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Polar Bear Photography

New Photo Contest for Seal River Heritage Lodge Guests

Seal River Heritage Lodge

Seal River Heritage Lodge

The Province of Manitoba nominated the Seal River to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) in June 1987. The nominated section is 260 km long and extends from the junction of the North and South Seal rivers, at Shethanei Lake, to Hudson Bay. This is the area we hike to and swim with beluga whales during our Birds Bears & Belugas Adventure every summer.

Named for the harbour seals that are found up to 200 km upstream from Hudson Bay, Manitoba’s Seal River rushes through open spruce forest, tundra and boiling rapids. Too rugged for even the early fur traders, the river’s remote vastness remains home to spectacular wildlife such as caribou, wolverine, polar bear and 3,000 beluga whales that summer in its estuary on Hudson Bay. The Seal River’s designation to the CHRS was primarily based on its exceptional natural heritage.

We recently became aware of a contest that many of our guests may be interested in entering and here it is. Please note that this is not a Churchill Wild contest:

Experience Canadian Heritage Rivers Photo Contest

Help capture the splendour and the excitement of the Canadian Heritage Rivers! Parks Canada’s Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) is pleased to partner with Rapid Media’s Canoeroots and Family Camping Magazine for a second year to launch the Experience Canadian Heritage Rivers photo contest.

Photos can be submitted in the following four categories:

1) Canadian Heritage Rivers and Family;

2) Canadian Heritage Rivers and Nature;

3) Canadian Heritage Rivers and Cities; and

4) Canadian Heritage Rivers and Adventure.

The contest runs from May 15 to October 31, 2012. Winning photos will be published in the Spring 2013 issue of Canoeroots and Family Camping Magazine and will also tour throughout North America in the 2013 edition of the Reel Paddling Film Festival. To learn more about the contest and to submit photos, visit the Canoeroots Web site: http://www.canoerootsmag.com/chrsphotocontest/ .

The contest seeks to increase Canadians’ sense of connection to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, and to the outstanding natural, cultural and recreational heritage of these special rivers. Through the contest, Canadians can communicate their unique and exciting perceptions and experiences of Canadian Heritage Rivers.

The CHRS is the world’s largest river conservation program, with 42 rivers spanning close to 11,000 kilometres.  The program was established in 1984 by federal, provincial and territorial governments to conserve rivers with outstanding heritage values, to give them national recognition, and to encourage the public to enjoy and appreciate them.

 

 

Churchill Wild 2011 Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to our 2011 Churchill Wild Photo Contest Winners!

Curious Arctic Fox at Seal River - Joel Davidson Photo

For a smile I will :) Joel Davidson Photo

Every year we solicit entries from our guests for a Churchill Wild Photo Contest. Some of the most stunning images on our website have come from these contests. We break it into categories and hand out big discounts towards future safaris as grand prizes. This year we added an Amateur category, as we get a wide range of experience levels.

The entries were judged by Dennis Fast. There were a very high number of entrants and Dennis had an incredibly tough batch of photos to choose from. Thank you to everyone who submitted photos, we really appreciate it!

Below are the winners followed by a mini photo gallery.

Amateur: 1. Rod Hallet 2.  Marieke Briggen

Landscape: 1. Bob Leaper 2. Steve McDonough

Other Wildlife: 1. Daniel D’Auria 2. Bob Smith

People: 1. Terry Allen 2. Joel Davidson

Polar bears: 1. Louise Atkinson 2. Joel Davidson

Click image to see larger version.

Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge from the air.

Getting ready to land at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

Dennis Fast is hosting our first ever Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. This one week departure takes place August 26-September 1, 2012 on the coast of Hudson Bay in the Cape Tatnum Wildlife Management area.

Dennis’ work can be seen all over our website and promotional materials. He has been working with Churchill Wild since the beginning and is our resident photo expert (as well as an incredible guide).

Below he answers some questions many photographers have asked in recent weeks.

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Everyone who comes to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge wants to know what lenses to bring, and that is an important question.

Most pros would bring at least one lens that can reach out to 500mm or even 600mm. We all know, however, that those lenses are both costly and heavy. So a compromise may be in order for both reasons.

On my trip to Nanuk, I used my 500mm least of all. It’s true that the coast is vast, and bears often are spotted at a distance. The temptation is to get as big a lens as possible on the camera and start shooting. In the end, a little patience delivers a curious bear right into easy range for a 100-400mm zoom or something in that range.

Northern Lights over Hudson Bay - Dennis Fast photo

I have taken a lot of photos of bears using just my 70-200mm with a variety of multipliers, including 1.4x. 1.7x, and 2.0x. When mothers and cubs show up at the lodge, and they frequently do, they will be at close range and you will quickly be abandoning your long lenses. Remember also that the multiplier effect of most digital cameras, unless they are “full frame” increases the power of all your lenses by a factor of 1.3x to 1.6x depending on the camera you are using. I have a very compact 28-300mm lens which I plan to use a lot in the North this year. It’s light weight and size makes it easy to hand-hold and keep at the ready at all times. With a C-size sensor it quickly becomes about a 40-450mm lens – great for almost anything.

Nanuk, however, is not just about the bears. The scenery is spectacular along the coast with sandy beaches and shallow inshore lagoons great for birds and reflections – there goes my 28-300mm again!

The sun spot activity is also increasing at a steady rate as we approach the zenith of its 11-13 year cycle. That means the northern lights could be awesome this year all over the arctic. For that you will definitely want a reasonably fast wide-angle lens. I use my 14-24mm lens a lot for the aurora, but my 24mm-70mm seems to be a great lens for that too. Any wide-angle will allow you to get some of the landscape included in the shots of the sweeping aurora to add a sense of scale. Without that you don’t get the feel of how vast the aurora-filled sky really is!

