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Lake Clark, Alaska. I came upon this magnificent creature on a late summer afternoon. My guide and I were crossing the inlet when we spotted this large male 200-300 yards away. My guide advised me to slowly walk backward.

I had never seen such an enormous bear. He weighed at least 800-900 pounds, but his proximity made him appear even larger. The bear was aware of our presence but seemed unperturbed, so I took the opportunity to photograph him in his natural habitat. I tend to shoot low, I set my tripod as low as possible and dropped to one knee. He looked massive in my 600 mm Canon lens. I was surprised when he crept closer. Nothing can prepare you for seeing an animal that is four times your size, especially at close range. He walked so gracefully I could not take my eyes off of him, even as the guide asked me to move back.

He paused at about 15 feet away-his eyes were focused squarely on me, but his disposition was even-tempered, almost serene. My camera stopped focusing at about seven feet- right before I got this shot. Something caught his eye, and he looked to my left. As he continued past us, I felt his size, energy, and the sheer power. I was also somewhat amused to realize my guide had wisely decided to move back 50 feet.

That evening, in the relative comfort of my motel room, I reviewed the photos I had taken. I had expected the landscape images to be the keepers but this one took the blue ribbon.