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Photo of two polar bear cubs taken in Kaktovik, Berter Island, Alaska in the arctic. Cubs were learning how to fight.

Photo of two polar bear cubs taken in Kaktovik, Berter Island, Alaska in the arctic. Cubs were learning how to fight.
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3 Comments | Report
nina050 PRO
 
nina050 January 29, 2016
Fabulous shot....!
dinahumphreys PRO+
 
dinahumphreys Sep 06
Wonderful action capture!I love your photos!I am your new follower!
keepclicking
 
keepclicking Sep 07
Stunningly beautiful picture, massive congratulations.

Behind The Lens

Location
This photo was taken on Barter island in arctic Alaska, where I was based in a small Inuit village called Kaktovik (population 310). It was of course very cold - October, but the sun eventually came out and enabled me to see this delightful pair of cubs sparring on the ice in the bay. I thought it odd that these were polar bears, given the color. The entire family (sow was nearby) was this color, who other polar bears were the traditional white. The local expert insisted these were polar bears who had been spending time in dirty water. They are not "prizzlies", which would be hybrid polar/grizzly bears. It was delightful to watch them play, sometimes punching through the thin ice and at other times frolicking above.
Time
This picture was taken during a morning shoot, probably around 9:30 AM. We were watching bears near a whale carcass, but this family had its fill and drifted out towards the bay to spend some time in the sun.
Lighting
The lighting in the arctic is challenging, so be very careful about your ISO settings and about exposure compensation. Take your time and the a few test shots to assure you are getting an image rather than a white blown out useless group of bytes. Watch the sun, as lighting can change dramatically over the course of the hours you spend watching bears.
Equipment
I was using a Nikon D4s with a 600 mm Nikor lens, mounted on a monopod. We were taking pictures from inside an ancient schools, where we sat on lawn chairs that could be moved here and there depending on the location of the bear. In this fashion, we were able to get close proximity while remaining safe. Polar bears are very dangerous, and have a habit of circling around and coming up on intruders from behind. We were warned to watch out and stay o the bus, and indeed some polar bears did circle around and came very close to the bus from the backside. Turning on the ancient engine sufficed to discourage further approach. We had to keep your lenses outside the bus windows, since the relative warmth inside would cause condensation on the sensors. (It wasn't warm inside the bus, but it was warmer than outside in the terrific wind.)
Inspiration
I wanted to capture relationships in this bear family, and too many shots of this particular pair of bears because they were focused on each other and secure in the presence of their nearby mom. There were large male bears to far off, so the sow had to be watchful. It was interesting to see this pair of cubs learn how to punch through the ice, etc. They weren't very good at it but they were learning.
Editing
This picture is pretty much the same as the RAW image, with a tad bit of sharpening and a small increase in saturation to pick up the blue hues of the scene.
In my camera bag
My camera bag is evolving with each trip. I normally carry two camera bodies, either a monopod or a tripod, and at least three lenses. I love my Nikos 200-500 zoom lens, my 80-400 zoom lens, and a 14-24 side angle lens. On this occasion, I rented a 600 mm lens to capture good close ups of dangerous wildlife.
Feedback
I took two separate polar bear trips in 2015. This one was based in Kaktovik, Alaska. To get their, you need to fly from Fairbanks on a small plane and sometimes have to stop in Dark Horse. You stay in the local Inuit village. jI was with Aaron's Photo Tours, a very good service with Aaron Baggenstos. I highly recommend him. The second trip was to Seal River Heritage Lodge in Manitoba, Canada, about 50 miles north of Churchill. We were able to walk out of th lodge and encounter bears nearby. These bears were waiting for the ice to freeze over Hudson Bay on the western shore. This trip provided very different opportunities and was sponsored by Visionary Wild, another great photography travel service. Both trips were worthwhile.

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