Wildlife

As with most trips, my journey to be among these beautiful bears started long before the day I walked down the gangway to board the plane that was to take me to Anchorage, Alaska. From Anchorage, a small prop plane will fly me to the ultimate destination: a remote 2-mile stretch of beach along the western shores of Cook Inlet in South-Central Alaska. I get to spend the better part of 7 days observing and photographing Alaska’s brown bears.

The hour-long flight from Anchorage to the remote beach made one thing perfectly clear: Alaska is wild. Its expanses are enormous, and the isolation is very quickly absolute. In the early mornings, from the beach looking out over Cook Inlet, the sky and the horizon are barely distinguishable. Only a faint line marks the end of one and the beginning of the other. Looking left and looking right in a hundred-and-eighty-degree arc, the view remains largely the same. Behind me is a 1/4 mile of heavy grassland with grasses tall enough to conceal small and average-sized bears, encouraging us to keep our heads on a swivel. At the inland edge of the grassland begins a thick, dark and impenetrable forest that carries North, seemingly forever, and climbs the elevations that dominate the coastline. It is gorgeous. It is quiet. And we are not alone.

Our stay amongst these animals is humbling. We tread carefully, keeping distances that are sometimes frankly laughable. What seems like “far enough” to us is a distance that any of these majestic animals can cover in seconds if they choose to. But, they allow us among them. The mothers somehow know that we are no threat to the cubs, and instead, they keep their attention on locating the Volkswagen-Beetle-sized males, as these will likely not miss an opportunity to kill a cub.

I’ve captured these photographs in a way that shows the vastness of the stage: this amazing coastline, with its beach flats, leaden skies and sometimes blue, sometimes slate, sometimes silver colors. And on this stage, we impatiently await to see a small sliver of the family lives of our actors: the brown bears.

 

I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I enjoyed taking them.

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