In mid-October of 2021, I wrapped up my Autumn workshop in the far north of Finland for Wolves, Bears, and Wolverines. This workshop was the first chance I had to travel out of Australia in more than eighteen months and the first chance to get back to leading and guiding workshops for Nature photographers since the pandemic began. It was a very welcome trip with a fantastic group of enthusiastic and passionate photographers. My last trip was my winter expedition to the east coast of Greenland back in March of 2020 (Read the Trip Report), and that expedition was unfortunately cut short by the pandemic. Since then, I have more or less been stuck in Australia, dealing with the logistical issues that come with delayed and postponed trips. Being in Finland again in the remote wilderness was an absolute breath of fresh air. Being able to share it with like-minded, passionate photographers was the icing on the cake.
For this workshop, we based ourselves about two and a half hours drive north of the small town of Kajaani and roughly an hour sideways of the small municipality of Kuhmo. This location placed us very close to the Russian border, and we spent most of our time in no-mans land between Finland and Russia. This particular area is ordinarily inaccessible to the general public, but with permission from the military police, we were able to enter and use this area for our photography. No hunting is allowed in no-mans land, and as such, this area has become somewhat of a haven for wildlife. Wolves, bears and Wolverine can all be found regularly in this area.
There are roughly a dozen permanent hides set up in various locations, and we utilized a good deal of them for our time in Finland. I arrived in Finland more than a whole week early to scout the different hides. I intended to ascertain which of the hides had the most activity and this proved time well invested. On day one of our workshop, we hit the ground running and knew our best chance of seeing and photographing wildlife was in a location we know locally as ‘Paradise’.
We were able to photograph wolves every day during our workshop and were fortunate to see and photograph the entire pack of ten wolves on our very first day. We had been in the hide for less than half an hour before we saw our very first wolf.
Telephoto lenses are ideal for this workshop, and most photographs are made between 400 and 600mm. Wolves are shy and move very quickly, so there is some benefit to telephoto zoom lenses. I shot almost exclusively with a 600mm F4 prime lens, and most of the participants were using either 600mm or 400mm lenses. Lenses such as the 200-400 and 100-400 can also be used effectively for this workshop.
Although the Wolverine remained elusive during our time in
Finland, we did see and photograph several different brown bears throughout the trip. The bears are preparing to hibernate this time of year, and late October is the last chance to photograph them before their long nap and the Spring thaw.
We also saw and photographed both White-tail and Golden Eagle and many smaller bird species, including Eurasian and Siberian Jays and many of the Tits. Ravens, pied-crows, and Eurasian magpies were also seen in abundance. I had hoped we might get lucky and find a Great Grey Owl, but this species appears to have crashed in recent years in Finland, and none were to be found. Despite my efforts, the Great Grey Owl remains my nemesis bird. I have yet to find and photograph one in the wild, despite many weeks of effort in Finland and around the Grand Tetons in the USA.
This trip to Finland was quite an extended trip for me personally. Although our workshop officially ran for seven days, I subsequently stayed on several weeks post-workshop due to difficulty obtaining return flights to Australia. Australia currently remains closed (as of this post) to non-Australian residents, and as a result, there are few incoming flights into the country, and those few are extremely expensive. Hopefully, as Australia begins to open up, more flights will be available.
Finland has rapidly become one of my favorite destinations for Wildlife photography. It offers a fantastic variety of wildlife in a stunning setting in late Autumn and Winter. I am already looking forward to returning in February next year for my next Finland Winter workshop. Full details of the winter trip are available on my website HERE.
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