THE FISHER KING
Alaska, USA - 2017
I have spent many days working close
to grizzlies in Alaska over the years, but this is surely my most visually arresting photograph. The intimacy is courtesy
of a well-positioned camera and a 28mm wide-angle lens. The bear was big, primeval, menacing, and – in this instance – just two feet from the camera.
Moraine Creek is not an easy destination to reach by first light, but that was my preferred schedule. The weather forecast was for unrelenting sunshine, unusual for Alaska, and I had little appetite to work on the river with a high summer sun above me.
I was on-site just after dawn, and I positioned my remote camera after studying the fishing pattern of the big male bear. I prefer to photograph against the light, but at 7:00 a.m. this is a risky strategy, as shooting directly into the sun can jeopardize an otherwise strong image. The route of the river meant there were no other options at this time, but at least with the light behind me, I would have some depth of field.
I was begging the bear to come to the camera, and he did exactly that – with a head held high and a face full of energy. I knew if my math was right, I had a big image. As soon as the bear was 10 yards upriver, I ran and grabbed the camera. It was “in the can” – the project was wrapped, and I was home for breakfast.
Fine-art photographs of grizzlies don’t sell well, as there are many decent ones knocking around, and this is simply because - despite talk to the contrary – bears are accessible. This image engages people and I am not sure if I will ever top it. But I will continue to try. It is beholden on every artist to think their best work lies ahead – otherwise, why get out of bed?