Brown bear photo and place

A large male adult brown bear, or grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), stands and stares at the camera. Male brown bears may reach weights of over 1200lbs and easily stand 9' tall. Brown bear, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

A large male adult brown bear, or grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), stands and stares at the camera. Male brown bears may reach weights of over 1200lbs and easily stand 9′ tall. Brown bear, Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Please click on the image above to view a larger version of this photo.

Hey Folks,

One of my main goals last year, photographically, was to shoot more ‘bears in the landscape’ style shots; images such as this one were what I was really after. Of course, that doesn’t mean I would pass up an opportunity to fill the frame with a bear like this, either.

This kind of image is all about the bear; power, size and vitality. The bears in the landscape speak a little more about place. Fascinating subject, place.

I just got back from a trip to Denali National Park and Preserve, where I spent some time in a cabin in the woods, by a fire, trying to stay warm. The day we skied in to the park, the temperatures plummeted, from the 0 to – 5 degreeF range to minus 40 and minus 45. The experience of the Alaska backcountry at that kind of temperature is something else.

It was a  cool experience, hanging out with my friend, Erik DeLuca, music composer from Virginia, while he concentrated on doing some soundscape recordings and trying his best to experience a ‘sense of place’ in a landscape like this. We chatted a lot about what that means, what it does for us, and why it might be important. I commandeered Erik’s book, Place: A Short Introduction, (author: Tim Cresswell) and read over it during the long dark nights. It’s interesting stuff. 

Place isn’t about location; it’s about a culture. A life. Lives. A set of experiences. This image above is all about place. The place of the grizzly bear; the top of the food chain. Lord and sovereign of the wilderness. And this bear put me in my place.

It’s a humbling experience to see, so clearly, something so much greater than ourselves. I still haven’t sifted through half of my photos from this fall’s photo tour to Katmai National Park, the bears’ place, and I can’t wait to go back to the realm of the great bear.

Cheers

Carl

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2 thoughts on “Brown bear photo and place

  1. Greg Russell

    This is a really thoughtful and thought-provoking thought, Carl. I agree completely about a sense of place, and that a place is more than a set of coordinates on the map. I’ll have to check out the book you mention, as I do like to read about this subject. You probably already know of, but should re-read, Wallace Stegner’s essay on a sense of place.

    In it, Stegner writes, ” The fact that Daniel Boone killed a bear at a certain spot in Kentucky did not make it a place. It began to be one, though, when he remembered the spot as Bear Run, and other people picked up the name and called their settlement by it…No place is a place until things that have happened in it are remembered in history, ballads, yarns, legends, or monuments….” Finally, he concludes, “No place, not even a wild place, is a place until it has had that human attention that at its highest reach we call poetry.”

    Thanks for adding some human attention to your Alaska backcountry. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Greg

  2. Mark

    It is interesting to think about in the context of this image. When I normally think of “sense of place,” I envision seeing much more of the surrounding environment, the landscape in relation to the subject. This image is all bear, and is no lightweight when it comes to strength and power. This is telling me that wherever this guy is, it is his place. So I guess you are right… and have shown you don’t need to see the landscape to establish “place.”

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