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Thread: Newborn polar bear cubs

  1. #1
    Senior Member Jonathan Huyer's Avatar
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    Newborn polar bear cubs

    Hi everyone -

    I've been away the past while on an amazing and incredibly difficult photography adventure, to Wapusk National Park in northern Manitoba, Canada. This park is home to the highest concentration of polar bear dens in the world, and if you are patient, die-hard, and very very lucky, you can see the newborn cubs stepping into the world for the first time with their Moms. I spent 6 full days on the frozen tundra, with temperatures between -20 to -30 C and wind blasts as strong as a fire hose. There were a great many hours of waiting, but also some incredibly good fortune. I've posted a dozen shots on my website (link below), and I'll probably add a few more in the days ahead. This was easily the most exciting and rewarding photo experience I've ever had. And it also took the greatest amount of cold-weather endurance I've ever had to muster, but that makes the results all the more satisfying.

    I'd be happy to answer any questions on this --- thanks for viewing!

  2. #2
    Senior Member conropl's Avatar
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    Jonathan:

    It was well worth the cold and effort. I love the one with the cub laying on the mothers back, and the one with the cub standing on its hind legs wrestling a tree. It is impossible to come up with favorites out of that set.

    Pat
    5DS R, 1D X, 7D, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6, 24mm f/1.4L II, 16-35mm f/4L IS, 24-105mm f/4L, 50mm f/1.8, 100mm Macro f/2.8L, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L, 580EX-II
    flickr

  3. #3
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    This looks like a great trip, and you came back with some very nice pics.

    i could ask you what camera gear you took. But I can guess that.
    i would rather know what kind of gear you took to handle the cold, special clothing and such?

  4. #4
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    Amazing! The cub leaning on the small tree is priceless. What a print it would make.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Jayson's Avatar
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    Jonathan, I have been following your post on Facebook and am amazed. Very very awesome!

  6. #6
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    Wow! What a great set of pics.
    There is beauty in simplicity.

    1DX | 16-35L II | 24-70L II | 50/1.2L | 70-200/2.8L IS II | 100L Macro | 100-400L II | 300/2.8L IS II | 1.4x III TC | 2x III TC | 580EX II | MT-24EX | lots of stuff

  7. #7
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Beautiful shots Jonathan. Really Epic.....

  8. #8
    Senior Member Jonathan Huyer's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone --- that's very kind. I still can't believe how lucky we were.

    In answer to the question about clothing gear, I thought I'd be well prepared for this based on my previous winter experiences, but I was still caught a bit off guard. The wind was brutal and relentless, and almost always in your face. (Polar bears normally choose a south-facing hillside to make their dens, for shelter from the north wind, so we're having to aim into the wind. On the plus side, it means the sun is at your back). I brought a lot of layers, and pretty much wore everything I had every single day. Here's how it worked out:

    Bottom, from inside to outside: Two pairs of long underwear, one pair of lined blue jeans, insulated snow pants
    Top, from inside to outside: Three long-sleeved undershirts (merino wool and fleece), big fleece hoody, long-sleeved cotton shirt, Canada Goose down parka
    Head: Toque, hood from my hoody, hood from the parka, neoprene face mask, and ski goggles
    Hands: Thin gloves inside great big overmitts, with chemical heat packs. My thin gloves are electrically heated, but I would only turn that on when I needed to pull my hand outside the overmitt.
    Feet: Three pairs of socks inside Baffin winter boots

    One trick that worked very well was to use my cable release, and keep it inside my left mitt. Then I could use my right hand to aim the camera while activating the shutter with my left hand. I still had to pull my right hand out of the mitt to make adjustments to the settings from time to time, but it was quite manageable.

    One problem that nobody could really overcome was fogging and icing of glasses and goggles. I ended up just not wearing my goggles or shades about half the time, and trying my best to avoid snow blindness (and frostbite on the exposed skin).

    Some notes about my camera gear:

    I used my 1DX with 500 mm f/4 and 1.4 TC, which provided the perfect focal length for this environment. An even better setup would be the 600 f/4 without a TC, and then you'd have more flexibility with focus points. But I'm not complaining... the gear worked very well. I brought three batteries and kept two in an inside pocket. I would monitor the battery level and do a swap about every 2 hours. Once the battery warmed up again it was fine. I only ever needed two batteries, but I was glad I had the third.

    Due to all the spindrift, my lens hood would fill up with snow fairly regularly so I'd have to take it off and clean it out. My rocket blower worked great for this... I kept it in a pocket for that purpose. The snow is very dry and just blows right off, so it wasn't ever a problem.

    I was very happy with my RRS tripod and side-mount gimbal. It was the rock of Gibraltar in the hurricane. I hung my camera bag from the tripod hook, just to be safe. I was more worried about somebody else knocking the tripod over than anything else, since you are lining up with 18 other guys who have no peripheral vision. On the last day when the winds were strongest, three tripods actually blew over. Fortunately nothing was damaged.

    If there was ever a time I was grateful for the 12 fps burst speed of the 1DX, and the incredible write speed of the Sandisk 160 MB/s CF cards, this was it. There were several occasions where I fired a continuous burst of 50 shots, and only had to wait a couple seconds to be able to do it again. I came home with 240 GB of files, so I have a bit of work to do now, but again... no complaints whatsoever

  9. #9
    Senior Member Jonathan Huyer's Avatar
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    Here's a selfie I took out there, with my G12

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Jonathan Huyer; 03-30-2014 at 06:51 PM.

  10. #10
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Hi Jonathan,

    Great selfie

    At some point I would like to go on a few photographic adventure trips like this one. I was wondering if you had a company that you liked to use? If not, how do you even find these opportunities?

    Right now, I am beginning to think I would like to be in Iceland/Norway March 20 next year for a combination of the total eclipse and the corresponding new moon for viewing of the Northern Lights. We'll have to see, I mentioned to my wife and I haven't heard back yet .

    But I am interested in eventually going on a few trips like what you have put together.

    Thanks,
    Brant
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 04-29-2014 at 10:19 AM.

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