A Wildlife Photographer’s Epic Encounter with Grizzly Bears

“Venturing Off the Beaten Path in Grand Teton National Park”

As a seasoned wildlife photographer, I’ve always been drawn to the rugged and wild beauty of Grand Teton National Park. I’ve explored many of its trails and backcountry over the years, but this time I decided to venture off the beaten path and hike deep into the heart of the park, I wanted to see what kind of magnificent creatures I could find away from all the tourists.

The hike was amazing, to say the least. The deep forest, the rushing rivers at the foot of the mountains, and the steep inclines made it a wonderful day to track wildlife. As always, I was determined to see what I could find. The sun was setting, casting that famous orange and pink glow that everyone strives to find while visiting the park. I knew this was going to be a special trip.

As I hiked deeper into the park, away from the beaten path, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. The forest was eerily quiet as if all the animals were holding their breath. I was on high alert, knowing that at any moment I could come across a family of grizzly bears. As it was that time of the year.

And then, in the blink of an eye, it happened. I stumbled upon a family of grizzly bears, including a mother and her cubs(known as Blondie), playing in the forest. My heart raced as I realized just how isolated I was, how lucky I was, and how easily I could have walked right into the middle of their playground.

My excitement got the better of me and I made a bit of noise, alerting the bears to my presence. The mother grizzly and her cubs immediately stood up, their attention focused in my direction. I was frozen, my heart pounding in my chest. I was so excited! What if she saw me as a threat to her cubs? What if she decided to charge in my direction? I took a deep breath, my eyes locked onto the mother bear. But to my relief, she eventually lost interest and went back to her playful antics with her cubs.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, I started taking pictures as fast as possible, capturing the bears all standing up and looking in my direction. The images were stunning and truly captured the moment in all its wild beauty. I was grateful for the opportunity to witness such a magnificent and intense moment in nature.

I approached the family slowly, making sure to follow the rules and regulations of Grand Teton National Park, which state that you must remain at least 100 yards away from grizzly bears. I was eager to get as close as I could, but I also knew that the safety of both myself and the bears was of the utmost importance.

I was still able to capture some incredible photos that truly captured the beauty and majesty of any wildlife photographer’s dream. The mother grizzly was playing with her cubs in the forest, and I watched in awe as they frolicked and explored their surroundings.

Despite my desire to get closer, I made the responsible choice to follow the park’s rules and regulations. I believe that it’s important to preserve the natural habitats of the wildlife in our national parks, and to ensure that they remain unharmed and undisturbed.

The hike back was just as fun as the hike in, I was filled with a sense of excitement and adrenaline from my encounter. When I arrived back at my car, I couldn’t wait to go through the photos I had taken. The images were stunning – the mother bear and her cubs were captured in all their majesty, surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of Grand Teton National Park.

This hike off the beaten path will forever be one of my most memorable experiences as a wildlife photographer. Moments like these make all the hard work and challenges of my craft worth it. I hope these photos can inspire others to venture out and explore the incredible wilderness that can be found in our national parks.

(Horned Animals) Wildlife Photography Winner – 2021

Packy Savvenas - Photography Award - Best Horned Animals

I was so excited to hear back from one of the world’s largest photography competitions: 35 AWARDS.
(Web Instagram | Facebook)

This year, over 1610 professional and amateur photographers from 173 countries participated in our annual contest with a total submission count exceeding 3,742 photos (crazy numbers!)


Best Horned Photography - Packy Savvenas

Packy Savvenas - Photography Award - Best Horned Animals - Stack


Wildlife Photography Cheat Sheet

Capture Wildlife at Its Best: ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed – Wildlife Photography Cheat Sheet Giveaway

Are you tired of missing the perfect shot of that stunning bird or majestic animal? Do you want to take your wildlife photography to the next level? Then it’s time to master the trio: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. These three settings are the key to capturing stunning images of wildlife with the right exposure and creative control.

But with so many technical terms and settings, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive wildlife photography cheat sheet that will make understanding ISO, aperture, and shutter speed a breeze.

Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll find in this cheat sheet:


  • What it is: ISO measures the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor to light.
  • Best practices for wildlife photography: Keep ISO as low as possible to reduce noise (graininess) in your images, especially when shooting in low light conditions.
  • How to adjust:
    1. Locate the ISO setting on your camera. It may be in the menu or accessible through a physical button or dial.
    2. Adjust ISO in increments, such as 100, 200, 400, 800, and so on.
    3. Start at the lowest ISO value and increase as needed.
    4. Take test shots and review them to see how the change in ISO affects the exposure.
    5. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired exposure.


