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Profile — Sarah Furchner (Exclusive online interview)

Full of surprises

Wildlife subjects never fail to keep this outdoor photographer guessing

By Stephanie Hounsell

When it comes to photographing wildlife, there’s something Sarah Furchner has learned time and again: Expect the unexpected.


Furchner, a northern Ontario-based nature and wildlife photographer, remembers vividly the spring day a couple of years ago when she came nearly face to face with a black bear that had a mind of its own.


©Sarah Furchner Black Bear at waters edge

©Sarah Furchner
Black Bear at waters edge


Black bear

She was canoeing with her dad in Killarney Provincial Park when she spotted the bear across the river. It was roaming around the head of the trail, exactly where the pair needed to portage. Expecting the bear to run away — typical behaviour for a bear when approached — they canoed closer. But this bear had no intention of leaving. “We were trying to scare him away. We were yelling at him and banging on the side of the canoe,” Furchner says. To no avail. The bear looked rather unconcerned and continued turning over rocks and looking for bugs, Furchner recalls. He looked up at them in the canoe and continued ambling along. “He made it perfectly clear to us that this was his portage and not ours and he was not moving,“ Furchner says. “It was the complete opposite of what we expected to happen.”

Their repeated attempts to scare the bear off the path failed and the animal began to stick its nose in the air, taking a more aggressive stance. “We had this standoff with this bear and he wouldn’t go. So finally he just walks slowly into the woods. He didn’t run, he wasn’t scared, nothing. We had quite a bit of gear… and I have never portaged so fast in my life!”

The hair-raising experience netted Furchner a great photo — which she shot with a 300-mm lens when she was 10 to 15 metres from the animal —and a great story.

Caspian tern chick

This photo shows a caspian tern chick, which Furchner photographed at Misery Bay Provincial Park on Manitoulin Island one early morning in the late spring. She was walking along the shore of Lake Huron when she heard the noisy squawk of a tern. “The thing starts freaking out. It just starts dive-bombing us out of the sky,” she says.

Thinking the tern — a ground-nester known for its aggression — must have a nest in the area, Furchner walked cautiously, taking care not to step on any eggs. But the bird didn’t let up, no matter which direction she walked in. It was like they were playing “hot and cold,” she remembers. It was then that she saw it. “I looked down and this little guy was just right there, nestled in the side of the rock.”

©Sarah Furchner

©Sarah Furchner Caspian tern chick

Despite the continued squawks from the chick’s parent, Furchner got on her stomach and quickly photographed the baby bird before making a hasty exit. It was another case of an unexpected incident resulting in a unique photo.

To read more of Sarah Furchner’s adventures as a Northern Ontario nature photographer, please pick up a copy of the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of OPC today, or subscribe to never miss an issue!

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