Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Get a look at America’s Last Frontier from a seasoned nature photographer who makes his home in Alaska
Lake Clark National Park & Preserve
If you have a few free days at the end of your trip and are tired of driving, or if part of the reason you came to Alaska is to get up close and personal with grizzly bears, Niebrugge suggests one more stop: Lake Clark National Park & Preserve. It’s a fly-in-only destination and about an hour flight from Anchorage.
Indeed, the unique allure of this park is the proximity—and tolerance—of the wildlife. “This is a place where you can fly in and get amazingly close to puffins and bears,” says Niebrugge. “They’re habituated to humans, and being there is just a wonderful experience.”
They’re so relaxed around humans, in fact, that he says fishermen working the same rivers as the bears have to be warned to cut their catch free if the bears show an interest in stealing their trophy.
“If you’re trying to land a salmon and a bear shows up, you have to cut it loose,” says Niebrugge. “It doesn’t take them long to learn that would be an easier way to catch fish—just lay there and wait for the fisherman to get one and then take it from him.”
Each summer Niebrugge teaches workshops while based at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, which is his lodge of choice. He suggests visiting for at least a few days, but says wildlife photographers could easily keep busy for a week.
“If you only do three days, you may leave wanting more,” he explains. “Having more time gives you freedom if there are any weather problems, or just to get different types of weather shots.”
In terms of lenses for photographing bears, Niebrugge says that while he frequently uses a 600mm lens (and sometimes a 1.4x extender) on a full-frame body, you could probably do well with a 300mm lens and the cropping factor of an APS-C-sized sensor.
You can see more of Ron Niebrugge’s photography at his website, www.wildnatureimages.com. Jeff Wignall is a photographer and writer. You can see more of his work and buy his books at www.jeffwignall.com.
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