Musings From A Fellow Adventurer

Howdy, I’m Greg Cook and Laurie has turned her blog over to me for a post. I am a landscape, wildlife, and sports photographer. I have been shooting since 1973 when I bought a Nikkormat Ftn while overseas in the Navy.

For the past five days our small group has been shooting in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area east of Churchill, Manitoba Canada. It is my second trip to this beautiful area and the opportunities are endless. Last year I shot close to 16,000 images in five days trying not to miss anything.

Experience is something you get right after you need it. This year I was able to concentrate on quality and not quantity. Even so, I shot 12,750 images. While the primary subject here is the magnificent Polar Bear, we were fortunate to photograph an Arctic Hare, several Arctic Foxes, Ptarmigan’s, and a Gyr Falcon. The stark beauty of the frozen Tundra provided many landscape opportunities also.

The shooting conditions are cold and challenging without a doubt. The air temperature on our last day was -20 degrees. It takes some serious preparation for a trip like this but the rewards will leave a lifetime impression on you.

Watching two polar bears spar is an amazing experience. The power, speed, and agility these bears display while challenging each other is staggering. The challenge in photographing this event is image sharpness. Not only does the shutter speed have to be relatively high to stop the action, but depth of field needs to be considered to capture the entire bear.

Nikon D3s, 600mm f4 lens with 1.7 tc, 1/200 sec, f11, ISO 640

Nikon D3s, 600mm f4 lens, 1/800 sec, f8, ISO 640

CAUTION – Polar Bears in the view finder may be closer than you think! This medium size bear, both curious and hungry, decided to stand up and lean against the Tundra Buggy. The distance between his nose and my camera was less than 16 inches. We stared at each other for 20 seconds before he growled, signaling to me that it was time to put some additional space between us. I had anticipated this shot based on previous experience and stopped the lens down to f19 to increase the depth of field for the extremely short focus distance.

Nikon D3s, 24-120 f4 lens @44mm, 1/90 sec, f19, ISO 640

On the fifth day of the trip we experienced strong winds, blowing snow, and temperatures as low as -20 degrees. Two Arctic foxes were spotted in a snowbank taking shelter from the wind. Wanting more than a shot of two “furballs”, we waited for two hours in the sub-freezing conditions to see the foxes. Battery life became an issue as we were constantly focusing in order to get the shot.

Nikon D3s, 600mm f4 lens with 1.7 tc, 1/1000 sec, f9, ISO 500

Shortly after the foxes became active this Gyr Falcon flew into view. With only seconds to open the window and start shooting, I was glad the camera was setup in 51 point 3D dynamic focusing mode. The contrast between the dark falcon and light background enabled the camera to “lock up” the bird quickly and capture the image.

Nikon D3s, 600mm f4 lens with 17 tc, 1/800 sec, f9, ISO 500

Wildlife photography is a lot like fishing. On any given day you don’t know if you will get skunked or catch the big one. For the past five days mother nature has offered her best wildlife and challenged our skills with intense winter weather. Without a doubt we caught a “big one” every day.

Stay tuned for more musings from fellow adventurers in the future.