Grizzly bear channels Ansel Adams, looks through photographer’s lens

Grizzly bear examining camera equipment

Sometimes the most interesting photographs capture not what’s in front of the camera, but behind the lens.

B.C. photographer Jim Lawrence caught a one-of-a-kind moment when he snapped a photograph of a young grizzly peering through the lens of his camera.

Lawrence, a veteran wildlife photographer, was shooting just outside of Revelstoke, B.C., when he first saw the grizzly bear fishing in a river. He set up his camera but before he could snap a photo, the bear began wandering across the river toward him.

Lawrence’s natural photographer instincts kicked in—he has been snapping wildlife for 50 years now, after all—and he rushed to his truck to grab another camera.

When he returned, he found the bear up on its hind legs, curiously examining his camera equipment.

“For the longest time, he studied the screen and the buttons, then, with a huge long-nailed paw, gently tugged on the strap,” Lawrence told the Toronto Star. “The weight of the long lens caused the camera to pivot quickly upward, startling the big fellow.”

Since the 67-year-old posted the photo to his Facebook page on November 1, it’s gone viral, garnering national attention.

Lawrence, however, hopes the photo brings not fame, but attention to the controversial practice of trophy hunting in British Columbia.

“[Grizzly bears] are just fascinating. They are wonderful animals,” Lawrence says. “They are intelligent; they have expressive faces, nice eyes. We can coexist with bears. There is no need to be afraid.”

Unlike in many provinces, such as Alberta, where grizzlies have been declared a threatened species, trophy hunting is permitted in British Columbia during the fall and spring. Last year around 300 grizzlies were shot and killed in British Columbia.

According to a 2014 report by the Centre for Responsible Tourism and Stanford University, B.C.’s eco-tourism around bear viewing produces more jobs and revenue than trophy hunting.

“Polls show that 90 percent of British Columbians oppose the trophy hunt for grizzlies,” Lawrence told the Province. “I’m appalled that our government is promoting the grizzly hunt.”

Rather than rifles, Lawrence says photographers should pack bear spray. Oh, and an extra camera.