Tips for photographing bears from hides

There are a couple of things to consider when photographing wildlife from a hide. Preparation is key, so I thought I should write something about this. Hopefully someone will take away something from this. It will help a lot if you can get some information about the hide you are going to stay in. email the company that you are going to and try also to get them to send pictures of the hide, both inside and outside so get a sense of the layout. In most cases the organizer has several hides to choose from. Try and book which hide you would like to use in advance. Witch hide you prefer depends on your photography goals.

Try and get answers to these questions.
1.     Will I be sharing the hide with some else or am I alone?
2.     Is there a bed in the hide?
3.     Is there a sleeping bag and pillow in the hide for cold nights?
4.     Witch directions is the hide facing?
5.     Is there a toilet in the hide?
6.     Can I get low eye-level shot from the hide?
7.     How many camera openings does the hide have?
8.     When do we enter and leave the hide?
9.     What is the transportation to and from the hide?
10.   What is the walking distance to the hide?
11.   Can I use a tripod or is it enough with just the ballhead?

Every organizer has a set of rules that must be followed, so keep an eye out for that information.

Benefits of using hide
1.     Hide is ideal that will increase your chances to get stunning pictures
2.     You can get very close the subjects
3.     You can observe natural behaviour
4.     You can move around inside the hide

What to bring
1.     Binoculars
2.     Ballhead/Wimberley head for your lenses
3.     2-3 camera bodies
4.     Lenses. It all depends on what you own but try and bring at least a normal, midrange zoom and a telephoto 300 – 800mm.
5.     Memory cards
6.     Spare batteries
7.     Wireless remote can be handy to use
8.     Snacks to keep you awake
9.     Coffee or Tea
10.   Water
11.   Sandwiches
12.   Indoor slippers can be nice to have if it gets cold
13.   Gloves and hat
14.   Fleece sweater
15.   Wool base layer

Know your gear
Know your gear before entering the hide is very important. Things can happen very fast in the wild, so you have to be prepared when things happen. There can be many hours when nothing is happening, but the light often keeps changing so it’s important to continually change your settings and be prepared for quick action and when the unexpected happens.  Dependent on what kind of wildlife you are photographing, it can be a good idea to use silent mode (if your camera supports it), at least for the initial shoots you take. Always keep an eye on the wildlife and see if they react to your camera shutter. In my experience as soon as the wildlife starts to eat they get less sensitive for sounds and camera movement.

Get to know your animals
Read up on the animals your about to photograph. Try and learn as much as possible about their behavior before your trip.

When to go
It all depends on what you want when photographing bears. It’s not much use going during winter when they are hibernating, but it can be a very interesting time in late winter when they come out of there hibernation. You can some very unique pictures of bears in snow. In Scandinavia there is a chance you can spot both wolverine and wolf, since they are looking for food all year around.

Early spring is the time when the bears have to catch up on food. From middle of May throughout June is the mating season. If you are lucky enough to see this or even photographing mating, then you have a chance to take some really interesting behavior photos.

Summer can be a great time to photographs young bear cubs with their mother. Normally it’s a better chance to see cubs during summer after the mating season.

Now is your chance to take some nice pictures with bears in autumn colors.

Last thoughts
It’s easy to get caught in photographing the animals, but don’t forget to stop taking pictures and just watch their behavior and enjoy the moments you get. Keep you self-busy if you get bored by photographing nature and birds. Do not use any mosquito repellent or any kind of deodorant!

European herring gull and Smew

Finland 2015

Going back to Finland is always thrilling, and with an expectation of being able to see something new or experiencing something magic. This trip delivered on both parts. Going to Finland in September does not allow for many hours to photograph so you have to have luck in the small window you have. We leave the camp at around 4 pm. and the sun sets at 8 pm.

The pictures above is the biggest bear I've ever seen. My estimation is that he weighs somewhere between 300-350 kg. And he has name of course; "Brutus". Brutus dominates the area with his presence and pondus. This however doesn't prevent other bears coming into the area. In total we saw 6 individuals on this trip, including a mom with two yearling cubs. We also had a whole Wolverine family in the area with one yearling cub.

If you would like to visit Finland then I would recommend contacting Rovdjursland.

You can find more pictures from Finland by clicking here

View over on of the areas

Finland 2014

Finland in May 2014

This was my third time going to the Kuhmo area in Finland and what a trip it was. Our first stop was at Wild Brown Bear Centre managed by Ari Sääski. Ari has been doing this for a very long time and has very good knowledge about the wildlife. We arrived in the first week of May, and was a little bit worried about the weather, but it turned out to be perfect timing. We spent half of the time at this lodge and had some of the best Bear encounters I've had so far. For the first time I saw 2 cubs, which was a great privilege. The Bear in the image above is the mother of the cubs. The cubs are just outside of the frame of course.

The next few days was spent in Articmedia Kuikka Base Camp. This place is run by father Lassi Rautiainen and son. Lassi has also been doing this for a very long time and created a very nice camp. We spent our nights in different places every time and by far the most exciting experience I had was on the second night in a place called "Paradise" together with Stig Bjök and Tomas Janzon. The evening started out very quietly and not much activity, but a bit later we heard 2 wolf's singing somewhere in the forest. It was hard to to pinpoint their location but what a feeling. I say singing because that was exactly what it sounded like. It turned out that this was the alfa par and soon after we saw them for the first time. This was one of the best wildlife moment I have ever had. The image you see below is the female just as she is coming out from the forest.

You can find more pictures in my Gallery.


Finland June 2014

I just can't get enough of the nature and wildlife in Kuhmo... so I went back in June. This time I only stayed at Wild Brown Bear Centre. As you can see on the image below it's not only Bears, wolfs and Wolverine you can see. It is quite common to see the Red Fox there as well. The Fox is looking out on a small lake with Aris newest hide number 17.



Already on the first evening we got to see the mother with both her cubs again. It was a great feeling to see them again. It was a bit of a surprise to see them since this is the breeding season and big males come here looking for females. I have had close encounters with bears just outside of the hide before, but this time was different. On the second knight Lars Eriksson and me was in the forest hide and at midnight a huge male was just standing outside our hide looking straight at us. Bears are extremely quiet and they just appear from nothing even though you were looking in the same direction. Ari had placed some food in the tree just a few meters in front of our hide and when he stood up on his back legs trying to get to the food. I almost could not take any images. He was an impressive bear and what a feeling. I just looked at Lars and smiled.