CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FURRY KIND

It’s that time of year again when the salmon run and the bears chase after them…..and I chase after the bears!

I went up to my favorite stream to do some salmon videos. I bought a new GoPro and was looking forward to using it. It has a stabilization circuit built in that keeps the frame “steady”! I’ve had problems in the past with the video being too jittery. The surface ripples and the fish bumping into the camera made the video too jittery for me. I built a device (for lack of a better term) I call a “Drift Rig”. I attach the GoPro to it and let it drift downstream through a school of salmon! Once I let it go I have zero control over it. If It wants to turn left but the salmon are to the right,tough luck! So It’s a crap shoot each time I release it at the best of times!

I have learned that the best time to do these videos is during low tide. At high tide the salmon spread out but at low tide they all congregate in the deeper pools. They know instinctively that they are susceptible to predator attacks during low tide. So going during low tide is the best……….. but also the worst! It’s too shallow to get into the stream to begin with! So I usually tie up out front and walk in. I have a canoe hidden in the bush. I grabbed the canoe and paddled upstream. On this occasion It was more like walking upstream as the water level was really low and slow!

I got to that deep pool and sure enough there were several hundred Chum swimming slowly about in it! I got the drift rig set and released it upstream of that school of Chum salmon. The flow was so slow that one run (about a 100 feet) took 20 minutes! When It gets near the end (where it shallows up) I wade out into the stream, grab it and shut it off. I then walk back upstream to repeat! I managed to get in about 7 runs.

So when I let the rig go I basically have to wait 20 minutes. During this time my head is swivelling around like a radar watching out for bears.I am constantly looking around me as a bear could literally pop out anywhere! Sure enough on the third run I see a bear walking downstream towards me. I got my camera ready and waited for it to get close. It was in the shade and I wanted it to walk into the light…but it didn’t. Instead It saw me, crossed the stream and began to walk back upstream.

My camera bag is heavy. I cannot wear it with me when I wade into the stream. It not only would get wet but It also would make me more prone to slip as the added weight throws my balance off.  So I placed it halfway between the starting point and the end. That way If I see a bear coming I could get to it quickly……or so I thought?

It was on my 5th run when I realized that doing this was not a good idea. I was chest deep grabbing the rig when I looked over my right shoulder and saw a bear not twenty feet away from my bag and it was slowly walking towards it!

I yelled loudly at it and turned to get out of the water as quickly as possible! I made all sorts of noise splashing about and that sure enough scared off the furry interloper. I decided from that time on I would always wear my bag all the time and only took it off right beside the spot where I went into the stream. Later I thought to myself “that’s all I need is for Yogi to go galloping off with all my equipment”!

So I finished the seventh run and decided to head back downstream. The tide was beginning to rise. I do not like to leave my Zodiac alone as bears can walk over and easily damage it with their claws. So I was anxious to get back to my boat, but the first thing I had to do was put the canoe back into the forest. There is a pathway I’ve made about 100 feet long. It goes through thick bush to a small clearing. This is where I hide my canoe.

I beached the canoe, grabbed the paddles and some other gear and started to walk into the forest……and that’s when I was startled! I ran face to face with a big old bear walking in the other direction! It immediately ran like a bat out of Hell to the base of a tree, grabbed onto the trunk and stared back at me with very wide eyes!

Now remember I had a time element going on, the tide was coming in and I did not want to get cut off from my boat. I also have to get all this gear and the canoe back into the forest or it’s going to go “bye bye” with the outgoing tide!

Which meant I had to walk past this agitated and scared bear! Realizing this,It really pissed me off and I immediately yelled at the bear!

“OH GREAT,YOU JUST HAD TO BE COMING OUT WHEN I WANTED TO GO IN…….FUCKING GREAT”!

Now by this time I realized this bear was more afraid of me than me of it. So I held my breadth and marched forward! Well,that bear shot up that tree like a rocket! It reminded me of “Jack and the Beanstalk”! It went up about twenty feet and just stared down at me. It took me 3 trips to bring everything in and “Jack” was intently watching me go back and forth from on high!

Of course after putting away everything I took some shots of poor old Jack before I left. I apologized, thanked him and left.

Getting back to the boat was ok but the water was already about waist deep. Another half hour and I’d be getting wet!

After getting home I reviewed the footage. The videos were a disaster! I found there was way too much organic debris in the water for beginners and that there was saltwater in the pool! (normally at low tide the stream flushes that deep pool of saltwater)

The saltwater makes the video image fuzzy but the freshwater makes it crystal clear! The stream was flowing so weakly that It couldn’t flush this deep pool of saltwater. So all the salmon are not only fuzzy but hard to see!

