Special to Churchill Wild
by +George Williams
Churchill Wild begs to differ.
The 47-year-old Reeve at the Municipality of Algonguin Highlands downplayed the fact that she took some fabulous shots of polar bears, landscapes and northern lights while attending our Polar Bear Photo Safari last October at Seal River Heritage Lodge.
“I don’t take photographs to sell them,” said Moffatt. “I’m a self-taught amateur photographer with a background in journalism. If someone wanted to offer me money for a photograph I might sell one, but really, if I have a nice photo, I put it on the fridge for a month.”
Moffatt has taken more than a few marvelous photos during adventures that have taken her from backpacking in the Australian outback, to Africa, to visiting the 2010 volcanic eruption in Iceland as well as Peru, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Alaska, Yukon and the Southwestern United States. You can view a selection of her photos on her Web site at http://cmoff.smugmug.com/
“The Yukon was magical,” said Moffatt, “but the Churchill Wild trip was the most interesting of all in terms of remoteness. Part of the adventure was just in getting there. The whole trip was very well organized and I’d never flown in a Twin Otter before.”
Moffatt was part of group of 14 photographers and spouses involved in a trip led by professional photographer Mike Beedell.
“There were photographers of every talent level in our group,” said Moffatt. “Everyone was very helpful. We were all united in a shared cause and it just worked.”
“We went on hikes across the tundra and saw polar bears every day, but breakfast was always a special experience. You just never knew what might be on the other side when the (polar bear protective) shutters were opened up in the morning. The bears come right up to the lodge. And an arctic fox appeared several times!”
“The food was phenomenal,” said Moffatt, impressed by being able to see desserts for later in the day being made fresh every morning in the new kitchen while they were enjoying breakfast. “And the Reimer family made fabulous hosts – ever present but never in your face.”
But what about the walking with the polar bears?
“Our guides, Andy and Tara, would scout out the polar bears in the area ahead of time and walk us out into a position where we could photograph them,” said Moffatt. “They were quite attuned to our needs as photographers. And you could definitely tell they knew the bears, the landscapes – and photographers in general. They would move us to the left and right, back and forth and they could sense when we needed something different. And it wasn’t all polar bears, there was always something different to photograph while we were wandering along — interesting landscapes, lingonberries and other plants, the shifting ice and how the sun reflected on it…”
Two items related to polar bears stood out on the trip for Moffatt. On one occasion when a polar bear got particularly close to an employee hauling water with the ATV, and another when a large male bear chased a female and her cub away from the fenced compound at the Lodge.
“It was on the final day of our trip,” said Moffatt. “A mother and her cub were just outside the compound when she sensed the presence of the big male and took off at high speed out on to the (Hudson) Bay to protect her cub. You can tell when they’re bigger than usual, and this was very large male. We also got some good close shots of the bears through the fence, but we were always very careful to keep everything out of their reach — cameras, scarves, loose clothing.”
“I’m told that Polar bears are the deadliest land animals on the planet. One of the guides said these bears can pull an 800-pound seal out of the water in one swoop. We’re the zoo animals up there with us on the inside of the compound and the animals on the outside looking at us. But I wanted a real adventure and I sure got one. The tundra buggies just wouldn’t have worked for me. The whole trip was a delight.”
She has a fridge full of photographs to prove it.
For the Love of Reading: Polar bear trip results in children’s books for New Jersey physician turned photographer
Special to Churchill Wild
by +George Williams
The 54-year-old from Tabernacle, New Jersey, has now created three children’s books about polar bears, each featuring a selection of photographs from the 17,000 he captured at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge. Images from his trip can also be seen at his LifeScapes Imaging Web site.
“I never knew where wildlife photography would take me,” said Daniel. “But I had an idea for a book for preschoolers – a whimsical, rhyming book about polar bears.
“We have four children ages 8-23, and some of my fondest memories are of reading to them to when they were growing up. I wanted to create something that would get parents reading to their children and get children interested in wildlife. Parents are interested in the beautiful photos. Children are curious about the bears. And because parents are spending quality time with their children reading the books to them, it gets the children more interested in reading.”
