The Arctic. Late morning. It was challenging but they were also seven exciting days. I was granted my wish and also given a chance to photograph the tundra wolf. As soon as the wolves walked away, I immediately gave my guide a big hug to thank him. Then I packed my camera equipment looked at the beautiful landscape covered in snow, took it all in and headed back to town.
Ten minutes after packing my bags, also my camera, and getting on the snowmobile, my brain launched a new WANT. I have also been interested in photographing the Puma. The question that all of a sudden came to my mind was, “how will you photograph pumas in the snow?” Is our brain designed to put us through new challenges? Is it that when we get what we want, we want to raise the bar?
This trip surely had been a trip of firsts. My first escapade to the unforgiving Arctic circle, my first bout of panic in the middle of nowhere, and also my first encounter with the Tundra Wolf himself. After spending months burning the midnight oil, meticulously planning every little detail and traveling in the most grueling conditions for days at an end, I was finally here to shoot pictures of the tundra wolf for my contemporary art gallery.
Both physically and mentally, the conditions had not been easy on me. In sub-zero temperatures of -56 degree F, my tracker pitched my tent as I watched the snow blizzards blur the line between the ground and sky. Having never experienced this kind of cold before, my body had a mind of its own. I had started to lose sensation on my fingertips, my feet were frostbitten and the skin on my nose had started to peel off. The cold was now becoming painful. The plastic zippers on the tent and on my jacket had become so brittle they started to break. There are no toilets, no showers, and also no bedrooms. I was to sleep in a basic sleeping bag buried in snow.
The Big Bad Wolf
The Arctic Wolf also called Grey Wolf or Polar Wolf is a mammal of the Canidae family. Arctic Wolves inhabit the Canadian Arctic and also northern parts of Greenland. Grey Wolves usually have small ears, which help the wolf maintain body heat. The alpha male is always the largest and will continue growing after other wolves had stopped. Polar wolves can be black, grey or white. Polar wolves, like all wolves, hunt in packs. They mostly prey on Caribou and musk oxen, however, they will also kill a number of Arctic Hares, seals, ptarmigan and lemmings, as well as other smaller animals. As grazing plants are scarce, they roam large areas to find prey up to and beyond 2600 kilometers squared (1000 square miles) and they will follow migrating caribou during the winter.
Tundra Wolf | Hitting the Brink of Extinction
The Grey wolf is of the least concern when it comes to being endangered but it does face threats of endangerment. In 1997, there was a decline in the wolf population and its prey, muskoxen and Arctic hares. This was due to harmful weather conditions during the summers for four years. The recovery of the Arctic wolf population came when summer weather conditions returned to normal.
The Elusive Grey Wolf
With seven days in and also no sight of the tundra wolf, I became delusional. I began to see the Arctic wolf in the snow blizzards. With absolute silence around me, all I could hear was the sound of my own thoughts. Thoughts that now seemed to discourage me. I began to feel defeated. So many photographers had come to the arctic for months with the arctic wolf playing the elusive one. What was I thinking?
It was day seven, and unfortunately, time to leave. I was beating myself up about planning this trip so hastily and not giving myself enough time and patience. We packed our bags and bid adieu to our house for seven days. A house that had protected me but had given me endless sleepless nights. I packed my bags and headed out to make my three-day journey back home. And you know the rest of the story. On our way out, we were blessed by the wolves that were almost there to bid us goodbye. My prayers had been answered. And I spent the next few minutes encapsulated by their presence, clicking away. As soon as the wolves walked away, I gave my guide a big hug to thank him.
Tundra Wolf | Raising the Bar
The air around was crisp. A light breeze caused snow so fly like powder on the ground beneath. Bouncing about on the snowmobile with my bags packed and rolls of tundra wolf images for my contemporary art gallery, my brain launched a new want. For months now, I had been wanting to shoot the puma. The question that all of a sudden came to my mind was, “how will I photograph pumas in the snow?” I wondered if our brains are designed to put us through new challenges? Is it that when we get what we want, we want to raise the bar?
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