The stunning images from Paul Souders’ intrepid journeys to the Arctic to photograph polar bears
Life as a wildlife photographer is a tough one, as one top professional has revealed in a stunning new book.
In Arctic Solitaire: A Boat, A Bay and the Quest for the Perfect Bear, Paul Souders, from Seattle, reveals how snapping the great outdoors and the creatures in it can be brutal.
The book charts four solo journeys he made in the Arctic between 2012 and 2015 and is packed with incredible pictures – many of which illustrate the dangers the 57-year-old faced.
One shows a Polar bear baring its teeth at the camera as it gets up close and personal. Another shows one lurking just beneath the surface of the water nearby – and in one picture a curious bear peers through the window of his ship.
This boat was lashed by storms and ground on rocks as Souders sought out the bears. He says: ‘Think of this not as a how-to manual so much as a cautionary tale.’
Below are a jaw-dropping selection of images from the tome.
In Arctic Solitaire: A Boat, A Bay and the Quest for the Perfect Bear, Paul Souders, from Seattle, reveals how snapping the great outdoors and the creatures in it can be brutal. This picture shows a polar biting an underwater camera in the Hudson Bay
The book charts solo journeys Souders made in the Arctic and is packed with incredible pictures – many of which illustrate the dangers the 57-year-old faced
Souders said: ‘For years I’ve wanted to photograph polar bears, but rather than chartering a boat and captain or going on a tour, I wanted to see if I could do it independently’
The photographer added: ‘I came up with a plan to pull my 22ft fibreglass boat on its trailer about 1,800 miles from my home in Seattle to the end of the road in Manitoba, in central Canada. I put the boat into the Nelson River and travelled 75 miles to reach Hudson Bay, then took her more than 600 miles north, fighting storms and ice, towards the Arctic Circle’
Mr Souders explained: ‘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. I spent vast amounts of time watching the bears as they moved along the melting sea ice and along the shore’
Souders said: ‘I prefer to work around bears that are relaxed and curious. Although they are brutally effective hunters, polar bears are quite intelligent and are always curious about their surroundings’
Souders’ 22ft boat is pictured here jammed in among blocks of floating ice in Nunavut territory
Ice one: A self-portrait showing Souders and his boats grounded in Hudson Bay
Mesmerising: Souders’ boat – C-Sick – sitting in still waters off Marble Island in Hudson Bay
A polar bear with a young cub on sea ice in Repulse Bay in Nunavut, which lies to the west of the Northwestern Passage
Whalers’ graves on Deadman Island in Nunavut. Arctic Solitaire comes from notes Souders kept during four solo boat trips to Canada’s Hudson Bay
A polar bear skull in Hudson Bay. Souders’ book is billed as a ‘hilarious and evocative misadventure’. He said: ‘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 wanted to share both the romance and tremendous difficulty of the day to day life of a wildlife photographer,’ Souders 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’
Sounders said of his book: ‘Think of this not as a how-to manual so much as a cautionary tale’. But he also said: ‘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?”‘