Cowichan Valley photographer takes third spot

It’s the kind of photo that makes you want to turn and run the other way — if you weren’t so captivated by what you’re looking at.

It’s the kind of photo that makes you want to turn and run the other way — if you weren’t so captivated by what you’re looking at.

Perhaps that’s why Cobble Hill-based photographer Melanie Leeson earned third place in the BC SPCA’s 2015 Wildlife-in-Focus Photography Contest in the Wild Settings Category for her photo of a running bear that looks like it’s about to leap out of the photo and onto your lap.

Leeson took the photo last year up by Port Hardy, but can remember the circumstances like it was just yesterday.

“We were having a moment,” she said with a chuckle. “What happened is the bear was in a fight with another bear over a fishing hole. It was a male and when he broke out of the fight, he ran straight at us.”

Leeson said at that point she really only had two choices.

“I said ‘you know what, I can either keep clicking away or I can run and running’s not going to help’ so I might as well keep clicking away.”

That’s how she got her award-winning shot.

“We were in a tidal area and had the tripods set up on slippery rocks so it wasn’t one of those run situations,” she admitted.

The bear did end up making a hard right-hand turn at the last second, just before he got to the photographers, so it all worked out in the end.

Leeson said while slightly terrifying, she never felt she was in significant danger.

“They’ve got fish to eat and they’re happy,” she explained. “They’re just willing to tolerate us in their space for a little while.”

More than 600 entries were submitted to the SPCA’s annual summertime nature photography contest, raising $4,085 for wild animals in need in B.C.


Leeson and Crofton’s Shannon Reiner, who earned an honourable mention in the Backyard Habitats category with her photo of a Cooper’s Hawk, were the only Cowichan residents to place, though in a testament to the region’s natural wonder, five of the six top finishers and seven of the 16 finalists overall (including honourable mentions) were from Vancouver Island.

“We live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and are surrounded by such a diversity of wild animals throughout the province,” said Dr. Sara Dubois, BC SPCA chief scientific officer. “The photos of our local wildlife captured by such a wide range of photographers are absolutely stunning.”

Visit to see all of the finalists’ submissions.

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