  • What it is: Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens that lets light into the camera.
  • Best practices for wildlife photography: Use a wide aperture (low f-number) to isolate your subject from the background, which can help reduce distractions and make your subject stand out.
  • How to adjust:
    1. Locate the aperture setting on your camera. It may be in the menu or accessible through a physical button or dial.
    2. Adjust aperture by changing the f-number, such as f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4, and so on.
    3. Take test shots and review them to see how the change in aperture affects the depth of field.
    4. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired depth of field.

Shutter Speed:

  • What it is: Shutter speed refers to the amount of time that the shutter remains open to allow light into the camera.
  • Best practices for wildlife photography: Use a fast shutter speed to freeze action, especially when shooting moving wildlife, and a slower shutter speed to capture motion blur for creative effect.
  • How to adjust:
    1. Locate the shutter speed setting on your camera. It may be in the menu or accessible through a physical button or dial.
    2. Adjust shutter speed in fractions of a second, such as 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, and so on.
    3. Take test shots and review them to see how the change in shutter speed affects motion.
    4. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired motion effect.

With this cheat sheet in hand, you’ll be able to take control of your camera and capture stunning wildlife photos with ease. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to improve your photography skills and take your wildlife photography to the next level. Download your free wildlife photography cheat sheet today and start capturing wildlife at its best!

And here’s a visual representation of the information, to help you better understand the concepts:

Grizzly Bear Charge (Twice!) – By Jorn Vangoidtsenhoven

Grizzly Bear Charge - Photography by Packy Savvenas

Wow, where do I start? I was just charged by a big grizzly bear.

I just got back to my camper in the National Forest just outside of Grand Teton National Park. I went hiking with my dog in the National Forest and was charged by a grizzly bear – twice – !!

The adrenaline was pumping during the attack. So much goes through your mind when a 500-pound grizzly comes charging at you.

Don’t run. Make yourself look tall. Shout to the bear. Back away slowly. Have your can of bear pepper spray ready to discharge on the charging bear.

It worked. I’m glad to be alive to be typing this.

It started out as another ordinary afternoon. Living full-time in our RV and staying busy as a wildlife photographer, I’m out almost daily searching for interesting things to photograph. When hiking in one of America’s National Parks, I hike alone. When I’m in a National Forest, you’re allowed to take a dog with you.  So off I went with my dog in tow.

About a mile into the hike, I spotted grizzly bear footprints in the snow. Cool! As I was taking some pictures of the prints, the dog barked at crows flying about 50 yards (or meters) away. I’m used to that: she doesn’t seem to like big birds. Usually, she barks a few times and the birds fly away. This time, however, they stayed put. Strange. (This should have been my first clue.)

A Frosty Bison

A Frosty Bison - Frozen Bison - Grand Teton National Park

The sun was on the rise, ice crystals glistened on the bison’s frost covered coat. The majestic beast emerged from the steamy bank….. a new day has risen.

I knew I had one last chance as the temperatures were rising and the snow was melting. I knew I only had one opportunity to get what we call the “frosty bison”.

With temperatures on the rise here in the Grand Tetons, and the snow slightly starting to melt, this was becoming quite the challenge.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, this is the water spring that I talk about often in my blog. It’s a hotbed for animals to seek refuge from the record amounts of snow we have gathered here in Grand Teton.

The spring is a safe harbor for animals due to the fact that it melts the snow around it; providing a great steaming effect!

If you read my last post “Where the Wild Things Roam“, I visited this spring right outside of city of Kelly and was able to capture some amazing pictures of bison during the day.

I’ve seen so many pictures on social media, blogs and magazines of the famous frosty bison. Then it hit me; the spring’s mist could attach to the bison if it were cold enough and windy enough.

So, I spent the whole week getting there as early as I could prior to the sun coming up. I was hoping the mist from the river would gather on their beautiful fur coats so I would be able to pull off a frosty bison shot.

The problem was the temperature has been on the rise and all of a sudden Spring has hit. Every morning I would get out there and it would be somewhere close to 20-29 degrees. So, instead of photographing frosty bison, I would drive around looking for other specimens to photograph.

Today though I got really lucky. The temperature was at least 0 degrees and there was a wind chill factor of probably -15. I arrived at my usual time about 30 minutes before the sun rose. As I waited in anticipation I could see that the bison closer to the spring just happened to be covered in frost.

Frosty Bison Baby - Frozen American Bison - Grand Teton National Park

It was so cold that after taking pictures of these frozen bison, I myself was frozen to the bone.

