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.

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. 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. Most photographers shoot more than they expect so please bring memory cards and batteries as well as additional bodies and lenses so you can the most flexibility while shooting at the sanctuary.  Tripods are allowed although monopods have proven to be the easiest to use in the field.

Ernie & Angie Page Photo Workshop – Black Bears of the Northwoods

This workshop is taught in an easy going and humorous manner by a husband and wife team.  Ernie and Angie Page will share their knowledge and skill to help you not only learn or further develop key photography concepts but also learn more about the American Black Bear!  You will experience the Black Bear in a way not experienced anywhere but here.  You will come away with a life changing experience and the awesome photos to prove it.

About this workshop:

  • For photographers who prefer hands-on with most of our instruction in the field
  • Opportunities for group discussions and questions and answers
  • Designed toward amateur nature photographers with beginner to advanced skill levels
  • Small group size to allow for individual attention to participants
  • We shoot right along with you….but in a limited capacity. We use our time shooting as field demonstrations that help to reinforce fundamental concepts of photography  and help expand your creative vision
  • It is important for participants to be familiar with their equipment and its operation. BRING YOUR CAMERA MANUAL!

Concepts of particular focus

  • Metering/Exposure/histograms
  • Light
  • Depth of Field



$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 2020 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 2020 private photo session or check availability. Videographers looking for a private reservation are required to contact us directly.

2020 Schedule

Eric Tetens Photo Workshops – Anticipating the Shot – June 6th-8th FULL & August 8th-10th FULL

  • Friday Night: Participants will assemble for registration, introductions and bear safety instructions at 7pm.  Eric will provide a brief discussion about what to anticipate over the weekend and answer questions.  Attendance for this meeting is mandatory and waivers must be signed in order to shoot at the sanctuary.
  • Saturday, Sunday and Monday: 
We will shoot early in the morning and later in the afternoon when the bears are active and we have the best light. Mid-day there will be optional trips to shoot birds on Pelican lake or waterfalls in the surrounding area.  The VSWS is closed to the public on Saturday and Sunday morning as well as all day on Monday, so you will be the only guests!

Eric Tetens

Eric is a wildlife 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’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.

Ernie & Angie Page Photo Workshop – Black Bears of the Northwoods– June 29th-July 1st

  • Sunday, June 28th 6pm meet at the VSWS visitor center. Participants will assemble for registration, introductions, some class time on exposure and bear safety instructions.  Attendance for this meeting is mandatory and waivers must be signed in order to shoot at the sanctuary.
  • Monday (June 29th), Tuesday (June 30th) and Wednesday (July 1st) we will meet at 6:30 am daily at the VSWS visitor Center and make our way to the sanctuary. Photography time daily will be 7am till dark with ~3 hour break in afternoon.   We will use time when the bears are active and we have the best light. All itineraries are subject to change depending on weather and bear activity.
  • The VSWS is closed to the public on Monday and Tuesday/Wednesday mornings as well ,so you will be the only guests!

Ernie & Angie Page

Ernie and Angie Page were born and raised in the rolling hills of West Virginia where they still reside. Their “home away from home” is the Smoky Mountains and quickly becoming a close second is the VSWS!  They are a husband and wife team that love teaching others about their love for nature and photography.  It is that love and passion for nature that has drawn them to specialize in nature and landscape photography.

They have a combined 20+ years of photography experience.  They have been published in a variety of consumer and commercial publications including magazines, calendars, music CD’s, Professional Organization Websites and Business websites.  Their fine art can be found in homes and businesses throughout the country.  They have won numerous local, state and regional competitions.  They are both certified through the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources as Master Naturalist for the state of West Virginia.  They have lead numerous photography tours in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and places within West Virginia including Canaan Valley, Marlinton and New River Gorge.

We have been volunteering at the VSWS for 2 weeks during the year for past 2 years.  We hope to help you not only have a better knowledge of photographing these amazing animals but to leave with a better understanding of black bears that you can help pass on to others.

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 THREE workshops for the 2020 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