Talk about iconic.
When I told people that I’d been to Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, each and every one of them would give me a blank stare. Whereupon, I would ask them if they’d seen photos of the bears standing at the waterfall with their mouths open, catching the salmon jumping up the falls. Then, the light bulb would turn on for them. Everybody is familiar with these iconic images, even if they don’t know the exact location.
Unless there is a sow with cubs at one of the other viewing platforms, the Brooks Falls Platform is by far the busiest, most crowded, most popular platform. So busy, as a matter of fact, that there is a ranger there during peak hours, clipboard in hand, taking names and allowing 1 hour of viewing time before those names are called and people are asked to move to make room for others waiting their turn.
The photo above makes it look like there’s not many people at the platform, but I can tell you for a fact that when this image was taken, both lower and upper tiers were crowded cheek-by-jowl with photographers, their tripods and their supertelephoto lenses. It was only thanks to a couple of forbearing photographers that I was able to squeeze in to a spot between them with my own tripod and (rented) supertelephoto.
My first morning at the falls presented me with just one bear and no salmon jumping. So, I screwed my 4-stop ND filter onto the lens and got in a little “silky water” practice….handheld! You see, the tripod bore the 500mm lens, so rather than take time to change out camera/lens combos, I just steadied my camera and 100-400mm lens on the railing of the platform and successfully achieved some silky-water shots.
Silky water shots aside, I definitely acquired my most dramatic bear images here at this platform.
My current plans – barring any unforeseen circumstances – are to return to the park in 2014. I urge those of you who can, to travel to the wild, remotely beautiful state of Alaska and visit this park to see the bears for yourself. It’s an amazing opportunity to view these creatures closeup and in their own environment (well, as close up as the National Park Service allows – if you are a photographer, a telephoto lens sure helps).
Oh, and if you are interested in knowing the details of where I stayed while in the park, go to this link. If you want to know about my gear and also the best times for photography at Katmai, click on this link to go to the article I wrote for the National Parks Traveler website. And, while you are at it, go to the Traveler’s Facebook page and Like them.