During the cold winter season, bison develop thick, woolly coats that help protect them from freezing temperatures and harsh winds. It is said that a bison’s winter coat is so thick and provides insulation so effective that when snow accumulates on its coat, it will not melt from the heat of the bison’s skin.

This was my lucky day indeed. I was able to pull off some excellent shots as the sun started to rise among the Grand Tetons. I was able to capture a whole family of bison that have been taking refuge at the spring through this harsh winter season.

I really think this was my last chance to get a frosty bison. I am just happy that I am able to provide these pictures for you guys to see.

Where the Wild Things Roam II

Coyote Mating Season Grand Tetons National Park - Packy Savvenas

As mentioned in our previous post: While photographing the bison we could hear faint howling off in the distance somewhere. We wondered if it was wolves or coyotes. After capturing such magical photos of the bison, we decided to head off for another adventure in search of more wild things…

Today was the day that offered a moment every outdoor wildlife photographer could hope for. What began as wonderment, from the sounds of howling, turned into being something quite extravagant.

As we eagerly headed towards the howling next to Kelly Springs, my wife noticed something peculiar laying in the snow. It was at that moment we concluded the coyotes were the wild things roaming around while making their great howls known.

Luckily, we were the first ones to notice this resting coyote. Ironically, he happened to be fairly close to the road. This is a rare sight, as normally coyotes do not get this close to the road unless they’re about to cross the highway.

What a remarkably amazing day!

I went ahead and grabbed my camera, set up my tripod and got everything set to the exact position that I wanted. And we waited…. As we were waiting, several people pulled up and asked if we spotted a wolf. Once we relayed that it was a coyote they lost interest. Usually the reply was, “Oh, it’s not a wolf?, and we would respond back saying, “No, it’s a coyote”.

It’s astonishing how most people here undervalue the beauty and strength of these wild things. The coyotes are among other magnificent creatures that survive the harshest winters in the most enchanted land in the world.

This coyote in general has been observed by us throughout the entire season. It is through this that we have come to fully appreciate the coyotes of Yellowstone Country.

The resting coyote we were eager to take pictures of was in no hurry to move around much. After about an hour or so of waiting, we began to build up a crowd of around 10-15 different cars. Finally, the coyote started to wake up.

Coyote Howling Grand Tetons National Park - Packy Savvenas

The moment we were waiting for was here! First he started stretching, and then the show began. With moves like that, it was as if he was on the payroll. He went from stretching to howling. Then he started posing and acting like a puppy, as he started to roll around in the snow.

After all that, the coyote was on the move. His actions were quite intelligent, as now there were more people around. He tricked us into thinking he was going one way and then heading off in the other direction. As the coyote lost several people with his tactic move, we kept our sights on him and continued to follow his route.

With this coyote’s great intelligence and fearless demeanor, he came to be known as “Coyo the Great & Fearless”.

With such a minimal distance between us, at one point he actually started running straight towards me and another photographer I met that day. We thought he was going to charge us… Coyo, the coyote had other plans though. He veered to the left and that is when I started to snap my photos.

Howling Among The Mist – The Great Coyote

While photographing the bison we could hear faint howling off in the distance. We wondered if it was wolves or coyotes.

After capturing such magical photos of the bison, we decided to head off for another adventure in search for more wild things…

Here’s a preview of our next same day adventure. Stay tuned!

Posted by Greek Mountain Man on Monday, March 4, 2019


This place truly is magical; it’s where the wild things roam.

Where The Wild Things Roam

Baby Bison - Steaming Stream - Grand Tetons National Park - Packy Savvenas

The place we call home is raw nature at its best. This is where the wild things roam. They are wild, they are free, they are the raw spirit within you and within me.

After spending a week of being pounded by record snow, the month of February ended with the Wyoming title of “Februburied“.

I was somewhat hesitant about going out and photographing wildlife today. I figured with drifts nearly four to five feet high, that you practically cannot even see over the roads. I assumed that none of these animals would be visible or even around. In all actuality they’re all in town.

It was later in the day around golden hour when I headed off to take my normal route. I came around a bend in the city of Kelly, right outside of Jackson, hoping to find a opportunity. My eyes glanced towards the stream where I had previously photographed a muskrat.

The scene is quite breathtaking, even buried amidst the snow. This stream happens to be naturally warm due to being a part of Yellowstone’s Ecosystem. The mist emits from it, giving it a presence of something beautifully eerie.

I started to drive up and about a mile out and noticed about 20 big objects off in the distance which I figured were bison. This is a very well-known route and by the time my wife and I arrived we were the first ones there. I don’t know if these bison just happened to arrive in this area at that time or if they had been there for awhile.

