Most of the hides are located in different types of swamp areas. In different times of the year the swamps offer various photographic possibilities with their flora, colour, light and wateriness. Common features to all hides in swamp areas are spacious landscapes, where several bears can be seen at the same time in different directions.
Swamp hides are located with various photographic directions. Depending on the choice of the hide, light comes from different directions and the type of surroundings and background will be different.
The hides located in open swamps without trees, have a wide and spacious photography area where the movements of the bears can be followed.
The best hides for photographing in open swamps are hides 8-13 and A where the landscape is mainly uniform wetland where bears may come near to the hides. For photographing in open swamps, suitable focal lengths are from wide angle up to 600 mm.
The undergrowth of open swamps comprises mainly of moss and grass, the grass grows taller and the swamps get drier during the summer months. In the borders of the open swamps runty and various size trees grow, as well as dead grey pine trees. Depending on the focal length there can be pine and larch forest near the bear or in the background.
The hides on open swamps are especially good for photographing in different evening lights, and those are the best places to photograph bears among cotton grass from mid-June to mid-July.
Other kinds of swamp have small and sparse pines that are not dominant in the area, therefore the landscape is spacious. The flora is dominated by mosses, grasses and small brushwood. In the background of this type of swamp grow young pine and birch forests.
Photographing in this type of swamp is possible from hides 17-25 and A with wide angle to 600 mm lenses, depending on photographic aims. The most popular focal lengths range from 100 to 400 mm.
Photographing in the forest is suitable from hides 7, 14-16 which are located in different parts of the forest with various features and views.
Undergrowth contains various types of moss, small twigs and some lichen. The trees in the forest are mainly tall and shorter spruces and pines, as well as individual birches and juniper bushes.
In the forest hides it is especially important to be ready to photograph at any given time because the silently moving bears can appear suddenly. The forest offers more sheltered surroundings to photograph, so bears often come closer to the hides than in open areas.
Forest hides are very suitable for photographing close-up photos, as bears can come as close to the hides as 2-30 metres.
Photography is also possible into deeper forest amongst the trees, and what is important for the photographer, is that the terrain remains natural and unworn.
Hide 7 provides an opportunity to photograph with sidelight and light in the same direction. Hide 14 is for one person with photography openings in four directions, from this hide photography is additionally possible in the direction of a forested swamp. From hides 7 and 14 it is possible to photograph bears at an ant nest.
From the forest hides it is possible to photograph bears standing on two feet and also climbing trees. There are trees in the forest where bait can be placed.
The forest offers the best opportunities to use self-timer or remote release cameras because the cameras can be placed on the ground or in a tree in such a way that they can not be seen when photographing from the hide. Photos can be planned and composed beforehand because bears use regular paths in the forest.
From hide 15 it is possible to photograph in a pine forest and a group of spruce saplings. From the hide there are good possibilities for backlit situations in summertime during late evening. Also, hide 15 has a lower opening for photography at ground level.
Hide 16 is located on the border of the forest where the foreground is moorland with pines and spruces, also dead pine trees. To the left side of the photography area is a solid rock covered with lichen that bears visit.
Distance from the bears may be as little as 2 meters, so the most suitable focal lengths for photographing are from wide angle to 300 mm.
Because bears are close and the surrounding is quieter than in the swamp areas, the sounds of the bears can be heard more easily. Wolverine also move in the forest area and can be photographed near the hides.
Bears on the bank of the opposite side of the ponds can be photographed from hides 1-6, and 21-25.
Hides 1-6 are located right on the bank of a ponds water line. The terrain on the opposite bank is varied with grass, watery swamp and a strip of forested swamp. Depending on the direction, the background is open swamp or forest. Distances to the bears range from 10 to 50 meters depending on the direction and on what hide is being used. Recommended focal lengths are from wide angle to 600 mm.
Hides 21-25 are located about 20-30 meters from the bank of a pond. The flora is low and is comprised of sparse brushwood, moss and various grasses. The photography landscape contains smaller and bigger pines and the background is open swamp and forest. Because hides 21 and 22 are not in the water line, bears move also between the hides and the pond, more of that in the next section. Distance to the bears on the opposite bank is about 60 meters and recommended focal lengths are from 200 to 600 mm.
FRONT OF THE POND
On the banks of two different ponds the hides 17-25 are positioned so that bears are able to move between the hide and the pond. The bears can then be photographed with a pond in the background. Hides 17-25 have all been installed with lower openings for photography where photographs can be taken almost at ground level.
Bears can come 2-5 meters from the hide, therefore recommended focal lengths for photographing a bear in front of a pond are from wide angle to 500 mm depending on photographic aims. The favoured focal lengths range from 50 to 200 mm.
