Yellowstone is a great spot for photography in either the spring or the fall. Since there is not much going on for antlers in the spring, it’s a great time for bears or wolves. Now I must admit I have not had much luck on close-up bears or wolves. I have seen both, just not within good photo range. Little did I know what lay in store for us as we headed for the Park this last month, the close-up grizzly category… was about to change!
My wife Connie and I arrived and met up with our good friends Dan and Becky Verrips from Texas. Dan is a fantastic taxidermist and one of the best wildlife photographers around. Dan knows the park well and we spent a couple of days seeing what was around. We did find a number of black bears. The following photo is of a sow that had two cubs close by. The brush was too thick to get much of the cubs but she did pose momentarily in this opening for a quick shot:
There were several photographers there all trying to get an open shot at this bear and her cubs when someone yelled “there’s a bear behind us and he’s coming straight for us!”. We all turned to see a young bear who was indeed, headed right at us. We all stood still and he veered to our left, posing momentarily at very close range for a nice portrait.
We were stoked! Black bears up close! What more could you ask for? Well, how about something really crazy like a bighorn sheep, maybe a really big one? Bingo, we ran into this guy, again, up close and personal:
He wasn’t in a great spot to photograph (I like some separation from subject to background for a soft out of focus backdrop), but you take what you get. Things were good. This appeared to be the year for the close-up (I still had no idea what was to come!).
We saw several elk with some new antler growth so I was also hoping to get an up close elk shot as well. Bingo again.
I think we were down to our last day when Dan suggested we try an area where a grizzly had been sighted earlier in the week. When we arrived we were surprised to come upon a grizzly at a distance of about 150 yards. This is still not great for a good photo, but, it was the closest opportunity I had ever had so we stopped and took several shots anyway. Then the bear disappeared into some thick stuff.
Thinking there was at least a chance he might re-appear on the opposite side of the thicket we headed that way and waited. Maybe 15 minutes passed and we were starting to think he had either laid down or somehow gotten out without us seeing him, when someone yelled “bear”. We grabbed our cameras and headed that way. There he was, walking along the edge of a river, this time at about 100 yards. We fired away, taking several hundred photos as the bear went about his routine.
I finally had a grizzly photo! How fun is that! The bear hung around for a while and we got him doing his thing.
By now there was a pile of people enjoying the bear when he moved off and up another ridge. Thinking the show was over most people returned to their cars and drove away. We were standing around talking about our good fortune and deciding to have some lunch when I noticed the bear was back and walking straight toward us! We only had enough time to shoot several shots as he approached, like this one:
Then he stopped, stood up on his back legs, looked around, and ran back in the direction in which he’d come. Never to be seen again.
If you ever wanted a close up opportunity at a grizzly bear, that was it! Our lenses were actually too big as all I could see was his head!!
and then this:
Very cool. This is perhaps my favorite bear photo of all time! In the next photo he was up on his back legs, as you can tell by the angle of his shoulders, but again this is all that I could get:
Wow, what an experience! As we finally were able to gather our thoughts and eat our lunch, this raven gave us a very close photo-op as well:
I got far more bear photos than I could possibly show here. It was amazing. So we started down the road, done we thought with a perfect trip and ready to head for home. Dan commented that the only thing that would truly put a cap on the whole trip would be to still see a sows grizzly with cubs. Yeah right. We rounded a curve in the road and their they were!! There were a lot of people however, and it was tough to be able to see her, but I was able to get this view:
And this little guy:
I don’t expect to ever have a trip to top this one, but we will certainly keep on trying… I still need a close up shot of a wolf!