Motherly Love

Brown Bear Sow and Cub

Brown Bear Sow and Cub

Of the many great memories from my Alaska adventure, my fondest involves a brown bear sow and her three year old cub. As our group came to a clearing overlooking a small pool, at the junction of two rivers, we found several bears splashing through the river in pursuit of salmon.

On the opposite bank of the narrow river, a sow and its cub cautiously approached the pool and continued up to the elevated safety of a large uprooted tree. The sow’s caution was warranted because there were several large boars in the area, which will kill cubs. Occasionally, the sow would venture off its perch with its cub in tow to fish, before promptly returning to their refuge atop of the fallen tree to eat. Every time a boar would patrol the river, in the vicinity of the pair, the cub would lean in tight to its mother and peer over her back.

During one patrol, a boar took an interest in the pair and began to approach until the sow stood, shielding its cub and let loose a roar that sent a chill down my spine. The boar wisely moved on in a search of easier prey, much to my relief. The sense of peril for the cub, followed by the protective actions of a loving mother, willing to put herself in danger, made this the most special of the many experiences I had on this trip.

Alaska Adventure

Tenakee Springs Shoreline

Tenakee Springs Shoreline

In 2009, I was given the opportunity to join a small group to photograph coastal brown bears and whales near Tenakee Springs, a remote village on Chichagof Island in Southeast Alaska.  From Juneau, I boarded a 50 year old float plane for a noisy, 40 minute flight before a bumpy landing on Tenakee Inlet.  Once on solid ground, we walked the main street, which was a narrow dirt path only suitable for bicycle or ATV traffic, to begin the 2 km hike through old growth rain forest to our secluded accommodations.

Our cabin was rustic to say the least, having no electricity or running water but it was a hard-walled shelter in a remote, bear-infested wilderness. Electricity for charging gear was provided via a solar cell, fresh water came from a spring behind the cabin and headlamps were our only source of illumination at night.

Humpback Tail in Tenakee Inlet

Humpback Tail in Tenakee Inlet

Each day we would rise early, don our rubber boots and hike to the village harbor where we had arranged for a local carpenter to ferry us to and from our shooting location. Our driver would drop us off and promptly push off to return to Tenakee and his day job, only to return later in the day.

Throughout the week, we had extraordinary conditions for photographing wildlife thanks to smoke from a large forest fire burning in the Yukon that filtered out the harsh light of midday allowing us to shoot all day. Unfortunately, that same smoke make for lackluster landscape photos that I had hoped to capture, demonstrating bears in their Alaskan wilderness.

Brown Bear in Kadashan River

Brown Bear in Kadashan River

During our adventure, I was witness to many natural wonders including a Humpback whale repeatedly breaching on the Chatham Strait, having first-year brown bear cubs make a brief appearance before scampering back into the protection of the forest, witnessing the showdown between a boar and a sow protecting her cub and having a large boar charging directly towards my unprotected position and diving into a shallow pool at my feet in an attempt to catch salmon.  The photos and full accounts of the above experiences will be released across several portfolio and blog updates in the weeks to come.

Brown Bear Cub Prints

Brown Bear Cub Prints

The adventure surely would not be for everyone as we each conservatively walked 80 km in rubber boots over a 6 day period, carrying 40 lbs of photography gear over rough terrain. Despite buying and breaking in the best rubber boots before departing, I can surely say that rubber boots are not ideal for walking long distances and it took several weeks for my feet to mend themselves following the adventure.

The lack of amenities and some personal discomfort aside, I would return to Alaska in a second, given the opportunity. There is something about seeing coastal brown bears in their natural habitat, away from the pressures of some of the more tourist friendly destinations that was very special to me. To be in close proximity, at times as close as 15 feet, to these apex predators and feel at ease was an amazing experience.

I had considered a return visit to Alaska this season but due to previous commitments and the fact that, a year later, I am still working on photos from my first visit I decided to look closely at 2011.

Grizzly Attitude

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear Emerging from the Bush

In the early Spring, I was getting the itch to find some bears and had heard reports of recent sightings in Kootenay National Park so I packed up in the middle of the night and headed out to try my luck.

