Photo by Scott Bourne

Photo by Scott Bourne

NOTE: You might want to read my original post about this trip to better understand what this is all about. Also, the bear in this photo was located in Denali National Park. It’s a standard Alaskan Grizzly. The bears we’re shooting in Geographic harbor are larger.

Dear Diary:

I’m getting ready for my big trip to Alaska. I leave early next week and will be gone for about 10 days. I’m very excited about this trip. But it’s also bittersweet. It’s probably one of my final grand expeditions. I’m tempted to say it’s my LAST big expedition, but I have a little bit of Brett Favre in me so I can’t say I’m fully retiring just yet.

Age and health considerations have made these big trips harder and harder to take. 10-15 years ago I did one or two of these a month. Sometimes I’d go out three times a month when I was in my prime. But now, a 40 pound pack full of gear feels like 80 pounds. So it won’t go on much longer. I’ll still take some smaller trips every few months. I will be in at least four national parks this coming year with Apple and the Aperture Nature Photography Workshops, but big trips that require two days travel in and two days travel out – those will probably be pretty rare from now on.

It’s a fact; this trip will be hard. My usual idea of roughing it is the Holliday Inn instead of the Hilton. But this trip doesn’t contain nights at either place. I’ll be flying on three planes and then taking a boat. I’ll be carrying lots of gear (although I’ll have an assistant to help with that.) The accomodations will beat sleeping in a tent, but that’s about it. The weather in Alaska this time of year is very unpredictable so that will be a concern. Also of concern is just finding the bears, keeping up with them, finding them in good light, and hoping for no equipment malfunctions hundreds of miles from a road, let alone a camera store :)

The real first class portion of the trip will be the photographic opportunities. And those are what have me excited. I’ll be 50 feet away from 1,500-pound creatures who can run 35 miles per hour, climb 100-foot-tall trees and swim better than I can. No fences – no rangers – nothing but air and opportunity between us.

We’re going during a period when the bears will be gorging themselves on salmon. The theory is, they won’t pay attention to the horizontally-challenged photographer in their midst because they’ll have a salmon in each paw and another in their mouth!

The official biological term for this is Hyperfasia – a period where the bears are drunk with lust for Omega fats. They eat primarily the skin of the fish, leaving the rest. They eat nonstop and again, in theory, won’t mind a few photographers hanging out with them. They have plenty to eat and need to get it all down before they hibernate.

My pal Artie Morris set this trip up and he’s got experience leading trips of this size. He’s the world’s foremost avian photographer, and these bears are about the only wildlife he regularly shoots other than birds. He’s a real character and like me, has a strong personality that people either love or hate. I love his personality, and his bird photography is what drew me to the subject. I’ve learned a great deal from him. So while I spend a good amount of my time in the role of teacher, I’m looking forward to not having that pressure this trip. I can just be a photographer again. And that’s also exciting.

We’re going to Geographic Harbor. I’ll keep track of all the exact locations during the trip and post them to this diary as time and Internet access permit. I won’t be TOO exact because I don’t want tons of people going up here next year and stressing the bears. 

I don’t expect to have any phone or Internet access during most of the trip, but I am bringing my MacBook Air so I can write down my thoughts. I’ll also shoot some video with my G9 and record some audio interviews on my Sony handheld digital audio field recorder. I’ll make all that available as a part of this diary or a part of the TWIP podcast.

Oh yeah – and I hope (and expect to) make it back alive with some very, very cool pictures.

I’ll post the first video today or tomorrow before I leave. It shows you what bags I am taking and the gear I am bringing on the trip.

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 0 Comments

  1. Scott, This sounds like such an amazing trip! I am sure you will get some great shots. I wish you the best in your travels and look forward to seeing some of the results. Good luck!

  2. Scott, have a FANTASTIC trip. It sounds like an amazing adventure. Stay safe and shoot lots :)

    Best of luck, sir!


  3. Scott, stick a spare salmon in one of your pockets just in case! ;-) Have a great trip and hope the weather is good for you both.

