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Posts Tagged ‘polar bear photo safari’

Award-winning photographer and author Dennis Fast to lead late fall Polar Bear Photo Safaris at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and Seal River Heritage Lodge

Polar bear approaches at Nanuk.

Polar bear approaches at Nanuk.

Dennis Fast has been Churchill Wild’s chief photographer for the past 20 years, starting out as a guide in 1993 and progressing to lead numerous photo safaris. This year he will lead the Polar Bear Photo Safaris that take place at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge from September 23-30, 2013 and two that take place at Seal River Heritage Lodge from November 10-16 and November 14-20.

One of Manitoba’s best known photographers, Dennis’s images have appeared in many calendars and books, including the award-winning best seller Pelicans to Polar Bears, a Manitoba wildlife viewing guide. His calendar credit list is impressive and includes National Geographic, National Wildlife Federation, Inner Reflections, Manitoba Autopac (including an exclusive polar bear calendar in 2010), Parks & Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and many more. Most recently, 35 of Dennis’s best polar bear photos were placed in the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre (IPBCC) in Winnipeg.

PolarMomandCubNanuk540

Polar bear Mom and Cub at Nanuk.

Dennis was a school principal for many years before retiring in 1998 to devote more time to his dual passions of birding and photography. He first met Churchill Wild’s Mike and Jeanne Reimer in the early ‘90s through Mike’s sister, who gave a presentation at his school. That led to doing photography workshops for the Churchill Northern Studies Centre and eventually to flying over what is now Seal River Heritage Lodge when it was an abandoned whale research centre ravaged by wolves and polar bears in 1993.

“I thought Mike was crazy at the time,” said Dennis. “But I started out guiding for him and look at it now. It’s the most gorgeous showplace on the tundra.”

Hmm... how come all the other bears are white?

Hmm… how come all the other bears are white?

Dennis has made major contributions to a number of books since then, including Wapusk: White Bear of the North, the first book to feature his work exclusively. Wapusk: White Bear of the North showcases stunning images of polar bears in their Hudson Bay environs, but also addresses the threats to the bears’ traditional migration patterns and their existence in the Churchill area.

Over the past 10 years Dennis has photographed polar bears every season, and has had some amazing encounters with the world’s largest land carnivore. He has also observed firsthand the changing climate of the North and its effect on the polar bear. Ever-shortening winters have left many bears still hungry when summer approaches, and it has made them leaner and more aggressive, and driven them to increasing contact with man and his refuse.

Batten down the hatches! Storm at Nanuk.

Batten down the hatches! Storm at Nanuk.

Most recently, Dennis’s images appeared in The Land Where the Sky Begins, which was commissioned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada to document the last remnants of Manitoba’s tall grass prairie and aspen parkland. Written by Barbara Huck, one of Canada’s premier natural history writers, The Land Where the Sky Begins is lavishly illustrated with photographs of the landscapes and wildlife that constitute this vanishing wilderness.

Dennis has traveled extensively across Canada, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru, Greenland, Iceland, and the United States in pursuit of photographs, most recently to Iceland and Greenland to photograph landscapes. The latter, along with the polar bears, are what attracts him to all three of Churchill Wild’s polar bear lodges.

What's going on over there? Polar bear Mom and Cub at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

What’s going on over there?

“They’re all different,” said Dennis. “Seal River has the lunar landscapes when the tide goes out, Dymond Lake is a little more inland with trees and Nanuk is flat with smooth beaches, lagoons and grasslands on the coast, and tons of birds. Each have their own unique qualities. And they all attract polar bears.”

And the light conditions should be ideal.

Polar bear approaching fast at nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

Polar bear approaching fast!

“There’s no warm water mixing with cold air to produce fog as it does when you’re near Churchill,” said Dennis. “The clear skies should result in some excellent opportunities to photograph the northern lights. I’m expecting the same at Seal River with the Solar Max. At Nanuk we’ll take the ATVs out to the coast every day to see the mothers and cubs, but we’re also going to get some exceptional landscape shots and photographs of other wildlife in the area.”

