SOFT SNOW In the beginning of April, large male bears are the first to appear in the area. This is the best time to photograph bears in the snowy landscape. At this time the snow is normally very soft and deep, therefore the heavy weight bears will sink down into the snow and struggle to move within the area.
The smaller bears and females with cubs usually continue their hibernation for a while longer, as they can’t move in deep soft snow that can be up to a meter deep. Usually smaller bears and female bears appear in the beginning of May.
April is a good month to photograph bears, wolverines and even wolves. At this time of year the brown-coloured bears standout well as large dark targets in the white surroundings.
At the time of the deep soft snow conditions, the best opportunities to photograph are from hides 1-6, 12, 13 and 21-25. The ponds in the area remain frozen solid and the landscape is dressed in a layer of snow.
At the time of deep soft snow, bears will be moving calmly and slowly often stopping to check the safety by listening and sniffing the surroundings. The slow moving makes it easier for photographers to anticipate the movements of bears and plan photography situations.
Because bears have a very good sense of hearing they may be shy of camera shutter sounds for the first few visits in spring, but soon they realise that the cameras shutter sound poses no threat.
SNOWFALL In April it’s possible to photograph bears in snowfall and blizzard like conditions. On cold days in the beginning of May, rain may also fall as snow.
It is recommended to use the lens cap in these conditions, to protect the lens from snowflakes. Autofocus may be difficult in such conditions, due to the lens locking focus onto falling snow instead of the bear, therefore it is advised to use manual focus when conditions are rough. Also, take care not to overexpose in blizzard like conditions.
At the time of thick snow clouds there is less light available than in clear weather, so it is harder to get sharp images of moving bears. Because of this it is important to be ready to photograph at the moment when the bear stops to listen and smell.
The most useful are the brightest lenses, focal length may be from 50 to 400 mm. Photographing bears in snowfall is best from hides 1-6, 8-13 and 17-25.
SNOW During the spring months, bears often come to the hide area early, sometimes even in the afternoon. Focusing is easier to manage, because undergrowth remains beneath the thick blanket of snow. Sometimes however, we experience very cold weather, this may result in the auto-focus struggling to lock onto the bear, or the camera’s functioning may slow down slightly.
It is important to notice the features of the snow when shooting, because the snow is pure white it is reflective, this is why photographing darker bears can sometimes cause a tough challenge for setting the right exposure. If the camera is set for automatic exposure the snow will invariably overexpose, or the snow will be correctly exposed, resulting in the dark animal being underexposed.
Therefore, it is recommendable to set exposure manually to achieve the correct exposure of the image. To set the best exposure it is recommended to test the amount of exposure before the bear arrives by taking test photos from the landscape and various objects with different shutter speeds.
SUN AND FULL MOON Sunlight on bright days in April combined with the white snow often results in problems of overexposed images when not careful. After the brightest parts of the afternoon in April, the sun slowly drops low to the horizon, resulting in a lovely warm lighting to photos.
In clear weather conditions, the late evenings and early mornings at the time of sunrise and sunset may provide opportunities to photograph bears on blue glowing snow.
Although the days are bright, the nights in April may be too dark to photograph through the whole night. However, during the full moon in clear weather photography is possible throughout the night. In clear weather conditions during the full moon, it’s possible to photograph bears with a full moon in the same frame, or illuminated by the moonlight.
For photographing the blue moments and full moon within thephoto it is recommendable to use the largest brightest lenses from wide angle to 400mm. The best possibilities are from hides 1-6, 12, 13 and 21-25.
MELTING SNOW Towards the end of April, the ground once covered by a thick layer of snow finally starts to reappear, with snow melting faster by the day. The sun provides warmth and more light towards summer and the light period of a day increases by several minutes a day.
The first snow to melt is from the bank in front of hides 1-6, however the pond will remain frozen. The swamp areas remain covered with a thin layer of snow, until the first snow melts from around the trees and higher spots of the ground.
HARD SNOW In mid-April when daytime temperature is above zero, snow turns soft, wet and condensed. In the evening and night once the temperature drops below zero again, it creates a frozen crust of snow, making it much easier to walk on for the bears. As spring progresses even more bears appear because they are now finding it easier to move around.
