Philippe Niquille
Photography - capturing moments

Wild bears of Kamchatka

There are few places on earth where one can experience true wilderness, as most areas are highly populated and harvested by men. To me, Kamchatka is still one of these places. With an area about the size of Germany and a population of a little more than 300k it is clearly dominated by nature. The peninsula is home to a special crater lake named ‹Kurile lake‹ on its southern tip. The area is full of local bears who eat lots of salmon. Some of the most impressive pictures of bears were probably taken right there. Hence I do understand why some people call it the ‹kingdom of brown bears›.

As the location is extremely remote, some local companies offer ferry flights in MI-8 helicopters (an experience by itself) from the capital Petropavlovsk to a camp site offering refuge to scientist who have been studying the bears for years.

The rangers show you around on their boats, which allows you to both get really close to the bears without disturbing them too much and effectively staying safe. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to mess with them. I have never seen so many bears at one single beach. Little ones, big ones, moms, single males.

Some of the details and textures of these animals are remarkable and only visible if you look at 100% crop images.

And this young guy tried to catch some fish but was out of luck.

After some time ‹Casanova› (that’s how the rangers called him) showed up and it was remarkable to see all of the others (in particular moms with pups) slowly vanish.

Casanova seemed to have had quite a few fights. At least his scars told that story ..

We did have some amazing encounters from within the camp. Interestingly, it was us humans who where fenced in for once.

On our way out in the MI-8 you could see some bear tracks in the high grass.

I shot most of the pictures on a Nikon D4 with a 70 – 200mm/2.8 or a D850 with a 80 – 400mm/5.6 at ISO around 1’000.