Recently I had an opportunity to participate in Shoot the light (STL) “Black Bear Plus” workshop conducted by Chas Glatzer at Vince Shute wildlife sanctuary at Orr, MN. The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary operated by the American Bear Association is considered as the best place to view and photograph wild black bears in their natural habitat in North America. STL made special arrangements to open the sanctuary for workshop participants and we enjoyed 4 productive days of black bear photography.
Located around 30 mins drive from Orr, Minnesota, this Sanctuary is 360 acres of natural habitat that provides seasonal home to around 80 black bears. Sanctuary feeds bears on a regular basis by putting apples, dates, granola and sunflower seed at feeding stations located on the sanctuary property. Every morning and evening we photographed bears coming into feeding stations for food. We also had the pleasure of photographing couple of mothers with very young cubs and 4 yearlings living on their own for the first time.
Best bear activity was at peak late in the morning and late evening and worked out well with soft diffused light. Feeding stations were close to shooting location and with 70-300mm I was able to make full frame images on 1D Mark IV. Most of the times bears followed a standard route from one feed station to another and provided us ample time and multiple opportunities to make different images. Since sanctuary was reserved for group, we were allowed to approach the bears closely on foot while maintaining a safe distance. Most of the feeding locations are under tree shade and black bears in shadow require higher ISO. 70% of my images were made at ISO 640 and above.
Also, I had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful volunteers working at sanctuary and helping in educating public about black bears and their habitat. Special thanks goes to Klari Lea, Vice-President of the American Bear Association and Tom Klingbiel for their help and making our time at sanctuary productive and enjoyable. I came back home with good number of keepers and learned more about black bear behavior and habitat.
Big thanks to Chas Glatzer, Tom & Susie Merigan, Steve& Marian Uffman, Scott Davis and Martin Sneary. Wonderful people and enjoyed shooting with them very very much. Hope to meet you all again someday in the field.
PS: Click on the image below for more black bear images from Orr, MN on my 500px.