The team of Leben am Limit / Living on the edge has been working on the topic „brownbears in Central Europe“ since 2015, we are entering our third year now, time really flies! Never before, there has been a photography project that has undertaken a comparable effort with regard to photographing brown bears and associated aspects. We’ve been venturing out to unravel interesting stories and produce stunning images.
What’s the idea behind this, what’s our goal?
We are documenting brownbears in Central Europe in order to bring attention to the topic of bears and big predators in general. It is our aim to give those whose voices are hardly heard a louder voice, a better standing.
That’s why we are not solely focusing on the animals but also covering all possible aspects concerning the coexistence between humans and big predators in densely populated Central Europe. This involves hunting, livestock farming and forestry, nature conservation and of course also our very personal bear-related stories and experiences from Austria, Slovenia and Italy. Over time we’ve accumulated a pretty large collection of opinions and stories revolving around the topic. Much of this has not been published so far, but is waiting to be shared with you soon.
Why has Leben am Limit / Living on the edge been holding back on publishing material?
Our project idea has been awarded with and financially supported by the Beca MontPhoto WWF grant in October 2016. That’s also why our work will be presented for the first time in October 2017 at the next MontPhoto Conservation Photography Festival in Spain. There will be a presentation as well as a large exhibition.
Cool stuff! One thing’s for sure, however: We won’t run out of work any time soon …
Impressive images of brown bears in Central Europe don’t come easy. It’s hard work. We do have the opportunity to use photo hides, from which we can take pictures of bears. This, however, doesn’t come with a bear watching or photographing guarantee, especially if you are hoping for some special behaviour to be displayed. Moreover, we are looking for more than bear portraits.
It is our aim to show the bears within their habitat, show the environment around them, which is their home. For this we mainly employ a wide angle approach. Besides the environment the wide angle lense also reveals that sometimes bears and people can get really close. In order to achieve photography of this types it takes know-how and loooads of patience.
Bears are really clever and it can be incredibly hard to kind of outsmart them by using infrared phototraps. Due to their curious nature and keen sense of exploration the functioning of some of our phototraps has been impaired (or to put it in other words: cameras were destructed…).
Then there are times when all the technical aspects work wonderfully, but the bear is not showing up. We’ve spent days and weeks trying to figure out where bear trails run as well as studying their behaviour, searching for suitable spots for setting up our phototraps. We’ve stopped counting the hours we’ve spent in the forest. But luckily we’ve also been able to achieve some good results such as the first high res images of bear mothers and their offspring or huge male bears weighing up to 400 kg.
We’ve accumulated quite a number of kilometers stalking the bears and managed to get incredibly close to some of them.
There are moments when it couldn’t work out any better, resulting in stunning images and unforgettable experiences and then there are moments when nothing comes together. We know what’s that like, that’s part of our work.
Our bear network has grown quite a bit over time and the positive feedback that we get supports us in continuing our work despite skepticism that’s still ever so tangible with regard to big predators in Central Europe.
Technical support is bravely offered to us by Canon Austria, we cooperate with WWF Austria and several national parks. One of our clients is the Slovenian Tourism Board. We are eager to expand our network, in order to enlarge the media coverage on this topic, so that the voice gets louder.
What the future holds for brown bears or also for wolves and lynxes in Austria and surrounding areas? That’s still unwritten. One thing’s for sure, however: We can’t imagine a Central European Forest completely devoid of bears / big predators. Quite the contrary!
Whether or not this can be achieved in the future does not depend on Leben am Limit / Living on the edge, but it depends on each of our decisions.
So stay tuned for more to come.