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.