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Thread started 24 Oct 2012 (Wednesday) 10:25
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Advice on bear viewing at Katmai

 
austinjames
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Oct 24, 2012 10:25 |  #1

I am wanting to go to Alaska (Katmai specifically) and do a bear photography trip sometime next summer or next. I have heard about Brooks Falls but was wondering if anyone had other suggestions for guided or unguided trips. i am looking for a reputable guide company that provides a good experience. I would like to stay 3 or 4 nights verses a day trip. thanks for any input!


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5Dmaniac
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Oct 24, 2012 10:49 |  #2

We were in Katmai and Kodiak Island this year - as well as other parts of Alaska. You do not need a guide for Katmai NP if you only stay near Brooks Falls. The best (and busiest) time is mid July - that's when the Salmon are running. You are probably already too late to make reservations for the lodge at Brooks Falls. It sells out years in advance for the month of July. My advice would be to stay at their campground for a few nights. The best activity at Brooks Falls is late in the day and you have the best light then. The campground is fenced off with an electric fence - so no worries. You can eat at the lodge.

For Kodiak Island you need a guide with a plane to take you to the bear viewing areas. Kodiak was a very different experience from Katmai. It was just us (my wife and I) and the guide. No other tourists around. The downside is that you will not see as many bears compared to Katmai. Bear viewing at Kodiak Island is very expensive (mind you, Katmai is not cheap either!). For 4 hours we paid $1,000 for the two of us (incl. flight)- but it was well worth it.

I've attached two pictures to give you an idea what you can expect - the bear catching the salmon was at Brooks Falls, the other with the cub was taken at Kodiak Island.


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philk54
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Oct 24, 2012 15:00 |  #3

I spent 4 days, 3 nights in the Katmai National Preserve with guide David Bachrach, www.goseebears.com (external link) I would do it again in a heartbeat. Dave is very knowledgeable and has been guiding for 10+ years. He never takes large groups and he provides personal attention to you as a photographer. Mid-July to early August is the best time to go. I went Aug 1-4 of this year. Here are a couple of the shots I got (I have previously posted these in separate threads). You can see more of my shots at www.flickr.com/photos/​philk54 (external link)

I would highly recommend Dave and will definitely use him again for future trips.


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Talaska
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Oct 25, 2012 01:47 |  #4

Going for more than a day is an excellent idea. One thing most people aren't aware of is the day trip is usually only a few hours of viewing since by the time you fly over and back and the time waiting to fly it all cuts into your day trip. Another good reason is because of the weather, you stand a better chance of a nice day plus there are many times they can not fly because of weather, so you may lose your chance if they are rained out and can't fly the day you are going or the day gets cut short.


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bigcountry
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Oct 26, 2012 07:21 |  #5

If you have the budget this is this best trip to katmai: http://www.katmaibears​.com (external link)

You are with the best guides, you get to the best spots (not the same places as everyone else), warm bed every night and three gourmet meals a day.

I've been twice and loved every minute of it. On my last Alaska adventure I feel like my fiancé and I got to see more than most people do. We were there for two weeks and just went as many places we could. The whole state is pretty amazing.


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TsPhotoSpot
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Oct 26, 2012 12:33 as a reply to  @ bigcountry's post |  #6

You need to think about what you want to see before you go. If you’re intent on Brooks that will narrow your options. Some guide will avoid Brooks just because there are a lot of people there. Other times there won’t be any bears.

I was at the same location as philk54 for a single day trip. We had some great action. You cancheck my Grizzly bear photos (external link)or YouTube Grizzly Video (external link)for what you might expect on a trip.


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zyx5432
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Oct 26, 2012 15:36 |  #7

I can tell you from experience this year that if you go after the salmon run (in my case, the second week of August), there were essentially no bears at the falls. No people either (the one plus).

We used one of the guides at Brooks Lodge to take us to a bear spot, it was memorable and I got some decent shots, BUT, we only spent about an hour or so viewing the bears. I think some of the other guided "photography" tours will allow you to spend more time with bears and get a better variety of shots imo.