It just seemed odd that the bison were in sight and nobody really cared.

I never thought about the fact that this stream would actually melt the snow around it, allowing the animals in the area to get whatever grass or feed that they needed just to help survive the winter.

As we pulled up I noticed the steam emitting from the stream where the bison were hanging out. This allowed for a very mystical photo-shoot.

Packy Savvenas - Greek Mountain Man- Grand Teton National Park - Bison Blog

You can actually see in a picture here, that my wife took of me, that the snow is as high as the fence right next to the road. This made for some amazing photos. Keeping my distance, I was able to get eye level with the bison while the sun highlighted the mystical creatures within the mist.

Male Bison - Steaming Stream - Grand Tetons National Park - Packy Savvenas

I feel these are some of the best bison photos I have ever taken. But I’ll let you guys be the judge of that…
Please comment and let me know what you guys think.

While photographing the bison we could hear faint howling off in the distance somewhere. We wondered if it was wolves or coyotes. After capturing such magical photos of the bison, we decided to head off for another adventure in search of more wild things…

The place we call home is raw nature at its best. This is where the wild things roam. They are wild, they are free, they are the raw spirit within you and within me.

Stay tuned for our next same day adventure.

The Mysteries Within The Drift

Gret Grey Owl - Photo by Packy Savvenas - Grand Tetons

Today was a day filled with mystery and excitement. As we were pulling out of our driveway we happened to capture a glimpse of an enormous moose while heading off to our daily photographic adventure.

It’s not everyday that you actually see a moose eating your neighbor’s tree, of course, unless you’re here in Jackson, Wyoming. We knew from that point on this was a sign that today was going to be an amazing day.

Prior to today, we had just received a record amount of snow. It was somewhere close to 24 inches within 24 hours. When the snow hits, that’s when the mysteries within the drift surface.

I heard that there was a great gray owl hidden within the majestic tree line close to the golf course in Jackson, so I made it my mission to find him.

We started heading towards the golf course where the owl was rumored to have been seen. The scenery was incredibly majestic. It was beautiful, with an almost eerie feel like something you’d see from a hobbit movie.

The trees stood tall with patches of snow covered branches that were reminiscent of large cotton balls.

The bridge added the perfect ambiance to a nearby river with snow blanketed valleys. We drove around the bend as my mind wandered, curious if a wizard or some mythological creature would present itself amidst the drift of the snow fallen setting.

And that’s when it happened….our eyes were in disbelief. A great grey owl sitting on a branch in all his glory.

Oh my, I can only tell you how hard it is to find a great grey owl sitting among the thick forest of trees; it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

I immediately pulled over, noticing the only way to get down in there was to actually follow a route embedded in the snow. The path was somewhere close to waist-high. Remember we just had record winter snow.

Without hesitation I grabbed my tripod and camera and set off for the trek. I did what I had to do, getting as close as I could.

I literally had to climb through the waist-high snow holding my camera while carrying my tripod. Unfortunately I managed to break my tripod while in route to the location. In doing that though it kept me and my camera from getting immersed in the snow.

This was one of the most exciting moments of my life! I have always wanted to get a killer shot of an owl with an excellent lens. The best day ever!

It seems like the more active the weather is, the more you see the animals of Yellowstone Country. When the wind kicks and the snow drifts, it’s within this harsher weather that the animals emerge.

After spending roughly two to three hours photographing this owl to make sure I got the right picture, I ended up shooting about a thousand different photos. Just as soon as I stopped photographing and started making my trek back, the owl flew off.

The photos I captured were well worth the snowy trek. And, to my surprise, my wife managed to get some video of the owl within his camouflaged element.


A Preview – A Great Grey Owl – Stay Tuned!!!

The Mysteries Within The Drift – I can only tell you how hard it is to find a great grey owl sitting among the thick forest of the trees; it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.

I immediately pulled over, noticing the only way to get down to the owl was to actually follow a route embedded in the snow. The path was somewhere close to waist-high. We just had record winter weather the day prior.

Fortunately, I had just bought some killer snow pants the day before, so this was the perfect way to put them to the test.

Without hesitation I grabbed my tripod and camera and set off for the trek. I did what I had to do, getting as close as I could to capture some spectacular pictures – coming soon!

Posted by Greek Mountain Man on Wednesday, February 20, 2019


We then decided to go and head to our spot where I first noticed the porcupine. If you read my blog post you will learn about the adventure I had while trying to shoot this porcupine.

Today was amazing. Winter in Yellowstone Country is anything, but dull.

