By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans

A PHOTOGRAPHER spends thirteen hours in a sweltering hide to get up close and personal with wild brown bears

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Videographer / director: Jack Stevens, George Turner
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Jack Stevens

George Turner spent three days in Suomussalmi Forest to photograph wild bears up close

George Turner, 26 from Dorset, ventured to Suomussalmi Forest in Finland to squeeze into a single person hide, made of thin plywood and some fabric to photograph the wild animals in their natural environment.

To get close to the bears the intrepid explorer visited the Martinselkonen Wildlife Centre in the midst of the Kainuu wilderness for three days, which is home to the highest concentration of brown bears in the world.

Capturing the stunning images meant entering the single hide at 4pm and remaining there until 7:30am each morning.

The photographer entered the hide each day at 4pm and did not leave until 7:30am

George said: “I heard about this particular hide and I set my heart on it because of the name.

“The hide is called 'suicide hide' - and the clue is in the name.

“When the guide who was taking me there - who was the only one who has ever been attacked by a bear at this place - said “are you sure?” just before I got in - that’s when I started to question myself.”

He had a few close calls in the hide, including having a adult bear playfully gnaw at one of the flimsy windows

Following a two kilometre hike and a rushed, deathly silent, shuffle across a field occupied by forty bears, George settled in for his first 13 hour stretch in the hide.

He said: “When we first got into the hide there were none there, but literally within 30 seconds of the guy leaving they swarmed around the hide.

“In the hide itself you had about four or five different holes around you from which you could look out and they were literally around every single hole.”

George had to dart across a field filled with around forty bears to get into the hide

Some of the younger bears were a little too eager to find out who was hidden inside the single hide.

George continued: “At one stage I had about three cubs sticking their heads through different holes.

“These cubs aren’t little cubs they’re like big adolescent male cubs, which could do serious damage.

“When you see huge fangs coming through that’s the first time your heart starts to really beat.

The tiny hide did not leave any room for a bathroom so George had to use a cake tin to relieve himself
Unfortunately previous occupants had spilt their urine all over the once white mattress

“But for me, my first instinct was to get my wide angle lens out to get a nice nose shot.”

Turner’s photographic instincts almost landed him in some trouble during one of his stints in the hide.

He said: “I only had one incident of the bear actually seeing me, which shamelessly was when I was trying to get a selfie with one of the bears through the tarpaulin hole.

“But they ran, so fast, away from me. The reason being was because for three weeks of the year they are hunted, so they actually are pretty scared of people.”

The English photographer hoped to capture the natural behaviours and emotions of the brown bears

The English photographer also risked life and limb when he decided to take a well deserved nap in the midst of his 13 hour stretch.

Guides warned him of the perils of sleeping with his head near one of the hide’s camera holes, and Turner learned why the hard way.

He said: “I thought I’d have a really quick nap, like English people do, fell asleep and at about three am I had this thing tugging me through the camera opening on my arm.

“I’ve been woken up by some horrible people in my time, but believe me an adolescent male bear is pretty scary and gets the juices going.”

George hoped to capture the natural behaviours and emotions of the bears and succeeded in one of his favourite images.

The Martinselkonen Wildlife Centre gives tourists the chance to see bears up close in their natural habitat

“There’s one image of a bear sitting on his haunches just looking to his left really pensively like he’s really contemplating life.

“He’d actually run over and scared off the mum and her cubs and must have sat there feeling really guilty.”

Many would question the sanity of getting so close to wild bears without some indestructible body armour, but for Turner the experience was a dream.

“It is an adrenalin rush at the time, but it’s kind of like this weird serenity as well.

“Everything is happening so quickly, but it’s almost happening in slow motion.”