Trouble’s a bruin: B.C. photographer’s images of grappling grizzlies garner international acclaim

Two giant grizzly bears engaged in a territorial fight. (Wayne Duke photo)Two giant grizzly bears engaged in a territorial fight. (Wayne Duke photo)
A grizzly bear gets his meal. (Wayne Duke photo)A grizzly bear gets his meal. (Wayne Duke photo)
Two giant grizzly bears fight for the best fishing spot. (Wayne Duke photo)Two giant grizzly bears fight for the best fishing spot. (Wayne Duke photo)

Images from a Parksville wildlife photographer, who snapped photos of a pair of grizzly bears locked in a fierce battle, are garnering international media attention.

Wayne Duke’s photos recently caught the eye of the Daily Mail in Britain.

Duke, a regular contributor to the PQB News, captured the surly bruins growling at each other with their menacing teeth bared while in the Tahumming River in Toba Inlet.

He and four of his photographer friends chartered a boat from Campbell River for a day for the sole purpose of photographing grizzlies.

“I happened to come across a situation where two of them decided to do a little territorial dispute in the water,” Duke said. “I had some action shots of the two bears carrying on.”

The retired firefighter deals with a United Kingdom-based photo agency, which provides materials for publication in various newspapers, tabloids and magazines, including the Daily Mail.

“To witness the speed and sound of these two male grizzlies confronting each other over the best fishing spot for spawning salmon was incredible and breathtaking, even for a wildlife photographer,” said Duke.

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Grizzly bears are just one of the many wildlife creatures that Duke focuses on. His subjects include orcas, sea lions, foxes, mandarin and female wood ducks and more.

“Those are a few things that I am presently working on,” said Duke.

His passion for photographing wildlife has led him around the world to locations including Africa, Mexico and Europe.

“When an opportunity presents itself and I can do it, I will try to capture any wildlife that jumps in front of my lenses,” said Duke, a self-taught photographer.

Depending on where he goes, he said the quest is always exciting but there are also potential perils.

“You should know or have some sort of an idea of what you’re getting yourself into,” said Duke. “Always have a safe route in and out and know the animals you’re dealing with. There’s nothing that says their habits can’t change instantly. You have to be aware especially when the bears are feeding in the fall. A lot of the times they’re more concern about filling their bellies than they are with people. But things can happen if you are in the wrong spot.”

Duke said photographing wildlife is not as simple as lining subjects up for the desired shot.

“No wildlife just does what it wants to do,” said Duke. “If you’re lucky enough to catch a moment, then consider yourself fortunate.”

Aside from worrying about the subjects Duke aims to capture, he too has to worry about lighting conditions and the necessary adjustments he must make.

“That’s what photography is about, light,” said Duke. “So what your eye sees is what your camera sees. I don’t care how big or how good the lens you have. If it’s dark, it’s dark.”

Duke said learning how to use the equipment also helps. He advises taking a few of shots and then stopping to check your camera settings.

“You may lose a couple of photos but it’s always good to know what your settings are and that they are sufficient that you can continue,” said Duke. “Otherwise you’d end up with stuff that’s garbage.”

Duke said he has been fortunate over the years to have been able to purchase some of the best photography equipment available and calls it a worthwhile investment.

“It makes a difference, trust me,” said Duke. “I have looked at my photos that were taken before I bought my professional Nikon lens. I compared the photos after that. I was shooting myself in the pants for not buying the lens sooner than when I did.”

Michael.Briones@pqbnews.com

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