From hides 17-20 to the water line is a distance of 15-20 meters. The hides are located on the bank of the long pond facing Northwest and the direction of photography faces the same direction. In the evening sun shines mainly from the front of the hides.
From hides 21-25 to the water line is about 20-30 meters away. Photographic direction is to the North and sun shines from the left in the evening. In summer evenings backlit situations may occur.
The pond in front of hides 17-20 is 40 meters wide and 110 meters long, and the pond in front of hides 21-25 is round and 40 meters in diameter.
Photography areas can be from the middle of the bank or the side of the pond, and the pond can be a small or larger part of the photo. In the cold evenings and nights, mist rises from the ponds that give good opportunities to photograph a bear in the mist as well as a silhouette.
In the bank areas bears usually walk along the bank, however occasionally bears can be photographed when they drink from the pond. In summer heat, bears may become hot and they need to drink more often.
Bears can also swim in the ponds where they can promptly and silently enter the water to cool down. The probability to photograph bears swimming is at it’s highest from May to August from hides 17 to 20, however bears have been photographed swimming in the other ponds also.
In summer bears can be photographed amidst of the cotton grass. Cotton grass blossoms during early summer, after blossoming the first flowers of cotton grass turn to white fluffy bubbles by mid-June.
The best time to photograph during cotton grass is usually from mid-June to mid-July. Abundance of cotton grass depends on many factors. Good cotton grass seasons come when summer is sunny, warm and low in rainfall. During these summers there can be so much cotton grass that it carpets the ground white.
Bears amidst cotton grass can be photographed in parts of the area in swamp and surrounding areas of the bank. Photos with cotton grass can be taken from hides 1-6, 8-13, 21-25 and A, from these the best for this purpose are 1, 8-11 and 13.
For the most photographed distances from 5 to 50 meters recommended focal lengths are from wide angle to 400 mm. All in all distances varies from 5 to 100 meters depending on the hide and location of the bear.
Bears can be photographed among cotton grass in open swamp from hides 1, 8-13 and A, from hides 21-25 bears can be photographed in the forested swampland. From hides 8-10 bears can be photographed with sidelight, also from hides 1, 11, 13, 21-25 and A bears can be photographed with different types of evening light.
Hides 12 and 13 are suitable for photographing with light in the same direction to smaller areas of open swamp. From hides 1-6 and 21-25 bears can be photographed in the swamp behind and beside the pond.
The best cotton grass season usually ends by mid-July. Then most of the cotton grass is lost due to the wind. Rainy weather causes the cotton grass to become sodden, subsequently drooping and eventually dissapearing.
On cooler nights cotton grass photos can be combined with mist above the pond, when photographed from hides 1-6 and 21-25 or from hides 11 and 13 by photographing between hides 1 and 2. It is possible to photograph misty swampland from hides 1-6, 8-11, 13, 21-25 and A. The probability of cooler nights increases towards the end of July.
Small ponds in the hide area with hides on the banks offer great opportunities to photograph bear reflections in the water. Reflections can be photographed in clear or cloudy weather but only when there is no wind and the surface of water is smooth. Bears often walk on a particular path on the bank about 1-2 meters from the waters edge.
The most suitable hides to photograph a bear and its reflection are hides 1-6 and 21-25. Distance to the opposite bank is between 10-50 meters from hides 1-6 depending on the hide, and about 60 meters from hides 21-25. The most suitable lenses are 100-600 mm focal lengths depending on if you want to include the landscape in the photo or compose for a tighter crop. The favoured focal lengths are 200-400 mm.
In the summer during clear weather the evening sun shines as light in the same direction over the pond, giving plenty of light to the pond in front ofhides 1-6. Later in the evening the sun tints the background.
The best opportunities for reflection photographs are in May and beginning of June when the bank vegetation is low. In summer the grass has grown tall. September also offers good photographic opportunities for reflection photos after the grasses droop in autumn.
Bears are rather insensitive to weather and move in the area when raining. Though in times of very strong wind and storms bears don’t move at all, or move more warily. The rain brings its own special element to photos.
To make raindrops visible in photos you should use slower shutter speeds, for example 1/100 sec. Then there may be motion blur in photos due to the bear’s movements. It is important to be ready to take a photo at any moment, because when a bear stops walking to listen, this it is the best moment to take photos. Raindrop circles on the pond surface can be photographed with fast shutter speed. With good luck, after rain there may be a chance to photograph bears with a rainbow in the background behind the pond from hides 1-6.
ON TWO FEET
Bears can be photographed from specific hides when they are standing on two feet, this is because bears may rise against a tree to search for bait. The baits are placed only on specific trees where it is easier for photographers to predict the standing on two feet.
