Finland Winter Wildlife Report February 2022

In mid-February of 2022, I ran a winter wildlife workshop in the northern region of Finland. This is the second workshop I have led into Finland in winter that has been dedicated to wildlife. In my experience, Finland is one of the most underrated destinations for wildlife photography and offers everything from Wolves, Wolverine, Pine Martin, Eagles, Owls, and a plethora of wonderful small Arctic birds. Winter can throw up its challenges including freezing cold weather, but for the photographer willing to get out of their comfort zone, the rewards can be really fantastic. Winter paints a stunning white canvas in Finland in February. The Taiga forest is frozen and frequently draped in snow and the opportunities for minimalist emotive photography abound.

The first part of the workshop was focused on Wolves and Wolverines and saw us based close to the small town of Kuhmo near the Russian border where there are a number of photographic hides positioned in the demilitarised no man’s land region. These are the very same hides I use on my Autumn workshops to Finland (Read last year’s Trip Report) and are exceptionally well-positioned for photographers looking to capture wildlife photographs of these elusive species. Conditions for this period of time were exceptional with a fantastic covering of snow and soft overcast conditions. On several of the days, we had heavy snow and dramatic spindrift. At this time of year, there is sufficient daylight to shoot from roughly 8am until 5pm. Typically we were in the hides by 7am and departed not earlier than 5pm; giving us the maximum amount of time for photography and encounters. Although we were skunked on wolves this year (there were a lot of prints in the area), we did have a fantastic encounter with a young Wolverine that provided some exceptional photographic opportunities in the heavy snow. Both Golden and White Tailed eagles also visited on frequent occasions.

From our private cabins near Kuhmo we traveled roughly four and a half hours to the municipality of Kuusamo where we spent our time in the nearby Oulanka National Park photographing Golden Eagle, Green and Black Spotted Woodpeckers and many of the smaller birds including Siberian jays, Siberian tits, Greater tits, and Crested tits. Conditions were similar to our time near Kuhmo with excellent snow cover and photographic conditions were superb. We had fabulous encounters with a pair of Golden Eagles on both days in the hide.

On our last day, we took the opportunity to photograph Dippers nearby to our accommodation before we wrapped up our winter workshop with onward flights home. This particular image of a dipper was captured at just 1/5th of a second in order to blur the water around the small bird.

This was the second outing where I have had a chance to use the new Canon EOS R3 in winter. Like my experience in the prior Iceland expedition (Read the Trip Report), the R3 proved a stellar performer with outstanding battery life and truly incredible autofocus.  As I noted in my Arctic Fox expedition report, the addition of black-out free shooting is a godsend for wildlife photographers and the R3 has now most defiantly found a permanent home as my number one camera of choice. Quite honestly, if you had suggested to me twelve months ago that a mirrorless camera would supplant my EOS 1DX MK3 cameras I would have probably laughed. Nevertheless, there is no question in my own mind at this point that the benefits of the mirrorless R3 outweigh the few cons in comparison to professional DSLR cameras.

Participants shot both Sony and Canon (no Nikon this time). Cameras included the Sony A1, Sony A7RIV, Canon EOS R5, and Canon EOS R3. We typically photographed with telephoto lenses ranging from 400mm and the way to 600mm.

Due to my limited time in the studio in Australia (before I leave for Ellesmere Island in just three days) I have only had time to edit and process a few images from this workshop but will update this post later this year once I have had more time to go through the photographs from this trip.

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