The first night with the Brown Bear and Wolverine
I got some rest and took a shower after the Black grouse experience during the night. I slept for maybe an hour or two before I started to look at last night’s pictures. They weren´t what I have hoped for before coming here but considering the conditions they were okay.
I knew that the rest would land around 13:00 and probably arrive at the lodge 2 hours later. I checked and cleaned my equipment and changed into warmer clothing so I would be ready to go to the hides after dinner.
The group arrived as expected and after unloading the taxi we all headed to the cantina. After a decent meal Sabrina informed us about certain rules and told us which hides we should use. I would be in Hide 5 with Jan-Olav.
The hides are just 700 meter from the Lodge but due to the weather conditions we took the less slippery way to the hides. It was maybe twice the distance but it felt good to be out walking. We also had the fortune to load a car with all of our equipment so we only had to carry our bags the last 200 hundred meter.
At the hides we rigged our equipment. Each photographer had two photo windows and in some of the hides you could even place cameras in different directions. There was a window board with drilled holes so you could fix a “camera head” at each photo window. Of course you could use a bean bag, like I did for one of my cameras, but I would really recommend one “camera head” per camera if possible. Over the Photo window you had an ordinary window, 10-15 cm in height, so you could sit straight up and look for the animals. A good setup for photography.
Inside the hide you had two bunk beds, a picnic bag with some food, a toilet bucket and a waste bag. In size it was much bigger than the Black Grouse hide and I could at least stand up to some degree inside the hide. There were also 2 sleeping bags, a blanket and a pillow per bunk bed. We also had a chair each and Sabrina made sure I got one with sawed off feet so I sat closer to the ground. We rigged the cameras in the hide and I discovered that I had a needle on the sensor. I got cold feet but to my luck I had photo wizard Jan-Olav at hand and we soon blowed the sensor clean with my air rocket.
After this small incident we got everything in place. Placed our camera bags in the bunk beds, took out the food from the picnic bag and placed everything so we easily could reach it. We were now ready for the bear and wolverine too arrived.
We didn´t have any clear skies so we were fortune that we had the snow that made the scene brighter. We took some test photos to see that we had our setup correct. I almost always photo on manual so I have control over the exposure. This isn´t always optimal especially when things just happen but I think there are more pros than cons.
Me and Jan-Olav sat and chatted quietly while testing the equipment. We had Gulls, Crows and Ravens to photo while waiting for the bear and wolverine to appear on scene.
We didn´t have to wait that long before the first Brown Bear appeared on stage. It was a shy individual that took it´s time before deciding to come out before the hides. It is important that you don´t rattle away shots when they appear because they have different characters and some will flee as soon as they hear a camera shutter. Watch the animal and it´s reactions to what you do. Keep the noise level to a minimum and that means don´t shoot at “Continuous High.” You will probably come home with better photos if you set the camera to “Single” or “Continuous Low”. Prey and spray isn´t an option if you want to see the animal’s natural behavior without scaring it.
We took some shoots and watch it thru the lens while it searched for food that Ari and his crew had placed around the site. It treaded slowly stopping listening. This it did for awhile before it decided to come out to look for the goodies. The clock was just around 17:50 and even if we had overcast the light was okay. We could shoot with optimal shutter and still keeping the ISO down and noise out of the picture as you hopefully can see from the first 5 pictures in the gallery.
This bear stayed for almost 20 minutes before something scared it. It was just a couple of yards from one of the hides when this happened and it wouldn´t surprise me if it heard something from the hide. All of the hides have a certain degree of material that dampen the noise that you make but when they come this close you´ll have to expect that they hear you either way.
We started to look at the photos taken and could see that many would turn out good. I feel that it is important to get good reading from the shadows in a photo and that often means you have to raise the EV so the Histogram will end up more on the right side. This means that you have to correct the exposure in the post process but also that you in the end will have less noise and better detail in the shadows. You will always get a crisper picture if you make the picture darken then lighter in the post process, at least to my knowledge.
So now we had to wait again. Nothing happened for almost 2 hours before I spotted the wolverine. It came running in the area where the bear had left. It watched from the woods before it took off and the scene went quiet again. I got one picture so I at least could point out that I had seen a wild wolverine.
We soon got a text message from Jouko that told us the Wolverine was on the wrong side of our hide. So we could still hope it would appear again.
And so it did. An hour after the first sighting we could begin to photo the wolverine. It moves much quicker that a bear so you have to up the “Shutter Speed” or wait for it to stop and listen. It stayed in front of our lenses for almost 20 minutes and even if the light had rapidly faded we could get some good results.
The evening had been a success with both bear and wolverine but it didn´t end there. 20 minutes after the wolverine left a big male bear arrived. It had a different coloration that you can see in the picture and the manner was more of a male in its prime. Sadly one had to shoot at very slow shutter to get a decent exposure so most of the picture I took turned out blurry.
Instead we turned off the cameras and watched this massive male doing its thing here in Vartius, the bear capital of Finland. It was slower and seemed to have an assurance that this was its domain. It was really interesting to see how different they where and just when we were going to sleep half an hour later we saw another bear making its way onto the scene.
Three bear sightings and 1 wolverine the first night. What a treat. And the icing on the cake was that when we woke up we had a bear just 15 meters outside the Hide. In total a great start to the bear & wolverine experience in Finland.