No man’s land
In early August, I joined a Northshots photo tour to the forests of Finland to photograph the predators from that part of the world. My main focus was the European Brown bear, and anything else was always going to be a bonus. Doing wildlife photography has taught me that no sighting is guaranteed in the natural world. The prospect of seeing European Wolf and Wolverine had to be pushed to the furthest reaches of my mind. At least I got to tick Finland off my travel list.
The tour was being led by Nature photographer, Mark Hamblin, and from the very minute we met in Helsinki Airport, he made sure that the tour ran like clockwork and that we were rotated around the ten hides, so everyone got different opportunities during the trip.
The lodge you don’t sleep in
We arrived at the lodge where we were met by our lovely host, Lassi Rautiainen and his family. We were immediately fed and whisked off to our first hide as the light was disappearing quickly. Even in the low light, we were able to get our first shots of a visiting bear in the early hours of the morning.
The days seem to melt into one another, and we lost all sense of what day of the week it was. The minute we returned from the hide we were treated to a hearty breakfast before downloading all our images, going for a sauna or a swim in the lake alongside the lodge. The mornings flew by, and before long, we were having dinner and were being taken back out to the hides. It’s the first trip that I have been on where I didn’t actually sleep in the bed I had paid for.
Lake hides in no man’s land
The Lake hides are aptly named as they are situated on the edge of the lake opposite to where the bears usually congregate. The hide position allows for some great ‘reflection’ photos, and it was during the first session that we saw our first wolves. It was so exhilarating to watch them ghost in and out of the forest and a first time sighting for me.
The wonderfully named ‘no-mans’ land hides yielded our best sightings of bear and wolf of the trip as they all ambled between Russia and Finland each evening. The wolves mercilessly harassed the bears in the hope that they would abandon their food and this resulted in some interaction between the two species, sadly, it was usually later in the evening and thus too dark to get any action shots.
The last hide we used was in an old derelict caravan in the forest which was rumoured to have a female wolverine that visited quite regularly. She didn’t disappoint, and within 3 hours of getting into the hide, the little beauty arrived and darted around the site looking for food. They are a lot smaller than I imagined but still have a ferocious demeanour about them.
It was a fruitful trip all around, and I met some great folks. In hindsight, I think going to Finland in August is a little late in the year and would suggest June or July. Alternatively, you can go in winter to see the whole landscape covered in snow.
The Canon 1D Mk4 coped incredibly well in the low light again, and I can safely say that I have been cured of my resistance to up the ISO rating above 1600 (a trait I inherited from shooting in Africa). This camera, along with the new noise reduction capability of Adobe Lightroom, makes shooting on low light a breeze.
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