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Photo Series-Polar Bears

Updated on August 2, 2014
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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

A polar bear's story photo project should be done not only with the idea of recording images of these beautiful animals but should be approached from the stand point of raising an awareness in the general public about the struggles that these beautiful creatures are facing in their natural habitat.

Diminished land masses, diminishing prey species and the ever present encroachment of man into their territory are just some of the many dangers now being faced by these creatures. Many scientist now agree that unless something is done to reduce the threat from global warming along with taking other steps, the polar bear will eventually become another extinct statistic and we will only be able to see them in zoos and other nature preserves.

"The loss of sea ice habitat is the biggest threat to the survival of polar bears. Other key threats include polar bear-human conflicts, oil development and shipping... Many polar bears now suffer from malnutrition and others face starvation, especially females with cubs. Polar bear populations in Canada’s Hudson Bay have declined by 22 percent since the 1990s and researchers predict up to 73 percent of pregnant females in this population could fail to bring their cubs to term, given current and anticipated sea ice conditions."

When you have completed the photographic part of the project then start to compile facts dealing with the threats to this creature and put them into a story. Your images will be that more appealing to a magazine editor and other publishers if they are accompanied by a well researched and put together written piece.

Given current condition and the inhospitable nature of their natural habitat a better alternative to photographing them would be your zoo or other nature preserve. This also brings some challenges for the photographer intent on recording worthwhile images. For one thing most public viewing times are not the best times to photograph since it often involves shooting during the hottest part of the day and with less than photogenic light conditions.

Most polar bears will take this time of day to rest and the resulting images may not prove to be the best available. Of importance is also their surroundings which are mostly man made and usually do not resemble frozen land masses or snow covered terrain. This is usually a dead giveaway that your images were not of wild animals but of captive ones. This in itself often diminishes the sale value of most of the photographs and anytime that you take photographs of any animal which is in a captive environment you have to divulge this fact to any potential clients. Make a concerted effort not to include much of the enclosure or any "toys" as this can also be a distraction to your viewers.

You will need a zoom lens in the range of at least 300mm in order to get close ups of their face and it allows you to crop on the go as it were. Pay attention whenever you see specimens interacting with each other, getting into and out of the water and interactions between females and their young.

Worth considering is to inquire about special viewing times often available at most zoos. The fee for this is often modest and allows you times when the enclosures are less crowded and the bears are more active. You may even witness feedings and this is likely to produce some interesting images as well.


Another seldom thought off issue that can arise when photographing subjects which are mostly white or black is to balance the camera sensors to record whites as true whites and blacks as pure blacks. For pure white subjects like snow, white rabbits in the snow and for polar bears This is known as white balancing.

Most digital cameras allow you to manually adjust their color balance and some do it for you automatically. There are several articles that can guide you step by step in how to precisely adjust your camera's sensors.

I suggest that you become familiar with this technique before venturing onto this project. Otherwise you run the risk of your polar bear images looking as mid tones grays.

Another technique which also works is to record the settings of something near the main subject by gradually depresing the shutter without actually taking the shot and locking this setting manually on your camera and then proceeding to take the photograph. However, this often requires practice and a trial and error approach.

You can also take a series of shots; one at the recomended reading, one with an extra stop of exposure and a third with two stops of extra exposure. The reverse for pure black subjects.

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CC BY-ND 2.0 | Source

© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      The last photo reminds me of "the boys club" at football TV time. These bears are beautiful but I wouldn't want to get near them. You pointed out something that the average person wouldn't realize, photographing white against white is takes skill. Thanks for the statistics and I enjoyed reading your hub.

    • sam209 profile image

      sam209 5 years ago

      Very informative hub! Love the pictures!

      I was glued to my seat last week while watching an episode on polar bears. I was surprised to see a Polar Bear attack and kill a beluga whale. After watching that episode, I certainly gained an appreciation for polar bears and how they hunt! I didn't realize their sense of smell is way greater than a bloodhound's!