Photography and Art

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wolf - alpha male

Wolf - alpha male, originally uploaded by Huwmorgan.

The Haliburton Forest Wolf Centre is a terrific resource, easily accessible from Toronto. The wolf pack is semi-wild. It runs free in about 75 acres of land, but is dependent on humans for food. The pack generally sticks pretty close to the wolf centre because that's where its food comes from. The pack is fed on a highly variable schedule to simulate real life. The food consists of beaver meat (from local trappers) and deer from road kill. Watching the wolves from the observation centre is lots of fun, especially on meal day. The interaction between pack members is interesting. For example, there is a younger female that has perpetual sores on her hind quarters because the alpha female keeps biting her to remind her of her place in the pack. It is truly survival of the fittest.

For photographers, there is good news and bad news. The wolves are usually visible, especially close to feeding times. If you have a good telephoto lens, you should get some decent shots. But, you are shooting through one-way glass in a crowded room, so you will have to contend with glare and with people moving about. There are a lot of people shooting snapshots with point and shoot cameras. There are three tips that I can think of for improving your shots: First, there is a gallery off to the side of the main observation room that is rarely used, yet has windows that look at the pack at a different angle. This often gives a good perspective on pack activities. Second, try visiting the centre in the winter. Even if the wolves are up the hill into the trees, the lack of foliage still makes it possible to get good shots. The shot of the alpha male was taken with a 300mm zoom and got an excellent look at him even though he was quite a way up the hill. Finally, to get rid of glare, I recommend using Photoshop techniques to increase local contrast. I'm lazy, so I purchased Velvia Vision from Fred Miranda. This Photoshop plug-in adjusts local contrast and provides all sorts of other tweaks to improve your photos.

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