A noble cause to be sure, and it’s been a long journey to get to the stage of published author, but Daniel has enjoyed every bit of it. He took up photography in high school and spent the last year or so photographing weekly in New Jersey before being able to participate in some of the more elite photography adventures.
Daniel’s wife probably had something to do with ramping up the photography hobby in the family. A former dental hygienist with an interest in sports, she participated in the Sports Photography Workshop at the Summit Series of Photography Workshops. Daniel tagged along and this led to him attending the Summit Landscape and Wildlife photography workshop a few years later. Unfortunately, his medical career still didn’t leave him the time he would have liked to have spent on photography — until recently.
About two years ago, Daniel hired an associate, which allowed him to free up some time for longer trips to elite photography havens that included the Richard Clarkson Photography at the Summit Workshop in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming; the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge located on the subtropical barrier island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico; the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico; and finally the Polar Bear Photo Safari at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Heritage Lodge on the West Coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada.
“The Churchill Wild experience was the trip of a lifetime,” said Daniel. “We first heard about it from Scott Fryer and his wife Paula, who he met while at the Photography at the Summit Workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We went on the trip as part of a group with Bob Smith of Elk Meadow Images, who organized a photography workshop for 14 people at Churchill Wild.
“The trip from Winnipeg to Churchill with CalmAir was wonderful. And we had a lovely flight on a small plane from Churchill to the Lodge. It was my first trip on a small plane and we had an excellent pilot. Seal River Heritage Lodge is beautifully hand constructed and extremely comfortable. The staff was unbelievably accommodating and the food was outstanding. It was just like home.
“Our guides, Andy and Terra, really made us feel like we belonged, not like we were goofy outsiders. They would scout the polar bears first to see where they were at, and then we would go on two hikes a day. The furthest we had to go was about a mile and we were able to set up for polar bears, arctic fox, ptarmigan and briefly an arctic hare.”
Being able to take on-the-ground photos of wildlife has been Daniel’s modus operandi in photography, so the daily hikes worked out perfectly for the group. This despite the fact that Daniel brought his 28 lbs. 2½ foot 600 mm lens, which it was suggested he consider leaving at home.
“I’m used to carrying my lenses in the wilderness,” said Daniel. “Whenever I’m photographing I have one smaller lens on my right shoulder, the heavier one on my left, and my backpack. So that wasn’t a problem.
“And we weren’t interested in going out in tundra buggies. I wanted to be on the ground with the polar bears. I like the freedom of the out of doors, the solitude of hiking the trails, and the beauty of observing nature. I don’t want to do it from inside a vehicle unless it is an absolute necessity. Whenever you’re out in the wild there will be certain element of danger involved. In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I carry bear spray. In New Jersey it’s not an issue.
“Sure there is some fear of bears. But we learned there is a mutual respect between the polar bears and the people up there in Churchill. If done carefully and properly there is an acceptable risk. We never felt unsafe at any time. I think our group would uniformly say we would like to repeat our experience at Churchill Wild.”
Daniel went on to describe how much he enjoyed the spectacular landscapes, sunrises and sunsets over Hudson Bay. Flat, rugged and desolate, “it was like looking out over the surface of mars when the tide was out. You’d think you just went to another planet.
“But that’s the best thing about wildlife photography. You can never predict what you’ll see. Every day is a little bit of joy. And when I get back from a trip like this – my family notices the difference in me.”
Besides being a new author, Daniel also donates framed polar bear and wildlife prints to his local hospital. “I sell a few prints,” he said, “But the people at the hospital love them. They have them up on the walls and they always get nice comments from the patients and visitors.
“Wildlife photography has made me a much happier and more content person. It’s like being rich… but in different way.”
Daniel D’Auria’s polar bear books for children can be found on Amazon.com at the links below. He’s also working on two more children’s books about birds and is always interested in pursuing joint ventures that will also benefit a good cause in some way. Thank you Daniel!
“I don’t think there is a better place in the world to observe and photograph polar bears.” — Joel D. Davidson
I don’t think there is a better place in the world to observe and photograph polar bears. — Joel D. Davidson, Photographer
Joel Davidson was at Seal River Heritage Lodge in early November for Churchill Wild’s Polar Bear Photo Safari, which takes place when the polar bears congregate in large numbers on the coast of Hudson Bay in anticipation of freeze-up.
