Action shots like this one take me back to my sports photography days. It is not really an art picture—it’s more reportage—but everything in it kind of works: the backlight, his facial expression, and the sense of power. There is a dynamism to it afforded by my low position and the spray. At this one moment in time, he looks so happy just being a bear. And so he should— the water is bursting with salmon and on this stretch of the creek he is boss. His prime position goes unchallenged and he can eat as much as he likes for as long as he likes—on my watch that worked out to about 30 to 40 salmon a day.
I needed to lie in the river to take this image; my camera had to be as close to the water as possible. My waders were invaded at chest level, and I returned to the bank absolutely drenched. But it is part of the job. No photographer should return to the base camp dry and clean after an intense day in the field. I may take this dynamic to uncomfortable levels, but it makes the evening shower and debriefing drink that much more satisfying. This is not a job for precious people.
The 30-minute floatplane journey back to the small village of Iliamna from this spot at the junction of Funnel and Moraine Creeks is always quicker than it seems because my team tends to be so shattered that we fall fast asleep. Iliamna has become a bit of a summer retreat for us over the last few years; it is Alaska at its quirkiest best.