Photo By Photo: 2024 Wolves of M:W Calendar

by: Samuel James

Calendars are available here in the modern.peasant store. 51% of sales go back to the wolves as a donation to Mission: Wolf.

Sometimes I am still in awe that I can, at will, get close to and take photos of some of the most beautiful animals to walk the planet. It’s an absolute trip to look at some of these and know it really was me who was there with the camera. If you’d have shown them to me even five years ago, I’d have blown you off like you were crazy. But here I am. Life is crazy.

Note: All of these with the exception of three (April, September, December) were taken OUTSIDE of their enclosure through a gap in the fencing. I mention this for the curious cats but also for any Mission: Wolf staff who might read this and hopefully be more convinced you don’t have to be inside with them to get a chance at nice shots.

In order from January-December as they appear in the calendar, plus a bonus for the cover:

January - Zeab

Full honesty: I don’t really like this photo.

I say that because I’m aware this whole scene is a bit of a protest protest of me. I walked into an area separate from his but still somewhere we humans don’t normally go. He and all his neighbors let me know they thought that was weird. Obviously, I did stop to snap a few but I admit it felt a little stolen, or they were tainted or something. It just didn’t feel good. That being said, I like the photo too much to not enjoy it for that.


Snow on the nose takes any photo from “meh..” to “cool!” pretty quickly. Exhibit A here.

A little fresh snow falling to add some dynamic texture for your eyes and voila! Your sort of boring photo of a wolf staring at you while lying down turned into something you can plausibly insert into an art calendar and sell. Magic.


This is a good example of one of those photos I spoke of in the intro that makes me incredulous it was me who took it. Cephira is just stunningly pretty. You don’t have to catch her in the right light or at the right time of year. She’s always stunning and the number of beautiful photos of her in my catalog are many. Her red accent in her fur might have a lot to do with it, but she has a certain sparkly energy too.


Nash is moody and temperamental but a big softie too. Definitely a doof around her friends. This photo cracks me up because a couple seconds before this, she was full doof. Someone made an unexpected noise, though, so BOOM the ears go up and she’s on alert.

These below are the two photos I took right before the one you see above:

See what I’m saying? Sort of fascinating.


I’m proud of this photo. Arrow is a shy guy who lives in a large and largely inaccessible space with plenty of room to hide. 

So..the timing of him being in this spot, the way his one staring eye comes through the grass, the focus being right on. I was doing a lot right myself on this one but got very lucky too. Thanks Arrow.

June-Marty & Saurya

Ok to start, RIP to these two as a couple. They had a bad fight in early summer and have been separated ever since. Some people seemed relieved, others sort of lament the lost opportunity. I don’t know how I feel. Wolves are obviously hard to partner up living in a cage. These two certainly had their moments, and many good ones. It was really fun to watch them play–extra amusing when it came immediately after one of their loud scuffles.

I remember anticipating this moment and feeling like a damn soothsayer when it happened. Inspired by an old, similar photo hanging above the desk I spend time at, I really wanted to replicate it. So much so that I was convinced it was going to happen as I watched Saurya walk up to Marty. Then it did happen. Pretty wild.


Obsidian is such a gentle little guy and soul. He’s a real goofball. But he looks so intimidating. My only real memory of this photo is seeing it on the computer and being super stoked about it right away. I had spent enough time around his enclosure taking photos, I admit I don’t really remember this moment specifically. Shooting digital sort of does that to you when you can take a million at almost no expense other than the time it takes to delete them.


This one felt like it was granted by God. Arrow’s pale eyes are legendary (also rare) and he’s a striking enough animal that anyone who has the privilege to get close to him and have a camera in hand is one lucky sob. 

The light was golden and just right on his face (more difficult than you might imagine at the refuge…lots of backlit photos, if you haven’t noticed). He stopped and stood in more or less the exact spot I was hoping and there I was ready to click the shutter. Or was it God?


This one gets me because these two just seem like two peas in a pod, especially if you know Cephira. I think this lady was her spirit animal and I think the radiance between them shows here. Every once in a while a visitor shows up and an animal just acts a little an emotional space opened up where we don’t normally get to see them. 

This one’s also cool because it gives you a decent idea of how big some of their spaces are. She can walk down by that amber colored grove of oak in the background..and where they’re sitting is a good 50 yards in from the entrance the other way.


This comes from a pretty epic day where I went around with the Pentax and shot the wolves in the snow. Only 4 of the 13 calendar photos are from a film camera (January, October, December, cover) and they’re all from this same day. I think I could find another 20 from that day that look like absolute garbage and maybe I’ll post them so we can share in the appreciation for the ones like this where it actually goes right. Feels amazing.


I know beauty is subjective but Rosie’s is not. She is absolutely one of the most beautiful wolves here and anyone who wants to argue that is only being devil’s advocate for fun. Her amber eyes have so much gravity and when she puts on her charm, it’s like a mother’s type of love you get all caught up in. If you’ve never met a wolf, I swear I’m not being dramatic.

I don’t get to experience that from Rosie much myself. I got to Mission: Wolf at a tumultuous time in Rosie’s life and she’s never forgotten that correlation of timing I guess. Most of the time she looks at me and is a bit suspicious, like something bad will happen again. Not understanding much at all about them, I think that’s understandable.


Saved the best for last, in my opinion. I love this one. I think it has that affect of just grabbing you in a way most other photos don’t. I remember seeing it hanging on the film strip and knowing pretty quickly it might be one of those. I was so damn excited to get it scanned and happy when it turned out. 

One of the most enjoyable parts of this whole process is the joy from the delayed satisfaction a good photo can provide. This one packed a punch in that regard.

Selfless plug: you can buy a poster of it here. The January/Zeab photo too.


Check that “best” title though because then there’s this one. If I had to just choose one, I’m partial to December/Nashira above because the color in this one is a little off. I have struggled to find a version that truly looks pleasing to me.

I figure sometimes my timing is a little off during the developing process and the film gets over (or under?) developed and that’s why after scanning, some have a weird greenish color hue that’s hard to get rid of.

Thanks for reading!

Calendars are available here in the modern.peasant store. 51% of sales go back to the wolves as a donation to Mission: Wolf.

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