My Unique Photography Style in the Arctic
I signed up for Natural World Safari’s Arctic Adventure Photography Safari only two weeks in advance of embarkation; I had an unforeseen opening in my work schedule and seized the opportunity to jump aboard the M/S Freya for a polar expedition of guaranteed epic proportions.
I couldn’t wait to become the explorer—and photographer—I had dreamed of being as a young boy.
But let’s back up a moment, shall we? I am hardly a ‘photographer’ by any stretch of the imagination. I would say I’m not even a serious hobbyist. I own a Sony camera obtained through an old employee discount, and I have never ventured beyond the “Automatic” setting in taking my occasional vacation snapshots.
So in addition to the promise of spectacular animal sightings, I was compelled to join this expedition due to the two acclaimed cinematographers and photographers accompanying us, Russell MacLaughlin and Shannon Benson. Accomplished artists and animal conservationists in their own right, Shannon and Russ were going to help me build my (lack of) skills while I would show everyone back home in sunny Los Angeles that I had seen a living, breathing polar bear in the Arctic Circle.
The other guests on board the M/S Freya were a varied bunch, but one thing they had in common was a passion and deep knowledge of wildlife photography. They had lenses. They had monopods. They had laptops and portable hard drives…and Lightroom!
Me? I had a Facebook account I was hoping to feed, and a looming insecurity that I was out of my element. Select conversations I overheard in the mess hall centered around aperture settings, white balance, the challenges of manually focusing on a flying bird (impossible!) and things too technical for this newbie to even grasp.
Yikes. How would I fool everyone on board into thinking I belonged on this expedition?! Fear and panic set in, but before I even had a chance to craft my excuse of an alter ego (“…I was an accomplished photographer, but a zebra trampled me on safari in Africa and I got amnesia, I don’t remember anything about my camera or how to use it!”) we encountered our first magnificent polar bear.
The bear lingered around the ship on the ice pack for close to 10 minutes, curiously standing on his hind legs, peering at us from every angle, and basically giving even a clueless novice like me plenty of opportunity for National Geographic-worthy photographs.
At one point, the bear approached the bow of the Freya, where I had positioned myself overlooking the action below. He stood on a mound of ice and looked directly up at me-and at that moment I decided to do the unthinkable.
I held up my iPhone, reversed the view…
…and took a Selfie.