maanantai 25. elokuuta 2014

40 hours

Photographing has been my hobby for more than forty years. My starting time was very active but then little by little it waned... just to be started again some fifteen years ago. And maybe ten years ago it experienced a new renaissance. During these years I have been photographing  nature quite variously but however mostly birds and deers, also landscapes from time to time. Until now I have never been photo shooting wolves or bears. Then last summer I got an excellent opportunity for that since I met Niko Pekonen, a young photographer and nature entrepreneur, at breakfast during a trip to Kuusamo.  He has wolf hides in the middle of wilderness near Kuhmo in eastern Finland. We made a deal that I will visit his hide after midsummer or in the beginning of July. Finally I decided to go there in July after I had checked the weather forecasts and I had four days available for the visit. My plan was to stay in the hide for three days. Weather forecasts were really promising for that period, partly cloudy skies with few shovers and temperatures just below twenty degrees centigrade. Perfect.
I drove eight hours from Kirkkonummi in southern Finland to meet Niko ten kilometres from the hides. We met briefly and the last kilometres I followed Niko along the roads that were getting all the time smaller and smaller. They got so small and were in such bad condition that it was good to have a four wheel drive. Niko was even towing a trailer where he had his all-terrain vehicle and some slaughterhouse leftovers as bits for wolves. We parked our cars a kilometre and a half from the hide site. Last part of the journey we drove with his all-terrain vehicle through forests and swamps. Nice and warm weather had drawn millions of mosquitos and thousands of horseflies to the swamp. I have always said that there is no bad weather, only wrong kind of clothing. In this case to avoid insects, even it is not  the matter of weather, it worked well with long sleeves and pants with long legs and with a knit beanie. Disadvantage of this kind of clothing was that it made you sweat quite easily in the hot weather.
I settled down in the hide around three in the afternoon and Niko left with his vehicle. First couple of hours went fast chasing mosquitos and horseflies in the hide and same time watching the activity outside. The hide itself was not particularly comfortable, you can´t stand straight and the observer windows are really small and on inconvenient height. Luckily there was a bunk to lay down and straighten your body which helped a lot. After insect hunt I photographed ravens and a crane couple for a few hours until tiredness dragged me down to the bunk.

I was so tired due to the early morning wake up and the long drive. I didn´t fall in deep sleep and I woke up every fifteen minutes or so to take a look outside. Once again when I watched out I was totally awake in a fraction of a second with eyes wide open and heart beating.  A bear had showed up and it was sitting fifty meters from the hide in its own peace. My camera was ready for shooting and I followed the bear through it and photographed the magnificent animal in the dim night. That was an awesome experience to be alone with a bear in wilderness though in the hide.

The bear had its own activities for maybe half an hour and then moved on and went for a night swim. I stayed in the hide and watched carefully around to spot wolves. That night they didn´t show up but just before the sunrise the bear came back once more for a short visit.

The following day went by calmly, snoozing and sometimes photo shooting ravens and cranes. When the evening was getting darker I sharpened my vigilance and looked out almost continuously hoping to spot wolves. After a few hours of peace and quiet the same bear individual from  the previous night came back for one hour visit. It came well before the sunset. That was nice because when the sun goes down the light varies a lot. During the summer time in northern Finland when the sun barely goes below the horizon the angle of light is really gentle. Also the landscape was totally different in variable light which gave its special flavour.

I had intended to spend sixty hours in the hide but ended up being only forty hours because the temperature was rising so fast in the morning.  Because of the clear skies the temperature in the hide was going to be certainly fifty degrees centigrade. Even the partly cloudy and cooler previous day had risen the hide´s temperature way up.

I took my gears and other stuff and walked back to my car. Because of the early hours there were not so many mosquitos and horseflies. While walking I looked up to the sky and had thoughts over my session in the hide. I came for the wolves which I didn´t see, photographed the bear and spent hours in a tiny little hide in the middle of nowhere. That was an incredibly awesome experience. I felt that I was part of the nature watching wild animals in their natural habitat. I really hope that we will live so sustainably that it will last for generations!


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