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Every July, during the peak of the annual salmon spawning migration in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve, brown bears make their way to Brooks Falls to fish for their favorite prey.
Most bears stay at the bottom of the waterfall, using their paws to pin the salmon that have failed to jump to the river floor. A few bears venture to the top instead, hoping to catch their prey in a midflight spectacle.
Brooks Lodge is an ideal hotel option within the park; rooms sell out quickly, so book far in advance. Clients also can fly in for the day on a floatplane. Bear watching is great at any time of day, but the light in the afternoon hours is best for photography from the viewing platforms.
For this picture, I used a Nikon D810 camera with a Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens set to 1/2000th of a second, an aperture of f/5 and ISO 100.
This is one of the few photography situations where I suggest having the camera set to motor drive rather than taking one image at a time: When action happens in a blink of an eye, shooting a burst of images will increase the odds of capturing what the legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson once described as “The Decisive Moment.”