In spring when the snow surface freezes and supports the bear well, it may pass in between the individual hides 1-6.
The snow around every hide is hard all provide good possibilities for photography. During the evenings it’s possible to photograph with light in the same direction and the mornings with backlight from hides 1-6 and 13. From hides 8-11 it is possible to photograph with backlighting in the evenings and in the mornings with light in the same direction. From hides 21-25 it is possible to photograph with side light in the evenings as well as in the mornings. Distances to bears varies from a few meters to 80 meters so lenses in the range of 50-600 mm are suitable.
FROZEN POND The ponds within the hide area are frozen and covered in snow during April.
Bears can walk on the ice in front of the hides offering various opportunities for photography.
As the sun warms the air, the snow slowly begins to melt. During April the snow on the frozen ponds melt, exposing the frozen ice beneath and during this time it is still possible for bears to walk on the ponds surface. During the warmer days of spring, the snow can melt considerably within hours, anything up to several centimetres. Despite of this, bears can still use the ice as a pathway.
Bears can be photographed by all three pond areas. The best hides for photographing bears on ice are 1-6 and 17-25.
Bear’s distances from the hide can be as little as a few meters. Photographing the bears is possible with all focal lengths but if one wishes to incorporate the snowy landscape and ice in the photo, then the most suitable focal lengths are from wide angle to 400 mm.
At the end of April, if there is any remaining snow it is possible to photograph throughout the night in clear conditions. Nights have a few hours of twilight, therefore it is recommended to use large aperture lenses. After melted snow it becomes possible to fully photograph with luminous lenses throughout the night from mid-May onwards.
From the hides 1-6, 8-13 and 17-25 photographing using focal lengths from wide angle to 600 mm is recommended. For the forest hides the most useful focal lengths are from wide angle to 300 mm.
First, sun and the warmth of the spring melt the snow from higher spots of ground, such as from the rocks and hummocks, as well as around the bases of trees. The low sun can create a lovely warm soft orange light upon the rocks, creating great photo opportunities.
The rocks can be photographed from hides 1-6, 12 and 13 using recommendable focal lengths ranging from 100-600 mm depending upon which type of photo you desire and which hide you are using.
Bears rutting season begins in spring during mid-May and lasts until the end of June. During this time the behaviour of male bears changes compared to previous or later months. Bears mark the area in different ways, such as rubbing itself against trees while walking and also standing up on two feet, they also snap small trees. Male and female bears can move together during the rutting season, at other times they move separately.
Other grown-up male bears can also follow female bears on heat. Big male bears can measure their strength by voice and physical contact. This time of year small, young bears are wary and they avoid meeting bigger bears. All hides are suitable for photographing during the rutting season since the bears will walk around the whole area. Recommendable lenses are in the range of 200-600 mm focal lengths. Distance to the mating bears varies from 30 to 80 meters.
Bears mating takes place from late May to the end of June. Mating of bears can be seen every year, but photographing it is challenging, due to not knowing the location and timing of the bears. From the perspective of the photographer, bears can be on the wrong side of the hide or behind trees, or if mating happens during twilight then enough light may not be present. The best chances to photograph bears mating are at the swamp and open places from hides 1-6, 8-13 and 17-25.
BEGINNING OF SUMMER
In the end of May spring turns to summer. At this time, it is light enough to photograph throughout the night.
The conditions of early summer are particularly good for photography on the banks of the ponds as well as on the swamp since the undergrowth has not yet grown high. At this time, the feet and paws of the bears can be seen better and focusing to the right target is easier because there is no high vegetation in front of the bears that may hamper focusing. Especially photos with bear reflections in the water is better to photograph this time.
The terrain is no longer wet from melting snow so the splashing sound from bears walking cannot be heard as in spring and autumn. Therefore observation of the surroundings is especially important so photo situations are not missed. Bears move around the hide area and also near the hides, this is why focal lengths can be between wide angle and 600 mm.
At the end of May the ground turns green and birches grow leaves. Birch leaves grow in a few days to full size if the weather is warm enough.
Young bears may come early in the evening because they don’t have the same circadian rhythm as adult bears. Young bears are also curious and occassionally come near to the hides.
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