Rugged and remote, but with all the comforts of home, Seal River Heritage Lodge is ideally located in the heart of polar bear country on this coast. For the serious wildlife photographer willing to spend long hours in the field getting up close and personal with the arctic wildlife, the ground level photo opportunities at the Lodge are exceptional.
“I chose Churchill Wild and Seal River Heritage Lodge to observe and photograph polar bears at ground level,” said Davidson. “I did not want to photograph the bears 15′ high from a Tundra Buggy. Our guides were very professional. Their primary concern was our safety, but they still allowed us to get close enough to the bears for good photo opportunities. My experience far exceeded my expectations!”
Photos taken on the Polar Bear Photo Safari feature stunning backdrops of sea ice and the rocky landscapes that surround the Lodge. The snowy Hudson Bay shoreline is ideal for photographing polar bears in their naturally icy environment at this time of year and is praised by the many photographers that visit the Lodge.
“I took over 4,000 photos,” continued Davidson. “I have been fortunate to photograph wildlife all over the world and have never taken so many fine images in just four days! The hardest problem was selecting the best images from hundreds of excellent photos.”
Davidson immensely enjoyed watching (and videotaping) the interaction and the wrestling of the polar bears. See video below.
Although he missed the Northern Lights, which often romance and dance on clear nights for photographers and guests at the Lodge, Davidson felt that observing so many arctic fox on the trip was a bonus. And we have to agree – he did get some fabulous arctic fox photos! See gallery below.
“The accommodations were excellent, the food was superb, and the staff was outstanding,” said Davidson. “Staying at Seal River Heritage Lodge is a photographer’s dream.”
Reach for the Rainbow polar bear trip draws rave reviews. Churchill Wild donates Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure for 25th Annual Crystal Ball.
Special to Churchill Wild
by +George Williams
Nicole Leaper surprised her husband Bob on his 60th birthday last year by giving him a Churchill Wild Polar Bear Photo Safari in a blog post.
Nicole had won the trip in a Reach for the Rainbow live charity auction at that organization’s annual Crystal Ball, proceeds of which go to benefit the integration of children and youth with disabilities into the mainstream of society through summer camp programs in Ontario.
The couple had a fabulous experience on their polar bear adventure and will be back again for the 25th Annual Crystal Ball on Saturday, November 19, 2011 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“We’re proud to be associated with Reach for the Rainbow and the work they do for the kids,” said Rick Kemp, Director of Marketing and Communications at Churchill Wild. “It’s a wonderful cause and we’re happy to be able to contribute to making the lives of the kids and their families better.”
“It’s for both the kids and their families,” said Nicole. “The kids go to camp for a week and the parents are afforded a respite while knowing their kids are having fun, learning and growing in an enriched, supportive environment.”
Bob wholeheartedly agreed. The Director of Information Technology at Southern Graphic Systems Canada also had rave reviews for Churchill Wild. He was thrilled to learn he was going on a trip to photograph polar bears last year after being cajoled by Nicole into reading How to Gift Wrap a Polar Bear.
“Is that me?” he asked with surprise in his eyes. “Yes,” smiled Nicole. “Yeah!” he exclaimed.
A self-described serious amateur photographer, Bob was ecstatic about having a chance to photograph polar bears. He’d traveled the world over the past few years to take photographs, which he displays at RobertLeaper.com, and thought that this would be an incredible opportunity to photograph the world’s largest land carnivore.
The couple flew from Churchill, Manitoba to the remote coast of Hudson Bay last fall by helicopter, instead of via the usual aircraft used to take visitors to the Lodge. That was the beginning of a trip that Bob said was, “Very well organized from the start. We were well looked after.” But when the couple landed at the Lodge they realized something was up.
“You’re immediately greeted by people with shotguns,” said Nicole. “That’s when you start to realize you’re the ones who are captive in this environment. The polar bears are at the top of the food chain here.”
The couple spent their time on the daily hikes with four other photographers who were, “very into nature photography” according to Bob. The days – and the polar bears – just flew by.
