It was our first chance to get up the North Shore together in a long time. My folks cheerfully volunteered to drive up and watch the kids for the day. Bridget and I left Skogstjarna about 7am and headed towards Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail, driving through some rain, some fog, some drizzle on the way. Just south of the Caribou River I passed a truck who was driving quite slowly, brake lights on…As we passed him, I saw the Timber Wolf loping down the ditch parallel to Highway 61. I yelled out, “It’s a wolf!”…the only appropriate response to such a sighting. Bridget hadn’t seen it so we swung around to try and relocate him/her. I had forgotten the lesson every wildlife photographer visiting Yellowstone knows…You always slow down when you see brake lights…Someone has probably spotted something “good.”
We had barely pulled off the road when we spotted the wolf coming right towards us. He dropped down into a puddle not 40 feet from us and started lapping up the water. I had my camera with telephoto lens prepared and laying on the back seat. Bridget rolled down her window and I started shooting. I got off three shots before the wolf got up and trotted down the ditch behind us, in the process coming within 20 feet of Bridget. He paid us no attention. Hmmm, a thirsty wolf who is preoccupied…He must be hunting! Sure enough as we again turned the car around we found him weaving in and out of the woods at a determined pace. Prey was within striking distance but his nose couldn’t quite pinpoint it. Just then a small deer popped out of the forest and crossed the road. Twenty seconds later the wolf crossed the road, completely ignoring an oncoming car (see photo above). We sat patiently for another few minutes hoping to see this drama unfold, but we witnessed nothing but fog and silence.
Finally with time to “chimp,” I looked at my first three photos…All were soft, not sharp…I checked my camera settings. The camera had somehow been turned to Program mode which “decided” 1/125 of a second was fast enough. Not even close! (photo immediately below) Oh well, the wolf was so close that I couldn’t even get his entire head in the frame with the 400mm.
It reminded me of a time during the “film days” when I happened upon a Timber Wolf loping along the same road but during peak fall colors. I had my camera ready, I rolled down the window (a crank window) and shot one “insurance shot.” The wolf had paused and was looking at me, framed by fall colors. I pressed the shutter…Nothing! I was out of film! You can see the result in the bottom image. A “memory shot” that was supposed to remind me always to have the camera handy and set to the proper settings for the unexpected that all wildlife photographers expect. I almost redeemed myself today.