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Wildlife Photographer of the Year Comes Face to Face with a Polar Bear

By Hanssie on December 12th 2013

On a quest to photograph polar bears in the wild, Seattle based wildlife photographer Paul Souders decided to DIY the trip. Instead of jumping on a tourist boat crowded with other photographers, he brought his own boat and set about in the Hudson Bay. Loaded down with a boat, a motor, more than 500lbs of gear and survival equipment, Souders set off to spot the elusive polar bear.

[REWIND: Wildlife Photography | Getting Close and Personal With Lions]

I was face to face with a polar bear once. He jumped up in front of me, and stood at impressive height. Polar bears may look cute and fuzzy, but they are one of the world’s most deadliest animals and have been known to viciously attack humans. I was thankful for the thick piece of glass that separated me from being mauled by the adorable creature.

No such glass would separate Souders from a polar bear. As he searched for hours upon hours, scanning for an bear shaped white-ish object on a completely white-ish backdrop, floating on a zodiac boat in Manitoba Canada, he would sometimes be out looking for 12-14 hours a day. He finally saw two bears – one which immediately disappeared and the other one:

Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Canada

As Souders describes it, he slowly and patiently kept his distance and let the bear get use to his presence. Scrambling to get his equipment together, he says,

At one point, she swam under a small piece of broken sea ice, and poked her head up through the hole to watch me. I stopped the boat and struggled to mount a camera on the end of a 7-foot long boom to try shooting close in with a wide-angle lens.

But nothing was working the way it was supposed to. I’d already dunked one of my remote triggers in the salt water and wound up hand wiring another by chewing off the leads and jury-rigging the exposed copper wires. It was not pretty. I slowly maneuvered the pole closer to her, struggling to hold the camera steady and fire the shutter.  I was shooting completely blind,  pointing the camera and hoping for the best.

After looking at the following images, I think his best was pretty spectacular. Paul also won the 2013 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year in the “Animals in Their Environment” category for this image:

Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Canada

Souders used Canon 7D and a Canon 10-22mm lens at the end of a six-foot camera boom to capture these amazing images:

Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Canada Polar Bear Swimming, Hudson Bay, Canada Polar Bear Swimming, Hudson Bay, Canada Polar Bear Swimming in Hudson Bay, Canada Underwater Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Nunavut, Canada paul-souders-polar-bear-7 Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Canada Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Canada Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Canada Polar Bear, Hudson Bay, Canada

You can see more of Souders’ incredible wildlife photographs on his WEBSITE.

CREDITS: All photographs by Paul Souders are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

[via @Photoboy]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Colin Woods

    I don’t think I’ll be using a wide angle zoom to shoot polar bears any time soon. This takes a bit of nerve, ‘cos if the bear gets annoyed you aren’t going to outrun it.

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  2. Rob Ruttan

    Reminds me of the old Canon ad: “This is no time to be fiddling with f-stops.”

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  3. Roger Neno

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  4. Chuck

    Spectacular photos of a magnificent creature but you should not make statements of fact without credible proof. The earth has warmed and cooled through all its existence, long before men could come up with their arrogant assumptions that we could affect its climate.

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  5. thgh

    poor animals who are getting closer to extinction just because of change in weather that caused by selfish human.

    that aside, the pictures were stunning.

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    • Hanssie

      Well hopefully, photos like these will help with conservation efforts for these beautiful creatures

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