Photographing Wolverines and Grizzly Bears with Camera Traps

March 18, 2024  |  Yukon

In the latest episode of "F-Stop Collaborate and Listen," host Matt Payne sits down with the renowned wildlife and conservation photographer Peter Mather. Together, they navigate through the magnificent world of camera trapping, the ethics of wildlife photography, the challenges of selling fine art, and the impact of climate change on North American ecosystems. Let's delve into the insights and stories shared by Mather, painting a picture of the life behind the lens of a wildlife photographer.

The Pursuit of the Elusive

Peter Mather's dedication to capturing images of wolverines and grizzly bears is nothing short of inspiring. He discusses his journeys into the Arctic, where he successfully tracked down these rare creatures using camera traps. Unlike traditional photography, camera trapping requires immense patience, preparation, and respect for the natural habitat of wildlife, enabling Mather to snap photographs that not only fascinate but also initiate conversations about conservation.

An Arctic Fox feasts on the carcass of a caribou in the mountains of the Arctic Refuge. The Porcupine herd is an ecosystem driver, feeding people, wolves, bears, foxes, wolverines, eagles, ravens and many more throughout their range.

Ethics and Authenticity in Wildlife Photography

In a world where the trustworthiness of images can often come into question, Mather emphasizes the importance of authenticity in his work. Drawing parallels to the controversial incident with fake snow leopard photos, the discussion between Mather and Payne highlights the ethical responsibilities that come with wildlife photography. Establishing and maintaining trust with your audience is key, and for Mather, this means remaining a purist in the craft.

A wolverine moving through a snowstorm on Alaska's North Slope. The wolverine has large snowshow like paws that enable to move efficiently on snow surfaces.

The Challenges of Monetizing Photography

Despite the beauty and significance of their work, photographers like Mather and Payne face the unpredictability of selling prints and the financial woes of self-publishing books. They divulge the intricacies of the cost-production relationship, the value of time, and the different business models to sustain their artistic endeavors. Whether it's selling smaller items like zines or investing in high-quality photography books, diverse strategies are explored.

Facing Climate Change Through the Lens

No conversation with a conservation photographer would be complete without touching on climate change. Mather sheds light on the decline in salmon and grizzly bear populations, and the impact of forest fires on caribou herds, painting a stark picture of the challenges faced by wildlife. His heartfelt storytelling is a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of our environment and the urgency of addressing global warming.

A camera trap catches images of the Porcupine caribou herd as they migrate to their wintering grounds in the boreal forest of Northern Canada.

Finding Balance and Wellness as a Photographer

Mather candidly shares how the northern latitudes affect his mental well-being, with shorter daylight hours in winter posing challenges. Similarly, Payne shares his post-adventure blues following his time on the Colorado Trail. Both photographers agree that mental and physical health can greatly influence creative motivation and the management of multiple projects, emphasizing the need for balance.

Conclusion

The art of conservation photography is an intricate dance between patience, ethics, business, and the deep connection to the environment. Peter Mather's journey, as encapsulated in this episode with Matt Payne, is a testament to the dedication required to give voice to the voiceless through imagery. As we navigate our own roles in this vast ecosystem, let's take a leaf out of Mather's book and consider how we can contribute to preserving the natural wonders around us.

Links Discussed on This Week's Episode

Watch the episode on YouTube

Gwich'in, Caribou, Porcupine, Herd, Barren, ground ~ ungulates ~ oil ~ gas ~ Yukon ~ NorthWest ~ Territories
Oil fields just to the West of the Arctic Refuge. The Trump Admi