by Andrew McPherson, Polar Bear Guide
Working with Adam Ravetch and his film crew for the last few weeks of the season at Seal River Lodge was a fabulous experience. Every day brought new amazing wildlife encounters and guiding demands. Adam had all kinds of great ideas and new directions he wanted to take the film in, and he imaged them into existence with the help of his two crew members Indy and Stewart and their 3D cameras.
We got off to a good start when we found three bears bedded down out on a small frozen lake beyond the runway. One bear was on a small esker watching our approach. The other two were laying a short distance apart on the edge of the lake.
The closest bear lifted its head, watching us as we watched him. This resulted in a game of red-light green-light. Every time he lifted his head we stopped…. until he put his head down and closed his eyes, then we started moving again, slowly approaching.
We moved like this until we found a suitable spot to set up Adam’s camera. Then the bear decided to move downwind to catch our scent and get a better idea of just who and what we were all about. Bears trust their noses far more then they trust their eyes.
Once this bear got our scent figured out and decided we weren’t a threat, he made himself comfy – laying down and stretching out on the ice, cooling himself off, rolling over on his back – generally making a ham of himself for our camera. Great comedic footage!
At the same time, Mike and Stewart showed up with the remote camera, to go after the always-elusive bear-sniffing-camera-lens-in-3D shot he’d been attempting to get for the last week – maybe this time. They set up their camera near the second bear sleeping in the bush just off the ice. The camera had a 25 foot cable attached to it so the operator could move around and still focus the camera on a moving subject as it approaches. It was mounted at a height approximating a polar bear’s point of view, or POV in tech talk.
The sleeping bear got up and approached the camera, but he was very hesitant. Clearly troubled by the unfamiliar device, he came closer, backed away, then approached again with head lowered – we had a very serious bear staring into the camera. He didn’t like it, but he gave us an amazing eye-level sequence of how two bears might approach each other.
The bear never did get right up to the camera, but when he lost interest in that he became more interested in us, slowly approaching and giving us a great 3D shot for the film. Imagine a polar bear’s head poking out of your TV screen, full frame, from the shoulders to the tip of its nose.
We had to let the bear know we didn’t want to play with some stern words and aggressive behavior, and after posing and giving us a good sniff, he moved off with his buddy, who had watched all the action from his semi-reclined position in the second row.
We followed the pair and a short while later found they had been joined by two more bears on the next lake over. By the time we spotted them, they had paired off and a donnybrook was already in session. I could have sat back and watched – it was a live WWE event – but we had an opportunity to shoot more amazing footage, so off we went.
Unfortunately, when the bears caught site of us, they decided to come in for a closer look. It’s a good thing we knew that they don’t cooperatively hunt, because having four polar bears calmly walk towards you would probably otherwise be conceived as an unnerving situation.
But two of the bears quickly lost interest and only the smallest (600 lbs) of the other pair seemed really interested in us. His approach was somewhat aggressive, coming in fast and curious, so we let him know he wasn’t that welcome. That was enough to turn him around and send him back to his buddies for some three-way sparring action.
The smaller bear was being picked on from each side by each of the larger bears and he playfully turned to engage whichever bear was nipping. The small bear eventually began to spar with only one of the bigger bears, and when they stood up we finally realized the substantial size difference. The smaller bear was at least three feet shorter, but still game, even when he was being knocked off his feet – more great footage!
There wasn’t a day during the filming when we didn’t find some kind of interesting bear activity, interaction or social behavior. Adam’s movie unfolded in front of us daily, but we won’t see the final result of his efforts for awhile.
We were excited to be a part of the creative process and can only imagine what Adam will weave together with all the incredible footage he recorded. With the kind of talent that was behind (and in front of) the cameras, this is going to be a movie you don’t want to miss!