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A Seeing Eye – Rimlit polar bear on ice 1990

A rimlit polar bear (Ursus maritimus) walks on ice at sunset, Cape Churchill, Canada

A rimlit polar bear (Ursus maritimus) walks on ice at sunset, Cape Churchill, Canada

By early November, days are drawing in at Cape Churchill in Canada – the polar bear capital of the world. This is the prime time of year to photograph bears waiting on land for the sea to freeze. However, it is always a bit of a gamble because if a hard freeze comes early, all the bears leave the Cape overnight to walk out over the ice.

Photographing a polar bear in the wild can be risky, unless you work from either a boat in open ice or from a vehicle on land. I joined a small photo group working from inside a tundra buggy with outsized tyres that cope with travel across both tundra and ice; it also gave us an elevated and safe viewpoint.

As the bear began to approach, it seemed to be set on investigating the outsized white monstrosity that had invaded its territory. With the sun approaching the horizon, I had to work fast. Using a hand-held meter with an invercone, an incident reading was taken of light falling on the rimlit polar bear as it walks over the glowing ice. Shot on a Hasselblad camera with a 350mm lens out of a tundra buggy window.

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