Extremely Intimate Portraits of Polar Bears Swimming

Seattle-based photographer Paul Souders recently won the “Animals in Their Environment” category in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for his incredible image of a polar bear submerged in water. We were pleased to discover that the wildlife photographer had plenty more awe-inspiring photos of the big, beautiful creatures taking a dip in their natural environment.

More than simply snapping shots from afar of polar bears swimming around in Hudson Bay (near Manitoba), Souders manages to get in close, photographing the wild beasts from very intimate, typically unseen perspectives. However, his collection of images were not so easy to capture, he admits. After hauling nearly 500 lbs. of equipment and spending 12 to 14 hours a day trying to simply spot a polar bear in the expanse of white glaciers was a grueling task.

Souders explains, “It was exhausting work, hour after hour staring at the ice, trying to find that white on white shape. As it turns out, it's really, really hard to find polar bears on the ice, at least without a helicopter and a suitcase full of money… I have never worked so hard and so long to find a subject. In all that time, I saw exactly two polar bears, one of which disappeared almost immediately into the pack ice.”

In the end, the photographer's laborious, time-consuming efforts have paid off. He was finally met by one polar bear in particular that dove underneath a piece of sea ice and stuck her head up through a hole. He recalls, “I thought I might have a pretty cool shot when she poked her head up less than three feet from the camera. It wasn't until a week later, as I was riding the train from Churchill south toward Winnipeg that I finally had time to look through all of my digital files. When I saw the frame of her  lurking under the water's surface, staring back up at me, I was completely surprised. I promptly turned into the crazy guy who runs around showing his vacation pictures to everyone on the train.”

Paul Souders website
All images courtesy Paul Souders

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