Photographing a Lynx on the Dempster Highway

On a recent road trip in search of some Canadian wildlife in the Yukon, I struck gold along the Dempster Highway when a furry creature darted across the road in front of my car and vanished into the nearby shrubs.

Equipment Used for This Shot

For those that don’t know the Dempster, the word “highway” might be a bit misleading, although it’s all that Northern Yukon has if you need to access the communities that lie within the Arctic Circle. This is no 4-lane-each-way highway as some people might imagine! No, it’s an 800km long gravel road that sees very little traffic at all. On this particular trip, I would estimate that I saw another vehicle roughly once every 4 to 5 hours.

With that information, I’m guessing you are picturing this situation a little differently!

The Dempster. Not your normal highway.

As soon as I spotted the lynx I parked my car up somewhere safe and grabbed my trusty Canon 5D Mark IV and 400mm f/4 DO IS II from the front passenger seat. In places like this, you always have to have a camera ready to go at a moments notice.

More often than not a lynx like this wouldn’t hang around, so I didn’t hold out much hope. But this time I got lucky and as I crept quietly through the bushes next to the highway I entered a clearing dotted with sparse vegetation and… there it was. Just sitting there staring at me!

Once we made eye contact I immediately sat down on the ground to try and make myself look smaller and less intimidating, and then I sat there for a couple of minutes and grabbed a couple of quick shots. At this point I was too far away for a great shot, and the shot was looking a bit dull, but I like to grab a few shots right away just for the story in case it runs off.

Once I had those shots I started to scoot along the ground to get closer, paying attention to the movements and actions of the cat to see if it was ok with this. I also realized that I needed to change angles slightly, as the current shot was lacking depth and contrast.

With the cat sat in the clearing, backed by some uninteresting gravel that was very similar in tone and colour to its own fur (nature is clever!), the shot wasn’t going to be great. I needed to add something to the shot, and if you can’t move your subject then you have to move yourself in order to change the background and foreground.

By moving to my right, I was able to simultaneously bring in some green trees in the background, and also some branches and shrubs in the foreground on the right. These branches added both depth to the image, and contrast to break up the boring background. This depth works to focus your attention on the lynx, and I increased this effect even more by shooting with the widest possible aperture for my lens, f/4.

Job done! A lovely shot of a wild Canada lynx. And of course I waited for it to look right down the lens to get that perfect moment. Happy with this one!

Photo of author

Dan Carr

Founder of Shutter Muse, full time photographer and creative educator. Dan lives in the Canadian Yukon, but his wanderlust often sends him in search of images all around the world to meet the needs of clients and readers alike.

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