Nothing is predictable in wildlife photography

sub adult grizzly photoI was able to experience this sub adult grizzly because I had to choose easier walking paths to hike due to my leg injury and happen across this beauty

As a wildlife photographer, being on location can often be a thrilling and unpredictable experience. However, despite meticulous planning and preparation, things may not always go as expected. Nature has a way of surprising us and even on location life events can change our intentions, and when it does, it's important to be adaptable and willing to pivot in order to capture those incredible moments. Whether it's sudden weather changes, elusive animals, unexpected injuries or unexpected behavior, the ability to adjust your approach is essential. This was exactly the case on my most recent trip to Jasper. 

coyote photoAgain my injury limited my mobility so I was checking out different places that I could easily walk to which allowed this encounter with a coyote who was staying close to her den and pups

As many of you may have known I went to Jasper dealing with a leg injury that was still healing and prevented me from doing extensive hiking. My intent was I would do a lot of kayaking, using my upper body as opposed to working my legs by heavy hiking and rest my leg by having it nicely stretched out on my kayak. My hope was to find wildlife in the early morning or late evening coming to the water's edge a moose, a black bear or an elk perhaps and to capture some stunning loon photos on the many lakes. But even the best laid plans do not go as scripted. 

loon photoOne morning gave me an exceptional encounter with a common loon 

When I go to Jasper I stay in my camper with my husband and our three golden retrievers. I hike in the early morning and late evening to spots most likely to experience wildlife and during the late morning and early afternoon, me, my husband and my dogs go on longer hikes usually into a mountain lake where my husband can fish for trout and the dogs play in the water, That has been the routine and has been for decades of going to Jasper. With my leg injury the shift was I would still go out in early morning or late evening but more with my  kayak and  not so much walking unless it was short easy trails. I would then edit photos midday while my husband took the dogs for a long hike in the early afternoon. Great idea until the very first day of the trip my husband hurt his back and ended up in emergency and not able to do much the rest of the week. There was no helping me get the kayak on and off the carrier (it's a heavy fishing kayak) so  I pivoted to driving around in the early mornings and late evenings looking for photo opportunities. I needed with my bad leg to take the dogs for long walks as three dogs are not happy in a camper all day and my husband was unable. My leg was always swollen and sore by the end of the day, the dogs not really fully content as they are used to a 10-15km hike not a 3-5km easy walk and my husband sure was not happy with his inability to do much. And me, driven to work through the pain as it was bear season and I needed to find bears and get photos or else wait until next year, did not make the week overly fun. 

grizzly cub ripping wood from a stumpThe rainy days caused wet fur which meant lots of texture that normally is not seen

Another challenge was the weather. The first four days it was hot over 30C each day. Bears are not moving a lot in hot weather, and try as a might I only found a solitary black bear and one female black bear with two cubs in that entire time. Then, it cooled down on day 5 and the bears started to move and I found the grizzly and her two cubs in the valley that everyone was saying was everywhere. I found a sub adult grizzly and a few black bears. And it was good for about two days until the rain set in. I may have envisioned capturing a stunning sunrise or a golden hour shot, but instead woke up each day to be greeted by a rainy morning. In such situations, it is easy to give up, but instead I embraced the moody atmosphere; the loon on the lake with the mist rising in the cool morning, the bears emerging from the forest when the rain would let up, with wet fur that gave it more texture in photos. I experimented with landscapes, the shades of blueish grey mountains and grey clouds, the mist on the lake in the morning, the rainbow when the sun came out.. My original shot list was out the window and I was developing a new one as I went along, capturing the elements of nature and resiliency of wildlife. Adapting to the weather can often lead to unique and unexpected shots that showcase the resilience of wildlife in their natural habitat. I missed the 55cm of snow that fell in Jasper on June 19 by one day, but had I been there I sure would have been out looking for those bear cubs capturing their resiliency. What a unique and unexpected opportunity that would have been! 

misty lake photoI took advantage of the dreary mornings when very little was moving for wildlife to work on some landscape photography

Sometimes, even the best-laid plans can be disrupted by unforeseen circumstances. Weather, injuries, mishaps, technical failures, or logistical challenges can occur at any moment. When faced with such obstacles, a wildlife photographer must stay calm and flexible. Whether it's adjusting to changing weather conditions, working with uncooperative animals, or overcoming technical challenges, the ability to pivot and approach things differently can lead to unique and captivating photographs. Creativity and adaptability often lead to new perspectives and artistic interpretations that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. Wildlife photography is about telling stories, and there's always a narrative waiting to be discovered, even if it deviates from your original plan. 

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