Trip Report – Grizzly Bear Photography Workshop 2016 – July

In Trip Report by Matt Shetzer

If you could sum up our 2016 Grizzly Bear photo workshop experience with one word, it would be CUBS! We were treated to a great year of cubs running all around and playing in the beautiful backgrounds that Lake Clark is known for. Most of the sows had families this year, which made for adorable images of the families, and cubs being adorable.

Bear Photo workshop

Belle (bear guide extraordinaire), Carol, Ray, Jane, Dave, Dennis, David, Liz, Mark and Matt.


Here is a brief description of our week at beautiful Lake Clark National Park and Preserve at Silver Salmon Creek.

Day 1
As the group arrived in Anchorage, we all met for dinner and got to know everyone one and share our travels. Many of the group arrived early and explored the Anchorage area. We talked about what to expect in the days to come photographing the bears and answered any last minute questions. Off to bed as the photography starts tomorrow morning.

Day 2
We took our early morning charter flights into Lake Clark on two Cessna 206’s and a Cessna 180. We were fortunate to have calm winds and some clouds as we flew the shoreline of the Cook Inlet and directly over Chisik island. As we landed on the beach one of the planes had to do another approach as a sow (nicknamed Agro) and her 3 spring cubs came to welcome the group up close. You know it’s going to be a good week when they send the welcome committee.


Ray, David, Carol and Dave making the most out of sows, cubs and mountains. The beautiful views of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

We headed to lodge to be welcomed by our hosts, bear guides, and chef. We discussed safety around the bears, grabbed our gear and headed out shooting. We had a little intermittant rain that added beautiful textures to the bear fur.

Sightings and Photo opportunities.

  • Sow (Agro) with 3 spring cubs
  • Sow (Looper) with 2 spring cubs
  • 3 Juveniles (3 years) starting to fish at the mouth of the creek. Play fought for a while.
  • 4-year-old
  • Sow (Crimp)
  • Bald Eagles

That night we enjoyed a delicious dinner of fresh salmon with lemon rinds on it. We finished off dinner with a brownie and ice cream. We aren’t exactly rough it!

We headed back into the field after dinner for a little more shooting with the bears. The long Alaskan days are great for maximizing field time.

Day 3
We woke to light rain in the morning and the skies cleared as the day went on. We were able to photograph many more bears, and were treated to a couple of great images with bald eagles perched and in flight around the evergreens. We photographed a sow (Looper) as she took her two cubs across the river right in front of us.

After lunch, we had a discussion on different exposure techniques for the bears, the benefits of back button focus, and compositional ideas.

As the evening came, we were treated to two bears, a large bore and blonde sow chasing each other trying to display their dominance.


WARNING: PHOTOGRAPHERS AT WORK. Dennis, David and Ray explore different composition of the old fishing trucks left years ago.

Dinner tonight was delicious. The group opted for more salmon that was caught just hours earlier and a fresh salad from the lodges garden. We then topped off our meal with a homemade Oreo cheesecake.

Today’s sightings:

  • Sow (Agro) with 3 spring cubs
  • Sow with 1 spring cub
  • Sow (Looper) with 2 spring cubs
  • Large bore
  • Blonde sow (young)
  • Crimp
  • Bald Eagles
  • Mergansers
  • Kingfisher

Day 4
What a great day today was. We woke to a clear morning. A beautiful sunrise that we were able to compose with the orange reflections and a fishing boat in the tidal flights. We then ran into the blonde bear from the night before who came extremely close to the group offering nice close-ups. The sow (Looper) with her two cubs has been hanging out in the garden all morning. She is such a beautiful bear. As we broke for lunch, a moose and its large calf visited the lodges property, disrupting lunch with this exciting viewing.

As the we returned to the field, we photographed one of the most beautiful bears in the area with her two spring cubs. We were able to line her up with the snowcapped mountains in the background. As another bear approached, the sow and her cubs put on a good show with numerous stand ups on their hind legs. Once the excitement was over, the sow and cubs continued down the creek and even went for a nice swim in the water right in front of us, with one cub holding on to moms’ backside. The bears came 10-15 feet from us, and it was great to see how comfortable and non-threatened they are by our presence.

After a tasty dinner of fresh salad and broccoli from the garden, pork tenderloin with chutney sauce followed by rhubarb crumble, we headed back into the field for our last session of the day. As we were photographing the beautiful light on slope mountain, here comes a nice bear. She joined us in one of our favorite meadows and then continued down the creek. One she left us, we then found two more sets of bears, a sow and her 3 spring cubs, and a blonde sow with her two yearling cubs.

Hitching a ride. We all take a bit of a break as we go to the next set of bear cubs. Wildlife photography doesn’t have to be that hard.

