Bear Witness A photo essay by Clemens Vanderwerf

Though he lives in Florida, photographer Clemens Vanderwerf specializes in images from cold-weather climates, and his portfolio includes shots of the Arctic and Antarctic. In 2011, the Dutch native made his first trip to Alaska, where the wildlife and the raw beauty of the landscape captivated him. Since his inaugural visit, he returns to Alaska about twice annually. He calls it a “true privilege” to be around all the unspoiled wilderness, fresh air and beautiful vistas. Further, he says, “There are not a lot of places like Alaska left in the world. With my images, I hope to create an awareness that we have an obligation to protect our natural environments.” The following images are from Katmai National Park and Preserve.

One early August, the brown bears were busy fishing, but this sow took a nap. Looking for a good angle, I decided to step into the water to get eye-level with her. As I fired away, she rolled onto her back and continued sleeping. Her relaxed and contented pose makes me laugh every time I look at this image.
This bear had been fishing steadily but took a break to enjoy the water that rose quickly with the incoming tide.
When bears fish in close proximity of each other, fights over productive spots often break out.
A sow charges after a salmon in shallow water.
After a couple of hours on the tidal flats, a bear takes a break from hunting fish stranded by a receding tide.
A sow watches her 3-year old cub play in the grass.
At low tide, bears often walk the tidal flats in search of clams.
Sows teach their cubs life skills, such as when, where and how to fish. Here, she’s carrying a chum salmon to a place where her cubs can eat in peace.
Created By
Alaska Magazine MMN


photography by Clemens Vanderwerf

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