So, I am sure we have all seen photos in the media of animals interacting with cameras, many of which are staged. HOWEVER, before anyone jumps to any conclusions I am going to say from the outset, stating categorically and with our hands on our heart that this was NOT STAGED in any way! Read the story below and you will find out what happened………
Andy and I, together with a friend had been photographing a sow grizzly bear and her two cubs in the water from the lawn of a friends cabin in BC, Canada. After feeding for a while on the spawning salmon in the river the bears disappeared upstream and out of sight.
During a lull in bear activity we all left our cameras and tripod on the lawn for a moment. Andy decided to take the opportunity whilst no grizzlies were about as a good time to pop down to the shore bank and quickly set up his remote camera in anticipation of a bear wandering up the shoreline, as they had been doing quite regularly each day looking for salmon. Just as Andy was doing that another grizzly bear (a different one to the one we had been photographing earlier) appeared on the shoreline further downstream, about 200-250 feet away.
So doing the right thing, it was time to make a sharp exit and allow him to continue on his passage unhindered. We withdrew from the shoreline and walked back to the cabin deck to wait for the bear to pass though. As we walked back I picked up my lens and camera on the tripod and went back to the deck of the cabin, ample room away from where the bear was likely to pass. Andy declined to pick up his 600mm on the way through, in a moment thinking that as they had done every day that the bear would continue along the shore undisturbed.
However, this grizzly bear had other ideas! The beautiful young male was obviously curious and hearing our voices etc decided to come up on the lawn and have a nose as to what us homo-sapiens were up to!. He climbed up the bank and onto the lawn area and spotted the camera.
He climbed up the bank and onto the lawn area and spotted the camera.
Well, clearly the smells of humans on the camera and this odd contraption were far to interesting for the bear to ignore. Much to our amazement he approaches the camera and started to investigate it, sniffing and at the same time slobbering all over it!
Interesting human smells!
Shall I take a photo?
Then he decides to investigate other parts of the camera
Finding this all so interesting and a new experience he starts taking a swat at it, which seemed to fascinate him! Because the wimberley head was still fluid and not locked every time the bear swatted the lens it swivelled around on the tripod. The bear was having a real life game of swing-ball! Which ironically is probably what saved the equipment from falling over.
So there we are, as you can imagine holding our breath just waiting for the camera to be knocked onto the floor and there I am already thinking of the price hike in our camera insurance (and the strange conversation that would surely follow with the insurance company!) and not forgetting the subsequent stroppy husband who would then be without his precious lens for the next 10 days in Canada (and waiting for him to ask to use mine!!).
As we were stood on the decking of the cabin and watched this all unfold from a safe distance Andy had the other camera body and lens (70-200mm) to hand and all I remember saying is something like “if you are going to be that daft to leave your lens on the lawn at least take a bl**dy photo!”. In truth I was gutted that my other camera and zoom lens were in a bag (my 500mm that was right beside me was just ‘too much glass’ to photograph it) Not wanting to startle the bear or create a situation with opening bags and too much movement I stood there watching a little frustrated that I could not at least get some video of this! However, as you can see we did get a few photos of the whole event!
I could feel my stress levels rising, but at the same time finding it mildly amusing. I then recall saying to my friend words to the effect of “oh I wish we could make this bear stop as I can see this is going to end only one way”. Well, none of us were going to be that stupid to approach him or indeed scare him. However, a few stern words of authority distracted his attention from the camera. To be fair by this time he had clearly become a bit bored of the camera and then calmly wandered off and carried on fishing. The whole episode from when he approached the camera to when he left over in just a couple of minutes!
So, the moral of the story – don’t leave your camera on a tripod unattended as bears like to play with them!
Our 2017 Canadian wildlife adventure is now fully booked for 2017 but do keep a look out for our next Canadian photographic safari to be launched for 2018.
Written by Sarah Skinner