Are You Ready For Back in Person? Consider HOWL, an Ethical Wildlife Photography Conference

Are You Ready For Back in Person? Consider HOWL, an Ethical Wildlife Photography Conference

As the world slowly opens back up, it's time to consider photography conventions as a means to link back up with like-minded photographers. Postponed last year in the shadow of COVID-19, HOWL, A Wildlife Photo Convention is back. Even if you don't live close to Whitney, Ontario, the gateway to Algonquin, you can still attend virtually. HOWL is running October 21, 22, and 23, 2022.

HOWL is the brainchild of Steve Dunsford, photographer, and proprietor of Mad Musher restaurant and rooms, and Bongo, photographer, guide, township councilor, and proprietor of Camp Bongo Pix. Dunsford and Bongo have envisioned something a bit different than the normal photography convention.

The organizers strive to run a smaller convention for two main reasons: firstly, so that they can run intensive field trips with the attendees, and, secondly, to make it easier to create connections between the attendees. The main goal at HOWL is to have photographers meet, exchange stories, and create a community. To that end, those that are attending HOWL are also invited to a series of Facebook meetups to talk and share images and stories. 

If you're still unsure about COVID-19 and gatherings, check out HOWL's considerate COVID-19 FAQs.

The convention is designed to focus on the outdoors so, aside from lectures, most events and talks will be outside. Who doesn’t want to talk about photography around a campfire?

Field Trips

In previous years, field trips were run by Helen E. Grose and the Cowboy with a Camera, Wesley Liikane. This year, participants will have a chance to go on field trips with Connor Thompson and Chris Gilmour

Thompson is a grad student at Trent University who has been studying the Eastern Wolf (AKA the Algonquin Wolf) at the Algonquin Research Station for several years. If you’re looking to understand more than just aperture, to understand the creatures you photograph, Thompson is your man. 

Gilmour is a wilderness and survival expert. He has spent well over a decade as a backwoods guide and tracking instructor. Gilmour’s walk will focus on helping photographers read the woods, to understand what they’re seeing, and what they might see.


In terms of photography-specific content, this year's speakers include:

John E. Marriott, wildlife photographer and founder of Exposed Wildlife Conservancy. I’ve written extensively about Exposed Wildlife Conservation; I’d suggest you take another look if it’s slipped your mind.

Melissa Groo, a wildlife photographer who makes it her mission to:

...raise awareness and change minds about not only the extrinsic beauty of animals, but also their intrinsic worth.

According to her bio, Groo created the National Audubon Society Guide to Ethical Bird Photography, advised National Wildlife Magazine and NANPA (North American Nature Photography Association) on guidelines for ethical wildlife photography, and served as Chair of NANPA’s Ethics Committee from 2014-18.

And Sandy Sharkey, a wildlife photographer, specializing in the photography of wild horses.

Sharkey works tirelessly with wild horse organizations like Help Alberta’s Wildies.

It's All About the Wildlife

If you see a pattern, you’re right. HOWL is also designed to foster a photographic community that respects the wildlife that we all seek to photograph. HOWL intends to celebrate exceptional wildlife photography talent, but also to remind photographers to be ethical.

If all we think about is sharper photos, closer photos, more photos, we’re missing the point of wildlife photography: to honor the animals we love. 

According to WWF- Canada’s Living Planet Report:

From 1970 to 2014, half (451 of 903) of monitored wildlife species in Canada declined in abundance... on average, a decline [in abundance] of 83 percent.

We have to make room for wildlife on their terms; otherwise, we’ll see almost unprecedented numbers of species become extinct in our lifetime. 

HOWL images used courtesy of Howl. IG images attributed to their photographers.

Mark Dunsmuir's picture

Mark is a Toronto based commercial photographer and world traveller who gave up the glamorous life of big law to take pictures for a living.

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