We had 7 bears within 100 yards of us. We photographed them for the rest of the evening. Time to charge batteries, empty those full memory cards, and get ready for more action tomorrow.

Today’s sightings

  • Blonde sow
  • Sow (Looper) with 2 spring cubs
  • Sow (Crimp)
  • Large Bore
  • Moose and Calf
  • New sow to the area
  • Blonde Sow with 2 yearlings
  • Sow (Agro) with 3 spring cubs
  • King fisher
  • Merganser
  • Bald Eagles

Day 5
We left the lodge this morning for sunrise with the bears as they were clamming. We were able to grab great images with the bears silhouetted with the orange glow of the sunrise in the tidal flats. Once everyone got their shots, we moved to photograph the sow and cubs clamming with the mountains in the background. After the clamming, we photographed some landscapes and found nice compositions with flowers and the beach driftwood.


Dave, Ray, Liz and Carol taking a break with Slope mountain in the background.

We then were lucky to photography a sow (Looper) with her two spring cubs. The cubs were very playful, and we were able to capture images of the cubs wrestling around in the short grass. The cubs were adorable and laughs were had by all as they watched.

After lunch, as the activity was down a bit, so we went and did a Photoshop demonstration of how to work up an image from RAW to completion. We demonstrated noise reduction, masking selective adjustments, exposure, saturation and contrast controls, and finished with a unique sharpening technique. We were interrupted as a sow and her two cubs came into the backyard to see what the delicious smells of fresh fish that were caught that day.

We headed out into the field for another photography session, but we were just able to find one bear during the heat of the day.

Dinner was a yummy Chicken Parmesan with fresh greens from the garden, followed by homemade Chocolate Silk cake.

We headed out for our last session of the night, and were treated with a sow with a single spring cub. We photographed them as they ate up and down the slew and the cub continued to pop it’s head up, and look over mom. Once the bears left, we came across another sow and here two yearling cubs. They were right on the creek, and gave us some new compositions.As it was getting dark, we headed back and saw a sow, and a large bore. As we pulled into the lodge, there was a 3-year-old bear hanging out next to the lodges plane. The quintessential Alaskan photo.

The furthest traveled award goes to Jane and David who join us from England. Our lodge for the week is in the background


Photo opportunities

  • Sow with 2 yearlings
  • Blonde Sow (Agro) with 2 spring cubs
  • Sow with 1 spring cub
  • Sow (Looper) with 2 spring cubs
  • Sow (Crimp)
  • Juvenile Bear
  • Large Bore
  • Bald Eagles

Day 6
Another beautiful morning on the tidal flats as the bears searched for clams. We were fortunate to find a sow with 2 spring cubs right away and photographed them most of the morning. One cub is very self-sufficient in clamming, and the other relies on mom to find, and open its clams. It makes you wonder how this bear will do in life later. It was affectionately named “Moocher” by the group. We were also able to photograph a bald eagle in the foreground, with a bear as a background. This is Alaska!
We then photographed 2 sets of bears, two juveniles, and a sow named Crimp. Crimp was protecting her area, and attacked/chased the other bears off. It was great to watch the speed of these large animals.


Do you think Mark knows what is behind him?

After breakfast we were able to photograph a sow (Looper) again with her two spring cubs.

As the day went on, we found the Sow with the 3 spring cubs in the meadow, and photographed her by a stream, and the on the beach clamming. One of the cubs found a halibut, and we watched them all run around with it.

Dinner was a very tasty Salmon dish and lemon meringue dessert.

Our photo opportunities today:

  • Sow with 2 yearlings cubs
  • Sow (Agro) with 3 spring cubs
  • Sow (Looper) with 2 spring cubs
  • Sow (Crimp)
  • Juveniles
  • Bald Eagles
  • Mergansers

Beautiful skies, bears and great photographers. What more could you ask for?

Day 7
We headed out in the morning with some rain. We looked around for the bears, and the group wanted to get back and look at the photos taken during the week. We headed back, enjoyed a nice breakfast. As the rain increased, our charters were a couple of hours delayed. As the skies cleared, the planes took off from Anchorage, we said our goodbyes on the beach and waved as the plane lifted off heading back to Anchorage and the real world. Many guests took advantage of being in Alaska for some more adventures around the Anchorage area, as well as boat tours around Seward.

Some of the bear behaviors we saw during the week.

  • Clamming
  • Chasing / Protecting Territory
  • Play Fighting
  • Eating Grass
  • Fishing for Salmon
  • Swimming with Cubs
  • Standing on hind legs
  • Growling
  • Walking on Logs

We had a great week, with great photographers. It’s always so much fun to share such a beautiful place with our guests.

Trip Report – Grizzly Bear Photography Workshop 2016 – July was last modified: September 13th, 2019 by Matt Shetzer