As a keen wildlife photographer, I am always looking at ways to challenge myself so when Sean Weekly told me of availability on a trip to Finland to photograph the Wild Brown Bears, I jumped at it. I had met Sean on Skomer Island back in 2016 photographing the Atlantic Puffins & learnt so much in that short time I was confident that I would enjoy the trip even though it was my first organised wildlife trip.
Having managed to select my camera kit & get it packed safely it was off to Heathrow to meet the group & commence the adventure.
It was clear from the start that there was a good group dynamic & that this was going to be a good trip. Flights to Helsinki, with an overnight stop, followed by an onward flight to Kajaani & a coach trip to Kuhmo & the Wild Brown Bear camp completed the seamless travel arrangements. So, time for a quick unpack & freshen up before the fun commenced.
Following some food & a safety briefing, we were escorted to the hides for the first night. This is where I learned the first lesson of Mosquito Management! – apply as much insect repellant as you can & ensure you have no bare skin! Failure to follow these rules would lead to hours of fun!
Once in the hide, you had plenty of time to settle in & get sorted, but nothing could prepare you for the first wild brown bear encounter. These creatures are magnificent & the first time you see one for real you forget you have a camera & when you do take pictures they are rubbish!! However, you get plenty of opportunities to practice as they kept coming. One surprise on the first night was the interaction of the gulls chasing the bears off the food! While a surprise, it is just another aspect of nature at work, providing different opportunities or challenges. Anyway, after a long day of travel & a long night in the hide, the first night was over & a well-earned breakfast & some sleep were called for … editing my images could wait!
Night 2 started about 3 PM with some coffee & image management making sure backups were made & images were selected. The main meal was taken at around 4 PM & the hide deployment followed a similar pattern as the previous night. Night 2 brought a different hide & different company & a new set of challenges! As well as a young female bear, we were treated to our first sighting of a Wolverine, a strange but captivating creature. During Night 2 I became aware of just how much noise my Nikon cameras make in comparison to Canon! So much so that we coined the phrase ‘Nikon Stare’ which is where the wildlife reacted to my shutter noise & offered the perfect poses for my Canon colleagues!! Thankfully the gull interaction was improving & would virtually disappear by Night 3.
After Night 2 we started to get into a good routine of image management followed by food consumption & we were tolerating those damned mosquitoes!
For Night 3, we were allowed to make our way to the brown bear hides & again settled in for another great session. This time we were treated to seeing two pairs of bears playing & feeding lakeside providing opportunities for some great shots. During these periods, you have time to push the camera settings to the extreme & try things you would not usually contemplate all with the support & guidance of the tour leaders & other photographers. Consequently, my knowledge grew & my images improved. By now we had learned that the bears operate during certain times & that typically there was a lull in activity between 0100hrs & 0300hrs, so there were opportunities for a nap or some image editing within the hide. These low activity periods also allowed for more experimentation of the camera settings & yet more eureka moments!
I have detailed the following nights in a second blog post – you can read ‘Further encounters with the Wild Brown Bear’ here.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO CAPTURE IMAGES OF THE WILD BROWN BEARS FOR YOURSELF?
For 2018, NaturesLens have already announced a return to photograph the Wild Brown Bears of Finland – the trip has been scheduled to start on June 24 & ending on July 2, 2018.
The Wild Brown Bears of Finland Photography Holiday costs £1099 each participant, this price excludes air travel to Kajaani itself – all ground transportation from Kajaani & back, food, accommodation & guidance/tuition is included.
To hold a place on the trip, we only require a 20% deposit from you, with the balance due 12 weeks prior to the trip taking place.