Great Bear Rainforest - Day Seven and Eight

Posted on 22nd November, 2023

Our last full day - how can a week go so quickly? We got up early for a quick dip in the hot springs at Bishop Bay - I was somewhat ambivalent about doing this but in fact it was lovely - like a giant and constantly hot bath! Before that I found myself photographing rocks, yet again - it was so still at dawn and the colours were just glowing.

Today was largely dedicated to seeing if we might see a spirit bear, with a visit to one of the viewing platforms on Gribbell Island. I don't know why, but I was somehow sure that we wouldn't see one - of course I hoped I was wrong but we'd had such a crazy amount of luck so far, and the lack of water in the rivers made me think it would be unlikely.

We were met by Marven Robinson, who's been guiding bear trips such as these for many years and is hugely knowledgeable about them. Just listening to his stories was amazing. Less amazing were the black flies - argh! - we were warned they were bad and came dressed accordingly, but they really were BAD... Black flies aside, it was a beautiful stretch of river and I found myself distracted by some hypnotic reflections on the water's surface.

For the most part though, we just watched the salmon and, as with so many things, the more time you spend looking, the more you see and the more you learn. Even on a bright sunny day, the shade made for surprisingly low light so any photos were at pretty high ISO and very much at the end of my reach.

I gave up on the idea of getting some amazing salmon action shot ;) but did enjoy making use of the reflected light on the water's surface and waiting for a salmon to move into a suitable spot so I could combine the two. We were visited several times by a Steller's jay and, amazingly, by another wolf who crossed the stream just below us - extremely rare!

Not the best photo and a massive crop, but I've included just for the lovely markings - a very handsome creature. However, no bears appeared - Marven did see some black bears fishing upstream but they didn't make their way down to the viewing area and, after about 5 hours or so, we made a group decision to head back to the boat.

It's amazing how quickly that time went and it really was fascinating watching the salmon. I have great admiration for wildlife photographers that spend days on end in a hide, waiting and waiting - definitely not in my psyche to do that, but then that is also reflected in the way I tend to go about my landscape photography.

Back on the boat and we headed north up Devastation Channel watching logs and birds pass by. I loved these two little Bonaparte gulls having a little rest - another massive crop, but just an example of the many fun sights we would see most days. The mountainous scenery was stunning but, with it being a blue sky day, the light was quite harsh until the sun got low in the sky.

We then started to enjoy some lovely rays of light, illuminating the steep slopes of the forested hillsides. And we also started to see large numbers of humpback whales again.

Lovely light, and multiple humpbacks - all we really needed them to do was swim in the right direction for the perfect backdrop and that intense, angular ray!

The humpback whales had read the script, it seemed! And of course our crew were always great at manoevring the boat to allow opportunities such as this, so we all spent 15 minutes or so enjoying watching the whales swim and dive, repeatedly, in the most glorious setting and with wonderful light. And of course it's not just the watching, it's the listening too - so powerful and so peaceful.

I usually try to avoid flare when shooting backlit scenes but in fact it can add a fun little extra ingredient and here I think it does, in particular balancing out the composition and allowing me to include a bit of the diagonal ray.

What a magical last evening, as the whales just kept coming, their spumes wonderfully backlit by the setting sun and offset by the dark tones of the hillside, now in deep shade. As ever it's been hard to be selective, and I guess I may just have got a bit carried away, again... ;)

That said, there were other distractions all the while, with gorgeous light looking the other way and the shoreline grabbing back my attention yet again - such an alluring combination of wood and rock, the low sun picking out every little texture. It took a few goes to get the composition right, but I was happy with my final attempt.

And then pulled back the other way again, as the humpbacks were still going - giving us one, stunning, last senerade as we headed for our final anchorage, and now exactly where I'd hoped they/we would end up for the picture I had in my head.

Without doubt my favourite humpback picture of the week, though I have a few iterations of the same. We enjoyed watching them a little longer still, but you have to stop somewhere.

We anchored in Sue Channel and had our final, delicious meal cooked by Laura - scallops - goodness knows how she managed to cook fish to such perfection with these pesky whales delaying us all the time, but manage she did!

A beautiful last evening as the light faded. As a matter of interest, once it was dark I also took a couple of photos on the iphone and it was only when I actually looked at what I'd taken, a day or so later, that I realised there had been a faint showing of the Northern Lights too - not very obvious to the human eye but very clear to the camera.

There was no particular need to get up early, but I'd got used to doing so and wanted to enjoy our last sunrise. It was strange to find myself the only person out on deck for the first time!

Beautiful, tranquil and just lovely to witness dawn for one last time in such a special place. There was almost a full moon too and I noticed both moon and an illuminated cloud from the rising sun were reflected in the rippled water's surface.

My last photo on the big camera! Our final morning was spent travelling the short distance up to Kitimat, accompanied by humpack whales of course! I could quite happily have kept on going another week - but sadly that wasn't an option! Definitely one of the best weeks of my life in surely one of the most amazing places in the world. Our crew of Neil, Ilan, Laura and Liron were absolutely amazing and without their knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm, the trip would not have been half as special.

My sadness at leaving the boat was in part counter-balanced by anticipation for the next part of our trip - 10 days on Vancouver Island - somewhere I'd always wanted to visit. Next blog or several will cover our time there I hope.