Polar Bears and Arctic Wildlife

Blizzard Footage, Churchill, Manitoba

Hey guys, check out some footage I shot with my canon 7d of a severe blizzard that pounded Churchill in November, 2013.  The tempetaure was around 5 degrees far, and the winds gusted over 50 mph.  The polar bears were difficult to locate that day, as the visibility was reduced to near 0 at times in blowing and drifting snow, but we did find a few large males who seemed to enjoy themselves.  They spent half an hour sparring, as they werent as limited by overheating, as they normally in milder weather.  I filmed these guys with my 300 prime f4. The end of the video shows us driving back to town in a whiteout on the airport road.  It was pretty rough that day!

polar bear vs blizzard, churchill, manitoba, brad josephs

It was tough to find bears with such reduced visibility, but the ones we did find were great to photograph in such brutal, atmospheric conditions.

Churchill 2013 Bear Season Photography Highlights- Mothers, Cubs, landscapes and Blizzards!

picture, image, photo of mother polar bear and cub, churchill manitoba, 2013
picture, image, photo of mother polar bear and cub, churchill manitoba, 2013
This is one of my favorite images I took during the epic 2013 polar bear season. I used a low aperture of f4 to achieve a shallow depth of field, so the mother bear’s face is sharp, and her tiny 1 year old cub is nicely blurred in the background.

Wow, sadly another incredible polar bear season is under our belts.   It is hard to list all of the highlights, a there were so many.  Although the sparring males were few and far between, and the bay froze early once again, my groups had amazing opportunities to photograph sows and cubs, foxes, arctic hares, and bears in severe blizzard conditions.   I would also like to mention that I had the privilege to train a very gifted new guide- Sean Beckett.  He just wrote the best blog post on Churchill I have ever seen- brilliantly insightful and creative writing style, and awesome images and videos- CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT!   After you read that post, check out some of my best images of polar bear mothers and cubs, and polar bears in blizzards below!

mother and cub, churchill, manitoba, brad josephs image, photo, picture

A female and her 1st year cub turn around when they encounter vehicles on the outskirts of Churchill.

photo of polar bear female and cubs, mother and coys, image of polar bear sow and cubs,
A beautiful female with her two healthy first year cubs (also known as COYS for cubs of the year) retires from the outskirts of town and heads back towards Cape Merry on a frigid, sunny morning in Churchill. Canon 7D, 300 F4 lens, picture was cropped to 1/2 size of original.
churchill manitoba blizzard, canada, polar bear

Ill have to say my personal favorite condition to photograph polar bears in is the full-on white out blizzard. The bears always look so at ease in such adversity.  It was snowing hard, around 5 degrees far, and blowing around 45 mph.

Bears, above all else, symbolize wilderness. You can only capture this reality with images like this. A tiny bear among its vast landscape can be just as powerful as the tightest portrait. I learned this well while working with the legendary Andy Rouse in the past, and always encourage my travelers to build in these types of shots into their portfolios. This bear begins his long winter season of wandering the flat expanses of Hudson Bay ice, which was growing by the minute as the temperature sailed below zero (Far).


Raven’s Eye View of the North, Churchill Helicopter Expedition

polar bear helicopter trip, churchill manitoba Larry Hoelzeman scans the boreal forest for moose and polar bears from a helicopter over Wapusk National Park, and Cape Churchill. 

I recently finished guiding my first Ultimate Churchill Expedition, which includes a helicopter excursion to view polar bears, moose, and the subarctic landscape from a raven’s perspective. Here are some unique images that I was able to capture. First, check some footage I shot with my canon 7D and 16-35f2.8

aerial photography, churchill, polar bears

As we cruised over Cape Churchill we came upon a group of very large males hanging out together peacefully. Two of the bears had blood on their heads and necks, indicating that they had recently fed on a seal.

I had previously thought that photographing from a helicopter would be difficult, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we could shoot out of an open window. Photographing with my 16-35 wide angle was very easy, and perfect for getting the wide landscape shots, but I was also able to get some good stuff of wildlife with my fixed 300 f4.

Wide angle view of the tundra s we headed north to Cape Churchill. Canon 7D, 16-35mm lens.

We counted a total of 28 different moose from the air in the boreal forest of Wapusk National Park, about 4 miles south of the coast. This is a very large bull in rut.  Canon 7d, 300 f4 prime lens

View of a lone male polar bear on the beach near Cape Churchill.
Canon 7D 300 f4 prime

A huge highlight for the group was landing at an unattended female polar bear maternity den above the Deer River. This region of boreal forest in Wapusk National Park is the densest polar bear denning area on earth. Only the pregnant female polar bears use dens like this, so they can have their cubs in a warm, safe environment. Pregnant females will arrive in this area in November to choose a den site, as the other bears head onto Hudson Bay to hunt seals for the winter. Cubs are born around the New Year.