Patience pays off for wildlife photographer Peter Sulzle

Black Bear CubI received an e-mail recently from a friend remarking on how lucky I was to be able to spend time in the outdoors practicing the art of wildlife photography. Little did she know that while reading her letter, I was hunkered down in my minivan waiting out a two-day rainstorm in the Alberta Rockies. Nor did she know I was on day three of seeing very few photographic opportunities, and had suffered one day of torture in the form of those famous hummingbird-sized Alberta mosquitoes.

My purpose on this particular photography adventure was to shoot black bears. It was obvious that I should have checked the weather forecast before venturing out, but as many travellers know, the weather in the Rocky Mountains can be somewhat unpredictable with the ability to change at a moment’s notice.

On day four, when everything seemed to be going my way weather-wise, my spirits were lifted when I met a couple of professional photographers who told me the whereabouts of a mother bear and her two new cubs. The morning had already passed however and as the three bears had a routine of taking a nap at midday I was forced to wait until the late afternoon for an opportunity to see them.

So it was back to camp to wait out the afternoon before it was time to make my way back to the area of fresh greens and seclusion where the bear was last seen.

Patience paid off and there she was leisurely feasting near a patch of dandelions, but there was no sign of the cubs. An hour went by and still there was no sign of the little ones and mother bear was on her way back to the privacy of the woods. The cubs were likely safe and snug in a tall tree out of sight. Anyway, that was all she wrote for that day. My patience was wearing thin once more and I wondered if I’d see the cubs before it was time to make my way back home the following day. Another night in the van with a book was in store for me once more.

Early the next morning, I made my way back to the bear’s favorite area and was happy to see the two pro photographers were already on the scene and the cubs were out with mom and full of energy. Finally, I was able to observe and photograph the baby bears. Those long hours waiting and weather spoiled days were all a distant memory.

There’s nothing in the world like watching bear cubs at play, and getting a few images of them was a real treat. This time patience and hard work paid off, but it wasn’t easy.

Next time you’re at the newsstand and see all those amazing wildlife photographs, think of the men and women who invested their time to capture those images for us all to see.

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