    Freiburg, Germany

  4. Best of luck, Scott. That sounds like a helluva adventure, for a man of any age. May the cool air give you the strength and endurance of youth, and may the bears greet you warmly and pose for you until your memory cards overflow.

  5. oh my that is so awesome! i would love to be able to do something like that. Preferably while im still in high school

  6. No tents? But they can be fun even in Alaskan Winter:

    Everything best,…

  7. Scott, I hope the Alaskan adventure goes very well. I know from recent personal experience you can get some amazing (once in a lifetime) photos in Alaska and the wild. I am extremely envious even though I was just up there 2 months ago fishing and photographing the wild. From personal experience, Alaska still has the most colorful and beautiful sunsets in the world then add in the Northern Lights of the winter. Have fun, that is why you shoot RIGHT?

  8. Scott have a GREAT trip and a lot of fun! Can’t wait to see some of your shots.

    P.S. If you still want to go on more trips but need a sherpa then feel free to let me know. :)

  9. Good luck and hope this isn’t one of your last big trips; I’m sure you’ll find a way to squeeze a few more in, even when you’re retired ;)

  10. Good Luck Scott! It’s funny that you should lament about this being one of your last trips. Even though Ansel Adams produced new prints for most of his life, his most productive period of exposing negatives was short by modern standards. You’ve probably already enjoyed more years in the field than the great master. I realize that the urge produce new images quickly from this expedition is great, if just to cover the expense. This is certainly the double edged sword of digital photography. nevertheless, I would savor the post-processing stage. Perhaps, the images you take on this trip will have a longevity that you can enjoy for years.

  11. Good point Kent. Thanks for reminding me.

  12. Man, that G.Harbor looks like the most remote place on earth!
    Have fun!

  13. I will be curious to see your video. It will be very helpful to see what you pack and why. The reason I am hanging onto my Canon FT QL and lenses is just in case I decide to go on an excursion like this. Out in the boonies for one or two weeks, with no electricity. That is a pretty good justification for using film. Because with that camera the only battery it has is the one that powers the light meter in the camera. I change it once a year, but I have never had the battery die on me. Besides the camera is in fact older than I am (Dad bought it in Japan in 1968-69, I was born in 1975), and still takes great pictures.

    Have a safe and fun trip, I can’t wait to see some of the images.

  14. What the heck! I know my invite must be here somewhere. I did get an invite didn’t I? Seriously, I hope all goes well and enjoyable. Well, as much as can be anyway. Bring mosquito repellent and some salmon extract. If a bear comes after ya, break the bottle on the ground and RUN.

  15. Sounds like an incredible adventure… Looking forward to the video of you kit and some great photos when you return!

    (posted at reduced resolution and with appropriate copyright protection of course ;) )

    Have fun!

  16. Scott – good luck on the trip. All of your musings about how tough it’s going to be remind me of what I sound like when I haven’t done a trip in a while. So I hope it turns out like my 9 day Sierra backpacking trip this summer… I went in expecting misery on some levels and came out wishing I was still in my tent rather than any bed. Have fun.

  17. Also don’t forget to stop and smell the roses so to speak. I love shooting…but the best part of being away from it all is stealing those few introspective moments by oneself. Pull out your hip flask, or your rolling paper, or your mars bar….whatever you private personal little vice is and prop up against a rock or tree and just take it all in.

  18. Are mosquitoes a big problem up there? I assume the areas you’ll be in area boggy.

  19. Remember to tell your buddies, that if ia bear chases you, you should play dead. It’ll distract the bears so you can get away. I really envy you this trip – I got back from AK last month, just at the start of the salmon runs in SE AK – they were late this year. Weather was cool and damp, so stay dry and good shooting!

  20. Scott,
    This sounds like a trip that you could stop on and always have great images and memories. Stay safe and have fun.
    I look forward to your future post.
    Jim Gilliland

  21. hi scott.

    would you post low res pics of your trip fur us mear mortarls to apreciate?

    if so, please tell us where to look for them



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