a18 October 2013

Meeting a brown bear and Smreczynski Staw

Smreczyński Staw Smreczyński Staw is a beautiful pond near Kościeliska Valley at the height of about 1200 meters above sea level.

It was a long and rather tiring climb but after a few hours we finally made it to Saddle below Kondracka Kopa (1863 meters above sea level). Unfortunately saddle welcomed us with freezing and very strong wind known as Halny what made it very difficult not only to take some photos but also to rest properly before going down. In fact initially we considered going further to 2005 meters onto Kondracka Kopa but due to the wind we altered our plans and decided to go back directly. After a short break to drink some liquids and eat some snacks we started our descent. It turned out to be even more tiring than the climb. Almost 10 kgs of photo equipment plus additional belongings seemed to be much heavier at this point. The stones seemed to be even more slippery than they were, when we had been climbing up. And the wind didn't make it any easier.

So after going for about 150 or 200 meters, we decided to take a break near some berries bushes. They provided some shelter from cold wind so I thought it's a great place for some quick rest. But soon after we had stopped we heard the voice somewhere from above:

- Do you see it? - I was too tired to realize that it was me and my girlfriend who were supposed to answer.
- Do you see it? - the voice asked the same question for the second time, louder this time and almost at the same time I saw a woman walking down with a small girl. At this stage I realized that we should probably answer.
- What "it"?
- There was a female bear with two children when I was ascending. She was very close to the road and I'm not sure if it's safe to go down or go back up and try finding another route.

That was quite a shock. Bears at this time of year are especially dangerous and female bears with children are even more aggressive because they want to protect their kids (quite natural I would say). And there is one more thing - when bears eat a lot of fruit (like berries or peaches for instance) they're fermenting in their stomachs what make bears behave as after drinking alcohol. So drunk bear, wanting to sleep and being extra anxious about their kids didn't seem like the best that could happen to us.

Still we decided to continue our descent (as climbing up again wasn't something I was very keen on), walking cautiously and paying extra attention to our surroundings. Initially, for about 50 meters, there was nothing suspicious but then we saw them - beautiful brown bear family calmly eating berries... They were about 75 meters or so from us. Not too close but not too far either. They could quickly get close to us if they wished to. Luckily they didn't notice us (or maybe they just didn't care about scared tourists?). I don't remember much from this point apart from the fact that we virtually run down the steep slope. The stones weren't that slippery anymore and the equipment became very light. The wind disappeared somewhere as well.

It was a scary experience but I also find myself very lucky. Meeting such beautiful animals in their natural environment is one of the most beautiful things under the sky. They're at home, we're intruders (or guests) there. For that reason I find it very sad that so many people don't know how to behave in parks, forests, mountains. They're shouting, laughing so loudly that animals seem to be scared or feeding them by leaving sandwiches near the track... I saw all these during last week. Unfortunately.

I didn't take any photo of the bears and now I'm a bit disappointed about that as this could be my only chance. But still the experience was so great and intense that I will probably never forget it :)

And now finally some technical specs for the image above.

Technical details:
Camera: Canon 5D MK III
Lens: Canon 24-105 f/4 L IS USM
Focal length: 24 mm
Aperture: f/9.0
Exposure time: 1/100 s ("middle" exposure)
ISO: 400
Number of exposures: 5
E.V. Step: 1.0
Flash used: no
Tripod: yes
Filters: circular polarizing filter
Technique: HDR, tone-mapping, luminosity masks, panorama
Software: Magic Lantern 2.3, Photomatix Pro 5 beta (Details Enhancer), Lightroom 5.0, Photoshop CC

Where was this photo taken:

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