That wildlife includes thousands of different birds, wolves, moose, caribou and more. And Dennis will be helping his fellow photographers not just with the technical aspects of taking pictures, but also the processing of the images.

“I’m really looking forward to helping everyone get the best photos possible,” said Dennis. As are we!

On the beach. Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

On the beach. Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

Award-winning photographer Robert Postma to lead Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Polar Bear Roll - Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Polar Bear Roll - Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Award-winning photographer Robert Postma will lead the 2013 Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge in early September, and he’s excited about getting back on the tundra at ground-level with the world’s largest land carnivore.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Postma speaking from his home in Whitehorse, Yukon. “I’ve never been to Nanuk, but have wanted to go ever since I started visiting the Churchill Wild Lodges, especially to head a photo safari. I’m looking forward to helping the other photographers get some great shots, give tips and advice, answer any questions they might have.”

The 41-year-old Postma has worked as professional photographer since 2003. His photos have appeared in numerous magazines including National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, Up Here, Our Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Astronomy, as well as in brochures, annual reports and calendars. On April 2, 2012 his photo of a great horned owl bursting from an abandoned toolshed in Saskatchewan appeared as the Photo of the Day on the National Geographic Web site. Examples of Postma’s work can also be seen on the gallery section of his website at at www.DistantHorizons.ca and also on his Robert Postma Photography Facebook Page.

A few of Postma’s photo contest wins include the 2010 Banff Mountain Festival Photography Competition, The Nature of Things and Planet in Focus Nature in Focus Environmental Photography Competition, the Show us your Canada photo contest in 2004 and 2008, the Up Here Fantastic Photo Contest and Canadian Geographic Photo Club’s Annual Photography Contest in 2011, for which the theme was extreme weather. He has worked on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut and traveled all over North America as well as to Iceland, Australia, Bolivia, Peru, Guyana and Lebanon.

The Nanuk Polar Bear Safari represents a perfect progression for Postma, who was part of the group that attended the 2012 Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River.

“I always look forward to my trips with Churchill Wild,” he said. “I‘ve been to both Seal River Heritage Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge and they were phenomenal experiences — first class, great meals, gracious hosts and excellent guides. And for some reason I’m just drawn to remote landscapes.”

It doesn’t get much more remote than Nanuk. Located approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Churchill on the Hudson Bay Coast within the Kaskatamagan Wildlife Management Area, Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is only a 10 minute bush plane flight from Canada’s historic York Factory, the original trading post established in 1684 by Governor George Geyer of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

“We still find remnants of old ships occasionally in the mud flats,” said Churchill Wild’s Mike Reimer in an earlier interview, perhaps referring to the Battle of Hudson Bay in 1697, the largest Arctic naval battle ever fought. “From brass railings to cannons to old grave sites, you never know what you might find. And our guides are direct descendants of the Western Woods Cree, the “Home Guard Indians” who worked with the Hudson Bay Company over 300 years ago at the original settlements — guiding, hunting, interpreting and procuring wild game and furs for them.”

And not only is the area surrounding Nanuk drenched in history, it’s right in the heart both the newly discovered polar bear denning areas and the impending solar maximum, which occurs approximately every 11 years. According to Canadian Geographic in their January/February article Sun Struck, 2013 promises to be a once-in-a-decade opportunity to experience the sun’s magnetic power at its height, which could mean northern lights displays that are even more spectacular than usual at Nanuk.

“Solar activity, — flares, sunspots, solar winds and other forms of radiation — is governed by changes in the sun’s magnetic field,” writes Peter McMahon in the article. “These activities wax and wane on a fairly predictable 11-year cycle known as the solar maximum. The peak of this cycle hits this year (predicted to be September 2013 or later), which is why skywatchers and scientists are so excited. The solar maximum should bring with it the brightest and most frequent auroral displays for more than a decade.”

