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Behind The Shot: Sparring Bears

Behind The Shot

Behind The Shot is a recurring feature where we dig deeper and find the backstories that accompany amazing photos.

Aikenhead, Sparring Bears Photographer/Filmer/Editor: Lisa Aikenhead

Gear: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400 f4.5/5.6L IS USM lens, Gitzo tripod, Really Right Stuff Ballhead

Settings: 1/800 second at f/5.6, ISO 1600, 210 mm (EF 100-400)

Backstory: This photograph of two female coastal brown bears was taken in Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.  I was with a small group of photographers and we had staked our place near Silver Salmon Creek, hoping to photograph bears fishing for salmon.  The salmon run had only just begun and the fish were few and far between, and I wasn’t successful at photographing what I had expected…but the unexpected was even better!  These two bears were pacing up and down along the shoreline of Silver Salmon Creek seemingly ignoring one another, when suddenly they erupted into a territorial fight.  The bears roared ferociously, bared their teeth, and pushed and shoved each other with fierce intensity.  Water churned, rocks flew out from underfoot, and strings of saliva sprayed from their mouths as the bears sparred for dominance.  The fight lasted just a little over a minute, and believe me, my heart was racing the entire time, as I felt exhilarated, awed, and a little frightened, too (we were close enough to the bears that I was able to take this photograph at only 210 mm).  Can you guess which bear won the contest?  The bear on the left was the victor, and the bear on the right slunk away. Sometimes taking a photograph requires a village, and in this case, I couldn’t have done it without these wonderful people:  Rick Collins, our bear guide (; David Coray’s incredible Silver Salmon Creek Lodge (; and photographer Greg Downing, who organized and led the workshop (  I highly recommend a trip to Silver Salmon Creek Lodge in Lake Clark National Park.  The bears are plentiful, attracted to the area by protein sources: salmon in the creek, and clams in the Cook Inlet, when the tide is out.  The landscape is spectacular, with lots of open space, making it easy to photograph bears in their environment.

Check out more of Lisa’s work on her website & facebook page:

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Scott Roeder is a wedding photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also an avid diver. His specialties include photo booths, videography, and action shooting. Check out his work on his website.

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