Photographing bears at Brooks falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska
Save weight, space and time!
I have been wanting to write this up for a long time in an effort to make the photography of the brown bears gathered at Brooks Falls more pleasant and efficient for everyone. I have about twenty seasons of visiting and guiding bear photography trips to Brooks Falls to photograph the annual gathering of brown bears, (Ursus arctos). I often get asked about how busy the observation platform gets during the day and what is the best set up for photography. On a busy afternoon when all the bear viewers and photographers are at the falls viewing platform the National Park Service limits the number of people to around forty, with a time limit of an hour. While the viewing area can be pretty packed with photographers and bear watchers, I have found one sure way to make photographing easier, more productive and less frustrating. It all comes down to having a good portable support for the platform. Carrying a tripod back and forth to the viewing area makes a lot of sense until the first time you arrive and it is shoulder to shoulder and you quickly realize that setting up a sturdy tripod is inappropriate and just plain impossible. I suggest to my travelers the combination of using a Bogen Super clamp and hex head plate, (see photos and links below) to match it up to your selection of a tripod head. The set up photographed below utilizes a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball head but any solid head works just fine. I even use a gimbal type head regularly with no difficulty. The clamp quickly anchors right to the railing at the viewing areas and easily comes off to move to another vantage point as you choose to change positions. I also find it much easier to carry the clamp and head instead of a tripod, back and forth from the lodge to the falls along the mile long trail. The moving of people on the platform does introduce some vibration into the system but the same is true of tripods as well. This set up will not only benefit you by eliminating the bumps and and kicks to extended tripod legs but gives everyone at the platform more elbow room. One more thing to note, sharing and cooperation on the platforms goes a long way to ensuring everyone has a positive experience at Brooks Falls. It is important to remember that the bears rely on the resource that these salmon provide and the chance to fish for them for their survival from year to year. Enjoy the photography, the viewing and the learning with quiet respect.
If you meet me out there on the trail, please say hello! I wish you many good days of photography.
"Links for the clamp and plate are provide below"
A good solid mount camera is required to catch the moment a salmon leaps into the mouth of a waiting Brown Bear. Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska
Really Right Stuff Ball head shown with the Bogen Super Clamp set up.
I have been meaning on making a post with a little bit more of a nut and bolt side of photography that might help a few photographer out with photographing bears at the Brooks Falls platforms. Often time I get questions about what gear works best for photographing bears at Brooks Falls.