In Search of European Brown Bears – Adventures in the Far North of Finland: Part 2

By Michael Watson

“Suicide hide” is perhaps an unfortunate name but given for a reason. It’s basically a box with very thin sheet metal/tin over it. 10 ft long, 5 ft wide, 4 ft high. It gets its name because when in it you’re on your own – in the middle of a forest, at times surrounded by bears, big bears. If anything goes wrong then I’m afraid no one will hear you scream. It was very hot, the bugs bit me to bits but it was a decent time. Ok it’s pretty secure but I did notice the back door was held on by a 50p latch. The light is awful so you’re shooting at high ISO and wide open aperture. It definitely isn’t ISO 100 and controlled light. Combine this with an ice cream box for a toilet, isolation, sleep deprivation, an unpredictable subject and it’s actually pretty full on. Depth of field is a nightmare to work out as you’re fully wide open and the animals are – lllooonngg! My lens broke (why now) so I could only shoot at 24mm, it rained so was pretty dark. Oh bugger I thought. So I went to sleep.

All alone in the woods…………………to be woken by a munching noise. Nope it wasn’t Goldilock’s friends gnawing on my leg in the absence of porridge. I woke; still half asleep, sat up, turned my head to a tiny window, and looked out to see………..the biggest alpha male munching on food with his head 1 metre from my face. As my underpants filled up he looked, sniffed, turned away and walked off. Unfortunately he walked round the front of the hide, lay down and started munching again. I lay down and poked my camera lens out of a tiny hole and got a few shots. A friend actually had bear cubs poke their heads in a year back.

Thankfully I survived to tell the tale. It was a great adventure; I got some great shots, learned more and will definitely go back. You really do need decent light, many visits and a good few days in the “suicide hide” to really do it justice. Yep, that’s for me!  You need a fast focus lens and get to know how to make rapid adjustments. You must be able to go periods without sleep and still function and have a constitution of…well….a bear to be able to crap in a bucket with a complete stranger sat beside you, stop, jump up and start shooting. Yep it’s crazy but fun and challenging.  I’m already planning next year’s adventure which, fingers crossed, will involve cold weather, Finland, birds/bears and lots of time, alone this time, doing wildlife. I can’t wait! And yes I can confirm one of life’s mysteries. Bears do crap in the woods.

Michael Watson

More about the “Suicide Hide” is in George Turner’s YouTube video here

More fabulous wildlife pictures by Michael Watson are on his website here

Pictured: European Brown Bear cubs by Michael Watson

More of Michael’s European Brown Bear pictures are in Members Galleries here

These blogs will also appear in the Articles page

                                                          European Brown Bears 3. Michael Watson

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.