Grizzly Bears and the Teachable Moment


We have an ongoing debate, Joey and I.  Me of the “I must have every focal length covered from 15mm to 600mm” and he of the “I have to know what I can and what I can’t do” keep going ’round and ’round with it.  I want to be prepared for whatever life throws at me.  He charges straight ahead into life and it will be what it will be.  Different philosophies, different approaches, different results.

Joey recently posted (see here) a dollop of sage advice which ties directly to the way he sees the world and the style of photography he embraces.  In a similar vein, we were just talking about the possibility of an upcoming trip to the Canadian Rockies.  We would hike there, capture grand landscapes and then…

… I brought up the fact that the National Parks in question, including Banff and Jasper, are known for containing some impressive wildlife.  I asked Joey how he could ever conceivably approach the possibility of a grizzly in the wild… carrying only a 50mm or perhaps 24mm equivalent lens.  As I asked him about this, I, of course, plotted my own plan of having fast and long glass attached to a very capable camera that was equipped to handle such a possibility.  In my mind, I visualized the stunning grizzly shots that would be mine for the taking.

His response went something like this:  “A grizzly bear?  What would I do with a grizzly bear shot in my portfolio?  Where would it fit?”

I’ve been thinking about that comment ever since as well as the photographic lesson it contains.  My instinct was to jump to the conclusion that a stunning, close and highly detailed photo of a grizzly bear is obviously something that any self-respecting photographer would love to have in his or her portfolio.  Of course!

But Joey’s reply suggests a radically different mindset.  It is proof positive of his “I have to know what I can and what I can’t do” mantra.  A bear shot would be cool, but for his collection of subtle gray tone black & white and subdued color fine art images, a photo of a grizzly bear would stick out like sore thumb.

Know what you can and can’t do…

I like higher contrast black and white shots.  Still lifes.  Urban landscapes.  National park scenes.  Textures in nature.  Manmade patterns.  Images such as the one above.  These are what my eyes are drawn towards.

It’s time to pare down.

Shots of grizzlies are cool.  Just not for me.


  1. Interesting post. Joey is wise for his age (or any age for that matter). I am not sure what philosophy I follow here, but I feel I am a hybrid of sorts. I like having a zoom with me, but I also look for the less obvious “grand” photos that others look for. I have photos of grizzlies from Denali. They are fun to look at, but certainly not my best photos overall in my opinion. Below are two photos of mine. The first is a “nondescript” photo that could have been taken anywhere, but I really like it. The second is a grizzly shot from Alaska. A lovely photo also, but neither is better than the other in my humble opinion.

    Keep up the good ‘work’. Rodney


    • Thanks, Rodney. Nice grizzly. You may have singlehandedly convinced me that my entire post was wrong. Kidding. Sort of… 😎


      • Ha Ha. Thanks Rey. Always good to keep thinking and adjusting as we move forward :0). I do have a follow up question… is the last line in the post yours? Or Joey’s? Grizzly shots not for you or not for Joey? Grizzly shots are awesome! But there are other awesome shots besides grizzlies. That was the point I was trying to make, but not sure I made it accurately. I am sure that makes it all clear as mud!


      • Hey Chip45323 – the line is mine. No grizzlies for me. Joey has convinced me. Only took him 10 years but I concede. Thanks for your comment. Clear as day!


      • Alrighty. Just so you know Rey, chip45323 is Rodney :0). I don’t know why it sometimes says Rodney and sometimes it says chip45323? I wasn’t sure if you knew that comment was from me (Rodney)? Or if you thought it was a random commenter. Anyway… Love your photos no matter the subject :0)


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