Photography Workshops at the VSWS

Every year, The American Bear Association organizes photographic workshops from May-August, which take place on the grounds of the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary.

Photographers who wish to hold their own workshops at the VSWS should get in contact with the office by phone or email for prices and availability.

Black Bear Photo Workshops at The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary

The Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary is 500+ acres of North Woods habitat, ideal for black bears and other wildlife. Vince Shute habituated generations of bears frequenting the Sanctuary unintentionally, as he tried to find a way to peacefully coexist with his forest neighbors. Vince fed the bears for more than 25 years. The feeding continues today as a means of preserving the extraordinary opportunities this unique situation provides. It allows The American Bear Association to educate the visiting public about the natural history of the American black bear and all natural resources. In addition, it allows The American Bear Association to offer you the chance to photograph this normally shy and reclusive animal.

Tom Redd Photo Workshop—Emphasizing Bear Behavior

Emphasis will be on black bear behavior and identifying bear behavior and characteristics in the field before they are acted on so photographers are ready for that award winning shot. This class is instructed from the field and there is no indoor classroom instruction provided. This provides you with all the time to take advantage of the unique photo opportunity VSWS has to offer in regards to their wide natural subject matter all at the click of a shutter. Be aware, the numerous bears that visit the site are not the only photographic subjects you will encounter. We have a cornucopia of other wildlife at the sanctuary, including whitetail deer, the mysterious timber wolves, squirrels and chipmunks, interesting butterflies and a myriad of bird species including the coveted Pileated Woodpecker who happens to nest on sanctuary grounds. In addition, you may discover an inky cap mushroom or the perfect bear paw print placed ever so gently in a piece of mud surrounded by native flowers. YOU MUST BE 18 YEARS OR OLDER TO REGISTER AND ATTEND THE WORKSHOP. ID REQUIRED UPON ARRIVAL IF REQUESTED BY STAFF. 

Eric Tetens Photo Workshop – Anticipating the Shot

Eric will discuss the history of VSWS, its bears, and what to look for when framing each shot. Emphasis will be placing photographers in the right position to get that award winning shot that keeps you coming back. All instruction will occur in the field to give each photographer as much time as possible with the bears. Each session will provide the photographer with ample opportunity to capture; cubs scampering up a tree, sleeping in a branch, mothers defending cubs, boars vying for position, cooling off in the pond or resting on wood chips. Bring plenty of film, memory cards, batteries and creativity.
In both workshops, in order to better prepare participants for their time spent around wild bears, a representative from the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary will cover safety issues. YOU MUST BE 18 YEARS OR OLDER TO REGISTER. ID REQUIRED UPON ARRIVAL IF REQUESTED BY STAFF. 


$750 per person for all photo workshops and a membership to the American Bear Association is highly recommended. We also politely ask, although not required, that each photographer donate at least one royalty free photo to the ABA for their use for monetary gains, marketing and promotions and this in-kind donation will help keep the facilities in operation. See below for membership details, benefits and also cancellations policies.

Reservations & Booking

ONLINE BOOKING FOR THE 2019 SEASON WILL BEGIN ON DECEMBER 1ST. Please fill in our online reservation form or call the American Bear Association at (218) 757-0172 and leave a message or email with any questions.

Reserve a 2018 private photo session or check availability. Videographers looking for a private reservation are required to contact us directly.

2018 Schedule


Eric Tetens Photo Workshops – Anticipating the Shot – June 9-11 & August 4-6

  • Saturday: 
Participants will assemble for registration, introductions and bear safety instructions. The black bear ecology portion of the workshop will run until 2pm. Eric will provide a brief discussion about what to anticipate, and then the group will travel to the VSWS for an evening photographic session.
  • Sunday and Monday: 
Early morning and evening photography sessions at the VSWS are planned. Midmorning to mid-afternoon will be spent reviewing photos and processing the workflow, this way each photographer can quickly review what is working, and new shots to be captured. The VSWS is closed to the public on Monday, so you will be the only guests!

