photography, travel, wildlife, writing

For the LOVE: Bears

“There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to be afraid.” — Teddy Roosevelt

Spring in the northern reaches of the Rocky Mountains means several things, but to me, none is more important and compelling than the emergence of grizzly bears. But I am certainly biased. They are my spirit animal. 

And for those who share the same affection for Ursus arctos horribilis, a mecca is spring in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

Since I don’t make very much of my income from wildlife, it’s tough to justify a super telephoto lens, so I don’t often get nice, tight images of the bears. But I enjoy it immensely none-the-less. Below were some of the moments I was fortunate to experience and capture this May.

Felicia pauses and watches the people who watch her from the highway nearby.

A solitary male grizzly wanders through the spring snow in Yellowstone.

We crazies will endure snow, sleet, and freezing rain all to glimpse the awesome sight of the largest land predator remaining on earth (except of course the polar bear). The childlike wonder is thick even amongst adults when we gather on a roadside together to witness and (sometimes) photograph a grizzly. In these parks, the bears are even known by name (or number).

I was fortunate to see seven bears (not all pictured here) in a ten day period… I “knew” five of them. And I’m not even one of the hardcore bear watchers! 

Felicia makes eye contact. Always a heart-stopping moment.

A tagged and collared three year old female high in the Absaroka snow.

Felicia keeps watch over her playful two year old cubs. They will be kicked out next spring to allow Felicia to mate again.

Grizzlies are some of the most human-like of all animals I have studied closely. They are complex. Sweet and nurturing one moment, brutal and murderous the next. In fact, it is quite common for mother (sow) bears to hang around roads for safety, as adult male grizzlies will kill her cubs to reduce competition and induce mating. 

One of 399’s cubs to be sent on its way in 2022.

One three year old bear I observed is one of the cubs of the most famous bear in the world. 399, an old bear by all standards at 25, had a litter of four cubs three years ago, to the surprise of everyone. This year, she cut them all loose. This is pretty strict grizzly protocol.

This bear was one of those four. Watching her, I couldn’t help but think about how much I hoped her mom prepared her adequately for life alone in the vast mountain wilderness. Her entire life to this point was defined by traveling in the safety of a family of five, enjoying the protection of mom and the playful company of her three siblings. Now, she is a typical, solitary wanderer in the harsh landscape.

Will she make it? If she does, she will join a growing number of successful Wyoming grizzly bears.

399 is known for her successful and plentiful progeny, so I comforted myself as I watched this cub struggle in the snow. I prayed that she would become another survivalist successor to her mum… Queen of the bears.

— Andrew

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All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022

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photography, random thought, travel


The pungent waft of wild onion dominates my senses. But the sights of early morning light through the bottomland forest in spring competes for my attention. And wins. Youthful leaves and grasses, deep greens. The odd palmetto. Wildflowers of white, yellow, pink, blue, red, purple, and so on.

The Brazos river below me runs muddy and slow. Meandering seemingly unknowing. Perhaps unknowable. Alligators lurk below the murky waters, unseen. Wild pigs and venomous snakes, hidden on the land above. White tail deer, woodland hare, squirrels, and nutria, their prey. Soaring above, the hawks and vultures watching us all with precision. And the wading birds… abundant and voraciously feeding all day.



As I walk the trail below, owls observe silently from their perches in the Spanish moss strewn oaks. These ancient, giant trees are impressive. I’ve stood beneath the redwoods and these southern brothers hold court. I move through this scene swiftly but quiet.

These hikes are my work, exercise, and holy communion all at once. Two cameras dangle from my neck and shoulders. One for landscapes and the other for wildlife, or any other presented beauty. My 16-35mm is quite straightforward in utility, but my 70-200/2.8 is more opportunistic. It is part vulture and part honey badger. It takes what it can and doesn’t care about it’s so called stated purposes. It is just as happy with portraits and details as it is with landscapes, or the occasional wildlife.

I haven’t visited this special place since we hit the road for good nearly five years ago. I needed this. It is my favorite spot in Texas, except for perhaps Big Bend country. But it is only by a narrow margin.



