I attended a photography session at The Wolf Mountain Nature Center in Smyrna, New York on a beautiful Autumn day in October of 2019. This was my first visit and I was impressed with the non-profit organization whose purpose is to educate the public about wolves, foxes and coyotes. Getting no federal or state funding, paid events, including their photography sessions, help to support the nature center.
The photography session starts out with an informative audio-visual presentation on the history and ecology of the wolf in North America which includes bios on each of the wolves at the nature center. This lasts for about twenty minutes followed by a short questions and answer session outlining how they prepare the wolf enclosure before leaving for the photography platform. Each photography session is limited to ten photographers to allow an uncrowded and fun time for all.
The photography platform is high enough to look over the enclosure fencing to give clear views of the wolves when they are released into the enclosure. Earlier during the presentation, the wolves were taken into pens while food items were hidden in locations close to the platform. This gives the wolves a stimulating activity and keeps them within view of the platform.
I used a Nikon D750 camera with a Nikon AF-S 80-400mm VRII lens at the platform which gave me a lot of reach and very useable images with some cropping.
The platform is high and you are shooting downward at the wolves especially when they come in close. Keep ready as sometimes they look up at you.
The large enclosure does have an upward slope to one side of the platform. One of the other photographers pointed out to me the wolves sometimes go up and down it. That is where I photographed this wolf loping towards me about even with the platform’s height.
After about an hour, the wolves get a bit lazy after finding all the food and the session on the platform is over. It goes by fast and all of us photographers were buzzing about our experience.
The day is not over as a tour of the other animals at the nature center of Arctic Foxes and Eastern Coyotes completes the session. As the rest of the animals are behind fencing, I got as close to the fence as possible to focus out as much of it as I could. I used added contrast and dehazing in processing to remove any remnants in the images.
I meet other wolves like Tala, a white Arctic Wolf, you see below who normally stays away from people visiting but got curious when her companion kept playing hide and seek with some of the photographers. She appeared through the autumn brush which made for a wonderful contrast to her coat.
The cost of a wolf photography session is $75. For 2020, they have four sessions in early February, March, September and October and, as of this date, all have openings for photographers (use link above for details).
The Wolf Mountain Nature Center is located near the village of Smyrna, New York about an hour’s drive from Syracuse in Chenango County. There is a gift shop with proceeds going back to the center for the care and feeding of their animals. I would bring a snack to eat after your photography adventure or stop by for a visit.
The session is very exciting and a wonderful opportunity to be with these magnificent creatures up close enough to photograph. I highly recommend it.