There exist many “almost” shots in my photo experiences over the years. An adage says that “almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades”, and I don’t deal with either of those. While the “almost” encounter does not result in the acquisition of a photo, at least the photographer is left with the process, and that his its own merits.
Photographing grizzly bears in the autumn interior requires among many things, a lot of persistence. This is particularly true during autumn because the bears are in a maniacal state of food consumption called hyperphasia–near constant eating of the berries that are ripe across the landscape. This means that they rarely lift their head.
The autumn colors peak in the high country in Denali Park about August 27th, give or take a few days. This peak color period may last about a week depending on weather. On this serendipitous afternoon in Sable Pass (about 4000 ft elevation on August 27th–not the stage of color!) I came across this family of bears feeding near the park road. They scarcely looked up the whole time, and rarely looked at me. It was raining, light was low, but wow the color was magnificent. The bear family walked right into this vibrantly colored part of the tundra.Can you imaging what I was hoping for in this scene . . .? Instead, I saw bear backsides. That’s the name of the game in wildlife photography. You put in your time. Sometimes you score, sometimes you don’t. There is some strategy in between those lines, but there is little to replace persistence and perseverance.
About a week later, in the same area, I captured the photo below. The single bear was very curious about another bear in the area and stood up occasionally to get a view. The colors had faded some by then but still present.