The reason I explained this process in detail is to show you “one” my failures. People always say they love my shots but there is a price to pay (in behind the scenes) that you never get to hear about.

Basically, I make mistakes and learn how to do it better! I’ve always said “the person who makes the most mistakes (and learns from them!) will end up with the best shots”

Moral of the story……do not take any salmon videos during a drought!

61 thoughts on “CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE FURRY KIND

  1. Wayne, you are a great story teller.Your encounters with the 2 bears were too funny. Especially with the older bear who climbed the tree to be safe from you, while you were wanting to get your canoe stored. Reminds me of Thomas Edison and his experiments with electricity. He had thousands of failures before he had success. Your photos are very special when you get that rare and excellent photo shoot. You are persistent and do not give up so get some fantastic shots along with failures. 😎

  2. When my soul hears your story of trial and error and dogged persistence in pursuing the perfect shot, I am humbled to be in the presence of a master craftsman. Thank you for sharing your work and your honest story with its flaws and good humor. It displays the best of the human spirit.

  3. Hi Wayne, good shots of ol’ Jack. Your story made me laugh. Artist of all description only show our final finished successes. Our admirers don’t seen the multi coloured fondant ball where I lost my temper with a project and scrunched it up. Or the broken failures in the bin, or the odd cake on the lawn for the birds to eat. I told another artist friend of mine that I have failures. Sometimes the wired petals for a flower break or collapse. Sometimes I spend a whole day on a fondant piece that doesn’t work. Sometimes I struggle to get things supported like spouts on teapots and lions on cake bridges. She was so surprised because she thought I was infallible. It made her feel better about her own failures.

  4. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at all the turmoil you describe for decent photo ops, Wayne. You really are adventurous in your attempts and it was intriguing reading about your latest adventure. In any case, your bear shots are amazing!

  5. What a lot of work to get those outstanding photos. That bear looks young – maybe that is why he (she) was more scared of you than vice-versa. Anyway, a nice bear! Greast story!

  6. This is awesome in so many ways, Spielberg would agree. The pictures are top-notch but only the director knows how much film is used and never shown. The story behind the pictures today made my morning, and I smiled at your gumption and honesty. 5 Star post. Loved it.

  7. Whoa! Quite the adventure you had that day. You are willing to experiment with the photo pursuits. Some will fail but you will learn and I am sure they will get better and be very successful. Nice photos of the bear. Be careful out there!

  8. Oh Wayne, you had me on the edge of my seat with this crazy adventure. Incredible what you go through in your photography endeavors. I really appreciated the details here and all the layers of the challenges. And your experience with bears is absolutely stunning.

  9. I love this tail of woe and hillarity! I am sorry the video wasn’t better. I had no idea that fresh water is clear and salt water blurry. I am glad a) didnt fall over b) lose your equipment to Yogi!

  10. What an ordeal that you have to go through to get pictures and/or videos and if the video(s) had been successful, we would have commented on them and not known all the effort you went through for that particular video. I can imagine your face when you saw Yogi marching toward the camera bag or with big furry paws with claws headed toward the boat. I’m sure you lost a year of your life (if not more) just on this one outing! The marshes and lagoons at the bigger parks where I go are dry as a bone – it was pretty incredible to stand on an overlook and see nothing but mud. Up to Halloween, the month of October had only been 6/10s of an inch of rain and we are down almost 10 inches of rain this year. I guess the snow didn’t help – I feel for the animals, from the ones who must drink or bathe in it to the frogs and other amphibians who have lost their home and will die.

  11. Wayne!! What a story! This was adventure and survival, thinking on your feet and being brave. You were Indiana Jones. You scared a bear up a tree, saved your equipment, and managed to get a few good photos. Hats off to you!

  12. But you got that wonderful shot of Jack up in the tree! On a recent trip to Canada I so wanted to run across a bear, and though I saw two, they were running away from me. I couldn’t even get a terrible shot before they were just black smudges in the trees. I envy your encounters with such beautiful wildlife. And that was cool learning about your efforts to film salmon!

    1. Jack isn’t the first bear that ran up a tree because of them being afraid of me.
      If you want good pictures of bears you need to go where the food is and they’ll come to you, rather than run away!
      Go to a place that has a salmon run. Not sure where you are, but going where the food is always works for me!

  13. Hi
    I visited your site. I can read some blog . Beautiful & excellent photography. So clearity photo shoot. I like. Beautiful write up blog.

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