A mountainous snow blanketed wonderland of beauty that beholds the mysteries within the drift.

The Elusive Elk

Bull Elk Grand Teton National Park - Packy Savvenas

I find it amazing in Yellowstone Country that I have not come face-to-face with the popular elk of this area. You see elk almost everywhere you go here within the protected environments like the National Elk Refuge.

Now I’ve seen cow elk, which are your female elk, in a field away from the males. The males, however, have been hidden away from me all winter long. I’ve known exactly where they were at, but every time I tried to get close they made it unattainable to get a photo of them. If I attempted to approach them with a camera they would normally lie down or make it even harder to get a picture in. This has been a Yellowstone reindeer game of sorts that the elk of this area have been playing on me all season long.

Fast forward to today. I started to set up my gear as I was getting ready for the day. I was standing in a field in the Grand Tetons as I was searching for which lens I was going to use. I decided to go with my 100 by 400 by Canon which is my favorite go-to lens for Yellowstone Country.

I snapped my lens on and stepped out of my car when all of a sudden, out of the middle of nowhere, this mystical bull elk appeared. As I stood awestruck, like a kid that just saw a magical creature for the first time, the elk started to approach me . This was probably one of the most surprising moments I’ve had in quite a while, within the past four months.

Besides the fact that I’ve been up close and personal with some of the biggest bull moose I’ve ever encountered in Yellowstone, the unexpected presence of this big bull elk was astonishing.

The bull elk was still a good 250 yards off and a little bit down hill. It was a complete whiteout; which is probably one of my favorite ways to photograph animals in the winter.

This was an older male as I could tell by the coat. He kept walking towards me without hesitation as if he knew this was a meaningful encounter that was meant to be. The bull elk kept getting closer by the minute while I kept snapping my camera and taking as many shots as I could.

I wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity. After all, I’ve been trying to get a good elk picture for at least four months. Like I said, for some reason these mysterious elk eluded me and have made it almost impossible for me to get a good photo in.

I know that elk are everywhere and that usually they’re easy to get a photograph of. For some reason though, they have done everything in their power to stay out of my way this year while allowing me to focus in on the other pictures that I have gotten.

Trust me, I’m not complaining. I know photographing an elk is like photographing any other famous landmark, but like I said what is odd about this year is that they have eluded me continuously. Well, that is, until now.

I feel as though I have earned my right to photograph them. This bull elk was like the elder of the herd that welcomed me in. This mysterious presence let me know that I am welcomed in their community and they were happy to have their picture taken. Every creature of this land has a story to tell; each one completely unique to any other. I take this as another adventure in the photographing day of the Greek Mountain Man.

Bison On The Move

Bison moving across the Grand Tetons

My wife and I were on a journey through the wonderful back trails of the Grand Tetons. We happen to approach a section where a large herd of bison had been hanging out for the past month or two.

I noticed the past couple days that this group of bison have been missing. They were no longer in action and could not be found in their usual location. So, to our surprise, as we were approaching our destination, we were astonished to see the large herd of bison in motion before us. Their presence was magnificent as they stampeded across the highway and into this beautiful pasture in front of the Grand Tetons.

Now these bison were on the move and were not slowing down. It was as if they had seen a wolf of possibly had been run off a ranch.

The Sun was shining and the sight of this literally took our breath away. My wife had her camera on her so she immediately began to get video of the bison crossing. I will be putting this together soon for future viewing.

I found out today that these bison have been gorging other animals and other people’s farms. So the authorities and park rangers, as of today, are now moving the bison out of the park and then to a safer area. They have shut down many of the areas that are accessible by car while they proceed to ensure a safe relocation of these big beautiful creatures. Learn More!

This was a sight to see though. This was the second time my wife and I have witnessed bison on a stampede. It’s a huge adrenaline rush to be near such an incredible sight in the raw elements of Yellowstone Country.  The bison run right by you while you know not which direction they’re going, as they can change at any moment.

You can feel the thunderous energy through the earth while witnessing the stampede. The gentle snorts and bellows can also be herd as the bison pass by too; it’s almost like a song of sorts.

What I’ve learned is to stay as still as possible and to not get in their way. Being a photographer, at the same time, I try to do the best I can to get the best shot encapsulating exactly what is happening at the moment.

Yellowstone is a magical land and every day there is something new. You really can’t go wrong coming here spending time in this majestic place.

Plus don’t forget that I provide photography lessons in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons area. If you’re looking for someone knows where to locate wildlife and can teach you how to shoot Wildlife photography, then be sure you reach out in the contact form below.

The Greek Mountain Man will have you covered.