While visiting one of my favorite hiking trails in the Croatan National Forest I was lucking enough to encounter a handsome Black Bear. My goal for that morning was to capture some woodland landscape photos along a scenic forest creek. I had spent a couple of hours making the planned photos and was quite pleased with my work.
On the way out of the forest, and only a hundred or so yards from where I parked, I spied a large bear feeding on leaves a few yards off the path. It’s no surprise that this large male bear spotted me as well. Our eyes met, he made a few huffing sounds, chomped his jaws together a few times, they scurried up a tree like a frightened kitten.
Fortunately, I rarely enter the forest without bringing a long lens along. This morning was no exception. Even though my plan involved making landscape style images using a wide angle lens, I had brought along my trusty Sigma 150-500 mm telephoto lens. In fact, as is my habit, I have the long lens mounted to my camera when moving through the woods. While I have plenty of time to set-up for landscape of macro photos, wildlife encounters are frequently quick and very short. It is simply better to be prepared than missing an opportunity.
Because of the density of the brush around the tree the bear had climbed, and the height of the tree, a handheld shot was going to be necessary. While I’d normally use the tripod, it just wasn’t going to work here. I slipped the camera off the tripod and inched in towards the bear looking for a clear line of sight for a photo or two. Handheld in a mix of dark shade with bright sunlight shining through isn’t the best recipe for a sharp photo, I counted on the optical stabilization system built into the lens to give me a reasonable chance. I’d say it turned out reasonably well.