All of the seasons are noteworthy here, but spring reigns supreme. Winter has a strange chaotic life about it, that most other places don’t. It is the haven for almost countless species of bird. Summer slows to a southern drawl. Everything trying to regulate the insane heat and humidity. Autumn, is probably the least notable. Its just the short, in between phase from oppressive, high temperatures to the avian plague.

Spring is the renewal. When haunting grays and browns turn to green, and all other manner of vibrant color. If you stare for long, the ground seems to move with lizards, snakes, bugs. Stare into the middle and far distance and the water-logged landscape comes alive with rodents and gators. Deep and ghostly bellows fill the morning with the bass-line melody of mating calls. This time of year, the alligators (and many other species) procreate and give birth.

The rhythm of the frogs is the ever-present musak of the swamp. You only seem to notice at first, and then it seeps into you fully. The cool mornings boast blues and drops of dew. But in a short amount of time, it is flanked by the increasing heat of the day.

And as they days pass and grow longer, the season is quickly lost to the dominant phase of the year, summer.

— Andrew

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All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2021

photography, wildlife


Just around this time of year, grizzly bears start to emerge from their winter hibernation in our little part of Wyoming.
I get so excited in the spring for this ritual of nature. My heart is breaking that I can’t be there yet, but we are hunkering down until the coronavirus outbreak calms down. So for now, I’ll reminisce over a few encounters from the last several years… I hope you enjoy!
Last year, I got to witness sow 793 with her two cubs. The cubs are both getting to the age where they are preparing to leave mama and venture out on their own. But there’s still important play and learning from mom that has to occur.
They follow her everywhere. But frequently break into play fights with each other when they get bored.
This was a large sow with two younger cubs that I found in Yellowstone several years back. She was gorgeous. And the cubs were so playful and curious.
It was a brief experience, as they moved out of sight only shortly after appearing near the road.
Then there is of course my favorite bear encounter of all time. The other many sightings of these incredible creatures are most often with dozens of other people. Usually on main park roads.
But this one, was just me and this young griz.
It was probably his first spring alone, judging by his relative small size.
I was driving down (what used to be) a little known, inner park dirt road one morning, when I spotted him digging in the wildflowers, looking for food. I slowly pulled up in my truck. He glanced over at me, took a sniff, and then got right back to business.
I likely watched him for around 30-45 minutes… just us. Toward the end of this magical experience, he got within 10 feet. Don’t worry, I was in my truck the whole time, and I never moved closer to him. He never really seemed bothered by my presence. 
Just before he moseyed off, he raised his head and allowed me to make a quick portrait.
I loved being able to capture the raw vulnerability of such a feared and powerful creature, out in his element, all by my lonesome. I will never forget any of my bear encounters, that’s for sure, but this one in particular, is one of my absolute most favorite moments of my entire life.
I don’t expect anything like it will ever happen again, but I pray that it will. 
— Andrew
P.S. Im in the initial stages of putting together a brown bear photography workshop in Finland for summer 2021. If you are interested, drop me a note so I can put you on the early notification list. More info here.

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music, photography, random thought, writing

sister winter

i love winter. when i lived in wyoming, winter was considerably more “involved” than it is in texas. but the fact remains; winter is the season of death.  no matter where you live.

certainly i am no lover and harbinger of death. “slayer” is not carved into my arm.  but i am obsessed with what inevitably walks patiently beside death:  the opportunity for renewal.

where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.  ~  rumi

there was a time in my life when my heart froze over – it took so many years to thaw.  sufjan’s song sister winter reminds me of this time.  

it seems to be a beautiful and poignant letter of explanation to his friends.  he tells them that his heart has returned to sister winter, and is as cold as ice.  the weight of sadness is almost too much to bear.

he goes on to describe in filmic detail a failed relationship.  it cuts deep into the listener. 

but what i love most about sister winter is the end of the song. it builds and builds… and when all of this scar tissue and raw emotion culminate and burst forth, breaking free from the frost, sufjan belts out an intense, “and my… friends, i’ve… returned to wish you all the best…  and my… friends, i’ve… returned to wish you… a… happy Christmas!”  the ice melts, and love flows again.

it ends with bittersweet undertones.  sustained strings in unison fade.

may spring come!  but not before we have proper time to mourn our losses.