Depending on your photographic goals and hide, the bait can be placed onto the tree near the hide or further away. Standing on two feet is more likely at trees further away but the nearest standing on two feet photos have been taken at just a few meters distance. In this case a wide angle lens may be needed.
Two feet standing is possible to photograph in the open areas as well as in the forest. Some hides offer possibility to make use of a lower opening.
In swamp areas photographing is possible from wide angle to 600 mm focal length depending on the hide. To have a full bear in a photo when photographed in the forest hides, focal length of the lens can be from wide angle to at most 300 mm.
Bears check bait trees first by looking up to the tree, it can then be expected that the bear will rise. Bears standing against the tree may last only a short moment and that is why photographing this situation is challenging.
Bears may also rise standing on two feet elsewhere without any bait on trees, which is even more challenging because it can’t be foreseen. Bears may rise to gain better knowledge of the situation, if for example if other bears are heard approaching the area.
Bears also climb agilely in specific climbing trees in the area, and it is possible to photograph them. Adult bears can climb along the tree trunk attracted by bait. Depending on the photographic aims, the height of the bait can be adjusted.
The choice of the lens should be considered, when photographing near with a long focal length lens there is a risk that only part of the bear will be captured in the photo, or the ground cropped out of photo. It is recommended to use a wider crop for the image, so critical elements are retained in the frame, and if necessary crop the image afterwards.
The opportunity to photograph a climbing bear usually lasts a few seconds. The challenge in photographing climbing is the short duration. That is why the right adjustments to the camera should be set in advance.
Depending on the background, one should proactively calculate if there is a need to underexpose the photo for example against the sky.
Climbing bears movements are faster than on the ground, this is why images may be blurred more easily by motion, so faster shutter speeds are required. Climbing bears can be photographed from forest hides 7, 14, 15 and
16. Bears climbing have been photographed from 3 meters distance from hide. At such distances the best choice is wide-angle zoom. When photographing the climbing bears, the most useful focal length is 300 mm at most, but preferably 50-200 mm.
n the hide area close to the border of the forest and swamp is a solid rock that many bears use as a walking path and a vantage point.
Bears can stop on the top of the rock to observe the area before moving forwards, because bears have the ability to see, smell and hear better from above. On the top of the rock young dense forest grows, where bears may emerge suddenly. Stay alert observing the surroundings is in this case important.
The rock is 3-4 meters high, and evening sun may shine beautifully on the rock. The rock towards the west is a light and sunny spot in the evenings. The terrain of the rock surroundings consists of birches, pines and grasses that display changing colours well throughout the seasons.
Photographing towards the rock is possible from hides 1-6, 12, 13 and A. The distances to the rock varies from 30-80 meters. Suitable lenses are for example 100-600 mm focal length depending on the distance of the hide.
Photographing close-up photos is possible close the bear as the bears approach as near as 1 meter away. The most common close-up distance is 5-10 meters. Because all bears are individuals with different characteristics, they can be identified later more effectively using close-up photos.
Photographing close-up photos is possible from every hide but the best are hides 1 and 6-25 and A. Additionally, from hides 11, 15 and 17-25 photos can be taken from the ground-level openings. In the forest bears have regular paths so it is possible to set remote-cameras on the bears route, or photograph with a remote trigger from the hide.
Because bears often come close it is not necessary to have large focal length lenses. Traditional close-up photos can be photographed with 200- 400 mm focal length. If you want to focus onto the specific parts such as eyes or claws, or photograph close-up’s when a bear is further away, then a suitable choice would be 300-600 mm focal length.
The best time to photograph bears with backlit conditions is from May to the end of September in clear weather. The backlit situation can highlight the outlines of a bear and create a golden hue.
When aiming to photograph bears with ”golden” outlines, the sunset is the best time. When there are no clouds in the sky and the sun is high, lighting is overpowering and bear photography with backlighting is challenging as the sky and outlines of the bear overexpose easily or the exposure of the bear is too dark.
In early summer and autumn, with direct sunlight, the best time for backlight is roughly an hour before sunset. In the morning the best time is around the same time period after sunrise.
In summer photographing with backlight is possible for a longer
period than in spring and autumn. The sunset gently slopes beyond the horizon and remains below the horizon for a short time, at approximately 1-3 hours. This also occurs as the sun rises, gently sloping above the horizon in the morning. The best time to photograph with backlight in summer with direct sunlight, is over an hour in the evening as in the morning also.
Finnish summer nights are unique and beyond anything else. Summer nights are full of light, which makes it possible to photograph throughout the whole night with all kinds of cameras and lenses. Only tiredness can limit the photographer. Photographs can be taken facing towards the setting sun and against the glowing colourful night sky to capture the glow of sky.
