In October of 2019 I lead a dedicated wildlife workshop to the northern region of Kajaani in Finland. This workshop was dedicated to the photography of Wolves, Wolverines and Bears. I arrived a week early to pre-scout many of the locations I wanted us to try to photograph in order to ascertain which hides (and in what locations) were having the most activity and at what time of the day. By pre scouting I ensured we had the best possible opportunities with the most action for our time in this beautiful part of Finland. This was well worth the effort and time as everyone who participated in this trip came away with a spectacular portfolio of photographs.
To my knowledge, there is no where else in the world you can get so close, so reliably and so often to wild wolves and wild wolverine. At various times during our photography sessions we would have Wolves, Wolverine and Brown Bear within just a few feet of our hides. This provided us with unique and incredible opportunities to produce a really strong and powerful body of work of these apex predators.
Wolves, Wolverines and Bears are typically most active first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening so this is when we concentrated our efforts. As it turned out, most of the action ended up occurring in the afternoon and early evening so we quickly abandoned the mornings and focused our efforts on the afternoons. With the evenings being so incredibly productive we were able to make many thousands of photographs during just a few hours each day. It also freed up our mornings for some informal landscape photography around some of the lakes at the peak of fall colour. The landscape opportunities in this area of Finland at this time of year are well worth a visit alone.
Many of the hides we used to make our photographs are actually located in no mans land between Finland and Russia and special permission is needed to enter this demilitarised zone. The benefit of being in this remote restricted region is that we have it completely to ourselves. No other human being for many kilometres. Of perhaps even greater importance is that there is no hunting allowed of any kind in this zone. With hunting pressure across much of Finland (for Grouse, and unfortunately also for Bear and Wolves) the animals are pushed into this region and concentrated more closely than they might otherwise normally be.
During the week we spent in this remote part of Finland we had what can only be described as some of the most amazing, unusual and incredible encounters with wildlife anyone could ever hope for. We had a pack of six wolves (two Alphas and four one year old pups) that were consistently coming within just a few metres of our hides on a daily basis. To have wild wolves within just a few meters of you is virtually unheard of. We also had close encounters with Wolverine and brown bears; often close enough that they were approaching minimum focusing distance!
During one early afternoon we were waiting to go into the hides when a wild wolverine emerged from the forest and promptly came straight up to us to investigate. This is extremely unusual behaviour for what is notoriously an extremely shy and elusive animal. With the wolverine so close I took the opportunity to use my iphone and grab some video of this once in a lifetime encounter.
Due to my continual travel schedule this year, I have not as yet had time to sort, edit and process the many thousands of photographs I made during this week in Finland, so rather than delay my trip report I am instead including a few snippets of video I shot on my iphone during the workshop. I will post final images at a later date once I have had time to edit and process them.
This years workshop was such a success that I have decided to repeat the workshop again next year from the 14th of October until the 21st of October. As per this year, I will take just five photographers with me for this experience. We will be based in a quaint and cozy remote cabin just a few kilometres from the Russian border where we will make daily sojourns to our hide locations for photography of Wolves, Wolverine and Bears. Drop me an email to register your interest as places are strictly limited and some are already spoken for. Full details on my website at www.jholko.com
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