Grizzlies in a Golden Light

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 400mm, f/8.0, 1/800 sec, ISO 400, on tripod.

Sunlight can be both a blessing and a curse. Both landscape and wildlife photographers often prefer to photograph in the soft light around sunrise and sunset to avoid the harsh shadows created by the bright light in the middle of the day. Wildlife photographers also avoid midday hours because animals tend to reduce activity during the day which doesn’t lend to dynamic images of animal behavior. Sometimes, however, midday light can be a benefit.

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 500mm, f/8.0, 1/800 sec, ISO 800, on tripod.

For animals that move a lot in the morning or evening or get easily spooked, photographing them during the middle of the day can be great! If you can get close enough to them without being a disturbance to them or a jeopardy to your own safety, you can capture beautiful poses of them relaxing.

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 460mm, f/8.0, 1/800 sec, ISO 500, on tripod.

Even slight changes in head position can change the whole dynamic of the image. In the case below, this female rested peacefully but occasionally lifted her head to listen for possible males within the vicinity. There likely was not one close by since she was still in a relaxed pose for this image.

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 500mm, f/8.0, 1/640 sec, ISO 500, on tripod.

She became slightly more alert in the image below and her gaze became more focused in one direction as she decided whether or not the male was enough of a threat to make her move.

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 460mm, f/8.0, 1/640 sec, ISO 500, on tripod.

Because the one directional nature of midday light is very apparent when there are no clouds, we have to be a bit more thoughtful when planning our images. Ideally, we would like the sun behind us so that the portion of the animal facing us is lit up by the sun with the shadows behind it.

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 200mm, f/8.0, 1/1000 sec, ISO 640, on tripod.

When dealing with grizzly bears, however, you don’t always get a choice about where you can stand to get the sun behind you. 🙂 . Luckily, I was able to capture this one below looking at me intently as she was eating and the image still worked even though I wasn’t perfectly on sun angle.

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 330mm, f/8.0, 1/1000 sec, ISO 640, on tripod.

Sometimes we have to disregard sun angle to get the animal in a landscape scene as shown below. The stream flowed nicely through the meadow and provided a great backdrop for this Grizzly bear chomping on the grasses.

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 210mm, f/8.0, 1/1000 sec, ISO 640, on tripod.

When all else has been tried, it’s fun to zoom in close and crop around the animal in the bright light. The sun highlighted the golden fur around the edges of her frame, adding dimension to the image.

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 500mm, f/8.0, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400, on tripod.

As mentioned in a previous post, Alaska was being ravaged by wildfires while we were in Lake Clark National Park so some of the haze actually helped us for midday shooting when we captured the beauty of a sleeping bear.

Image: Grizzly bear at Lake Clark National Park, Alaska. Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 240mm, f/8.0, 1/1000 sec, ISO 400, on tripod.

We saw other wildlife besides bears so stay tuned for more! You can view these images individually and more not posted here in my portfolio located here.

If you missed my TV debut on ABC15’s Sonoran Living, you can check out a recording of it here. You don’t want to miss this!

Please also check out my new business for pain relief, the PABR Institute, at www.pabrinstitute.com, and subscribe to my email articles to get tips here to help you find relief in your body.

Author: Dr. Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

16 thoughts on “Grizzlies in a Golden Light”

  1. What an awesome collection of photos. Loved your description of the challenges with the direction of the light. Wait for the light to be right and miss the shot…. no way.

    Liked by 1 person

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