Wildlife photography isn’t easy.
Although you do “walk in a park,” it isn’t as the idiom implies.
It takes – in no particular order and often at the same time – patience, fierce curiosity, patience, detailed planning, luck, equipment and … patience. Just as patience is synonymous with wildlife photography, John E. Marriott is synonymous with capturing the majestic animals that live in western Canada.
Marriott has been shooting for decades. During this time, Marriott has witnessed the impact of human encroachment on wild spaces, whether it is tourists trying to get images of bears on the road or poachers luring wolves and coyotes out of the protected areas for their fur by using baited inhuman traps.
He is also raising awareness to the ongoing issue of grain spillage on the train tracks where animals are attracted to food and are occassionally killed by trains. Marriott uses his platform to inform and advocate for the creatures he photographs. His unique perspective helps articulate why we all need to do better and be stewards to the wild rather than takers with his non-profit EXPOSED Wildlife Conservancy.We asked Marriott to take us along – virtually – on a typical day for him such as what time he gets up, what he eats, wears and how he “gets the shot.” Hour by hour, here is a glimpse of his daily dedication and what it takes to get such awesome shots – all before most of us eat breakfast.
I put on my 'work clothes', which consists of Fjallraven Keb Trousers, a merino wool undershirt, a Fjallraven outdoor hoodie and a Fjallraven toque, and immediately headed out to my vehicle with a pre-packed bag of protein bars, trail mix and several bottles of water, along with my 'regular' car gear, a bag with my satellite emergency device, my bear spray, my big knife and knife holster belt, a utility knife and utility tool, and my headlamp.
My camera gear was all in my car already, including my Canon R5 mirrorless cameras, my 500 millimetre telephoto lens and two Jobu Designs tripods (one lightweight and small, the other a bit heavier, but also much taller – the light one is for hiking around, the heavier one for anything near my vehicle). I set up my two cameras along with my 500mm and my 70-200mm lenses on the passenger seat beside me along with my beanbag (for shooting off of my window sill so I don't have to get out of the vehicle for photographing things like bears.)
I am driving to my hiking location or the area I want to search by vehicle. Even when I'm at home, it usually takes me less than five minutes to go from being sound asleep to being fully clothed and geared up and driving away. I do not drink coffee, I run purely on adrenalin, haha.
I spot a grizzly during my morning rounds and set my vehicle up at a distance so I'm not interrupting the bear's movements or behaviours. The bear lets me stay there photographing it for half an hour before I decide to move on.
I stop and walk out to a beaver dam to film Canada geese and a beaver swimming around in front of the beaver lodge.
I walk in to check on a mineral lick that is a few hundred metres off the road. Lots of tracks, but no sign of any moose or deer at the lick.
I do a timelapse of a pretty scene in the heart of bear country for a documentary I'm working on with the nonprofit I co-founded, the EXPOSED Wildlife Conservancy. We're doing two documentaries right now about Alberta grizzly bears and need some intro scenes from bear country for the start of the docs.
I catch a glimpse of a bear bum walking into the bush, but don't get any shots of it.
Things are starting to get busy on the roads, so I head back to the campground and spend an hour downloading the videos and stills from the morning session.Learn more about John E. Marriott by visiting www.wildernessprints.com.