Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Photographer face to face with bear

David Yarrow's photo of a bear as the self-taught wildlife photographer promotes his new book, Encounter

This is the moment wildlife photographer David Yarrow came face to face with an adult brown bear in the wilds of Alaska.

The self-taught 47-year-old said the confrontation was his "one moment of real fear" during his travels to some of the most remote spots on Earth for his new book.

The encounter happened in the Katmai National Park, Alaska, which is home to thousands of wild brown bears.

Mr Yarrow said: " On arrival in Katmai, all visitors are given a 30-minute safety drill as to what to do in the unlikely event of an encounter.

"The prescribed courses of action are all counter intuitive - we must not run away and we are told to actually talk to the bear as we move deliberately but calmly to one side.

"Visitors are also encouraged never to travel alone through the woods in case of an encounter."

He said that one afternoon he disobeyed the final instruction and walked alone along a path to his sea plane.

Bears sometimes use the paths to get from one fishing spot to another, he added.

"As I turned a corner after a 20-minute walk through the woods, to my shock I was met with the sight of an approaching bear 80 yards away," he said.

"It says little for my general sense of self-preservation that, after the initial shock, I instinctively raised my camera and took one picture - the lack of crispness hints at my fast heartbeat and sense of haste.

"I then did as the safety drill instructed and stood to one side talking loudly to the bear. 'Good afternoon Mr Bear', were my exact words - repeated regularly and louder and louder with a pronounced elevation in each rendition.

"In retrospect, it was all rather comical, but the nearest human was at least a mile away. Luckily the bear did exactly what we had been assured they tend to do in Katmai and wandered off showing no interest in me whatsoever.

"But it is not the most relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and not too long after this incident, a photographer elsewhere in Alaska was killed by a bear."

That picture is just one of almost 90 black and white pictures of wildlife in some of the harshest landscapes on Earth that feature in his new book.

Others include two baby penguins helping each other climb an icy slope in Snow Hill, Antarctica, and a pair of polar bears confronting each other in Manitoba, Canada.

:: Encounter by David Yarrow is published by Clearview, in affiliation with conservation charity Tusk, on November 12.

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