Can we learn anything from animals that hibernate? Absolutely!
You’ve landed on one of 28 posts about photography and how to improve your skills. If you’re a creative, blogger, or photography enthusiast, you’ve landed in the right spot!
A Bear Story from a National Park
“Bears need their mothers,” the park ranger explained to my group of students. “Do you know what happens when they’re orphaned?”
“They die?” one of the students guessed.
“Sometimes,” the ranger said. “But if the bear is old enough, it just might survive on its own.”
“Has that ever happened in the park?” another student asked.
“About four years ago,” the ranger said, “we put a radio collar on a young bear that had lost his mother. We kept track of it all winter long, hoping it would make it through. In the springtime, we discovered what happens when a bear cub doesn’t have its mother around.”
“It died?” the first student said.
“No. We flew over a mountain in the spring and saw a big, brown boulder sticking up out of the snow. Our radio tracker beeped, so we dropped down closer and realized the brown boulder was the young bear with his head stuck into a snow cave.”
“Why wasn’t he all the way inside?” a student asked.
“Evidently, he didn’t learn from his mother not to dig his place to hibernate on the south side of the mountain.”
We all laughed, and the ranger went on to explain how the young bear had survived against the odds, despite his poor choice to hibernate on the wrong side of the mountain.
What We Can Learn from How Bears Hibernate?
We can learn from bears and their habits.
1. Choose your spot wisely.
Bears can hibernate just about anywhere, including under porches, in hollow trees, snow caves, or natural caves. Likewise, we can sleep just about anywhere. But our best rest happens when we have the most comfortable and safest surroundings.
2. Rest regularly.
Bears hibernate every winter, without fail. Scientists have discovered how captive bears struggle to maintain a healthy weight if they get fed year-round. Zoos have started restricting their captive bears’ food supplies in the fall, and the captive bears hibernate. The hibernation allows them to maintain their regular rhythms of rest. Do you have a day each week set aside for rest?
3. Bear don’t actually sleep the whole time.
Contrary to popular belief, bears don’t sleep the whole time they hibernate. They get up and move around, but they don’t eat, drink, urinate, or defecate for three to seven months, depending on where they live.
When we rest, we don’t have to stay in bed all day long (or avoid using the bathroom) but we should take a break from the things that normally fuel us. What would happen if we took a day to hibernate from social media, busyness, striving, housework, homework, any kind of work. Walk around outside. Spend time with your cubs or other important people in your life.
4. Ignore Your Cubs
Believe it or not, mother bears give birth while they hibernate. The cubs fend for themselves for the first few months of their lives while mama bear sleeps. We once had a mama bear and her cub climb a tree next to our house and stay there for 24 hours. Why? Apparently, the mama needed a rest. She made sure baby stayed above her in the tree, and she dozed.
I don’t advocate letting your children run amok for months on end while you hibernate. But mamas need rest, too. Delegate more duties to your kids at an age-appropriate level. You don’t have to do it all. Really. Check in to a local hotel for a night and let your partner take care of the home front for 24 hours. Return the favor.
Tips for Photographing Bears
Use a telephoto lens.
In order to respect wildlife, you’ll want to stay far away, which means you’ll need a telephoto lens and possibly a converter. I shoot with a Canon 6D and an EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens. Ninety percent of the time, I shoot from my vehicle.
Meter off the bear.
Because of their dark color, make sure you have your DSLR metered for the bear, not the surrounding area.
Bump Your ISO up a bit.
Increase your ISO to help with the difficult lighting.
Shoot on [Manual] mode so you can control the aperture and shutter speed.
If you see cubs, back away slowly.
Despite their cuteness, baby cubs come with mama bears. And mama bears don’t like anything getting between them and their offspring.
Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
No contest, bears can run much faster than you can. Bear spray works best at 10-15 feet. Imagine a 300-pound angry animal running at you, and you allow it to get across the room from you before you depress the canister of bear spray. Did I mention how fast bears run? 35 miles per hour.
Never hike alone.
From all the reports and books I’ve read, bears tend to prey on lone humans more often than groups of humans. Whatever you do, don’t read Night of the Grizzlies while sleeping in your tent alone in a National Park known for its bear population.
Bears don’t like surprises, so keep up a conversation or listen to a book on speaker while you hike. This lets the bear know humans are nearby.
My daughter and I have thrown rocks at a black bear while out hiking in Arizona. This usually does the trick. You can also try talking to the bear as if it were a naughty dog. “Go away, bear. Move it.”
Most people don’t have bears in their backyard or grazing in the verge next to their local highways. But you can still practice your photography skills!
If you have a black or dark brown pet, practice photographing it in different lighting situations. This might not work if you have a black lab, because your lab will want to snuggle with you, not post politely in a field of flowers.
If you don’t have any pets, offer a free photoshoot to a friend who has one.
Come Back Tomorrow
In tomorrow’s installment of 28 Days Behind the Lens I’ll share my experience photographing Dall Sheep in Denali National Park.