Behind the Scenes – Making of the Polar Bear Foot Photograph

Of all the many thousands of photographs I have taken of Polar Bears over the last years this one of the large male bear climbing an iceberg covered in snow out on the frozen sea ice in winter as the polar night descends is my favourite. There is something about the bears gesture, the crunchy snow and ice stuck to the bears rear paw, and the simplicity of the composition that speaks to me on a very visceral and emotional level. I think its also that we don’t get to see the full face of the bear, but instead just enough to know its there. We get a hint of it, without getting the full picture and that leaves the imagination to fill in the blanks. Anytime you can successfully accomplish this in a photograph you create something powerful.Recently I was going through some B-Roll footage from the Ghosts of the Arctic short film in preparation for my recent talk at the Victorian Association of Photographic Societies (VAPS) convention and came across a short segment that caught the actual moment the bear climbed the ice and dragged its paw, revealing exactly when the photograph was taken. I decided to share the video (raw, ungraded and without stabilisation straight from the Red Epic – I just added some music) as I think its interesting to see how brief a period of time this moment was and how a few seconds either side would have been interesting, but no where near as powerful. You should be able to pin point the moment I clicked the shutter. A couple of interesting side things to note are how much larger the male is than the female and how the moment the female wakes and climbs over the ice the male immediately rises to follow. My sincere thanks to Abraham Joffe and his team at Untitled Film Works for allowing me to share the footage. Enjoy.

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