Kate and Al Marshall were out for a hike in the North Georgia mountains one day, and stopped by the side of a creek to eat their lunch of chicken salad sandwiches.
Unknowingly, they were setting themselves up for an up-close bear sighting.
The noise from the water impaired their hearing, they weren't paying attention to the woods around them and, apparently, bears can sniff out chicken salad from miles away.
That experience — from which they escaped unscathed but more curious about black bear habits — led the Marshalls searching for informational videos.
But all they found were short informational videos about specific parks, not about bear habits.
"So, we spent the next eight years tracking bears and photographing them," said Kate Marshall, co-owner with Al of a small video production company based in Alpharetta. "It was to show people what we were seeing."
The results of their efforts are "Season of the Bear, Volume I: America's Black Bear" and "Season of the Bear, Volume II: Black Bear Cubs." A third video, dealing with human-bear conflicts and nuisance bears, is now in production.
Since their release, the first two videos have garnered a list of awards and accolades.
In July, the Marshall's production company, Kate Marshall Graphics Inc., was presented with a Gold Classic Telly for videography/cinematography from New York's annual Telly Awards for the second volume in the series. It also won a Crystal Vision Award and a 2005 Silver Remi Award.
The first video also won a Crystal Vision Award and a 2003 Bronze Remi Award. Both films were recognized in separate years at the annual WorldFest International Film Festival.
The films were all made in North Georgia, western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee and feature local wildlife experts such as C.W. Wathen of Chestatee Wildlife Preserve and David Gregory and Charles Hans of Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
As the series progresses, Marshall said, they tell the different patterns of a bear's life in relation to its food gathering.
For example, if a fall has few acorns, the next spring won't have as many cubs.
"The way you find them is you learn what they're eating," she said. And that's a view, Marshall said, that's not as common on TV documentaries.
"On TV, they'll show a black bear sitting on a rock, eating some grass," she said. "We specialize in long shots so you can see them interact with each other — how do they get the cherries out of the tree? How do they crack walnuts?"
It's also been a learning process for the couple, who admit to enjoying nature but not being experienced hikers when they first started the project.