During a 10-year career as a wildlife photographer, Terry Parker has learned how to stand his ground. Parker has been charged by moose, elk and black bear. He’s had caribou walk right up to him on the open tundra. A wild wolf once stood 30 feet in front of him and posed for a picture.
Parker has spent the past eight summers shooting rivers in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories (NWT) and says the Canadian north has always fascinated him. Under contract with ecotourism groups and the NWT government, Parker has rafted and canoed five northern rivers gaining access to remote regions and animals.
“You get the shot in your head and that’s all you think about. But you have to be aware,” says Parker, “a herd bull (muskox) came walking up within 12 metres. I stepped out from behind the camera and told him that was close enough.”
With no formal education in photography, Parker, 37, got into the field in 1986 when he moved to Vancouver. After a summer of tree planting, he bought his first camera and was hooked from the start. It took four years before Parker decided to venture into wildlife photography. Initially, he spent four days at the McNeil River Bear Sanctuary in Alaska.
Four days amongst the bears was mind-boggling. It was the most incredible place I’ve been to.”
In 1995, Parker moved to Fernie where he recently opened his own gallery and now spends time in the valley “shooting” grizzlies. He calls Fernie home for the simple reason that he likes to ski and there isn’t enough light up north in the winter.
Originally from Ingersoll, Ontario, Parker spent time learning how to hunt, trap and fish on his grandfather’s farm. Those early years have served Parker well and have helped Parker become an expert animal tracker. These days, Parker relies on his eyes and ears to help him find his subjects and generally looks for things that are out of step with nature.
“I look for different shapes or forms that aren’t consistent with the rest of the bush.”
The trick for Parker seems to be learning about the species he has to photograph, then familiarizing himself with their habitats. Once he’s found the subject he’s looking for, taking the photograph becomes the easy part. When the light is right and everything comes together the result is fine art — the reason why Parker says his animals aren’t muddy or scruffy enough for some of the hunting magazines.
With intentions of taking his photography to the next level, Parker is currently working on a book about seven northern Canadian rivers and hopes one day to shoot an article for National Geographic. When asked if there are animals he’d still like to shoot, Parker mentions polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba and penguins in Antarctica.