Technique Tuesday – Photographing Polar Bears

The polar bears of Churchill are world famous, of course; like many photographers I have made pilgrimages there since the early 1980s. This has given me the opportunity to photograph the bears in various ways. From a tundra buggy, you can see the bears engaging in harmless battles as they wait to hunt seals once the ice that’s formed on Hudson Bay. From the air I recorded the beautiful patterns on the frozen lake’s surface as well as the bear’s shadow cast across the ice. To emphasize the barren tundra terrain and diminish the bear’s presence, I selected a 17-35mm wide-angle lens.

For The Living Wild I went to Churchill to photograph cubs newly emerged from their winter dens. Not only did I find several sows with their cubs, but I found them in near-perfect late afternoon light.

Because light meters are calibrated to read any scene as neutral gray, I set my aperture to overexpose by two stops from the reading to make sure the snow stays white. Without this compensation, the bears would be underexposed. This gives the most accurate exposures for white animals in the snow.

One Response to “Technique Tuesday – Photographing Polar Bears”

  1. Prasenjit Biswas says:

    Wonderful shots! have been planning a trip to Churchill — not done yet!
    Exposure compensation is understood. You must have been carrying two cameras — one with the sharp 17-35mm and another long lens 70-200 mm ?

    Prasenjit Biswas

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