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A mother bear left her cubs beside me, as if I was a nanny... while she went fishing

By Kate Baklitskaya
01 April 2013

I was sitting 3-to-4 metres away from the cubs waiting to see what would happen next. The mother returned back later and fed the cubs.

'Several times a mother bear would leave her cubs beside me, and would go fishing. I was sitting 3-to-4 metres away from the cubs waiting to see would happen next. Picture: Sergey Gorshkov

Sergey Gorshkov has won worldwide acclaim for his close-up photographs of wildlife, and one story especially illustrates the awesome bond of trust he establishes with bears. 

The Siberian Times team works to showcase the best of Siberia and the Far East of Russia, dispelling some of the worn-out stereotypes about our vast territory, and with this in mind it is a privilege for us to display Sergey's pictures for our readers around the world. 

The way he dares to get up close to the bears, showing them in all their majesty and magnificence, is testimony to his ability to be at one with the nature that he so loves. 

'There are many bears that come to Lake Kurilskoe in Kamchatka and because of the high number of the animals they always fight over the space', Sergey says.

'Several times a mother bear would leave her cubs beside me, and would go fishing. I was sitting 3-to-4 metres away from the cubs waiting to see would happen next. The mother returned back later and fed the cubs.

'It may surprise people, but bears in such cases are not afraid to come close to man. In fact, I worked as her 'bear nanny' keeping her cubs safe'.

Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography


Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography


Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography

'I'm not afraid of bears. I was at first - but then you watch them, learn their habits, and if you always think what you're doing, you are not going to get in trouble with them. Pictures: Sergey Gorshkov

'I began shooting wild nature imperceptibly, taking pleasure which I can't compare with anything,' he explains. 

'I want to photograph the native wildlife such what it is, what it always was and what it should remain for our children.

'My camera is a connecting link between me and wildlife. Through the lens of the camera I can see things, take pictures and try to reproduce beauty of the wild nature, a piece of what I have seen and I have felt being there, in their escaping world which is disappearing little by little from the face of the Earth'.

He has roamed the world in search of wildlife photographs but says that Kamchatka - eastern Russia's 'Land of Fire and Ice' (and bears!) - is his enduring favourite place for shooting. 

'Travel to the world of the wild nature of Kamchatka is so fascinating and amazing that many years of work have gone as if just one day. I am happy that I had an opportunity to observe beauty of fauna of this peninsula. Memories that I got here will stay with me forever'.

If each photographer has an individual project which he always returns, then Kamchatka - and picture of bears - is Sergey's. 

'I don't consider myself to be a professional photographer,' he says, somewhat surprisingly.  

'Photography is a hobby for me though I do spend most of my time on it. I just came back from Africa on a project where I was photographing leopards. 

'The album is almost finished and we'll send it to print soon. I decided to take a small break from photographing bears; I was probably one of the first people that many years ago started taking pictures of bears in such detail'. 

Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography


Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography

'Once I've been so busy taking pictures of the salmon that I didn't notice the bear until it was one metre away'. Pictures: Sergey Gorshkov

'I first visited in 1993-94, when there were still no photographers working there. This first experience was amazing. It is such a mind-blowingly beautiful place. I started coming there again and again. 

'At first I was just travelling. And after one of the visits, I wanted to buy a photo album about Kamchatka but didn't find any so decided to make one of my own. I started coming to Kamchatka more often since 2003. I was making five or seven visits a year for six years'.

'I'm not afraid of bears. I was at first - but then you watch them, learn their habits, and if you always think what you're doing, you are not going to get in trouble with them. 

'One needs the experience, of course. You can't just walk over to the bear and snap a good shot. But yes, it's true that there are more photographers that die from bears then from any other wild animals. Yet this is always the fault of the man.

Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography


Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography

'It is always unpredictable when will you be able to take that one good shot. Sometimes you get off the plane, take a good picture and fly back; other times you wait for ages - and all in vain'. Picture: Sergey Gorshkov

'It is always unpredictable when will you be able to take that one good shot. Sometimes you get off the plane, take a good picture and fly back; other times you wait for ages - and all in vain. You can never predict it especially in the wild nature.

'But there are certain habits which, if you know them, can help you take a good picture.

'Like with a bear chasing a fish, you know that it will jump in the water, catch the fish and then it will stand up and will start shaking the water off.

'That's when you get pretty spectacular shots. 

'A lion or cheetah will never cross streams - they will always jump over them. If the animal starts to yawn, it means in a few seconds it will get up and go, and so on'. 

Understanding animal mentality is important. Most people assume that it is dangerous to be around bear cubs, but the example of the female bear leaving her babies for Sergey to nanny shows the opposite -she actually brought them to him.

Yet he admits that he has faced dangers that he has only fully comprehended after the event. 

'I'd been so busy taking pictures of the salmon in Ozernaya River in southern Kamchatka, that I didn't notice the bear until it was one metre away', he says. 'It was a terrible shock. I kept calm enough to take the picture but only later did I realise how serious the situation was'. 

Also a popular blogger, he rushed to see the eruption of Plosky Tolbachik volcano for the first time in 36 years, giving a vivid account of this natural phenomenon. 

'The lava is flowing and sweeping everything in its path, from above you can see it moving down the slope, covering trees, and they burn up like matches along the path of the lava flow,' he worte.

'The snow is melting from the high temperatures and turns into steam that rises, mixing with smoke from the burning forest. And from this steam, smoke and evaporations from the lava flow you cannot see the sun. In the twilight the burning lava was flowing in front of the dark volcano crater and the dark-blue sky. The colours of the lava and the sky were so saturated; it seemed that it is all happening on Mars.'

Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography

Plosky Tolbachik volcano eruption. Picture: Sergey Gorshkov

For now Sergey is taking a break from Kamchatka and instead embarking on a project to photograph the Siberian Arctic. I plan to visit all the islands, and I think I would need three or four years for that,' he says. 'This is the main project for me now'. 

'This is a new territory and I will try different ways of taking pictures, like the underwater photography and also shooting from helicopters.'

Sergey's top tip for those wanting to become wildlife photographers: 'Be patient. Once you learn to wait, the most important part is done'.

Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography


Sergey Gorshkov wildlife photography

WHAT THE WORLD SAYS ABOUT SERGEY GORSHKOV

'Last spring, photographer Sergey Gorshkov caught a ferocious confrontation between a fox and a gander, creating an image that seems almost too good to be true - the bird in perfect profile, the fox's mouth open so wide that you can count the sharp white teeth. Even the bushy tail and billowing feathers seem to frame the scene like quotation marks.

'Such perfection doesn't come easily: To capture this instant, Mr. Gorshkov spent two months on remote Wrangel Island, in the Arctic Ocean, where a million snow geese gather each May. His photograph and dozens of others in 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Portfolio 22' (Natural History Museum London, 160 pages, $39.95),testify to the importance of patience in this discipline. It is a craft honed by a lifetime spent in the wild, simply learning to look'. The Wall Street Journal Online, 13 February 2013

'Plosky Tolbachik volcano is attracting hordes of tourists who want to watch its first eruption in 36 years....Sergei Gorshkov came to the volcano to see the historic event with his own eyes and take breathtaking images'.
Moscow News, 11 December 2012

'Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov spends his working days two feet away from hungry, half-ton bears who could kill him with one swipe of their paws.

'His only protection is a rusty old cage with an open top. Sergey admits he takes his life in his hands every time he gets in the water with the Siberian brown bears, who are close cousins of the grizzlies who live in North America. But he reckons it's worth it for the pictures he gets. And looking at these incredible shots of bears swimming and fishing in Kamchatka in the far east of Russia, it's fair to say he has a point. Not that you'd catch any of us doing it, mind...'
Scottish Daily Record, 24 August 2012

'Brave photographer Sergey Gorshkov had to risk his life to take this amazing close-up shot. Sergey, from Moscow, has spent seven years following one group of the amazing creatures while he works on a project about them.

The committed snapper even lived in a tent for a month in order to get closer to the animals'.
The Sun (UK), 26 January 2012

'Some photographers risk life and limb, including this snapper who swam metres from wild bears for this spectacular picture series. Sergey Gorshkov spent six years following the bears as they hunted for salmon, paddled in a lake and walked for kilometres through forests.

The photographs were taken at Kamchatka, Russia, home to more than 18,000 bears, and the Kurile Lake, the largest spawning ground for red salmon in Eurasia'.
Sunday Herald Sun (Australia), 30 January 2011

'This huge wild bear is on the prowl after going fishing. Another is snapped half under the icy water as it hunts for its supper of fresh red salmon.

'The dramatic close-up photographs were taken by Sergey Gorshkov who risked his life getting close to the brown bears of Kamchatka, Russia - some of the world's largest at 10ft tall and weighing 1,500lb. They could kill a man with just a single swipe of a paw'.
The Daily Express (UK), 24 January 2011 

'Sometimes photographs look as if they would have been very dangerous to take, but in reality were achieved quite safely through tricks of the trade. That was not the case for Sergey Gorshkov's shots of wild Russian bears.

'The photographer has spent six years following the brown bears in their natural habitat on the Kamchatka peninsula of eastern Russia, where some 18,000 of the animals enjoy hunting in a lake that is the largest spawning ground for red salmon in Eurasia. At times Mr Gorshkov risked his life by swimming just feet away from the bears....as well as spending his nights sleeping near them in a tent'.
The Independent (UK), 24 January 2011

Comments (7)

Great photos and story. What a beautifully wild place. It's nice to see that nature is being preserved these days, it's incredible how much wildlife can be seen there.
john, Ny, USA
07/04/2013 05:48
2
0
so many thanks Sergey. Please take care
Joan, Australia
06/04/2013 21:39
3
0
No other photography has given me the experience of taking the viewer into the wild. I've enjoyed your work through every fame of yours. Thanks for your efforts and the risk you take.
Ganesh, London
06/04/2013 04:48
3
0
See these photos takes me to the nature relaxes my spirit and my view, beautiful.
Maria de la Paz Garcia Ortega, Monterrey, Mexico.
06/04/2013 00:19
6
0
C'est photos sont sublimes et nets J'aime sa sensibilité et l'amour de son coin de pays Un modèle pour plusieurs d'entre nous Bon continuité dans vos projets futurs ....Bravo!!!
Josée B., Québec,Canada
05/04/2013 22:04
7
0
What a wonderful story. Sergey has obviously been gifted with an understanding of the animals and nature in Siberia. I too grew up hearing of Siberia, but all I imagined was a vast emptiness and no life at all and that's why a lot of my people were sent there.

But reading the Siberian Times for a little while I not only understand but had I known of it's beauty I would have made a trip there in my younger years and who knows, I may have stayed as I just love 'raw' nature and the unpolluted and uncorrupted land and people.

All the best to you Sergey and thank you for your article and especially the time you spent taking those lovely photos and getting to know all these beautiful creatures.
Valentyna, Perth, Scotland
02/04/2013 11:59
9
0
I love, love, love Sergey Gorshkov's photography, he is a genious of a man. Take care Sergey and happy journeys
Rosie, Singapore
02/04/2013 09:06
9
0
1

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