A chance to see wild bears in action

Wild bear

It’s not every day you get the chance to see wild bears in action – caught on camera as they catch wild salmon in their mouths at Brooks Falls in the Gulf of Alaska.

But that’s what Kevin Dennes enabled a packed room of residents at the Beauty Point Retirement Resort to do recently when he showed them a series of amazing photos he’d taken when he was at Brooks Falls in 2007.

Kevin has been a professional photographer since he was 18 and during that time, the bulk of his work was in the medical and scientific field of photography. But his own personal interest was always in taking photos of wildlife. As he said: “My own particular interest was taking photos in Africa and in the Antarctic and the Arctic – and of course the bears in Alaska.”

You may recognise these photos
At his presentation, Kevin told the audience they’d probably recognise these photos because they’re all shot in the same place that John West© used to shoot those salmon ads for so many years.

“This is the best place in the world you can get up close enough to actually get a good photo of the salmon jumping through the air. They’re trying to get over the falls as they swim upstream to the very place where they spawn, and of course, the bears will always be there waiting for them at the top of the falls.”

Kevin says getting a photo of the bear just as they grab the salmon in their jaws is a matter of timing as the photo has to be taken at the right “split second,” – usually at about ½,000th of a second!

After 2800 photos – the perfect one!
“You have to take the chance and take photos as fast as you can. I took about 2800 photographs to get the one photograph I was after,” he adds, showing us an amazing photo of a bear catching a salmon in its mouth, perfectly at the right moment.

When asked where the market is for this type of photograph. Kevin says an American wholesale travel bureau, selling travel in Alaska. He added: “It was used for several brochure covers and therefore it had to be of high quality.”

Getting to the right vantage point
Many of the places Kevin has taken photos in have not been easy to get to and Brooks Falls in the Gulf of Alaska is no exception. As he said: “You have to fly from Lake Hood in Anchorage by sea plane and then you have to fly for about four hours and land on the Brook’s Lake. Then you walk through the bush, along the Brook’s River for about two kilometres to the Brooks Falls.”

“The bush land is all bear country and one has to be very much on alert at all times.  As an aside, there are more seaplanes at Lake Hood than in the whole of the South Pacific! And there are more licensed aircraft pilots, per head of population living in Anchorage than any other city in the world!”

Once Kevin reached the right vantage point at Brooks Falls in the Katmai National Park, he had to work fast because he knew his time would be limited: “We flew from Lake Hood very early. We knew we had to fly back by seaplane and the seaplanes have to land before dark at approximately 9pm – so we knew we only had so much time at the falls,” he said.

“I was there at the peak of the salmon run. This is the only place you can get a shot like this. The bears are gorging themselves so they can build up their fat stores for hibernation. They eat the heads, the roe and the skin of the salmon – but they don’t eat the flesh,” he explained. “That is left for the seagulls!”

Fourth time lucky for Beauty Point residents
This is the fourth time Kevin has shown some of his amazing photos at Beauty Point Retirement Resort. Previously he treated residents to a series of photos he’d taken on a tour of East Africa and later he showed some of his best photos from a tour of the Antarctic and at another, of the Arctic.

“I’ve done a tremendous amount of travel – most of it paid by someone else,” he said. “I’ve travelled on the seven continents and it’s been a wonderful experience for me.”

At one time, Kevin worked for the Etosha Lion Research  Centre in Namibia. This was a National Geographic research project. So most of the photography he did for them was used for research material to be used in scientific papers etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Dennes and his amazing photos from Africa and Alaska

Kevin Dennes, a resident of Beauty Point Retirement Resort since late last year, recently presented some of the amazing photos he took when he led a group of photographers on a tour of Africa in 2014. A couple of months later, Kevin showed some of his best photos from a tour of the Antarctic in 2011.

So for anyone who missed these wonderful presentations, here’s a selection of some of Kevin’s best photos from these presentations.

Kevin has been a professional photographer since he was 18 and for most of his life, he worked in the medical and scientific field, developing some photographic techniques that are still used to this day. But on the more personal side, he says: “My own particular interest was travelling to and taking photos in Africa, in the Antarctic, the Arctic – and the bears in Alaska.”

