Patience Makes Perfect: Nailing the Shot of a Bear Catching Salmon

I am not a patient person when it comes to the outdoors.

When I go on a hike, I need to see deer, snakes, and frogs in the first 10 minutes or I’ll quickly grow distracted. When I visit a national park, I want my breath taken away the moment I set foot onto the grounds, or I’ll be tempted to turn around and head home. Waiting around for nature to “happen” is not my cup of tea.

So of course, as an associate producer working on this episode of Expedition Raw, I have nothing but complete respect and admiration for Bertie Gregory, a wildlife filmmaker and National Geographic young explorer who has traveled to Vancouver Island in British Columbia for three months on assignment. His series, wild_life with bertie gregory, showcases his encounters with beautiful, enigmatic creatures such as bears, eagles, and sea otters. We at home are treated to the finest few minutes of his footage every week, so it’s easy to forget the countless hours Bertie and his team simply wait around, preparing for nature to happen so they can nail the shot.


Bertie Gregory filming wildlife on assignment in Vancouver Island. (Photo by Bertie Gregory.)
Bertie Gregory filming wildlife on assignment in Vancouver Island. (Photo by Bertie Gregory.)

Bertie’s most recent outing had him more excited to see rainfall than he had ever been in his career: The downpour on Vancouver Island meant that river levels were rising, which meant more and more salmon were swimming through to lay their eggs. More salmon, Bertie knew, meant more natural predators out and about to feed on them. More natural predators meant bears! Bertie set up multiple cameras—some on land, an action camera on a log in the water—ready to capture gripping footage of a bear snapping up salmon in its teeth. Although plenty of bears did wander in and out of the forest to grab a fishy meal on the river, Bertie was having a tough time landing the killer shot. Even so, he wasn’t frustrated; in fact, the waiting appeared to be just as exciting for Bertie as the payoff.

“When I tell people one of my favorite things to do is sit in a river all day, in an icy cold river waist deep, with stinking salmon carcasses everywhere, waiting for a bear to turn up, they might think I’m a bit strange,” said Bertie, “but that is one of the things that I love doing.


Bertie attaches an action camera to a loose branch, a nifty trick to get a closer shot. (Photo by Bertie Gregory.)

Bertie’s patience was rewarded. He had initially spotted a female bear lingering around where his action camera was perched. She came close as she scoped out the river but always kept just a little bit out of frame. Bertie waited for nearly two hours, and finally the bear positioned herself front and center, snapping up a salmon right in front of the camera lens.

“One of the cool things when you nail a shot is that not only have you just seen something incredible, but you’ve also captured it,” said Bertie. “Often, it’s really difficult because you see something amazing, but it doesn’t quite come together for the filming or the photography … you’re a little bit annoyed with yourself. Maybe you’ve missed it. When everything does come together, it’s like, Yeah.”


The rising river levels led to more salmon passing through to lay eggs, attracting predators like this black bear.
The rising river levels led to more salmon passing through to lay eggs, attracting predators like this black bear. (Photo by Bertie Gregory.)

“Yeah” is an understatement. Bertie may be out on assignment to teach us about ecology and animals, not necessarily to share life lessons and sage advice, but watching his quest to film Vancouver Island’s most charismatic animals has definitely taught me a thing or two: namely, how important it is to stay the course, even when the going is tough, to prepare yourself for whatever might happen and above all to be patient.

“And that is why it’s all about patience,” noted Bertie, after nailing his shot.

It may be easier said than done, but next time I’m out in nature, I pledge to stop and let nature be instead of expecting anything in particular to happen. As Bertie’s shown on his expeditions, you’ll occasionally be lucky enough to witness an amazing scene unfold, but otherwise, sometimes the thrill of the outdoors is simply the wait.


Bertie Gregory
A bear lunges forward attempting to nab a fish. It can be tough to land an action-packed shot, so patience and resourcefulness are key. (Photo by Bertie Gregory.)


Bertie Gregory is a wildlife photographer and National Geographic young explorer. He hosts wild_life with bertie gregory, a digital series exploring the many species of Vancouver Island. Click here to watch the series from the beginning, with a new episode every Wednesday.


Video Producer/Editor: Monica Pinzon

Series Producer: Chris Mattle
Footage: Bertie Gregory

Associate Producer: Jared M. Gair







Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Jared is an associate producer on National Geographic's Science and Exploration Media team. He is an aficionado of animals, the environment, neuroscience, and snacks.