How To Photograph Grizzlies

Have you ever wondered how the pictures on the covers of magazines like National Geographic are taken? Do you know how photographers get so close to their subjects, which are often rare and shy of humans? Do you want to take some shots like those? With only a few simple materials and a camera, you can, without even being there! That’s right. Most professional photographers are miles away from their subject when the shot is taken, and they don’t even use a powerful zoom or remotely controlled camera. Here’s how you can take some shots like those. To start, you will need:

  • image1Motion activated infrared night-vision camera with optional video function (I use a Bushnell HD TrophyCam) 
  • Flat, metal rope to replace the one that comes with the camera
  • Lock
  • Bait, such as salami or sausage (optional)

 First, find a place on the map where grizzlies live, such as Alaska, Yellowstone, or Western Canada  (see map on right). Go to that place for at least four days. Remember to cheimage2ck the forecast before you go – even if your camera is waterproof, it will take a lot of empty shots of rain and and the memory card will be full very quickly in bad weather.

image3The next step is to find where you want to leave your camera.   For best results, avoid leaving your camera in the territories of other large predators. Mountain lions will  keep bears off their territory if they can. A pack of wolves might even chase a bear off its own territory and claim it as theirs, forcing the bear to leave the area. Also avoid the boundaries of the grizzlies’ territories. They mark these areas by leaving scent and scratch marks on trees, like the one in the picture. To avoid getting your camera urinated on or scratched and rubbed off the tree, do not leave it these areas. If you use the stronger rope it probably will not fall off, buimage4t it can still be damaged.

Partially eaten carcasses or rotting salmon bodies means that a bear eats its prey there. Since  they often eat in the same place over and over, this could be a good spot. A den site like the one at right will guarantee some good pictures, if it’s image5still being used. In spawning season, a river where salmon spawn every year (or are spawning that year) is sure to attract bears, but your camera might take empty photos of the water. If you set your camera’s motion sensitivity to “low”, it could work. In open areas, Keep in mind that you will need something to tie the camera to, such as a tree or other fixed object.

If you can’t decide between two places, come back for it earlier than you planned and set it up in the other place. You could even try moving it to a different place every day. Once you have found the area where you want to set up your camera, tie it to a tree nearby, using the metal rope. The tree should be sturdy enough so that the wind does not move it around too much, but not so thick that the rope does not reach around it.  Secure the rope with the lock to guard it from both animal and human thieves.

The next step is setting the camera to suit the surroundings. Set the zoom (if you  have one) to auto. This way it will zoom accordingly image7to the distance of the motion. Occasionally, it will zoom too much or too little, but for these types of situations, “autimage6o” works best. Set the image  resolution to medium or high. With higher resolution, the image quality will be better, but the memory card will be able to store less pictures. If you do not have a zoom, set it to high – this way you can crop it to size on your computer without worrying about quality. Aperture is the amount of light the shutter lets through the lens. This must be set to automatic on a motion-activated camera. It could not only ruin all of the photos – make them all black or all white – it can also damage the  camera. Shutter speed, alimage8so known as the exposure time, is the time the camera keeps the shutter open. In other words, it is the amount of time that the photo is being taken. Slow shutter speed will produce more vivid colors, but fast motion will be blurred. Fast shutter speed will keep moving objects sharp, but the image quality might not be as good. Medium is usually a good choice. Also choose whether you want photos and/or videos. Videos take up a lot of space on your memory card, but they are more interesting to  look at. If you donimage9’t leave your camera out for too long, videos are okay. Set the motion sensitivity to suit the surroundings. A moving background will require a low motion sensitivity. Set the camera to hybrid mode for day and night photos.

If you want to, you can also leave some bait near the spot, but it will probably be eaten by something other than a grizzly. After that, switch the camera on, and come back for it in a few days. If you want to try several places, you could even come back for it the next day and move it somewhere else.

Now all that remains is to upload the photos to your computer, and see what you caught!

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