In June I had the pleasure of co-leading the NaturesLens Wild Brown Bears of Finland Photography Holiday to Vartius.
Close to the Russian border lies an area of the Taiga forest as wild & untouched as it gets within Europe, & here roams one of the most magnificent predators in the world, the wild Brown Bear!
On our first day, we arrived at the primary camp location around mid-afternoon, the group settled into their rooms in a comfy wooden lodge & unpacked, preparing all their camera gear for the first night in the brown bear hides. When unpacked the group headed to the restaurant for dinner; dinner was served around 4 pm every afternoon before every hide session. The food was excellent, home-cooked & tasty, & set us up nicely before heading off to the hides. We left our lodge around 5 pm every evening, taking in the 30-minute walk to through the forest & swamps to get to our hides. The hides were some of the best photographic hides I have worked from, supplied with ground-level shooting holes & beds – what is not to like? We split the group up into various hides from 1 man to 3 man hides around the area which offered multiple views of the forest from open cotton field meadows, pine forest lakes & deep woodland hides.
The trip was timed perfectly to get the advantage of 24 hours of sunlight during the midnight sun. That phenomenon, known as The Midnight Sun, is caused by the tilt of the Earth’s axis about its orbit around the sun, as a result, at both North & South poles, the sun only sets & rises one day every year! In Finland, the summer months of June & July are the months where the Midnight Sun is at its peak. When nights are still relatively light as it is possible to photograph all night long. The most significant difference from shooting at night comes from the incredible change like the light. The sun takes on a reddish-yellow colour, almost like during sunrise or sunset & everything around you is bathed in an unimaginably warm, bright light pretty much a photographers dream!
Our first night in the hides took its toll on the body clock, but the thought of waiting to see one of the wild Brown Bears was more than enough excitement to keep you alert & awake. After a few hours of waiting, we got our first glimpse of a wolverine, although some distance away on the other side of the lake, it was amazing to see this elusive animal.
An hour later, our first bear appeared, emerging from the deep woodland to the right of our hide sauntering & sniffing the air around him. It didn’t take long for him to come into the feed station that was around 15 metres from where we were.
For anyone who hasn’t experienced seeing a bear in the wild, it is almost a heart-stopping moment. An amazing feeling that certainly gets the adrenaline going. The large male Bear stayed in & around the hide for a short time before making his way back to the safety of the forest.
There were a few hides that overlooked another lake. However, this lake was quite narrow allowing for some great opportunities on the opposite side. As always, it was just a waiting game for anything to show. It was not a disappointment though, as 3 Bears turned up that evening. One individual male & pair of both male & female. This allowed for some fantastic close-up reflection images that would have been very difficult to get anywhere else!
The best evening for me was on the second to last night where I was blessed with some truly stunning light. This allowed photographers to get creative & come up with some unique & original shots. For me, the light of this night along with excellent bear activity made this one of the best sessions of the trip.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO CAPTURE IMAGES OF THE WILD BROWN BEARS OF FINLAND 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 (until 31st October 2017, £1199 each participant after that), 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 before the trip taking place.