Sunday, March 15, 2015

Polar Bear Moms and Cubs Days 7 through 10. 2015

Day 7:
Out to Fletcher lake again to look for tracks. The trackers still haven’t seen triplets or even tracks of triplets yet this year. No bears today. We saw some tracks on Fletcher lake. The mom and twins left yesterday and have already walked out of range.

Day 8:
No bears. We sat in the van all day. Amazing northern lights that night! My best northern lights images to date so far.

Day 9:
They found a mom and twins south of Lovett lake. We arrived there at 2p.m. When we got there, a baby was standing on mom’s back as mom was standing. That is one of my images that I am looking to get but unfortunately by the time we set up we missed it. It was really warm. -6 to -8 degrees. There was no wind and we had a heat shimmer for the first two hours. A heat shimmer occurs when the temperature warms up and the warm air hits the cold air just above the ground. The result is images that lack definition. It is very frustrating. All of our images were soft. As it got colder and the wind picked up a bit, the images got sharper and sharper.  By the end of the day the images were really sharp and the light was fantastic!

Day 10:
We drove out to Fletcher lake again waiting to hear from the trackers. Mom and cubs had already gone 10 or 15 miles and were already out of range. We drove around Fletcher a bit, but didn’t see any tracks, so then drove out to Lovett lake. We all checked out the polar bear den, then called it a day and drove back to the lodge.

 And that's it for another trip to Wapusk National Park. I just got home. This year I was only able to get on to the internet three times over the past ten days so I am a little behind. My polar bear and northern lights images can be seen on my website.

My next safari isn't until June. I will be photographing puffins and horses in Iceland, then on to France to photograph Camargue Horses.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Polar Bear Moms and Cubs Days two through six

Day 2:
The family on Lovett Lake was in the willows so we went the other way to Fletcher lake. They found another den there but there was no action there so we drove around Fletcher Lake looking for another den. We didn't see anything and got back to the lodge around 5:30pm. That night the northern lights were amazing. No reds, but some pretty impressive streaks.

Day 3:
We went to Lovett Lake. As we were getting to the first den we could see the mom and twins. They were walking back to the den and went in before we got there. Mom and babies finally came out at 5p.m. It was a nice pink light but quite dark and my pictures weren't as nice…Actually my images were crap. I was feeling quite sorry for myself until I discovered that many other photographers were experiencing the same problems.

Day 4:
We drove 45 minutes west to Lovett Lake and set up at the den. 20 minutes later we got a call that tracks of a mom and twins were found east of the lodge on Fletcher Lake. We got to the site around 11a.m. Mom and cubs napped most of the day. They got up and walked a bit around 2p.m. then settled back down and napped again. Around 4ish they got up and walked around a bit. We got some nice shots of the cubs between moms legs. By 4:30p.m. the bears started on the next leg of their journey and we packed up and called it a day.

Day 5:
We waited to hear what is going on at the den at Lovett Lake. Not much going on there and our family from yesterday has already walked out of reach so we drove around Fletcher lake looking for dens. In the afternoon we caught up with yesterday's bears having a sleep in a snow bank.

Day 6:

Today we started by circling Fletcher lake looking for dens. Hoping that in the meantime the trackers will find some fresh tracks. Lots of blowing snow and flat light. We spent the day in the van, then decided to go back early. Even if we found bears, the images wouldn't have been any good anyway.

Images from this year's safari can be seen here:

Friday, March 6, 2015

Polar Bear Moms and Cubs 2015 Day One...

Polar Bear Moms and Cubs 2015
The arctic can be boring and yet exciting. It’s a vast white emptiness and yet  with constant -40- to -50 temperatures with the wind chill it’s always an adventure and you just never know what is going to break down or where you may get stuck etc.

I managed to get to the lodge with minimal issues. My Winnipeg to Churchill checked bag was held back, but did arrive on the next flight. That was the flight that I was originally on that I was bumped from because that flight was “cancelled”. Due to that cancelled flight, I had to change my other plane ticket and book a hotel room. And yet, the flight did exist…And that’s typical of flights in the Arctic where there is only one airline. They can really do what ever they want. From there the train was running and running on time so we got to the lodge with no issues. That sounds like a no-brainer and they always manage to get us to the lodge. One year we were sent out in vans and last year one of the photography groups were driven in via bombardier.
Bombardier AKA polar bear finder
 Bombardiers kind of look like a metal can on tracks. One way or another they make it work. It is hard to believe that in the early years, the photographers went out in search of polar bears in this bombardier. We may not enjoy running water out on the tundra, but we enjoy our safaris in the lap of luxury compared to what they used when they first started the lodge. And before the Bombardier,  the photographers went out searching for polar bears on the back of skidoos. 

So, this polar bear season has been tough for the first 8 or 10 days with a couple white outs and a couple days where they had to stay in the lodge. Then they had a few stellar days. They have seen 4 different families thus far. Five including our first day. The conditions and the forecast is looking really good for us. We started the day by checking out a den on Lovett lake. Shortly thereafter we got word that she had moved on to a second den a few miles away so we headed out. Unfortunately one of our vans got buried/high centered going up a bank. Once we got out of that one, we found our way to the next den. Mom came out at about 2p.m. and enjoyed 20 minutes of snow baths. The tiny twins came out for a minute or two, then went back in the den. At 5p.m. she came out again for 30 or so minutes, then the babies came out for a few minutes again. The light was gorgeous and the mom and babies are beautiful. The babies are pretty tiny so with any luck she won’t be leaving for the Bay quite yet. Hopefully we will have the opportunity to see them again tomorrow.

My website shows more polar bear images from my last 5 years here photographing polar bear moms and cubs. My 2015 polar bear gallery can be seen here.

Day Two:
The bear we were seeing from day 1 was in the willows so we went the other direction to Fletcher Lake. They know of a den there, but mom and babies didn't come out so we drove the entire 12 km's around Fletcher Lake. We didn't see anything. Hopefully day 3 will bring us some bears. It is the morning of day three. I have to start getting ready to go out. It takes about half an hour to get all the layers on and get my camera gear ready. I feel like a little kid getting into a snow suit. It is quite the process.