Trip Report – Grizzly Bear Photography Workshops – July 2015

In Trip Report by Matt Shetzer

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A great group of guests from as far as the UK and Australia.

This year we hosted two Grizzly Bear Photography Workshops in Alaska, at the beautiful Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. We had fantastic guests who were all eager to spend the majority of the time out in the field.

We left Anchorage and bordered our three chartered Cessna 206’s, enjoying the 1:15 minute flight to the preserve. We had great views all the way in of the rugged landscape, and before we landed we were already seeing bears.  We landed right on the beach of the Cook Inlet, and our Bear Guide, Belle, met us with an ATV and carts.

Whisked to the lodge, we are welcomed at the lodge by the owners, James and Shelia, giving a brief introduction, and a safety explanation.  A quick snack, and we head out for our first photography session with the bears.



Once we were able to get the bears out of the shot, we took a minute for a group photo with slope mountain in the background from the tidal flats.

We would spend the next days out in the field from 6am to 10pm,  coming back to the lodge for meals.  During the week we would see the following bears, 22 unique bears in all.

  • Sow with twin 1 1/2 year old cubs (Blonde sow, blonde cubs)
  • Sow with twin 1 1/2 year old cubs (Dark sow, blonde cubs)
  • Sow with twin 6 month old cubs (Blonde sow, dark brown spring cubs)
  • 1 Bore
  • 1 Sow
  • 1 Bore
  • 2 1/2 year old orphaned this year
  • 2 1/2 year old orphaned this year
  • 1 Bore
  • 16 year old Sow (Looper)
  • Sow
  • Sow
  • Bore
  • Small sow
  • Large bore

We were very fortunate to see the Grizzly Bear sows nurse their young.  It shows how comfortable the sows are with our presence.  As the cubs start slowly walking over to their mother,  it’s time for the cubs to nurse.  The sow rolls over, and the two little ones climb on her and start suckling.

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Even the bears wanted to go with us to Bird Island. Sorry, no more room.

We hear the clicking sounds the cubs make and see the milk froth on their snouts.  Its such a beautiful site.  After they nurse we give them a little peace and quiet as it looks like nap time.

Some of the bear behaviors we would see during the week:

  • Grizzly bear sow nursing cubs
  • Grizzly bears fishing catching salmon
  • Grizzly bears clamming in the tidal flats of Cook Inlet.
  • Cubs playing with siblings
  • Cubs playing with mom
  • Bears chasing each other
  • Bears/cubs sleeping together
  • Grizzlies eating sedge
  • Grizzly bears fighting
  • Sow losing cubs, and finding them. Cheerful reunion.
  • Grizzly bears climbing trees

Fresh veggies from the garden, Oh…and a bear.

The salmon arrived as we got there, and the bears were just starting to fish for their protein rich food.  We would sit right at the mouth of the creek and watch them run after the fish, occasionally making a catch.  The sows with cubs would often lose their catch to their hungry cubs.

One day, we took a boat up to Bird Island (Optional Excursion) to photograph the Horned Puffin, Tuffed Puffin, Oystercatchers, Common Murre, and Kittiwakes.  We had beautiful weather for this trip and everyone got some great puffin in-flight images.  Its a tough shot, but fantastic when it comes together in a beautiful image.  A beautiful way to spend the day and enjoying the scenery of Mt. Iliamna and Mt. Redoubt towering 8,000ft over the ocean.


Belle, bear guide extraordinaire caught us dinner while we where photographing the puffins. Yummy dinner tonight of Halibut, Cod and Salmon.

At the lodge, our meals were fantastic.  As Chef Michael would prepare fresh meals for us with veggies from the garden, hot bread right out of the oven, and salmon caught right out front.  After a week of this, we were getting a little concerned of our extra weight getting back on the small planes.

While out in the field with the bears we would have discussions on different photography techniques for the bears.  We discuss, different camera modes for photographing the bears, techniques to create sharp images, auto-focus settings to capture action, and examples of different scenes we will see in the week, and sample settings for each.

When weather was not ideal for photography, we would take a break from the field and demonstrate different Lightroom and Photoshop techniques using the guests images as examples.  We would go through the complete process from RAW file all the way to the final noise-free, sharp image ready for printing.

The week went too quick, and the Cessna’s returned for us on our last day.  Hugs for all as our hosts said farewell, we hopped on the planes, watched the beautiful Alaska Scenery from 1,000 feet, and we were back in Anchorage.  Some guests were taking another week to explore other parts of Alaska, and others were headed home.

Thanks again to all the great attendees this year.  Such dedication to see and photograph these beautiful animals in the wild, and now social media is a buzz with fantastic shots !!!  Looking forward to seeing you on your next adventure.  Matt

Our upcoming photography workshops


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Did you put Salmon in my Backpack ?


Covering miles with the ATV and carts. Once we find the bears we then walk with them across the meadows and in the tidal flats.

Trip Report – Grizzly Bear Photography Workshops – July 2015 was last modified: September 13th, 2019 by Matt Shetzer