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Posts Tagged ‘Hudson Bay polar bears’

Exceptional guides critical to success of ground-level polar bear photography workshops on Hudson Bay coast

Churchill polar bear walks towards photographer at Churchill Wild's Seal River Heritage Lodge.

I'm getting closer...

You just can’t take spectacular photos of polar bears without having excellent guides to watch your back.

That’s according to professional photographer Bob Smith of Elk Meadow Images, who organized a photography workshop for 14 people this fall at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Smith’s group were taking part in Churchill Wild’s annual Polar Bear Photo Safari and were there to snap ground-level shots of polar bears in their natural environment on the coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada.

“The guides are so important,” said Smith. “They’re the real key to getting great ground-level shots of polar bears while at the same time making as little impact as possible. We respect the bears and don’t want them to feel threatened. We don’t want to disturb them when they’re feeding and if they’re resting we want them to rest.”

“The guides know the bears and they can get us set up in the best position possible to use our equipment,” continued Smith. “If we have to move to get a better angle, we depend on the guides to help us do it in a safe and efficient manner. And they also make sure there are no bears approaching from behind.”

Polar bear photography Churchill Wild style. Photo Credit: Gary Potts

Smith has been organizing photography workshops for over 20 years and says he likes to search out locations that are “off the beaten path.”  The 55-year-old from Denver, Colorado has held photography workshops in Antarctica, Alaska, the high Arctic and Africa.

“We do two or three workshops a year,” said Smith. “Our locations attract an elite clientele and we make it easy for them – we do the advance planning, make the arrangements, set up the itinerary and plan the on-location daily schedules.”

Smith’s photography workshops include instruction on both photography and computer skills.

“Wildlife photography is combination of art and a science, “said Smith. “Effectively capturing wildlife in its natural environment requires knowledge of animal behavior as well as an understanding of how and where to take a photo that will best portray different elements such as strength, size, motion, behavior, interactions within the species etc. There are also different methods of using natural light to enhance photos.”

Computer skills featured in Smith’s workshops include those needed for processing and sharing images, creating photo albums and more.

Smith has three workshops planned for 2012 that include photographing grizzly bears in Alaska; large mammals in Botswana, South Africa and endangered whooping cranes in southern Texas with Popular Photography Magazine.  For more information on Smith’s upcoming photography workshops please visit his Web site at: www.ElkMeadowImages.com or e-mail him directly at: bsmith@elkmeadowimages.com

Smith is currently working on a new book of his photography that will include grizzly bears, eagles and narwhals in Alaska; walrus, bearded seals, ice and polar bears in Svalbard, Norway; and the polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge.

The Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River Heritage Lodge takes place in the heart of polar bear country on the rugged and wild coast of Hudson Bay. It caters to dedicated wildlife photographers who are willing to spend the hours required to get up close and personal with polar bears and other arctic wildlife. Polar bears can be photographed on the ground in their natural environment of ice and snow along the Hudson Bay shoreline amidst a background of dramatic seascapes and landscapes. More examples of the type of polar bear photos that can be taken at Seal River can be seen in Churchill Wild’s 2010 Photo Contest Gallery.

“Photographing polar bears in Churchill doesn’t give you the same experiences as the ground-level photo opportunities available at Seal River Heritage Lodge,” said Smith. “The workshop participants were enamored with the polar bears and the unique access to them. Many of them told me it was the best trip they’ve ever been on.”

World’s largest land carnivore gets right of way as fall polar bear season begins

Big Churchill polar bear at Seal River on Hudson Bay

World's largest land carnivore has right of way here

by Andy MacPherson

The start of a new fall polar bear season!

The Turbo Beaver being busy down south, our first group of guests arrived in style in a helicopter, landing right at our front door. After settling into their rooms and taking in a brief safety orientation, we had them out viewing polar bears Churchill Wild style before lunch.

There were three bears in the immediate vicinity and all were accommodating. We were able to get close and view all three without disturbing them from their day beds. At this time of year the polar bears are focused on conserving as much energy as possible in anticipation of freeze up and the availability of their favourite meal, ringed seals, which will help them replenish their waning fat reserves.

On our way back to the lodge for lunch we discovered that the first bear we’d stopped to view earlier had ambled into the bay north of us. He was now comfortably bedded down in a bed of kelp lying on his back; stretching and playing with a piece of kelp, pulling it gently threw his teeth as if he were flossing.

