I walked out across some open fields near the White Mountains tonight to photograph the sun setting way out over the mountains in the Pemigewasset Wilderness. I’d been driving some back roads checking a few of my favorite spots for bears, with little luck. Sugar Hill has to be one of the most stunning places to watch the sun set in the entire northeast, so even when your bear quest comes up empty, you’re still having a good evening out here. Later around sunset, when I stumbled over an old stone wall and into a maple tree full of newborn bear cubs, my evening got REALLY good. I was way out in the open, not a house or road in sight, just thin bands of old maples and birches following the stone walls here and there. The mother these cubs belonged to was nowhere in sight, so I leaned up against an old stump and made some photographs, the hair on my neck prickling a bit every time a heard a stick snap. Eventually their mother DID show up and chased me off (I saw her coming and I scooted back off the ridge without incident) but not before spending several unforgettable, intimate moments with this cub, the setting sun striking the side of his face and turning the tree he was perched in entirely gold.
Like any good bear cub under strict orders, he stayed up there until I left. These fleeting moments with wild bears are among the most treasured experiences of my life. Every time, it’s a gift.
Bonus photo tip: I’ve included another picture (below) showing what I saw when I first spotted the cub from a distance. See the little black lump, way up? The first picture, above, illustrates the true power of a telephoto lens! However, to get that crisp, golden photograph I wanted, it was important to skirt around to the opposite side of the tree, so I wasn’t photographing “into” or towards the setting sun. Otherwise, that’s a good way to get a boring, black silhouette! Always pay attention to the position of the sun in relation to your subject. If you can move YOURSELF, and your subject is stationary (like the cub, stuck in the tree until his mom came back), you have much more creative power to shoot the kind of image you really want.