Driving for hours, I had seen only a couple moose and a black bear, all of which quickly disappeared into the trees.  I had considered ending my search for the day when  suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a dark speck along the Kootenay River.  I almost dismissed it as my imagination because after hours of scanning for wildlife you begin seeing many bear-shaped stumps and rock-shaped bears.

I brought my car to a stop and walked back to a clearing that gave me views of the riverbed and could see a dark, round form protruding from a small grouping of trees which seemed static.   I looked through my 400mm lens and still could not determine what it was until it finally began to move.

From behind the trees came a large grizzly bear which ambled its way down river towards my position, stopping every so often to dig up roots of small shrubs.  Generally a bear sighting, especially a grizzly bear, draws huge crowds but for 45 minutes cars continued to pass oblivious to the bear.

Despite the duration of the encounter, I knew that I had few decent images because the grizzly had its head buried the majority of the time as it fed on roots.  Only occasionally did the bear glance up in my direction and it seemed relaxed and did not display any of the classic signs of stress.

Grizzly Attitude

The last photo I took before the grizzly charged. You can see that this bear was getting an attitude.

While shifting in my position I broke a branch and suddenly the bear spun around and took three quick bounds in my direction before coming to an abrupt halt.  The bear then left no question that it had tolerated my presence long enough as it swatted the ground, huffed loudly and stood up on its hind legs.  I slowly backed out of my position with my heart in my throat until the bear was out of sight before backtracking to my vehicle.

This was the first and only wildlife encounter where I felt endangered and it gave me much more appreciation for a bear’s speed, agility and power.  I have become more wary for future sightings after seeing how abruptly this bear’s temperament changed.

Launch Sale Ends July 31st

Emerald Lake at Dusk

Emerald Lake at Dusk

The Launch Sale at Casey Fisher Photography has been a great success but is almost over!

There are only 5 days left to save 20% off your favorite prints from Casey Fisher Photography.  Type the word “launch” at check out on my website or contact me via email at casey@caseyfisherphotography.ca or phone at 403-695-6126 on or before Saturday, July 31st to save 20% off your order, valued at $100 or more before shipping charges.

Mystery of the Orphaned Kids

Twin Mountain Goat Kids

Twin Mountain Goat Kids

For years I visited a site near Jasper, Alberta which had produced consistent close encounters with Mountain Goats.  Like clockwork, the goats would appear in the late morning and draw a crowd on the edge of the Icefields Parkway.  After several visits, I began to notice a trend that the goats would follow the same path each and every time they disappeared so I explored the route hoping to find an area where I could photograph in peace and be shielded from the harsh light of midday.

I tracked the goat path to a small clearing where I could setup on future visits and await my subjects.  However, the Summer and Fall of 2009 would different in that I visited the area several times and the large group would never materialize and the trails seemed to have few signs of recent activity.  Not to be easily deterred, I continued to visit the area repeatedly in hopes of getting some good images.

Finally, my perseverance paid off and I came across small twin kids on the edge of the Icefields Parkway but the remainder of the group, which generally consisted of 6-8 members, were nowhere to be found.  Rather than stand along the highway I retreated to my pre-scouted clearing and hoped the kids would find their way up the path.

After a short wait, the twins came trotting up the mountain path and to my pleasure laid in the shade of a large tree directly across from my position.  I let the kids settle in and then began photographing them as they leaned on each other with dozy eyes, struggling to remain alert.  I spent almost two hours taking images every time the twins would raise their heads and reposition themselves, all the while wondering where the rest of the group was.

Every encounter I have ever had with Mountain Goats consisted of many animals spanning several generations and yet these young kids were on their own.  Had something terrible happened to the remainder of the group?  I could clearly see a large, dark

Sleepy Mountain Goat Kid

Sleepy Kid

scar across the forehead of one of the kids.  Had that been the result of an attack from one of the valleys many predators or from a dispute and eventual rejection from the herd?