“If we get clear skies during the solar max we could see some stunning aurora borealis displays,” said Postma, who has taken numerous photos of nature’s most spectacular light show.  But what he’s really looking forward to is photographing polar bears at ground level on a picture-perfect backdrop that includes the Hudson Bay coastline, fall colours and beautiful interior lagoons.

“I’ve photographed polar bears from both the tundra buggies and on the ground,” said Postma. “But it’s on the ground where you can really get the good shots. I like to try to portray emotion in my photographs. I want people to experience what I was feeling when I took the shot. I like to get down low, looking up at the bears. People don’t think about that, but when you’re on your knees at eye level with a polar bear, it’s intense, and that comes across in the photos.”

“If the bears are interested they will sometimes get as close to 30 feet from you,” continued Postma” “But I’ve never felt scared or threatened. The guides are knowledgeable; they know the bears and they always have their eye on them. All precautions are taken.”

After a hearty breakfast, Postma and his band of photographers will hike the tundra in search of polar bears and the perfect shot. They’ll do the same after lunch and sometimes even after dinner. That’s assuming they aren’t interrupted by polar bears at the Lodge fence or a spectacular Northern Lights display.

“Walking on the tundra up there is a special kind of experience,” said Postma. “I’ve done it a lot, but I’ll never get bored of the wide open spaces. It awakens a part of me that just lays dormant.”

“It’s good for the soul.”

Polar Bears Sparring - Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Polar Bears Sparring - Photo Credit: Robert Postma

Re: Polar Bear Photo Safari ~ Thanks for coming Birgit!

Polar bear and fox at Seal River Lodge

Facing the arctic world... together. Birgit-Cathrin Duval Photo

We were delighted once again this fall to have photojournalist Birgit-Cathrin Duval from Germany spend some time with us at one of our lodges.

Birgit’s visit to Seal River Lodge for the Polar Bear Photo Safari marked her third expedition with Churchill Wild in the past 10 seasons and she has written some great stories about all three of our destinations.

Her stunning photographs bear testimony to her enthusiastic exclamation that this was her best trip with us to date. Next she wants to swim with the belugas and encounter our summer polar bears on the Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure, after which we’ll have to build another lodge I suppose, to provide more fodder for her snappy lens and nimble pen!

A few of Birgit’s wonderful photos appear below. For more stories and polar bear photos please visit her Web site at www.takkiwrites.com.

Thanks Birgit!


Life is good in the land of the Great Ice Bears!

Polar Bear Photo Safari - Churchill Wild - Seal River Heritage Lodge

How's that for an unscripted polar bear pose?

Ahhh… life is good in the home of the Great Ice Bears! A 9-bear day! Plus multiple colored foxes, gyrfalcons and a fine finish with a gorgeous wolverine on the runway.

Peek-a-boo bear was part of the troupe that came by to check out our fuel drums and ensure that they were all stored safely. Due to multiple bear interruptions today, numerous false starts were made to leave the Lodge on our ground level walking excursions with polar bears.

Poor Andy kept chasing all over the coastline trying to get eager cameras within range of two different sets of mothers and cubs. He succeeded in tiring out his big lens hikers but did manage to get in close at ground level for another round of great shots.

We have had some spectacular light with clear sunny days and temperatures down to -18 C. The high number of silver, cross and colored foxes is surpassed only by the spectacular number of pine martens here this year.

All makes for busy days out on the land with many active shutterbugs!

Polar Bears Sparring at Churchill Wild on the Polar Bear Photo Safari

Sparring polar bears made for some great photos!

Award-winning photographer returns to Churchill Wild for Polar Bear Photo Safari

Polar Bear relaxing near Seal River Lodge - Robert Postma Photo

Polar Bear relaxing near Seal River Lodge - Robert Postma Photo

Award-winning photographer Robert Postma will be making his third trip with Churchill Wild this week when he arrives for the Polar Bear Photo Safari — in search of emotion.

That might be tough to find among the notoriously stoic polar bears, but Postma has already demonstrated a remarkable knack for injecting a sense of emotion into his photos, and it has won him numerous national photo contests.

