Eyes Like A Wolf: An interview with Vancouver Island photographer Ryan Tidman

At Tofino Resort + Marina we are fortunate to work with some of the best photographers on the west coast. Recently, Vancouver Island shooter Ryan Tidman (See his work here) visited Tofino to capture all the fun and family excitement of our Fish for The Future Tournament. Tidman is a full-time assistant for National Geographic icon and Sealegacy co-founder, Paul Nicklen. He came with a keen eye for Tofino’s rare rain wolves, and he went home with some fine images, plus an experience he’ll never forget.

How did you end up connecting with Fish for the Future, and what was your impression of the event?

I briefly met Willie Mitchell this past July when I was working in Tofino with [Paul Nicklen]. I didn’t know much about him or the event, but I blindly said ‘yes’, knowing it’s a great excuse to get out to Tofino. We photographed the event, shot some event stuff, and helped make sure people had cold Tofino Brewing lagers. It was super fun. It’s clear the event brings Tofino’s fishing community together.

And how did you manage to spot Clayoquot Sound wolves? Most locals rarely see them.

I was so excited to see some rain wolves. I knew it was really rare thing, but I told [Tofino Resort Guide] Peter to take me out. The light was perfect that day. I set my expectations low; I said I’d buy drinks for everyone if we found one. We were patrolling the shores of the islands. After an hour or two, we are coming around this corner and Pete just cranked the boat over and he’s pointing at the shore. We saw these three wolves running across this beach in the distance.

Did they stick around for long?

We got two minutes of shooting before they took off. But I got like 80 photos [laughter]. It’s still better than nothing. So then we tried to anticipate where they were going. We went around the corner and waited five minutes. They came out of the bush…four wolves this time. I’m shooting from the bow and Peter’s maneuvering the boat and that’s when I got that one amazing shot of the wolf.

Why are that one wolf’s eyes different colours?

It’s called heterochromia. Unlike dogs like Huskie it’s not a natural trait in wolves, so a wolf either mated with a local dog at some point, or it’s a genetic defect. But he ran right up to us and checked us out. It was super cool. I shot that photo with a 100-400mm with a 1.4 extender. Puts it around a very long 500 millimetre lens for the photographers out there. 

Why didn’t the wolves run away?

We noticed that they were actually there because there was a sea lion carcass in the water. They were waiting for low tide so they could get it out of the water and feed. They are so in-sync with their surroundings. They just slept and chilled out, until within one minute of low tide, and they woke up and got to work. It was amazing.  If they are going to get in the water and swim and use their energy, they’re going to do it as opportunistically as possible. We kept our distance and just watched in awe. And shot photos of course.

How did you get into photography?

I went to school for biology at the University of Guelph, and graduated with my bachelor of environmental Sciences. I had probably the most average grades [laughter]. I knew I wasn’t going to blow any minds in Academia but I had done some environmental work in herpetology, and I brought my camera along. I later discovered a grad program called Environmental Visual Communications—it’s a nine-month fast-tracked program. You need a background in science to even enroll. Then they teach you multimedia so you can share stories for storytelling in conservation. It sounded super cool.

And what about getting connected with Paul Nicklen?

Before applying, I went on a tour with the school, and I heard there’s an internship at Sealegacy for one graduate of the program. That was the deciding factor. Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier were household names for me, and I enrolled purely for the opportunity to maybe get an unpaid two-month internship working with them at Sealegacy. I was like “hell yeah.” Fast forward a couple months and I beat out the other classmates and got the opportunity.

What did you do for them?

I ended up editing photos and organizing stuff for the most part, but it turned into a full-time gig beginning January, 2018. I’ve been here for two years.

You’re originally from Ontario, from where there’s a regular migration of people to B.C. What is it that attracts you about living in B.C.?

I have always been attracted to the outdoors and nature. There’s absolutely no better place than British Columbia. Opportunities to go to Tofino and see these elusive rain wolves or hike through a rainforest or hike up Mount Aerosmith and look for marmot…I mean, it’s a whole different world out here. Ontario has its perks, but the wildlife here is cooler. The landscapes are more majestic. And the outdoor activities are endless. It has it all for me.

 

The Fish For The Future Fund is a fundraising initiative created by Tofino Resort + Marina, in partnership with the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust. The goal is to protect wild salmon and an ecosystem that supports responsible fishing. 100% of the funds raised will be dedicated to various Clayoquot Sound watershed projects, as designated by the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust. As Fish for the Future Fund grows, so too will conservation and protection of these precious waters and the wildlife that lives here.