“I’ve done a tremendous amount of travel – most of it paid by someone else,” Kevin adds. “I’ve traveled and photographed on the seven continents and it’s been a wonderful experience for me.”

At one time, Kevin worked for National Geographic but most of the photography he did for them was used for research material. During the time he worked with National Geographic, he says the company did a lot of photography purely for research purposes and these photos weren’t for use in the magazine etc.

Assignment in Namibia

“In 1978 I had my first assignment doing lion research photography in Namibia at the Etosha Lion Research Institute which was a wholly-owned National Geographic project,” says Kevin. “It was in the Etosha Pan – right up near the Angolan border. The zebra and wildebeest and a great range of antelopes would migrate over the Angola border in their annual migration in search of greener pastures and they’d get shot for meat and trophies, which raised a huge amount of money for those organising the trophy hunts.

“In order to slow some of this migration down, they put spear points down to reach the water table  and this way the windmills would keep water permanently in the water holes. It saved a large amount of the lions, leopards and other cats by having permanent prey down at the Etosha Pan. They won’t migrate if there is plenty of food for them,” he said.

In July and August of 2014, Kevin took four groups of photographers to Africa on a various tours. “Africa is an extremely large continent and most of the photography I’ve done there has been in Eastern and Southern Africa,” he adds.

“Here is an olive bee-eater which flies very quickly and this was a very difficult shot to get,” says Kevin. “It takes an absolute fraction of a second to get this just right – to get the wings in exactly the right position” he adds. This photo was taken in Kenya.
This is a photo of a tawny eagle with a spitting cobra that he’s just caught. “Photographers worldwide would give a lot to have been there in order to get this shot,” says Kevin. “You’ve got to be very lucky to get a shot like this. I would trade a lot of other shots I’ve taken to get this one of the eagle – to get the wings in just the right position and the snake is obviously still alive. You might go back 1000 times to the same spot and not get a chance to get a shot like this again,” he adds.

 

Here we see two Walruses as they gaze at the camera. Kevin says they are part of a group of Walruses and they gather in herds to protect themselves from the polar bears. “Most walruses weigh over a tonne,” adds Kevin.
This is a stunning photo of a polar bear looking right at the camera. Kevin says if he was on the ice, seeing a polar bear up this close would be extremely dangerous – “You would die!” Luckily, he took this photo from the ship and he would have been around five metres from the bear. Kevin says he likes this photo because the bear is “looking straight at me.”

 

 

 

 

 

Here we have a six-metre long Nile crocodile attacking a wildebeest as the herd tries to cross the Mara River in Kenya. According to Kevin, the crocodiles know the wildebeest and zebras will need to cross the river at certain times of the year so they wait for them. The wildebeest have to cross the river in order to get to areas where it’s rained and there’s more feed. The wildebeest and zebras do this migratory trek at certain times of the year. As you can imagine, this was a difficult shot to get and Kevin adds: “I had to wait about six hours to get this shot. I know how the system works. If you see a herd of wildebeest you know they will cross at some time that day – particularly if the zebras come and join near them.”

 

Here we see a grizzly bear eating wild salmon at Brooks Fall at Katmai National Park in south-west Alaska. Kevin says he had to fly for four hours by light plane, land on a lake and then hike to this spot to take this photograph. “This has to be one of the most photographed places ever of grizzlies catching salmon,” Keven says. “Remember the John West ad where the guy goes out and catches one of the salmon jumping upstream? Well that was all filmed here,” he adds. “Millions of fish jump as they struggle their way back to where they were born three years previously. The bears each have their own spot where they catch fish from and they’ll fight to the death to protect their spot. So it was a very difficult shot to get. I took about 2000 shots before I got two or three shots of this sort of quality. You’ve just got to keep shooting!”
Here we see a magnificent large male leopard lounging in a tree in Tanzania. Kevin took this photo while on the photographic tour of Africa in 2014.