“At the risk of sounding a little flaky, I like to try to inject some feeling into the photos I take,” said Postma.  “I just seem to have a knack for it. I want people to feel some emotion when they look at my photos. I want them to experience the feelings I had when I was taking the shot.”

Postma’s photos have appeared in numerous magazines including National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, Up Here, Our Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Astronomy, as well as in brochures, annual reports and calendars. On April 2, 2012 his photo of a great horned owl bursting from an abandoned toolshed in Saskatchewan appeared as the Photo of the Day on the National Geographic Web site.

A few of his photo contest wins include the 2010 Banff Mountain Festival Photography Competition, The Nature of Things and Planet in Focus Nature in Focus Environmental Photography Competition, the Show us your Canada photo contest in 2004 and 2008, the Up Here Fantastic Photo Contest and Canadian Geographic Photo Club’s Annual Photography Contest in 2011, for which the theme was extreme weather.

“That photo was taken while chasing storms in Saskatchewan,” said Postma. “Storm chasing puts me on the edge. I don’t sit out in the open, just on the edges, but I’ve been have been caught in the middle of some pretty nasty storms. You can’t take pictures in the driving rain if you’re in the middle of the storm though. I like the storm to be tracking in front of me. Some people get their rush from mountain biking, I get mine from chasing storms.”

Postma was introduced to the power of nature, and particularly that of thunder storms, at an early age. His mother would wake him up in the wee hours of the morning as storms approached their home in Strathroy, Ontario, and they would set up lawn chairs in the garage to watch nature’s fury explode across the corn fields. Walks in the forest with his parents and his brothers as a youngster further enhanced Postma’s respect and love for nature, but it wasn’t until 1998 while visiting a photographer friend in the Yukon, that he started to become obsessed with photography to the point where he decided to make his home in Whitehorse.

“For some reason I’m just drawn to the remote northern landscapes,” said the 41-year-old Postma, who has worked on Ellesmere Island in Nunavut and travelled all over North America as well as to Iceland, Australia, Bolivia, Peru, Guyana and Lebanon. “Iceland is one of my favourite places, but there are no polar bears there. Occasionally they’ll come over from Greenland on an ice flow and eat the farmer’s sheep, but that doesn’t last long.”

The remote moon-like landscapes of Hudson Bay were a natural draw for Postma, who first learned about Churchill Wild while on a trip to Churchill to photograph polar bears.

“I went on the tundra buggies the first time,” said Postma, “But I couldn’t get face to face with the polar bears.  So I asked around and they gave me Churchill Wild’s name. It’s now one of my favourite places. From the time I arrive in Winnipeg to the time I get back from Seal River Lodge I’ve received exemplary treatment. Mike and Jeanne Reimer are incredible hosts that make me feel right at home there. I’m not that social of a person naturally, but they have me out socializing around the campfire. The polar bear guides Andy and Terry are excellent and the food is also exceptional. I have to lose some weight before I go so I have some room to play with.”

Before leaving for Seal River Lodge, Postma was heading out to photograph grizzly bears fishing in British Columbia. We asked him what the major difference was between polar bears and grizzlies, besides the size, as polar bears are quite a bit larger than grizzly bears.

“The biggest difference between polar bears and grizzlies is the sheer unpredictability of grizzles,” said Postma. “I’ll take most of the shots of the grizzlies from my car. I have been as close as 10 feet away, but I’m little more anxious when photographing them. I have a high level of respect for grizzlies. They normally won’t bother you, but you have to be prepared to back away.”

Postma is looking forward to his trip to Seal River Lodge. He’ll be hoping to add to some of the stunning Galleries on his Distant Horizons Web site, which already includes spectacular shots of Aurora Borealis, Grizzly Bears, Panoramic Landscapes, Stormy Skies and more.

The polar bears will be there, as will the windswept snowy moonscapes, and likely a little stormy weather. If the skies are clear, the Northern Lights should also be on full display. So there’s only one thing left to add. It comes from the heart.

Postma will supply that.


Images above courtesy of Robert Postma.