In May and August the best times to photograph is in the evening right after sunset and in the morning right before sunrise. In June and July nights are bright enough to photograph throughout the night. The sun doesn’t set until later in the night and rises early in the small hours.
Sunset colours in the night sky remain for a long time because this time of year the sun dips just below the horizon and moves slowly.
Colours of the sky vary depending upon the time and clouds – usually with hues of yellow, red and blue. In summer this blaze of colours can be photographed if clouds are not blocking the sun low to the horizon. Bears may still move around during the morning and sometimes in cooler summer nights and early mornings mist may form over the ponds and swamps. Mist gives its own extra element to the summer night photos. When bears are moving and panting in cold weather it’s possible to see and photograph bears with their breath against the golden light.
Early summer night colours are best seen from the swamp hides 11, 13 and 17-25 in open areas. At the small hours, the best possibilities to photograph are from hides 1-6 and 21-25.
Hides 21-25 photographic direction is towards the North sky, these are good hides when photographing in June and July from the evening to small hours.
Photography is possible with all focal lengths, but the most recommendable are from wide angle to 300 mm, if you wish to include both a bear and the night sky in the image background.
Colours of the night sky are best captured by photographing with wide-angle lenses from the lower openings from hides 11, 17-25, when more sky will be captured in a photo. The camera can been focused and composed beforehand and on arrival of a bear press the shutter button at the right moment.
In evenings from spring to autumn, the most favourable hides to make use of backlighting are 8-11, 13 and 17-25. On summer mornings, backlight is best from hides 1-6.
When photographing with backlight, it is recommended to use manual settings. It is important not to overexposure photos, rather slightly underexpose. Projections of backlight from lenses can cause discolouration in photos, therefore a lens hood is recommended to be used.
When the sun is setting, or has already set, it is a good time to photograph silhouette photos of bears.
When photographing silhouettes, it is often dark and then is important to proactively set the camera. In darkness the camera’s autofocus may not focus correctly so it is appropriate to get ready for manual focusing.
In silhouette photos the distances to bears vary on average from a few meters to 15 meters, and the most suitable focal lengths are from wide angle to 300 mm. For silhouette photos the most suitable are the large aperture lenses. ISO-speed should be set high enough because the biggest challenge is to freeze the motion to get a sharp photo.
The most suitable locations for photographing silhouettes are hides in open areas such as 11 and 17-22. Lower openings have been installed for near ground level photography. This enables photographing from a low level perspective upwards towards the sky.
In the end of summer when nights get colder mist rises and covers the landscape in the evenings. Firstly, thin above the ponds, followed by a more dense mist slowly spreading across the ponds and open swamps. The best time for photographing bears in the mist is once the air-temperature has dropped low enough for the mist to form. The rapidity at which the air gets colder in the evening determines the density of mist present in photographs.
When you want to photograph bears with mist above the pond as a background, the best possibilities come from hides 17-25.
When bears are between the hide and the pond it is better to have a shorter length lens, ideally anything from wide angle to 300mm. In the hides 17-25 it is possible to use the lower ground-level photography openings.
From hides 1-6, 8-11, 13 and A can produce the best photographs of bears behind the pond or in the swamp through the mist, or among the mist. Then recommended focal lengths are between 100 to 600 mm. In hide 11 is possible to use the lower photography opening.
Sometimes on cooler nights mist also rises in June and July, however the best season to capture mist photos is from August to September.
White mist softens the landscape and gives new opportunities to continue photographing after dusk as dark bears stand out well against the lightly coloured background.
After cooler nights the rising sun can highlight the mist and produce a golden colour.
The best season to photograph the full moon is during April, early May, August and September when it is dark enough to photograph the moon in weather with clear skies. The full moon rises from the front of the hides 1-6 when it is possible to photograph the full moon and a bear.
Full moon light gives delicate and soft surroundings. The light is enough to photograph through the night if the sky is clear. Photographing in the light of the full moon is possible from every hide in open areas and gives different lighting than daylight. The full moon and it’s light offer a unique element to bear photography.
Because light is low it is important to have large aperture lenses. It is challenging to set the correct adjustments to reduce movement in the photo or not to overexpose the moon. In the light of the full moon and during low light it is possible to photograph from wide angle up to 600 mm focal lengths. If you want to photograph a bear and the moon in the same photo, a lens with a focal length of up to 200 mm is advised.
LOW LEVEL PHOTORAPHY OPENING
Photography is possible also from ground-level where you can have on your images a whole new and dramatic viewpoint. This really is a unique addition, in fact we believe we are one and the only location in Europe to offer this possibility. The Low-Level Photography Openings have been installed in the hides; 11, 15, 17 - 25.
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