I was in the region on an assignment unrelated to bears, but a friend in the area said we could check out the landfill as there may be bears there, so we went for a drive. When we arrived at the landfill there were bears everywhere, I believe 7 total. I was speechless, in complete shock of what I was seeing and I actually didn’t shoot any photographs.
That night I couldn’t shake the feeling about the bears in the landfill, and so the next day I asked my friend if we could go back. When we arrived the smokey pit was on fire with flames coming up taller than the bear. I immediately knew that, this time, I had to shoot.
When I finished making the photograph, the bear turned slowly and walked down into the smoking pit, disappearing from my sight. He never came back up during the rest of my time there.
It took me a very long time to process this photograph after, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. All I know is that it’s the only photograph I’ve ever made that has made me tear up on multiple occasions. And I’m sure still has more to teach me.
I used a Nikon D810 and 35mm F1.8 lens. Exposure was F11 and 1/400 second, as I wanted as much detail as possible and didn’t expect the bear to be so still, so I chose a high shutter speed to ensure clarity in case the bear moved around. I got pretty lucky with the smoke and position of the sun—just one of those moments I believe come to us photographers, when everything aligns just right.
Troy Moth is an award-winning photographer based out of Sooke, British Columbia, Canada. His photography has been exhibited worldwide, and his work has appeared in Rolling Stone and Vogue among others. You can see more of his photos by visiting his website, or following him on Facebook.