2021—Quenching a thirst

The Kodiak Brown Bears we photographed in late May on Kodiak Island were never menacing. We spent several days photographing many of the same bears (all females, I was told), and the more time I spent with them, the more they seemed like they were approachable. Of course they were not and our guides kept us on our toes and reminded us to keep a 360 degree awareness of them at all times. But, despite their size and reputation, they started to become like old friends because we kept seeing the same bears. And, the biggest compliment to us was when they began to approach us on their own terms, not to menace or threaten but because they were comfortable with us and our gear and must have felt that we were just another type of wildlife grazing with our cameras. This photograph of a bear drinking from a stream to slake her thirst doesn’t have the same cuddly look as the bears I photographed later in the week. While not menacing per se, her snout is upturned almost in a snarl. I took this shot on our first day. I hadn’t yet developed the sense of serenity that I felt most of the week and I hadn’t yet realized that I wanted to portray these massive creatures not as aggressive and dangerous as many people perceive them to be but, as the reality we saw, gentle and benign, more like big teddy bears, grazing cattle, and sleeping dogs.

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