Author: Amy Horn
Imagine driving your car through a forest in Northern Arizona and viewing wolves,bear, bison, donkey and many more animals. This unique experience is what you will find at Bearizona Park in Williams, Arizona. The park is divided into two main areas, the drive thru park and “Fort Bearizona” where you can stroll through winding walkways to view more bear, fox, bobcat and other North American animals. It you are thinking of visiting Bearizona, here are three tips to better photos.
- Upon entry to the park, most cars head straight to the drive through area. In this area, you drive from habitat to habitat looking for wildlife. Hopefully you can spot all 13 bear! A long lens with a focal length of 200mm or larger is your best chance at capturing a great photo. On occasion, animals are on the road, but most often they are off eating, sleeping or walking in the wooded areas so a long lens is crucial. Drive slowly and if you pull off to take photos make sure you leave room for cars to pass you. Something you might not think about is the impact your tinted windows will have on your photographs (for safety, windows remain closed). I found my window tinting gave me an underexposed image by more than one stop. To compensate for this boost your ISO or open your aperture to add more light. Vehicles can repeat the loop as many times as desired to capture the animals in their different behavioral activities.
- At the end of the drive thru area is a parking lot for Fort Bearizona. Fort Bearizona is a small area of animal habitats including multiple bear enclosures, javelina, bobcats, a raptor flight (March – Nov only), petting zoo and several more species. At these enclosures you can take advantage of the close proximity to the animals and use shorter lenses. I recommend focal lengths from 50-300mm to capture these critters. The bear enclosures separate the bear by age and those juvenile bear love to climb the trees. If you don’t see any bear, be sure to look up!
- Three times daily the “Wild Ride Bus Tour” loops through the park. In case you were busy driving the loop earlier, riding the bus will give you a chance to photograph the animals. The best seats are closest to the driver and, of course, by a window. The reason seats by the driver are best is that the driver will feed some animals and they trot right on over to the bus.
So, if you are up for a unique experience with wildlife, check out Bearizona Park in Williams, AZ and don’t forget your long lens.
Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. Join her in the upcoming zoo workshops at Wildlife World Zoo and Arizona Sonora Desert Museum or view her current schedule at ahpw.org or horndesigns.com.