I never did see the remainder of the herd, which I had photographed many times in the past and cannot help but wonder what was to become of the two young kids off on their lonesome.  The mountain parks can be a harsh place, especially with Winter quickly approaching.  I plan to soon visit Jasper National Park and that site, hoping to find the twins have made it through the Winter and avoided predators long enough to be a little bit bigger and more self-reliant to give them a fighting chance at survival.

Custom Framing

Framed Customer Print

Framed customer print matted in a suede, charcoal outer mat to complement the color and texture of the mountains and a burnt orange inner mat to emphasize the glowing peaks in the photo. The matted print was then covered in non-glare glass and wrapped in a deep charcoal, wood frame to complete the exhibit.

Choosing the correct mat and frame for your prized photo can be a challenging task. A careful selection of colors and materials will result in a polished, finished product that demands attention; however, a poor choice in any element may prevent your favorite print from achieving its full potential.

Casey Fisher Photography is committed to ensuring that your chosen print looks its best and is ready to hang as the centerpiece of any room. For that reason, I offer custom framing solutions as a value added service.

To inquire about custom framing options email casey@caseyfisherphotography.ca or call 403-695-6126.

500 kms, 9 Sightings of 5 Grizzlies and NOT a Shot

Upper Kananaskis Lake Sunrise

Alpenglow reflected in Upper Kananaskis Lake as seen at sunrise this morning

I left Calgary at 3 AM this morning for Kananaskis to catch a quick sunrise and to visit Highwood Pass in search of bears.  During my drive I saw numerous animals in my headlights, including a close call with a Big Horn Sheep and my first set of moose calf twins, before arriving at Upper Kananaskis Lake at dawn.  The sunrise was decent but not spectacular and did not yield a print-worthy image; however, I was encouraged by the amount of wildlife activity.

I immediately headed for Highwood Pass, which at 2206 M, is the highest point that can be reached on a paved road in Canada and is known for its grizzly bear activity.  I had visited the pass several times this Spring but each time the area remained blanketed by a foot or more of snow so I was pleased today to find it clear for the most part and very green.

I hadn’t driven more than 20 km before I picked up my first grizzly but by the time I brought the car to a stop the bear disappeared into the brush, which was going to become the theme of the day.  Over and over I would locate a grizzly bear, finding a total of 5 distinct bears, only to have them disappear into the foliage before I had a clear shot.  Several times I managed to get an idea of the direction the bear was moving and would attempt to cut it off in a clearing.

Grizzly Bear Sow Portrait

Portrait of a grizzly bear sow as she emerged into a clearing several weeks ago.

I discovered some time ago that you almost certainly get better photos and do not alter wildlife’s behavior when you allow animals to come to you rather than attempting to stalk or keep pace with them.  Sitting quietly with a good view of the treeline almost paid off several times as I managed to get a second showing of two and a total of three sightings of a third bear but all glimpses were fleeting and unproductive.

Overall, while a frustrating day, it was good to get out after several weeks of prior commitments and of course it is better to see five shy bears than nothing at all.

Welcome & About Me

Pier in Marbella, Spain at sunset.

For those of you that don’t know me, I am an emerging landscape and wildlife photographer living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  From childhood, I spent my free time in the in the woods of Northern Ontario fishing, hunting or just all around exploring up until the time I went to university.  Throughout university and for several years following graduation I rarely found the time to get out into nature while I established my career.  Looking for a change, I took a job in Calgary and found myself in a prime position to explore the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Wanting to be able to bring home the grand scenery and wildlife encounters I witnessed in the mountain parks I soon began studying the finer points of photography and honing my skills.  What began as a casual hobby of opportunity soon became a dedicated passion which resulted in creating opportunities whether it be by leaving Calgary at 3 AM to be on location for sunrise or staking out known hot spots and driving hundreds of kilometers in search of wildlife.

In this blog, I will share photos and the stories behind them, write about the challenges I face as I run my business, report on interesting adventures and close encounters that may not have resulted in stellar images and may even sprinkle in the occasional photography tip.  I would like encourage discussion, questions and feedback, provided they are constructive and enhance the relaxed tone that I will establish.

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