IMAGE: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8436/7848036512_cd427f4426_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/zyx5432/7848036​512/  (external link)
Katmai Bears 12 (external link) by zyx5432 (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8427/7848067154_687de3242f_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/zyx5432/7848067​154/  (external link)
Katmai Bears 13 (external link) by zyx5432 (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8421/7848012784_38cf49a765_c.jpg
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Katmai Bears 11 (external link) by zyx5432 (external link), on Flickr

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Talaska
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Oct 26, 2012 23:40 |  #8

Something else to consider is what type of bear shots you want. If you want fishing shots it doesn't pay to go when the salmon aren't in, and if you want mothers with cubs many times the mothers will stay away from the rivers since the bigger boars are in at the peak times. These are not hard fast rules but rather observations I have witnessed. One trip there were several mothers and cubs by the rivers but the big boars were not around at all and another trip when the big guys were there, several over the 1K mark, there was only one sow with cubs and she stayed far away. There are many trips available from Katmai, Lake Clark, Hallo Bay and Kodiak to name a few.


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austinjames
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Oct 28, 2012 20:15 as a reply to  @ Talaska's post |  #9

thanks for all the comments, they were helpful


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drewhh
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Oct 29, 2012 21:06 |  #10

You should consider McNeil River. The McNeil River is located in the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary NE of Katmai. The Sanctuary is operated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and access is granted through a lottery permit system. On any given day there are only 10 viewers in the sanctuary. Permits give you 4 days of bear viewing. Everybody camps and brings their own food. It is fun.


Here's a link to a timelapse video of the falls: http://www.youtube.com …r19HY&feature=c​ontext-cha (external link)

Permit info: http://www.adfg.alaska​.gov …ngpermits.mcnei​l_overview (external link)

IMAGE: http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4136/4886612146_db22e77ddf_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/4​886612146/  (external link)
2010-07-23 at 18-33-16 (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5265/5626322987_7bbf88edb8_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/5​626322987/  (external link)
IMG_4778 (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4082/4952981335_e739a8ff85_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/4​952981335/  (external link)
Brown bear female with cub (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6070/6098381565_29f8d3579a_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/6​098381565/  (external link)
Are you my momma? (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6108/6290957962_f18bfb1d11_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/6​290957962/  (external link)
Hotlips (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6059/6335877335_98d7187387_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/6​335877335/  (external link)
Watching a bear. (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

switched to olympus

  
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drewhh
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Oct 29, 2012 21:50 |  #11

Another idea...I saw Dave Bacharach's name on this thread somewhere. In the past he has been permitted by ADF&G to take folks to Chenik in the McNeil River State Game Refuge (different than the MRSG Sanctuary). You don't need a viewing permit to go. That is another cool spot. I spent a couple days just hanging out.

Here's a hilarious (it cracks me up anyway) video I shot out there of a brown bear being overwhelmed by salmon.
http://www.flickr.com …/in/set-72157627057910627 (external link)


IMAGE: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6057/6290783072_af09abd747_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/6​290783072/  (external link)
Waiting game (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6130/5932500166_e7fb336948_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/5​932500166/  (external link)
Beluga Air Beaver (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6032/6288221504_039ec71960_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/6​288221504/  (external link)
Time for the close up. (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6133/5932501266_a7bc0d2332_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/5​932501266/  (external link)
Backlit brown bear (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6025/5932494912_6504f237ac_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/5​932494912/  (external link)
Go catch dinner. (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr

switched to olympus

  
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austinjames
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Oct 31, 2012 08:48 |  #12

Thanks for sharing the thoughts and the photos...all great!


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Tom ­ Reichner
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Oct 31, 2012 10:01 |  #13

drewhh wrote in post #15184759 (external link)
Another idea...I saw Dave Bacharach's name on this thread somewhere. In the past he has been permitted by ADF&G to take folks to Chenik in the McNeil River State Game Refuge (different than the MRSG Sanctuary). You don't need a viewing permit to go. That is another cool spot. I spent a couple days just hanging out.

QUOTED IMAGE
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com …/13736715@N04/6​288221504/  (external link)
Time for the close up. (external link) by Drew Hamilton (external link), on Flickr


I apologize for "hijacking" the thread, but I saw this image, and just had to comment.

This is one of the best bear images I have seen in a long, long time. Why? Because it shows the viewer what it's like to be out there photographing the bears. The typical "pretty picture", a close-up of a bear, without any human context, never really shows the viewer what it would be like to be there. This images does.

If only people would once in a while stop focusing on the intended subjects, and instead try to capture the entire scene, we would have many more images like this one - images that show us what it's like to be there. This is a lesson I hope to apply to my own photography in the near future.


"Your" and "you're" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one.
"They're", "their", and "there" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one.
"Fare" and "fair" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one. The proper expression is "moot point", NOT "mute point".

  
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Advice on bear viewing at Katmai
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