Polar bear cubs with Mom at Nanuk Polar bear Lodge.
Curious polar bear cubs with Mom at Nanuk

In short, bring what you can comfortably carry without jeopardizing your weight restrictions. And don’t over-do it: a few zooms should cover almost everything for you. Unless you are a pro, you can probably leave your biggest lens at home.

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For more information you can call our office at 204-377-5090 or toll free at 1-866-UGO-WILD (846-9453)

You can also email Doreen at info@churchillwild.com

 

Polar bear looking for Cranberry Cake. With Butter Sauce.

Polar bear looking for Cranberry Cake at Seal River Heritage Lodge. JulieThompson Photo

Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce. Just one piece. Please...

This cool polar bear photo was taken by Julie Thompson at Seal River Heritage Lodge and it was attracting all kinds of attention on the Churchill Wild Facebook Page. It was suggested that the bear smelled the Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce, a Lodge favorite from our Blueberries and Polar Bears Cookbooks. Hmm… well… it is delicious! The bear obviously knew that :)

Here’s what Julie had to say:

I tell people I walked amongst the polar bears just to see the looks on their faces.  Some can’t believe it’s possible.  They’ve never heard of such a thing.

“How close were you to one of the greatest predators on earth?” is usually a question which follows.

“Pretty close” I say, as they peruse our photo book with awestruck faces.

Standing outside of the lodge, we cautiously watched our resident bear approach.  He was an inquisitive one, determined to enter into our “home away from home.”

I think he enjoyed the attention and our company.  Always peeking into windows and pacing around the compound looking for a quick entry.  He was affectionately known as Snuggleputz.  The previous group staying at the lodge named him.  While there was much discussion surrounding renaming him, Snuggleputz is the only name which sticks in my mind.

This bear gave us fantastic photo opportunities throughout our stay.  With expert wildlife photographer, Dennis Fast, leading our group, we were always learning, whether it be out on a tundra trek or during one of his early evening fireside chats.  We met fantastic people from around the globe who shared in our love of photography, we ate great food and were welcomed into the lodge as if we were part of the family.

Perhaps Snuggleputz sensed this warmth, the fun and friendliness of the lodge and he just wanted a glimpse of it for himself.  If only someone would hear his knock.

Churchill Wild polar bears to appear on CBC’s The Nature of Things in Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey

Polar bear being filmed at Seal River

Filming polar bears at Seal River. Photo Credit: Nick Garbutt

Special to Churchill Wild
by +George Williams

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to visit the polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge or Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, you’ll want to make sure to watch the world premiere of Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey on Sunday, April 8 at 7 p.m. on CBC TV’s The Nature of Things with David Suzuki. You’ll see some of our Churchill Wild polar bears!

The wildlife documentary, much of which was filmed over a 12-month period in the vicinity of Churchill Wild’s polar bear lodges, tells the story of a young male polar bear who must survive his first summer alone on land without his mother, after the ice breaks up early on Western Hudson Bay and prevents him from hunting seals. The youngster’s struggle to survive is back-grounded and influenced by one of the most important environmental stories in history: climate change.

Directed by Adam Ravetch of Arctic Bear Productions and produced by Arcadia Content in association with CBC’s Science and Natural History Documentary Unit, Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey features stunning images shot with eight different types of cameras including: a polar bear collar-cam; a remote control truck-cam; a mini heli-cam and several underwater cameras.

“Filming in 3D was much more work,” said Ravetch. “But we wanted immersive images so the audience could experience what it’s really like to be up close at ground level with polar bears. It required multiple cameras operating at the same time to produce the special 3D effects and three of us including Stereographer Indy Saini and Camera Engineering Specialist Stewart Meyer to get the distances between the objects and between the lenses just right. Stewart also developed a smaller mobile camera system that could produce some very rare images.”

Churchill Wild’s Mike Reimer and polar bear guides Terry Elliot and Andy MacPherson were also essential in getting the ultimate polar bear shots.

“It’s a huge challenge to film in 3D in the arctic,” said Ravetch. “The guides have to have experience specifically with polar bears. They concentrate on safety so we can focus on camera angles and getting the shots we need. Being up close with the bears is quite spectacular for a filmmaker, but safety is paramount. The last thing we want is for a person or a bear to get hurt. You’re not in a cage or a vehicle, you’re at ground level with the polar bears. I’ve always worked at ground level, but there are very few places where you can photograph polar bears like this. Seal River and Nanuk are among the best places on the planet for this type of wildlife photography.”

Polar bear sees reflection on Hudson Bay.

Reflection of a polar bear. Hudson Bay.

Ravetch is no stranger the arctic. He and Sarah Robertson co-directed Arctic Tale for National Geographic. Ravetch also directed some amazing in-field sequences swimming with polar bears and walruses for the IMAX production To The Arctic and was cinematographer for one of the segments on the BBC series Frozen Planet, to name just a few of his many illustrious wildlife and nature film credits.

Ravetch sometimes camps out for 4-6 weeks at a time while making his films in the arctic, which makes for a very serious and sometimes dangerous adventure (see full interview here), but Churchill Wild was lucky to have him and his crew as guests at Seal River Heritage Lodge and Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge during various segments of the filming process in 2010 and 2011.

“I woke up to Jeanne’s (Reimer) omelettes every morning,” said Ravetch. “Churchill Wild offers people the very unique experience of getting up close on the ground with the polar bears. Within a day of a arriving at the Lodge people can see polar bears on the tundra. But they still have a warm safe bed at the Lodge to come back to, and of course the delicious food.”

Thanks Adam! And just to clarify for future guests, Churchill Wild doesn’t actually “own” any polar bears.

They simply get close to them.

Polar bear at sunset near Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Nature at its finest.