Two adult male brown bears turned up at the reindeer carcass within moments of each other. Both were hungry from their long winter sleep. Both wanted priority access to the remains of a reindeer. Conflict was inevitable. The carcass was positioned as bait in front of the hide in which Kimmo was stationed in a remote forest region of eastern Finland, near the Russian border. ‘At first, they just roared,’ says Kimmo. ‘But when neither backed down, they began to fight, hitting out and slamming into each other.’ The mist had settled, and it was almost too dark to take photographs. ‘But then I saw the magic of the scene,’ says Kimmo. ‘It reminded me of the Finnish epic poem Kalevala, which includes many mystical passages about bears and battles, reflecting the old Finnish religion, in which the bear is a god – born within the Big Bear constellation and set down on Earth to live alongside humans.’ The battle between the two real bears was brief, ending when the darker one gave way. Kimmo took just a few shots, but this one, he felt, encapsulated the spirit of the bears in the Kalevala epic.
Canon EOS 50D + 300mm f2.8 lens + 1.4x extender (420mm); 1/10 sec at f4; ISO 800.
Sign up to receive emails from the Natural History Museum about events and exhibitions, including Wildlife Photographer of the Year.