After lunch we hiked out towards the west, to Swan Lake and back. We were met by a subadult bear on our way back, walking towards us up the path. He stopped when we asked him to, looking a little confused as to why we were blocking ‘His’ way.  We moved off to one side, giving him the right of way – a smart thing to do when questioned by a polar bear. He passed by at a safe distance as our hearts pounded, pausing to get a good scent of us and posing for a few great photos along the way.

We are often approached by polar bears while we are out on hikes and away from the safety and comfort of the lodge. These are always exciting moments, and important times to be very observant of bear behaviour. Every bear that approaches us acts differently based on life experiences past and present. Negative or positive, these experiences will influence the way a bear reacts to us. This initial communication will determine our response to each approaching bear. While polar bears aren’t usually vocal, they do communicate very well through subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) body language and behaviour.

We watched the bear as he moved away from us and continued down the path towards Swan Lake, our excitement at his approach subsiding slightly as we moved back on to the path. Some of the guests asked where the bear was going and what he was thinking; how old he was and how much he weighed. Others marveled at what had just happened.

The largest land carnivore on the planet, a Churchill polar bear, had just walked by us and gone about his business, whatever that might be. It just wasn’t us…

at the moment.

Spectacular polar bear viewing, fabulous guests and a beautiful new dining room make for wondrous summer on Hudson Bay Coast

Polar bears were everywhere in the Summer of 2010 at Churchill Wild's Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Polar bears everywhere!

Unbelievable, wow, incredible, spectacular, best ever, life changing, beyond expectations, and the list goes on – we can never quite identify the right superlative to describe this past season at Churchill Wild!

Once again the guest book is full of great comments and wondrous praises heaped upon our hard working staff and the awesome Churchill Wild polar bear experience they provide. Thank you to all our new found friends, who traveled from all corners of the globe this year, for making the time and financial commitment to join us on the Hudson Bay coast.

It’s difficult to look back over the crazy exciting busyness of this summer season and identify the highlights – there were so many! One of the most important accomplishments was the completion of the new dining room, with its huge viewing windows looking out over the Bay, a new roof, a new tower access, new decks, and new staff quarters.

I get tired just thinking about all the work that had to be done to see that beautiful building standing there. Yvan and

New dining room, polar bear obervatory at Seal River Lodge.

New Seal River Lodge dining room completed!

crew pulled off another miracle, from planning the project last season, to ordering and shipping materials by train to Churchill in January, then spending two weeks in March dragging freight over the frozen sea to the Lodge and finally back in June with the construction crew to build like madmen so we could be ready for first guests in July. Wow! And now we start the whole process all over again – Jeanne has “assured” all of us that she is getting her new kitchen next year.

Our summer Birds, Bears, and Belugas adventure might well have been called Bears, Bears, and Bears as we enjoyed some of the finest summer polar bear action on the planet. Seal River has always been a mecca for polar bears coming off the ice in July, but this year was nothing short of incredible.

One afternoon aerial tour spotted over 100 bears within 30 kilometers of Seal River, numbers which were certainly confirmed by the daily bear action at the Lodge. And the whales continue to enthrall intrepid snorkelers with their charming attention to the strange creatures invading their watery domain. Interactive singing opportunities brought out the creative in everyone. And although it was difficult to tell which whale “whisperer” had the best tune, it was fairly obvious that our whale friends enjoy listening to a well gurgled tune.

Mike Reimer on Hudson Bay. Churchill Wild. Summer 2010.

A beautiful summer day on Hudson Bay!

This past year Churchill Wild also completed the purchase and expansion of the Canada’s newest and most exciting polar bear destination, the Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge located near Cape Tatnum. Cape Tatnum is home to the greatest concentration of summer polar bears on earth and is also near the site of a recently discovered polar bear denning area, not to mention fantastic wolf viewing, countless moose, and a bird migration beyond number. This will undoubtedly become the finest wild polar bear adventure in our ever-expanding stable of great polar bear trips, on par with the great African wildlife safaris of years gone by. Please plan to join us!

Churchill Wild can now guarantee world class polar bear viewing and ground level polar bear photo opportunities at its remote ecolodges from July through to the end of the traditional November season – another world first.

A big heartfelt thanks to all our wonderful guests for making Seal River Lodge a fabulous place to be this summer!  We couldn’t have done it without you. Now it’s time for the Great Ice Bear Tour and the Polar Bear Photo Safari.

We hope you can join us again someday soon!

