Moose Photography Safari
OUR CANOES DRIFT EVER SO SLOW TOWARDS THE TWO MOOSE IN THE MARSH—a minute seems like an eternity but our tactics pay off as the moose accept our presence. And so for the next 20 minutes, the click of shutters is mixed with the sounds of croaking bullfrogs, singing birds and the wind caressing the tree tops.
For the last six years I have partnered with Voyageur Quest to lead a moose photography safari deep into the backcountry of Algonquin Provincial Park. Each year is a bit different—this time 32 of the ungulates showed up over two trips. Some we witnessed from a distance—others allowed us into their space for a portrait session. To see a 1000 lb bull or cow moose with her calf in the wild, and to photograph them up close, is special. Canadians travel thousands of miles to Africa to see and photograph wildlife but this is a moose safari. It is in our own backyard. Nature is truly amazing and seeing wildlife like moose up close re-enforces that experience.
After spending a comfortable evening in Voyageur Quest’s “off the grid” log cabin where Nicolena, the chef, cooked us a belt loosening dinner, followed in the morning by a similar breakfast, we are ready for the moose. Our shuttle to the Park awaits us.
I’m thinking a few of the participants are wondering: why are they doing this? Three portages, a small stream and a couple of lakes later, we get to our site. No one is disappointed—our camp sits up on a sandy ledge with a great westerly view. Perfect for sunset shots! Our guides handle most of the camp activities leaving us to unload our gear, grab our camera bags and paddle to the back bays where the moose should be waiting for us, eating the tender aquatic plants that they crave after a winter of crunchy evergreen boughs. And, of course, just waiting to have their photograph taken.
A short paddle later—a large cow presents herself— then a few minutes later a bull swims across the lake. A ripple of excitement spreads among the paddlers. Rounding a corner, two more cows are in the distance eating. We must now show patience—our canoes drift ever so slowly towards them—they look at us, then go back to their plants. This scenario continues to play—we inch closer, moose look at us, we stop paddling, they go back to eating. All the while we are shooting frame after frame just in case they decide they have had enough of our antics. We do not want to stress the animals.
We make our way back to camp—our guides, Matt and Evan, have prepared a feast for us:pork teriyaki, rainbow trout, fresh vegetables with pastries for dessert. Laughter and conversation fill the air with tales of moose so close you could touch them with a paddle.
5 a.m. comes too early but the morning light makes rising from our cozy sleeping bags worthwhile. We climb into the canoes and head into the dawn’s stillness. The lake is a mirror, a mist dances on the water. We see a few moose in the distance; try to get close but they want no part of us. A loon opens its wings for a big stretch. Then a bull is very cooperative, eating away, allowing us to get close. Rim light catching his antlers allows for some nice images—the sound of clicking shutters fills the air as well as our digital cards. We are now ready for another meal.
Once again Matt and Evan pull out all stops—French toast, maple bacon and fruit—then it is time for the magic to come to a close, and we begin to head back. By lunch, after a pleasant 3 hour paddle, a walk across a few portages, we are back where we started. Our canoes are pulled up, we jump in the shuttle taking us back to our cars and home.
This trip focuses on an experience of photographing moose up close in a wilderness setting, pampered all the while by guides preparing food that leaves you wondering how they do that on an open fire. More than that, it takes us away from our plugged in frenetic world—allowing us to enjoy the magnificence of Algonquin Park’s backcountry with a photograph (or many) to remind us of the adventure.
EDITED by Kate Pocock