Behind the Image: Bear Walking with Swan

I'm often asked, what my favorite photograph is & I can't really say I have a favorite. I do have an experience that ranks pretty high in my opinion. I created a series of photographs of a black bear walking in an impoundment next to and through tundra swan. It took place in December of 2012 with my granddad. We had arrived early that morning photographing the wintering waterfowl and after a few hours we stopped near the impoundment to take a break. We watched the swans fly in and out while eating snacks. Since I had been driving since 4am I decided to take a small nap. After a few minutes my granddad tapped my arm rapidly and said, "Hey, look whats coming!". I jumped up and saw a very large black bear entering the water. To see him clearly I jumped in the back of my truck and photographed him as he continued across.

The swan & ducks never flew off, they acted liked this was just another morning. He was a good distance away and I quickly put on my 2x extender to bring him closer within the frame.

The image above is my favorite of the sequence. It was the headline image for my 2013 photography exhibit for "Wild Pungo". The show ran for two months in the Snow Hill Museum and also ran for a month at the North Carolina Estuarium in Washington, NC.

Just before finally crossing, a small flock of ducks flew off near us. He stopped only for a moment and looked in our direction.

I've been trying to document this behavior again but haven't seen a bear cross this impoundement with swan since. Every time I visit the refuge and drive by this location, I think of this bear walking across. This is one of, if not, my favorite experience while photographing wildlife. 

Cheers, - Neil

Neil JerniganComment