A large population of bears live in the Arctic Circle. That is why we normally see polar bears playing on snowy, icy landscapes during the winter. It is quite rare to see them in any other environments, but little did we know, when summer comes around, they play on grasses too. Seeing them enjoying the summer breeze is nothing less than incredible.
The best place to see the majestic polar bears playing around during summer is Northern Canada’s Hudson Bay. You can see them playing in gorgeous flower fields and munching on freshly caught fish. They also hunt white whales commonly like the melonheads, beluga, or sea canary due to its high-pitched twitter.
These incredibly beautiful shots of polar bears frolicking in fields of fire weed were captured by Canadian wildlife and nature photographer Dennis Fast. Dennis was staying in a lodge run run by Churchill Wild in Manitoba, Canada, when he decided to go see the polar bears and take pictures of them. The fields of fire weed are surrounded by bright flowers that blossom shortly during summer.
The bears can be seen rolling around, playing, and poking their heads up.They seem to be enjoying the sunshine and blossoms in the summer while they wait for the ice to reform in the bay and return to their winter hunting grounds.
In an exclusive interview, Dennis Fast revealed his fascinating experience on capturing photographs of the polar bears. He pretty much enjoyed his time seeing the bears up close but was also struck by the fear that the bears might approach him.
Read the rest of the interview below.
What do you love about photographing polar bears?
Polar bears have always been one of the North’s most iconic animals. Besides being arguably the largest carnivore on earth, they are also one of the most adorable. Their demeanor is mostly calm and inquisitive. It’s hard to imagine as they approach that they could actually be planning to harm you! I think it’s that heightened tension from the uncertainty of their motives that makes it so exciting to watch and photograph polar bears. Add to this the fact that they have become a litmus test for the state of our planet as it begins to unfold in the Arctic, and it’s easy to see why the whole world is fascinated by the bears.
Like many people, I love white animals, whether it is Arctic foxes, snowy owls, or polar bears. Polar bears are seldom really white, but they come closest to white when they’ve been bleached by the sun out on the ice and snow of their winter environment. However, it’s not just their color that makes them a favorite target of my camera. They have a slow, ambling gait as they drift about looking for anything that moves. It looks like they don’t have a care in the world, and that there is nothing they are afraid of. It’s not arrogance, exactly, but a quiet confidence that we often respect in humans, and that translates well to the polar bear.
Nothing in the bear’s environment escapes its notice, and so, when I see one, I know it is already aware of me and that it will likely check me out. The tension mounts, and once again, I hope I get a meaningful shot of this magnificent beast and live to tell the tale!
How does photographing polar bears among fire weed in the summer compare to photographing them in the ice and snow of winter?
So you might think that photographing them in the summer or fall would be a walk in the park. But that’s not always true either. When temperatures soar to 30° to 35°C (86° to 95°F), as they sometimes do in the sub-Arctic, the bloodthirsty insects rise up with the heat. Mosquitoes, black flies, horse flies, and deer fly all want your blood! They don’t only pester you relentlessly, but they do the same to your subjects. The result is restless, twitching animals that are often unsightly with bugs when you want a close-up shot. Sometimes fall is the best time, as there are no bugs and the days feature blue skies and gentle breezes.
It’s true that the winters are long and harsh, sometimes even for a polar bear. Imagine, then, how it feels for the photographer trying to cope with their environment! I have photographed the bears in conditions where the temperature hovered around -40° to -50°C (-40° to 58°F). Fortunately, it’s not always that cold, but it calls for multi-layers of clothing and special precautions with the camera. Frostbite is a constant concern, as is hypothermia.
Most people are familiar with shots of polar bears in the ice and snow of Hudson Bay in Northern Canada and in other polar regions. They are so ingrained in people’s minds that you might think the North experiences only winter.
How do you capture such personal, playful portraits of polar bears up close?
I must say it is a real joy to see a polar bear in my viewfinder. It is amazing to spend quality time with my favorite animal. And quality time means spending a lot of time with the bears. Wild animals need to become somewhat used to your presence and learn that you won’t harass them if they leave you alone. That is when they begin to behave normally, and for the polar bear, it means it can relax and start to show you its private playful nature. Polar bears will play with anything in their environment. I have seen a huge male hold several blades of grass in his giant paws and chew on them for a long time as though he enjoyed the texture. On another occasion, I laughed out loud as I watched a relaxed polar bear bare his teeth to pluck a single flower from a stem of Fireweed blossoms and roll it around between his lips! Perhaps he viewed it as an appetizer. In the end, I hope my photos inspire people to care about all wildlife and to do their part in ensuring that they are around for all future generations. It would be a shame to lose something as iconic as the polar bear.