bear and snowfall. Then the Hugging polar bear.ReplyCancel

  • Kay Haering - They are all so beautiful. I do like the Hugging Bears- Musk Ox and only mentioned once above is the Moose. His stance is like leading you into something…like your calendar. The hugging Bears shows a very unusual captured moment. Which suggests there are more magical photos inside. The Ox makes a statement of Stop which might serve the purpose of stop and look at the other marvelous shots I have. There, I narrowed down to 3, hope it helps.ReplyCancel

  • Elwyn Garaza - Musk OxReplyCancel

  • Emlyn - Sleeping Bear first but a close second are the Hugging Bears
    All covers

  • Liz - I agree with Darris. The sleeping polar bear. Second place the Musk ox.ReplyCancel

  • Darris - Sleeping polar bear. Not only is it a beautiful shot it’s appropriate because of the peril the polar bear is facing . . .ReplyCancel

  • steve - Gotta go with what sells, cute animals, and cute human babies dressed up as fruit. Did I say the word “cute” yet?ReplyCancel

  • Phyllis Burchett - First pick is Sleeping Bear, second would be Musk Ox.ReplyCancel

  • Hary Herbert - Hugging polar bears for sure!!!ReplyCancel

  • Jan - My fav has been the first picture of laying bear ever since you posted it. All the other photos are typical and expected. This one is like a zen Bhudda in white.
    Colors, pose,wide body, serene look, simple uncluttered clean. My humble voteReplyCancel

  • Jillian Wilson - I think that photographers would go for the ‘favourites’ that others have ticked. But if you’re wanting a cover that will get an emotional response from people in shops (do you sell in shops in Alaska?), then you’ll get that response with your hugging bears. It made me go “they’re so gorgeous”. The other one with the emotional ‘tug’ is the bear+snowfall.ReplyCancel

  • Mark Van Bergh - I’m a believer in the KISS principle, and keeping a cover simple (but bold) I think tends to work best. With that in mind, as you’ve presented them, either the sleeping polar bear or musk ox would be my first two picks. I love the polar bear in snow as well, but think the bear is a bit too small (of course you could crop the photo a bit to increase the bear’s presence and make it a bit bolder). While I love the dall sheep and moose photos, I think they’re too busy for a cover designed to attract eyeballs. You might want to play around with the musk ox photo/design to see if you can separate the “Alaska” from the top of the ox’s body.

    Also, nice to see some familiar names/former travel colleagues among the commenters. :-)ReplyCancel

  • Justine - The overall design/layout of the sleeping polar bear is great. I also like the polar bear in snow. I think either would have a lot of appeal to a wide audience. I love the Dall sheep one, too, but think it might appeal more to people who know Alaska better than the average visitor.ReplyCancel

  • Buff Corsi - I vote for the Dall sheep. Love those mountains, and it couldn’t be anywhere but Alaska. Jerry agrees.ReplyCancel

  • Betty Pauwels - I could see why you need helping in picking, ALL are wonderful photos.

    To entice people to purchase I think the snowfall and bears work well.

    I just met with a travel agent to book a trip to Alaska next late June….I cannot wait. Any suggestions where to go, please send my way.ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne - I’m loving the Musk Ox. It’s so dramatic and unique. My second choice: Polar Bear in the snow. It is as peaceful as the Musk Ox is powerful.ReplyCancel

  • Sabine - Sleeping polar bear or polar bear and snowfall. They are so cute. And the colors on the cover so serene. . .ReplyCancel

  • Karen Casebeer - What a difficult problem to have! These are all wonderful, but I like any of the three polar bear pix. If I have to choose just one, it’d be the hugging polar bears. The expressions are so sweet on each of them. It exudes such love.ReplyCancel

  • Sayre Jeannet - I would have to say either the Dall Sheep or Sleeping Polar BearReplyCancel

  • Jackson Frishman - Musk ox! Bold, arresting, and it immediately says you’re not in the lower 48 anymore. I like the Dall’s sheep and landscape a lot too, but it might be tougher design wise.ReplyCancel

