POSTCARDS FROM THE KHUTZEYMATEEN
I not only brought home 2,294 images of British Columbia's wild rainforest grizzlies, I also brought home one of the worst colds I've ever had. The last few days have been spent sleeping, sneezing, coughing, and staring at the walls. I've barely begun to dive into the bear photos. I've also barely started preparing for my next trip, which is to begin in only two days!
The Khutzeymateen is an amazingly beautiful patch of wilderness near Prince Rupert, BC. The inlet cuts through dense old growth forest just on the B.C. side near the Alaska border. It is the most northern area of what has become known as the Great Bear Rainforest. And rain it does. We had four full days of rain. My so called "waterproof" clothing soaked through, and I had to borrow rubber rain gear from the guide. The $7 (for a pack of two) rain covers I bought for my cameras worked great, however. My gear actually fared much better in the soggy weather than I did.
Each day was spent searching the inlet and estuaries for grizzlies in an inflatable boat that held 5 people. Our base was a sailboat anchored in the inlet. Only two vessels are allowed to anchor in the inlet and lead multi-day tours into the estuary. I chose SunChaser, led by Captain Dan Wakeman. Dan was instrumental in the creation of the Khutzeymateen as a sanctuary for grizzlies. He is extremely knowledgable about the bears and passionate about conservation. He has been leading tours into the area for 30 years. He is aided by talented and knowledgable conservation photographer Steve Williamson, who was also our inflatable boat driver.
Despite less than favorable shooting conditions (it's really freakin' hard shooting from a moving zodiac with a 500mm lens!), we had great encounters with bears every day. Dan and Steve knew each bear, their life story, and their temperament. I appreciated that Dan and Steve put the well being of the bears first. The bears mostly went about their business. If a bear changed its behavior at the sight of our boat, we'd simply move on to another bear that was not bothered by our presence. It was a great privilege to get to spend time with wild bears in such a pristine environment (from the relative safety of a boat).
I plan to write a much more in-depth piece about my Khutzeymateen experience in the coming weeks. First, I have to be off to Munich in a couple days. My wife and I will be exploring the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria for much of June. It should be quite a bit different than roughing it in the B.C. wilderness. Here are some of my favorite shots so far from the Khutzeymateen. Thanks for reading and best of light. - Jon
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