Tag Archives: Polar Bear

Fierce Polar Bear, Journey to Churchill

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I really got lucky on this day photographing the Polar Bears swimming underwater at The Journey to Churchill.   My wife and I have been members and visited them well over a dozen times and only seen this behaviour once.

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Polar Bear, superman

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This Polar Bear at the Journey to Churchill in Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg had just dove in and continued by in a near perfect position.  I’ve patiently tried for this shot quite a few times, finally everything came together.  He almost looks like he could fly, just requires a photoshopped Superman cape.

Polar Bear attack, Journey to Churchill

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The title of this post could be a bit misleading, but it is what it is.  Here is one of Winnipeg’s young Polar Bears swimming for the first time in the Journey to Churchill.  He made repeated playful attacks on the zoo onlookers while they watched through the underwater tunnel.  Amazing sight to see in person, especially if you’re in direct line of sight with camera in hand.  I didn’t get so lucky, but managed a descent shot at this angle.  A fast prime lens and a camera with good ISO performance is certainly the way to go.  It’s a very tough photographic situation shooting through very thick plexiglass and cloudy water.

I’ve experimented with a variety of lenses and settings, this was shot with a 5D markIII and 24-70 f 2.8, I’ve had good luck with 24 and 35 f1.4 lenses as well, don’t bother with longer lenses as the cloudy water will degrade the image quality quickly.  Shutter speeds range from 1/800 and up using servo focus tracking.  Try shooting were the glass is flat and block stray light with your hand.  With a fast lens you could try a polarizer to reduce reflections, but bare in mind you will lose upto 2 stops of light.  I set ISO on auto, but will manually adjust it if I have time and the bears are in the right location.  If you have time and are patient, find the best position with good frontal lighting and wait, it’s better than chasing them around.  Good luck.

Polar Bears swimming underwater at the Journey to Churchill, Winnipeg, Manitoba

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This is without a doubt one of the most memorable things i’ve ever seen.  Regardless of your personal views on wildlife kept in captivity, the Journey to Churchill at Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg is an amazing facility.  In collaberation with The International Polar Bear Centre also located at Winnipeg’s zoo it allows visitors a chance to view Polar Bears in a very unique way.  This is Kaska an orphaned female relocated from Churchill, Manitoba after her mother was shot and killed.

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Shooting through the thick curved plexiglass and the variety of lighting and reflections is very tricky, but with a fast indoor lens and a little experimentation I managed a few keepers.  Images were high iso, grainy and pretty soft through the glass and water, even the best autofocus systems have trouble through 6-8 inches of curved plexiglass, but it’s more about the moment than technical perfection.

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Visitors viewing Kaska

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For a brief period we watched two bears play under the water.

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