Creating A New Look For Old Bears

After eleven summers photographing Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears (also known as “Grizzly Bears”) I’ve come up with quite a few nice shots and tried a lot of different ideas for creating compelling portraits of them. So this year I decided to try something new to give some of my favorite mammals a new look…

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Alaskan Brown Bear, Nikon D70 Lifepixel Infrared
Nikon 200-400mm f/4 lens.

I spent several days working mostly in Infrared with the Nikon D70 that Lifepixel converted for me.

Because the camera is a true conversion instead of a filter I am able to use the viewfinder to focus and the camera is able to correctly calculate the exposure (although both are just a tad off due to the nature of IR, so it is best to use a little smaller aperture than usual with a converted camera to get additional depth of field and I normally dial in +1/3 stop of exposure compensation to get the best possible metering).

Sure enough the bears’ portraits in IR were well worth capturing. As with other subjects the IR version of my D70 had better sharpness than the same camera ever did photographing in color. I kept the ISO to 400 or below to minimize noise, and simply ran nik’s Raw Sharpener on the images and then converted them to Black & White (really grayscale) using my favorite “IR Preset” in nik SilverEfex.

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Even this “not very attractive” bear had his best brought out by Infrared
Nikon D70 Lifepixel converted, 200-400mm f/4 lens

The bears’ fur seemed particularly well suited for the dramatic effect of Infrared:

djc_9133This image could almost be a charcoal or pen and ink drawing of a bear

Am I going to stop taking color images of these bears? Of course not. But for a unique effect they are yet another subject where new tools open new creative possibilities.

If you’re interested in joining me and capturing images like these of your own I’ll be leading photo safaris here again in 2011 and it is easy to learn more or sign up online.—David