By Mark McConville
THE TREMENDOUS difficulty of the day-to-day life of a wildlife photographer has been revealed in a new book about the Arctic.
Wildlife photographer and author Paul Souders (57), from Seattle, Washington, USA, decided to prove it’s not the glamorous job many think as he made a solo journey through the Arctic Circle.
Stunning pictures from his trip show a Polar bear baring its teeth at the camera as it gets up close and personal, another taking a swim in the icy waters and one curious bear peering through the window of Souders’ ship.
Other incredible images illustrate the immense struggle of Souders’ trip with his small boat pictured trapped in the ice, the boat looking miniscule against the vast ocean and the reward for all the hard work as the sun sets over a lavender field.
These and other amazing photographs are showcased in Paul Souders’ new book, Arctic Solitaire: A Boat, A Bay and the Quest for the Perfect Bear, which charts his journey through Hudson Bay, Nunavut Territory, Canada.
“I wanted to share both the romance and tremendous difficulty of the day to day life of a wildlife photographer,” he said.
“A lot of folks imagine that it’s an altogether glamorous and wonderful job. On good days, it really is. But there’s also an incredible amount of hard work and frustration and disappointment. And, in my case anyway, a vast trove of ridiculous mistakes to be made.
“I’d been making noise for years about going up to Hudson Bay to photograph polar bears. The town of Churchill, Manitoba in central Canada, is one of the easiest and most accessible places to see the bears.
“But everyone and their dog has already been there, riding around in a Tundra Buggy and photographing bears. I didn’t see much point in doing that, so I tried to come up with a plan to get there and explore on my own.
“I eventually hauled my boat, a 22-foot cabin cruiser named C-Sick, up to middle of the Canadian north woods, backed it into the Nelson River and took her downriver toward the Bay.
“From there, I just had to make a left turn, motor across nearly a thousand miles of sparsely inhabited coast, and arrive at the Arctic Circle. Once there, I spent weeks and months cruising at the edge of the melting ice searching for polar bears and other wildlife.”
Souders has worked as a professional photographer his whole life, finding himself drawn to nature and wildlife after taking a news job in Alaska.
He explained the immense amount of time it took him to complete these trips and capture the images he ultimately loves.
“Over the course of four summers, I photographed dozens, maybe hundreds of polar bears living wild and unafraid near the Arctic Circle at the northern reaches of Hudson Bay,” he said.
“I spent vast amounts of time watching the bears as they moved along the melting sea ice and along the shore. There were times when the bears relaxed completely, and I was able to show them staring through the boat’s window at me, or swimming through the water, or hunting on the ice.
“There were also a few times when they took a more active, even culinary interest in my presence, which was another matter entirely. I drifted too close to one big male polar bear, and he took an enormous bite of my inflatable dinghy. The air leaked out in one enormous “whoosh,” and I had to limp back to C-Sick and try to patch up the hole.
“I’ve grown to love these difficult solo expeditions to the ends of the earth. They focus all my energy and otherwise scattered attention on a few simple things.
“How do I find the bear? How can I make new and interesting pictures? How do I avoid running C-Sick into the ice, find shelter from the next storm and keep myself alive?”