Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) Sow and Three Cubs of the Year, Winner of the Nature's Best Photography Highly Honored and Smithsonian exhibition competition, 2012.
The tide was out, the sand was blowing, and the wind had some rain in it - not perfect for photography, but perfect for a grizzly sow (female) and her three young cubs to clam for butter clams at low tide. The guide in our party of 3 saw this large sow slowly move toward us and said we should hold our position. Two hours elapsed as we waited and the cubs played, while their mom dug hundreds of clams up in an efficient posthole motion, carefully prying the shells open with her long nails. They slowly came closer, and the guide explained this was occasionally a defensive posture for the sow to prevent male bears from being attracted to her cubs for predation. And we watched them in the rain and blowing sand and surf. Finally, after nursing the cubs while keeping a watchful eye on both us and her surroundings, but feeling comfortable with us, she bed them down for a nap, shielding them from the wind, rain, and flooding tide for a brief moment of rest - and I took this photo, an intimate moment of trust for all.
Camera: Canon 5D, EF 600mm F4L IS USM + 1.4x tele-extender, 1/500 sec at f/8, 400 ISO, GITZO Tripod + Wimberly Tripod Head, TENBO Rain Covers (yes, it was).