As I mentioned in a post a few days back, I am pretty excited about some of the grizzly bear photos I took on this most recent trip to Katmai National Park. Over the years I’ve spent so many weeks there, shooting and re-shooting photos of grizzly bears, that it can be difficult to really bring home some new images. This photo is one I was super happy with.
I took, of course, countless images of bears eating salmon, chasing salmon, catching salmon, standing around, sitting down, sleeping, fighting, playing, etc. But what I really wanted to capture was some dramatic images in dynamic weather or dynamic lighting situations. We were fortunate to have an abundance of both, great, great light, as well as stormy clouds and crashing waves. We even had one gorgeous evening with a waning gibbous moon reflecting on a perfectly calm body of water. So I had more than ample opportunity to make some unique images.
This particular photos was an opportunity of moments. I was shooting a sow with 2 cubs, nicely frontlit in the soft afternoon sun, when this young bear popped out of the woods to my left. He stood for a second or 2, and I managed to quickly set my exposure, shoot 3 frames, and then the bear moved off. The drama of the photo is the interplay of the light and shadow, the fall colors, and the bears’ wanting pose. Without the combination of each of those elements, each playing playing with the other, I don’t think the image would work. Hence, once the bear moved, the opportunity was over. The sow and cubs had moved on as well.
I think it’s important to challenge oneself to create new and interesting images rather than simply re-shoot the same ole things we’ve shot before. It’s a challenge to do so for a couple of reasons. The first being it’s simply hard to really be that creative. I once heard a musician, for example, say that every composer only ever writes, if they’re lucky, 3 tunes, and that everything else is a variant of those 3 tunes. There’s a certain truth to that, I believe, and the same holds true for photographers, indeed for most artists. How many truly new and unique photos do we make in our time?
Another reason, though, that this is a challenge is that it comes with a cost. To shoot, for example, this photo I had to forego some nice images of a sow and her 2 cubs. Very sellable photos of very appealing subjects. Similarly, to position oneself for a backlit or sidelit shot, one has to forego shooting the classic frontlit look. That’s a hard decision to make, because in nice warm light, those bears look simply beautiful when the sun shines from over your shoulder. So I think the cost of trying something ‘different‘ can make it even more of a challenge for an artist to be creative, to take a chance, and step outside the box.
Nonetheless, I think the reward is a valuable lesson in artistry. Follow your passion; in this case, shoot that which catches your eye, which snares your attention and demands you make a photo of it. It’s too easy to pass that idea up, ignore that spark and follow the ‘rules‘, or to simply be lazy and not grab one’s camera. But the art is in the doing; so next time your muse points your head in a new direction, follow it. Shoot. And shoot it again.