To an outsider, the life of an action sports photographer looks glamorous, but I reached a point where I was feeling stuck in a rut.
My career revolved around photographing the best skiers in the world, from Japan to Alaska, and in my own backyard of Whistler in British Columbia. It was great, but I wanted to explore more in the world of photography.
One area had always interested me—wildlife photography. What photographer doesn’t harbor a dream of seeing work in National Geographic with their name under it? Making the leap, or even a tentative step from one genre of photography, can be a tricky thing.
With my mind set on the wildlife world to expand my photographic horizons, I knew my first expedition was going to have to be a good one. After some research, I decided to keep things local and photograph grizzly bears in northern British Columbia. This has been done many times before, so I wanted to think of something to help set my work apart from the many others who had gone before me.
With the salmon run about to start, I knew I would be photographing bears fishing in the water and I wondered if I could float quietly amongst them in a kayak.
Photographing wildlife from a kayak
I purchased my very first boat—a big, stable sit-on-top kayak—specifically for this first weeklong expedition. It wasn’t just a wildlife photography learning experience for me. The beauty of photographing bears from the water level is the images seem much more intimate. As a viewer, you really get a sense you’re sharing a small part of the bear’s world for a few moments, rather than looking down on them from the shore as if at a zoo.
Bears don’t have any natural threats in the water, so they actually turned out to be relatively unconcerned with my presence if I kept my distance and stayed quiet.
On this particular day, I found a bear wading around through the water in the shadows. A single stray patch of sunlight was filtering through the trees and hitting the water nearby, so I sat in the shallows and waited. I was hoping he would walk through the sunlight, knowing the effect would be incredibly dramatic with such a dark backdrop.
I couldn’t believe my luck when he not only walked into the light but grabbed a salmon and started eating it right there. I knew right away it was a special moment—it gave me an adrenaline rush comparable to all of the action sports adventures I’d been on in the past.
Incredibly, my first trip turned out to be one of the most successful photographic adventures of my whole career. Ever since, I’ve factored wildlife photography into my work on a regular basis.
Dan Carr is a professional photographer based in Whistler, British Columbia. | Featured Photo: Daniel Carr