More fog! I checked the beach at 5:30am, then 7am and then went back to bed. By 9am it looked slightly less foggy so Kent and I headed out to find cubs. Another guide had taken over with the film crew so we were free to follow our own agenda. Predictably Melissa, Scrappy and Hope were near the middle river. The cubs were having fun again, and it occurred to me what a delicate balance this was and how quickly their lives could take a turn. But for now they could play their innocent cub games, wrestling, face-slapping and biting each other for hours on end. Another guide David and his two guests from Italy came and sat with us. It is less for the bear to deal with when everyone sticks together and I was more comfortable with a group of 5 rather than two. Clearly though the sow was getting really relaxed around people and was now allowing most female bears into her zone. We sat in the grass taking photos and they grazed closer and closer, the cubs playing and eating and playing some more. Melissa came so close to me I was able to zoom right in on her face. I was getting more comfortable trusting her behavior too, which meant I had the mind to be more creative with my shots. I heard a rustling noise to my right and noticed that the one Italian fellow had put on his backpack to protect himself and was curled up hiding behind Kent. When the bears finally headed away from us again, he almost collapsed in relief. I was more comfortable with each bear experience, but in a way that allows you to be on high alert but at the same time functional. It is a complete adrenaline rush, unlike anything else I have experienced.
The fog was coming and going, but it seemed like our little meadow was perfectly lit with soft light while the rest of the bay remained enshrouded in fog. Melissa and the cubs continued to provide frame after frame of outstanding moments. She lay down on her back and nursed by the riverbank and then rolled over on her belly and tried to relax. The cubs climbed all over her and I wondered if she ever got any peace. It was my best day of shooting to date and I finished the mid-day shoot with over 350 images. Exhausted we opted to nap in the bear beds at the top of a small knoll. I counted 11 bears around me and went to sleep with my camera bag as a pillow and the flare in my hand. I have no idea how long I slept or what time it was, but was awoken by the sound of two male bears crossing the river. The fog was getting thicker and it looked pretty obvious that there would be no evening shooting. As I got up out of the bear bed I wondered if someone would be coming home to find the scent of a human in their sleeping spot – kind of like the fairy tale The Three Bears, but in reverse!
We had gotten word from the Kittiwake that, weather permitting, Kent, myself, Suzie and Rob (Koas producer) were being moved over to Inugiak Island! I tried not to get my hopes up, knowing that plans change by the minute and are always dependent on the weather. I spent the evening repacking my gear and praying to the weather gods.