So, I am quietly standing behind my camera, setting up a shot, when I feel someone tapping my shoulder. As you may have guessed, I was to say the least startled by the unexpected contact, since I was alone at the crack of dawn.
But what a tap it was. I did feel it was heavy and somewhat furry, but it didn’t strike me at first. It was only as the initial startle receded away that I realized how much trouble I was in. You see, the tap on the back was from a black bear. Now, one black bear, I can certainly handle (at least when not partially drowsy), but this guy had come with backup. Two of his buddies were standing on either side of him.
So, as I slowly recover from the second shock, the bear looks at me straight in the eyes and goes something like this: “rooooooaar”, which, in bear speak – I do dabble in bear speak-, means “what do you think you’re doing here?”. I decided to play it cool. So, not to be fazed, I am like “ya know, chillin’”. So the bear looks back at his buddies and goes “rawraarr” or in human speak “did you hear that fellas’? he’s just chillin’”. I could see the mean streak in his eyes. This guy wasn’t here for a friendly visit. Clearly, the approaching winter and cold nights had made him a little on edge. I knew trouble was in the air, but kept my cool. I had seen worse. But this is when things got hairy. Literally. Just like that, he lunged at me with a stiff arm, seeking to knock on off my feet. Fortunately, my MMA training had really sharpened my reflexes and sense of anticipation. As quickly as his sudden attack was, I ducked to my right, things slowing down like in the Matrix. I could see the expression of surprise on his face. He wasn’t going to like what was coming next. As he’s losing his balance, I spring forward, with my head down and strike him with all my force in the plexus. I can hear the thud and the following pfffft as he is gasping for air. His buddies seeing this decided to jump into action. They both jumped me, one on each side. I leaned forward, grabbed my tripod, unhooked the camera in a swift motion and was thankful my trusty titanium RRS ballhead was with me. I knew from experience that it could inflict some serious damage, and once again it didn’t fail me. Flailing my arms like a madman, with the tripod swinging in full force, I landed a first thud, then a second, the bears were knocked out cold. I took advantage of the calm that followed to setup the tripod like it was. Thankfully, my ND filters were still intact despite the battle. They came in handy to balance the exposure in the sky. I snapped a couple of shots and coolly walked to my car.
I don’t know what happened to the deadly trio after that. Nor did I care. I had my shot, and that’s all that matters.
This ladies and gentlemen, is what it takes to be a landscape photographer…