Nothing is truly exciting until there is a risk of dying involved. While photographing wild animals, one wrong move and you’re their next meal. Michael Leggero, a nature photography, shared his experience photographing bears, and explained how to get the best shots while keeping safe.
Animal photography can be a portal into another part of the world. It’s a way to see animals living their everyday life, capturing snapshots of them without intruding, leaving them alone in their natural habitat. It is a far more ethical way of viewing animals than a zoo, and it’s a way to see them as they really live. Bears are particarlly interesting because they aren’t as threatening as a lion per say, they aren’t strictly carnivourous beings always on the hunt, most of their diet in fact is berries.
The best way to find a bear is to set up shop by a berry patch. Find a good sized patch and give yourself a little distance. Sooner or later a bear will come to eat.
“The bear is happy sitting there and eating for hours at a time. This is the safest way to work with these animals—when they are happy and content,” Leggero said.
As long as you are quiet and don’t do anything to disturb the feasting animal, it will leave you alone, free to get as many shots as possible.
Though these bears may be content while eating, it is still best to keep a good amount of ground between you and the wild animal. A 400-600mm lens is recommended, find the best spot and set up with a tripod. For the best shots keep the shutter speed at 500 and an aperature of 4-5.6, any smaller of an aperture and the background will not have any blur, distracting from the subject of the photo, the bear.
It is even possible to safely get the bear’s attention, to have it face your lens without bringing a threat to yourself.
“If you want to get his attention, don’t wave your arms or make big movements. That will usually scare him away. Simply use a whistle. One quick sound will make him look up, and if you are lucky, he will look right into your lens. Once he realizes that you aren’t moving towards him aggressively he will usually go back to eating,” said Leggero.
Another good way to capture the wild bear is from the safety of a car. In national parks, you can often see these creatures from the side of the road, simply slowing down to take some pictures can prove to be some of the best shots. This can sometimes create a “bear jam,” as Leggero puts it. The cars behind you also slow down to see the animal, and suddenly there are tons of tourists making noise. While this can sometimes scare away the bear, other times it will capture it’s attention. It’ll look around and if you’re lucky, even stand on it’s hindlegs to get a better view, providing an incredible photography oppurtunity.
Keep in mind that these are wild animals and can be unpredictable. While bear attacks are a rarity it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Before going out in the wild, educate yourself on bear behavior and how to best handle an aggresive bear.