John Swincinski

72 x 60 in
I’ve seen grizzlies before, but never up close. Just a week earlier, while staring across the Hayden Valley through a spotting scope, I marveled as a massive bear lumbered his way to the Yellowstone River, barely silhouetted in the twilight. He was 1,000-yards from me, but I could sense his power and nobility.
On this particular morning though, I would be treated to an entirely different experience. She was massive, and she wasn’t alone. Two cubs were in tow. I could tell by their size that they were not newborns, probably in their second or third year. I was so excited, I scrambled to get ahead of them, trying to position myself to finally capture some up-close video footage of a grizzly. I was so distracted by the intensity of the moment that I failed to realize that they were less than 40-yards away. Way too close for a grizzly encounter.
I suddenly awakened to that reality and the hair on my neck stood up. Luckily, mom was totally uninterested in her onlooker and was more focused on leading the playful and easily distracted teen cubs to wherever they would nap their afternoon away. But what I felt in that moment was about as close to the sublime as one could ever achieve – awe mixed with fear, an admiration of this incredibly powerful lifeforce so near to my own. It was August 5th. It was my last full day in Yellowstone. And it was my birthday.¬