Delayed lunch

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I finally find a  cub only to figure out it’s mostly hidden in the trees.

There are times when I’m drinking up the atmosphere in an idyllic, peaceful setting while casually observing and photographing wildlife. This was not one of those times.

My mind was anticipating lunch at the Mammoth Springs Hotel as we headed down a well-travelled road in Yellowstone. I have a love of food that has been passed down to me through many generations.

Suddenly we noticed stopped cars and people gathered on one side of the road. Typically that size of crowd was reserved for bears! As we drew near the growing crowd, I rolled down my window and asked someone what was there. The answer got me moving quickly – bear cubs. This would be a first-time treat!

I jumped out of the truck and grabbed my tripod from the backseat. My wife continued driving on the narrow road to find a distant parking spot and joined me later. I can only imagine the jealous sighs of other photographers!

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That lovely lighter area in the bottom of the photo is the effect of someone’s head blocking the light into my lens.

I found myself on a road beside a cliff so steep, the trees I was looking at were rooted far below in a ravine. I quickly learned from helpful bystanders that there were four cubs in the trees and a black bear mom below. Excellent. There was, however, a tiny problem. I couldn’t see bears of any kind. There were just too many branches blocking my view.

When I finally got a partial view of a cub, it would quickly disappear behind another tree branch. And that was before I located it in my lens.

The crowd was dispersed along the road in groups looking for the same thing I was – an unobstructed view. I would often find myself in close proximity to other photographers with big and small lenses as we all tried to peek through the same tiny opening in the trees.

Everyone was really nice and a number of people helped me out with locating cubs in the harsh light that was hitting the trees. But given the small openings we were trying to access, on a few occasions I found the back of someone’s head in my lens.

I would occasionally hear excitement further down the road and rush over there in hopes of a better view, only to find the same challenges. I kept firing off shots, hoping for the best.

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A relaxed mom despite the kids playing up in the trees. You wouldn’t believe the tiny opening in the trees that enabled me get this shot.

While the crowd thickened, the cubs climbed around the trees for no particular reason and seemed to enjoy themselves. They were quite far from the road, oblivious to the excitement they were generating.

The cubs appeared too small to be hanging around that high in the trees. However, the mother contentedly wandered around the ground below and didn’t appear to be fussed in any way. Maybe bears don’t have helicopter moms.

I was struck by the contrast between the peaceful playfulness of the bears and my own searching and scrambling to get a shot. When the bears seemed to have wandered off, I had no idea how many of the cubs I saw or whether I had any good photos in the challenging conditions. But the scene at the side of the road was once again peaceful, just like the forest. The people and the activity had moved on. Hopefully the pictures captured the peacefulness.

In time, lunch tasted better, despite the delay. Great experiences will do that.

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Just hanging around.

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This cub was surprisingly agile. No fear of heights anywhere.

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Maybe if I could hang on like that I would climb more trees.




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Latest Comments

  1. Mark Conway says:

    Amazing shots Lyle. Very jealous!!

    Like

  2. Elsa Naumann says:

    That’s fantastic, great shots and what an experience!!

    I’ve seen a black bear cub once a few years ago, but it was only a brief encounter and before I got into photography. It reminded me of a cartoon character, it was such a beautiful little thing 🙂 I really enjoy following your blog, it’s very inspiring!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Glad you liked it. The cubs have a cartoon-character quality about them – so different than the adults. It was so much fun watching and photographing.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting – really appreciate it.

      Like

  3. Stefano says:

    Love the “just hanging around” one: great image!

    Like

  4. melodylowes says:

    Wow! Your time was well spent, to portray the sense of fun and adventure those little ones were feeling. (I wonder how many cubs fall out of trees???) 🙂 Great shots, Lyle.

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Thanks. I can tell you that would be quite the fall from where they were! I imagine it must happen though these guys were quite skilled and utterly fearless. What a blast to watch them!

      Like

  5. photographybycalliec says:

    wow amazing shots,you have done another fantastic series and story. Is that rare to see the bears??
    Incredible!!!!

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      Glad you liked the photos and the stories. This was a special treat for me since I’ve always wanted to photograph bear cubs in the wild and finally got the chance. The answer to your rare question is – it depends. Is that vague enough? If you go the right parks in the right time of year and spend enough time looking, there is a good chance of finding bears. However, they are rare enough that every time I see one it’s very exciting. I suppose that is partly because I have spent many hours searching and not finding anything.

      Like

  6. Deb W. Trotter says:

    I’d say your persistence paid off, Lyle. You got some unusual shots. I love the photo you titled “Just hanging around.”

    Like

  7. dda53 says:

    Great blog, loved the story. A great adventure for sure and happy you were able to capture what many only dream about. Oh, by the way, kudos to your wife for allowing you a quick exit.

    Like

  8. Phil Lanoue says:

    Tremendous experience and great pics of these amazing creatures.
    Good for you to have witnessed and photographed this family.

    Like

  9. Delft says:

    You must have been in Darkest Peru! I can see the Panama hat on the last bear, and imagine the sign: Please look after this bear!

    Like

  10. doraiswamyganesh says:

    Dear Lyle, You are simply great. I enjoyed the cubs and have shared it with my cub friends ! Regards, Ganesh.

    Like

  11. Simone Lipscomb says:

    Bear jams in the Smoky Mtns National Park are similar. I have seen some of the most wreck less behavior from photographers and have seen mother bears chase them back away from cubs. Sometimes common sense and photographing bears doesn’t balance out. But your mama and babies didn’t give folks a choice. That’s probably a good thing. 🙂

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      You are probably right – they were safely removed from everyone. In other situations we have noticed that as the excitement builds in the crowd, people take more and more risks as they watch others get closer. Eventually it’s really dangerous.

      Like

  12. Mary says:

    Love this series of photographs. “Just Hanging Around” got me, great shot – perfect timing!

    Like

  13. Mike Powell says:

    Wonderful story about the joys and frustrations of shooting in a popular location with a crowd of people–quite different from your preferred style. Let me join the chorus of praise for the “Just hanging around,” an amazing shot that was well worth delaying lunch (and even dinner).

    Like

    • lylekrahn says:

      I appreciate that. It is definitely more fun to be alone in these situations but given the choice I would far rather just see them. And the first time to photograph them was special.

      Like

  14. vanbraman says:

    Great pictures, but too close for me without a barrier in between like at a zoo :-).

    Like

  15. The Earth Beneath My Feet says:

    The pic Gunta is talking about is a lot of cute in fur!!

    Like

  16. Gunta says:

    You are such a tease… keeping us on the edge of our seats until we come to that marvelous shot (Just hanging around.)
    I try not to use this word too often, but this was truly awesome! 😀

    Like

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