 Tom Redd Photo Workshop—Emphasizing Bear Behavior- June 16-18

  • Saturday
: 12 p.m. Participants will assemble for registration, introductions, and bear safety instructions. Bear talk about behavior and characteristics. Afternoon until dusk photography session.
  • Sunday:
 6 a.m. Participants will assemble. Photo sessions continue throughout the day until dusk.
  • Monday:
 6 a.m. Participants will assemble. Photo sessions continue throughout the day until dusk. The VSWS is closed to the public on Mondays, so you will be the only guests!

: The ABA is no longer able to provide meals during the photo workshops. However, the nearby town of Orr, located approximately 14 miles from the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, has some cafe/diners. The Bois Forte community also has a convenience store that serves food.

Photo Workshop Instructors


Eric Tetens

Eric is a freelance photographer, having visited VSWS since 2000 capturing over 100,000 images of the bears. His photo credits include: Sierra Club, ESPN and various regional and local publications. Eric has shot extensively throughout North and Central America focusing on bears and wolves. Eric is a member of the Riverwoods Nature Photographic Society in Chicago, the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. 

Eric’s has studied the North American Black Bear extensively and utilizes his understanding of bears, and specifically bears at VSWS, to help his students take better photographs.

Tom Redd

Tom is a wildlife and nature photographer who currently resides in Denver, CO.

His work has appeared in magazines,  books and has been displayed in local schools as well as The Wildlife Experience Museum.  

He is a member of the Mile High Wildlife Photo Club and is a contributor to the website

He enjoys photographing all wildlife especially bears and has been fortunate to photograph wild black, brown and polar bears in their natural habitat.    

Accommodation in Orr

Accommodations are available throughout the Pelican Lake area. Call 1-800-357-9255 for details or visit

Driving Directions

Travel Highway 53 north from Duluth, MN approximately two hours. One mile south of Orr, turn left (west) onto County Road 23. Grey Wolf Lodge is located approximately 6 miles down CR 23, while the VSWS is an additional 7 miles west on the same road.

Map & Directions

Photo Workshop Information

  • Class size is limited to 8 people for June & July workshops and 6 people for August & September workshops, so register early
  • All proceeds will go to support The American Bear Association
  • All participants will be required to view and sign the bear safety tips
  • All participants will be required to sign a VSWS liability waiver
  • Be sure to bring all your camera equipment
  • Be prepared for adverse weather

Questions? Call (218) 757-0172 or email us.

Cancellation and Refund Policy

You must notify ABA with a written request (by email or US mail with confirmation from ABA) 60 days before the workshop date for a full refund.  Any cancellations within 60 days of the event will not be accepted and will be processed as a donation. Thank you.

Private Workshops through the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary

We offer private workshops that are not booked on our website. These workshops are booked through the workshop leaders themselves, Chris Norcott & Bill Lea. Since they are booked through the leaders themselves pricing, refunds and cancellation policies vary. Chris Norcott & Bill Lea will be holding FIVE workshops for the 2018 season. Space is limited, sign up TODAY to reserve your spot. All bookings are done through their private website:


For any questions, please e-mail Chris directly at:

Membership of the American Bear Association

Simply include your dues in the space provided on the registration form and pay the member’s only price for this workshop. The American Bear Association is a Minnesota based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. All support comes from the private sector through annual dues, visitor donations, merchandise sales and photography fees. The American Bear Association receives no federal or state support. Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent of federal and state law.

Membership Benefits Include:

  • Our tri-annual publication, BEAR IN MIND
  • Special discounts on ABA sponsored workshops and programs
  • Knowledge that you are making a difference!
    • Member – $30 annually
    • ‘Friend of the Cubs’ – $100 annually
    • Sustaining Member – $250 annually
    • Lifetime Member- $1,000

More information

Visiting Northern Minnesota

Who says you have to stay in the pristine North woods of Minnesota for only three days? There are numerous other opportunities available to explore. You could try some aerial photography of Pelican Lake and the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary. You could photograph the captive wolves at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. You could even take a guided boat tour through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. And of course you can spend each evening at the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, learning even more about the bears. Ask the Activities Director at your choice of lodging for details. For more information, please contact us at (218) 757-0172