Ian McAllister — photographer, environmentalist and scuba diver — was busy documenting the seasonal herring spawn on B.C.’s central coast when he spotted a couple of wolves on the shoreline north of Bella Bella.
Wearing a dry suit in the cold clear waters, he swam towards the predators and positioned his Nikon D4 camera with underwater housing to obtain a split image of sea and sky.
As McAllister emerged all black and slippery at the surface, the wolves immediately thought dinner — and not those little eggs squeezed from a female herring.
“As soon as I came out of the water, they looked at me and immediately ran over,” he recalled in an interview Monday. “I thought, ‘This is really stupid because they think I’m a seal.’ They chewed on my snorkel, figured I wasn’t a seal and I managed to get a few pictures before they went back to the herring eggs.”
McAllister, whose environmental group, Pacific Wild, is located at Denny Island near Bella Bella, said the photograph helps to illustrate the importance of the annual herring spawn from late March to early April to wildlife on the central coast. The two wolves are part of a pack of seven or eight that relies on the seasonal spawn, wading in during low tides to gorge on the eggs for up to a month.
“I am always trying to get a shot of the connection of the ocean and the rainforest,” McAllister said. “Wolves are such an intriguing way to tell that story. Here is a terrestrial carnivore that is making a living from the ocean.”
The photograph has earned McAllister a coveted spot among National Geographic’s favourite 20 photos of 2015. The image also appeared in the magazine’s October 2015 feature, In Search of the Elusive Sea Wolf Along Canada’s Rugged Coast.