  • Eli Mitchell - I think I like the second-to-last photo better than the last. The falling snow is a very pleasing texture. However, the more that I look at the sleeping bear, the more I like would be hard to go wrong with either one.ReplyCancel

  • Eli Mitchell - The moose is a classic Denali photo, which is good except that it isn’t as unique as last two photos of the polar bears. I really can’t decide which polar bear photo is my favorite…

    What I don’t like about the Dall Sheep photo is that the snow-covered peaks and the bold title, “ALASKA”, are competing for attention. It just doesn’t feel comfortable to me.

    There’s my 2 cents.ReplyCancel

  • Lynn Bowers - I like the Musk Ox or the Dall Sheep.ReplyCancel

  • MBLDS Endres - We all like the moose and sleeping polar bear. Can’t wait to see which one makes the cover.ReplyCancel

  • chuck ashley - Patrick,
    My Top choice would be the Musk Ox with a tie for 2nd between the two Denali animal shots. I choose those two over the polar bear images because Denali Screams Alaska! Still the Musk Ox to me is the Most Powerful image of those you chose to use.
    All excellent images & all tough choices to be sure but that Musk Ox makes ya feel he is about to head butt you & I love those eyes!
    Great work, can’t wait to see all the images you’ve chosen
    Chuck AshleyReplyCancel

  • Vivian - First choice: Sleeping polar bear. Second choice: Muskox. However, I would be happy to see any of the above on the cover!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - 1. Muskox (very dramatic & attention-grabbing) OR
    2. Snowy polar bear.

    I think the first sleeping bear looks very like a calendar cover… which is why I didn’t pick it. But I love them all, Patrick – stunning. Love your photography, can’t wait to see the finished calendar.ReplyCancel

  • Bruce Faanes - Well this is unfair. You should have 12 calendars with your images. I assume the fantastic Sleeping Polar Bear will win, but I’m going with the Moose & Denali for your perservance in hanging in there to get this incredible shot!ReplyCancel

  • marylee - The sleeping bear, then Musk Ox.ReplyCancel

  • Lynn Houston - Polar bear and snowfall.ReplyCancel

  • Christy - But my second choice would be something that doesn’t shout winter, which would be the moose one for sure!ReplyCancel

  • Christy Joy - So hard to choose! But I love the polar and the falling snow. He just looks like he’s loving life!ReplyCancel

  • Elaine Birkmeier - Love the hugging polar bears, but I just love moose, no matter how many times I see them.ReplyCancel

  • David Reese - *polar* :-)ReplyCancel

  • David Reese - Agree the sleeping polor bear is probably the most commercially viable… but I like the muskox one the best!ReplyCancel

  • Rosie Rosenberger - They’re all amazing but of the ones shown here to choose from, I really like Polar bear and snowfall best. It’s a different pose of the bear than we usually see and kind of implies “Ahh fresh snow” the same way a summer photo might say “Ahh – Sunshine.” And it’s a bit of a different profile of the bears than we usually see in photos. Great shots – all of them.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Mattingly - Dall sheep and then muskox.ReplyCancel

  • David Shaw - Musk Ox or the Dall Sheep for me. My favorite is the Dall Sheep it features both your landscape and wildlife skills.ReplyCancel

  • txrhonda - I love them all. I especially love the Muskox with the dark Alaska title. However, I think the sleeping polar bear is the most likely to make people want to buy an Alaska calendar. And I like it’s really ‘clean’ look. The one thing about the Muskox is that it might stand out more next to other Alaska calendars. All great shots. Can’t wait to see what you decide and the final cover.ReplyCancel

  • Lyle Krahn - I like the polar bear and snowfall. It looks like the bear is just happy to be there enjoying the moment – exactly what you want readers to do.ReplyCancel

  • Steve Henry - The Musk Ox does it for me. Way cool.ReplyCancel