Wild Arena Wolves Workshop

My wife knows what I enjoy, for my birthday she got me a photography experience day with Wild Arena. I was pretty excited about the prospect but had to wait until January this year before I could attend one of their scheduled days fo Wolves. I had agonised over which date to book as there were a selection available throughout the year, in the end I opted for a January. The wolves would be in their best condition with full winter coats and if I was really lucky there might even be some snow on the ground to help make the enclosures a little more wild.
You can imagine my excitement when on the day in question I got in the car to set off with it was snowing in Farnborough and the weather forecast suggested there would be a few inches at my destination. The Anglian Wolf Society  in North Bedfordshire at the time of my visit has 2 wolves in 2 separate large enclosures. On arrival we were given a warm drink (it was -3ºC outside) and listened to an informative talk about the wolves and the Wolf Society’s work. Then our Wild Arena host for the day gave us some tips of getting good shots and warnings on how to not get hurt then it was out into the snow to meet the wolves.

There is something quite captivating about seeing a wild animal this close. OK you can see wolves in a zoo, but there is always a fair few meters of enclosure and plenty of fencing between you and the animals. The enclosure had lens sized holes cut in it which meant there was nothing between lens and wolf. Wolves up close have a power and beauty to them that fills you with respect, whilst deceptively like dogs in appearance, there is obviously something different going on in their brains. Where as a dog often views a human as someone who feeds them a wolf quite legitimately views us as prey.

The wolves were initially both curious and wary, trying to work out who the new visitors were. Gradually they settled down to their normal behavior and we got down to some serious photography. I had my trusty Nikon D7000 with me and a recently acquired 70-200 f2.8 VRII lens. The combination of crop sensor and variable focal length proved perfect for trying to catch the wolves within the enclosures.

Nikon D7000 - 70-200 f2.8 VR II at 200mm (300mm equiv.) - f4 - ISO 250, 1/400 sec.

Nikon D7000 – 70-200 f2.8 VR II at 200mm (300mm equiv.) – f4 – ISO 250, 1/400 sec.

The above picture is probably my favorite shot from the workshop. The wolves had just been fed some rabbits, as the temperatures had been so cold the rabbits were still a bit frozen which gave a great opportunity to take pictures of them eating. It was pretty brutal to watch and I think this image captures some of that.
One of the main challenges of taking pictures around the enclosures was trying to capture images without fencing or unnatural looking enclosure items in them. This limited the photo possibilities somewhat but I was still able to get plenty of images I liked and had a thoroughly enjoyable day. Wild Arena aren’t the only people offering wolf photography workshops, I am aware of another sanctuary near Reading which does similar days and I am sure there are more elsewhere in the UK. You never know if plans in Scotland go ahead there may be opportunity to see wild wolves in the UK once again.

Nikon D7000 - 70-200 f2.8 VR II at 200mm (300mm equiv.) - f4 - ISO 250, 1/250 sec.

Nikon D7000 – 70-200 f2.8 VR II at 200mm (300mm equiv.) – f4 – ISO 250, 1/250 sec.