This spring saw me back working in Finland once again continuing work on my on-going project documenting European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos). My time was spent in the in the Kuhmo region of Finland, where the country borders Russia. Here can be found the Wild Brown Bear Centre, an amazing location for wildlife enthusiasts alike. I've been working at this location for the past three consecutive years, and favour this site over others due to the untouched surroundings and 'wild' experience, something other Finnish bear viewing locations lack in my opinion. The centre is located in the heart of the Taiga forest, nestled in between 'no man's land' - a strip of land that separates the borders of Finland and Russia.
480+ hours spent in small ‘photography hides’ were tough going at times, with temperatures reaching well below freezing (-18 at times) on a nightly basis. It had been reported as the coldest April in this region of Finland for over 20-years, and as a result there were plenty of frustrating issues to overcome. Due to the prolonged cold spell in April, the emergence of Bears (my target species) from their winter's hibernation was much later than usual, and therefore sightings were much less frequent than my first spring visit back in April 2015. The ever increasing amounts of freshly fallen snow had meant the surface layer was constantly soft, making it difficult conditions for the bears to efficiently move through their Boreal environment. To combat this the Bears were tending to wait until well after darkness when the temperatures would really plummet, and therefore freezing the surface of the snow - making mobility much easier and less threatening for Bears. This did not put me off and actually worked to my advantage, as I had planned to work on capturing the bears using wide angle lenses, showing the bears amongst their environment during the hours of darkness. I love doing this style of wildlife photography, and capturing animals during the hours of darkness adds a whole new element and feel to the image in my opinion. I certainly hope that as I grow as a photographer, my style will continue to develop within this unique area of wildlife photography.
The image below was one of my favourite from the trip and was taken using a remote camera trap set-up, consisting of a DSLR camera, 2x flashes, and a PIR motion sensor to trigger the camera. Although remotely fired, I was still able to observe the camera from a short distant away inside my viewing hide. Much of the success in camera trap photography is knowing where to position the set-up and having been fortunate enough to work at this location over the past three years I have learnt the Bears movements and favoured trails well, this goes a long way in securing images.
Another predator that inhabits these forests is the Wolverine (Gulo gulo), an amazing animal that in my opinion can only be described as the one of the most efficient predators of the animal kingdom. This spring the activity and photographic opportunities the Wolverines provided was unbeatable and was by far the most I've experienced in the three years of working at this location. One of the reasons behind this is that we believe the Wolverines visiting were tendering to young, which are left in the safety of the forest away from other predators. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to observe Wolverines over the past few years while working at the centre, they are one of the most elusive creatures in Europe, where males have been recorded to have a range exceeding 620 km2, putting this into perspective really makes you appreciate each sighting.
I hope to return to this location later this year in the autumn if time allows. If all goes to plan I would like to further expand my bear and wolverine portfolio with the added bonus of the vibrant autumnal colours that will be occurring throughout the forests and swamps.
Thanks for reading.