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Polar Bear, Storoya, Svalbard
Phase One XF 100MP, 240mm Schneider lens, f5.6 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 200

Everyone hopes to see polar bears when they travel to Svalbard, a small archipelago above Norway. The usual deal is you sail out into the pack ice and search or wait for the bears, but last year, the pack ice was hundreds of kilometres north. This was bad news for the polar bears who were still on land. We found this one on Storoya island, up in the north-east of Svalbard.

Going ashore when you know polar bears are around is discouraged, unless you're looking for a final dinner date with you on the menu. On this day, polar bears had been sighted, so we took a 'zodiac cruise' from the ship, which means we motored along the edge of the coast to see what we could find, but we weren't going to land. It was a very productive day. First we found the walrus and then half an hour later, we saw this polar bear walking along the edge of the island.

While the light wasn't great, the position of the bear couldn't have been better. The remaining snow pack, which the polar bear was walking along, was about two metres high, meaning the bear was a little above eye level. Rather than shooting the bears from above, as you do on many ships, we were able to shoot across. I like this angle a lot.

Check out the little video I did of the same bear on YouTube:

For the award entry, the challenge was to find a shot where the bear was mid-stride. Shooting with the Phase One, I'm maxing out at around a shot every second, so it was a matter of timing the bear's gait as best I could. To be honest, I was so amped being this close to a PB, I'm surprised I took any photos at all!

In post-production, I cropped the shot square, placing the horizon near the middle of the frame. I see the melting snow pack as a metaphor for the world the polar bear finds itself in, and the dirt and soil ribbons through the pristine snow representing the mess humans are making. 

Yet I'm one of those humans...

Interested in a trip to Svalbard? I have two options, one next year, one the year after! Check out the voyages I'm doing with Kevin Raber on M/S Quest (Rockhopper Workshops) in 2020 and with Aurora Expeditions here in 2021.

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