Mike & Jeanne Reimer & Family

Remote Polar Bear Eco Lodges offer rare glimpse into polar bear life

When the polar bears are forced on to the mainland of Canada by the melting sea ice, they can be viewed at surprisingly close quarters, on foot, on the coast of Hudson Bay, while based at remote polar bear eco lodges. As Jolyon Attwooll discovered during a recent visit to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, this can be a mesmerizing experience.

Polar Bear Mom with Cubs

“And then, a veritable bear bonanza was under way. Where most of us could just see endless tidal flats, Butch saw polar bears – and lots of them. Inching nearer on the all-terrain vehicles, we cut the engines – and, impatient to get closer, I volunteered to follow Butch on foot, along with a Californian student photojournalist. After that exhilarating first encounter less than a football pitch away, we thought perhaps that the best was over. It wasn’t.”

“On the far side of a rough meadow, a sow nosed out into a clearing, with two young polar bear cubs in tow. Tentatively, she edged forward, sniffing the air, anxious to steer clear of several nearby boars. Making her way around the edge, she turned towards us, head raised. Perhaps it was a superfluous rustle – a gooseberry thorn or bug too far – but something spooked her. Breaking into a run, she veered toward the tree cover, her offspring gamboling behind. In one unforgettable movement, she reared onto her hind legs, her white body framed by a spruce behind as she surveyed the area for threats. Then she dropped back onto all-fours and moved swiftly away through a shield of trees, her infants still on her tail.”

The above excerpt is from the story Polar Bears in Canada: Trailing the world’s largest carnivore, which appeared in the Safari and Wildlife Holidays section of the Daily Telegraph in the UK.

Polar Bear Cub hugs Mom

Churchill Wild, owner of Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, has been the premier ecotourism outfitter in northern Manitoba for over 40 years. Our one-of-a-kind on-the-ground polar bear tours at remote polar bear eco lodges cannot be experienced anywhere else on the planet.

If you’re truly looking for an adventure holiday with polar bears, we offer the chance to fly in and get up close and personal with the world’s largest carnivore in their natural environment, while at the same time enjoying nature at its finest, fabulous company, cuisine from our award-winning cookbooks, and the comfort our remote polar bear ecolodge on the Hudson Bay Coast.

Up to 400 polar bears pass by the remote Nanuck Polar Bear Lodge in an average season, but what makes this gathering of polar bears bears so unique is the high concentration of mother bears and cubs. These are not habituated “Park bears” or hunted bears that run at the sight of humans.

These are pure, wild polar bears living the way they have lived since time began.

For more information on Churchill Wild’s remote polar bear lodges and polar bear ecotours please visit Churchill Wild or Nanuk Polar Bear Lodges, e-mail us at info@churchillwild.com or call Toll Free: 1 (866) 846-9453.

Churchill Wild polar bears featured on CNN video! Producer Jessica Ellis visits Seal River Heritage Lodge!

Click the image above to see raw CNN video footage of the Polar Bears.

Click the image above to see raw CNN video footage of the polar bear trip taken by CNN producer Jessica Ellis and photographer Ferre Dollar to Seal River Heritage Lodge. It was quite the adventure!

It’s been a busy media week for the polar bear’s at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge! Earlier this week we were featured in Newsweek in an article entitled The Polar Express and today we were featured in polar bear video on the CNN Web site in the “Most Popular” and “Don’t Miss” video sections!

CNN producer Jessica Ellis and photographer Ferre Dollar were recent visitor’s to Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Hudson Bay Coast and they were surrounded by polar bears – and photographers.

A short clip of their polar bear trekking trip also appeared on CNN (TV) today on the Rick Sanchez show! The video was part of a behind the scenes piece put together for CNN International’s Backstory (which aired Wednesday).

Click the image above to see the raw video footage of Jessica and Ferre flying through the snow from Churchill, Manitoba enroute to the remote Hudson Bay Coast. And there was a polar bear in the vicinity when they got off the plane – so they had to take a different route to the Lodge!

Make sure to watch sections 2:14 – 2:26, when the team was surrounded by polar bears, and the piece at 3:47 of the video, when a bear comes to the Lodge door. And of course, there are more polar bears.

This raw video footage, entitled Face to Face with the Polar Bears, shows just how much fun it can be to walk on the arctic tundra and visit with the polar bears up close and personal.

An additional clip of this arctic adventure is slated to air on CNN during the week of December 7. It will also feature Churchill Wild owner Mike Reimer, professional photographer Dennis Fast and polar bear guide extraordinaire Andy MacPherson – all talking about what it’s like to hang out with the polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge.

Jessica and Ferre told us they had a fantastic time! We owe them a big warm polar bear hug!

Thank you CNN!