“Bears?” said Bob. “Oh my gosh! All the time. There were plenty of polar bears. It wasn’t easy to eat dinner. There was always something outside. We saw so many bears we got used to them. We started to look at landscapes, plant formations and other wildlife. We snapped the arctic fox during a lunch time and that was exciting!”
Because of the time of year and the chill in the air, camera lenses were often wrapped when inside so that they wouldn’t succumb to condensation when the group ventured outside. On one day there was so much polar bear action the group decided to leave their cameras outside.
“That was when we photographed the arctic fox,” said Bob. “We got some stunning photos that day. And we were able to get great shots even without big lenses. I have a 300 mm, but that was more than enough.”
“You don’t need a huge lens to get great shots. On the daily hikes we were able to get very close to the bears depending on their demeanor, and the guides were excellent, always chatting with us about the wildlife, the area and its history.”
Bob and Nicole were also impressed by the quality of the food at the Lodge.
“Gourmet meals,” said Bob. “Unbelievable. I wasn’t expecting that in such a remote area. Caribou, arctic char, pickerel, goose, local berries and other ingredients from the area. You couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Bob and Nicole’s polar bear trip with Churchill Wild will no doubt hold a special place in their hearts for many years to come. “I’ve traveled the world, and anyone seriously into photography would love this place,” continued Bob, who put his polar bear photos online at: http://www.robertleaper.com/polar/.
“It was an absolutely fantastic adventure that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. And it was for a great cause. It just doesn’t get any better than that.”
“My heart was beating out of my chest when I bid on that trip,” said Nicole. “I’d never done that before.”
Was it was worth it?
“In so many ways…”
Churchill Wild has been the premier eco-outfitter in Northern Manitoba for over 40 years, but we’re always excited when polar bear watching season begins at our Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, the only tourist camp along a 100-mile stretch of Hudson Bay coastline in Northern Manitoba, Canada.
One of the most pristine wilderness areas left in the world, it hasn’t changed in thousands of years. And we promise that you won’t find a better place, anywhere in the world, for close encounters with polar bears.
When the ice breaks up in June, the polar bears move ashore. During the summer months they socialize and prowl the shoreline, restlessly waiting for the ice to return. Many of these bears spend their summers within a few miles of our Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. During an average season up to 400 bears pass by the Lodge.
What makes this population of polar bears so unique is the high concentration of mother bears and cubs. At Nanuk, our guests will encounter polar bears, and often these will be mothers with their offspring. Many of these bears have never seen a person before, and they have the calm demeanor of bears that have not learned to fear people.
Guests who visit Nanuk count themselves among a small group of lucky individuals who have seen these majestic animals up close, undisturbed. These are not habituated “Park bears” or hunted bears that run at the sight of humans.
“We have already been in many nature places in this world. We have seen the lions in Africa; the tigers in India; the grizzlies in Alaska; orangutans in Borneo; the penguins in the Antarctic; but one of the most beautiful places is Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge with their many polar bears. We were overwhelmed to experience so many, so close. We thank the entire staff who made these special days a wonderful experience.” – Marlies & Hartmut Thierfelder and Marlies & Siegfried Neubüser, Hamburg, Germany
These are pure, wild polar bears living the way they have lived since time began.
Stay tuned for more blog posts about this year’s trip to Nanuk. If you would like more information about Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge please call us at: 1.204.377.5090 or Toll Free at:1.866.846.9453. You can also e-mail us at: email@example.com.
We would love to hear from you and…
Wish you were here!
There has been quite a bit of talk about polar bears starving in the arctic, but we’re not seeing that where we are on the coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada. The photos in the gallery below were taken near our remote Seal River Heritage Lodge on the Hudson Bay coast during our recent Birds, Bears and Belugas Adventure.
Polar bear watching at its best, on the ground, up close and personal. But not too close. We have great respect for a polar bear’s personal space – as should everyone. Still, the photos our guests are able to take with ground level access can be spectacular. You can view more polar bear photos taken by our guests here.
Wish you were here!
Best Polar Bear Photo – 1rst Place
The Churchill Wild 2010 Photo Contest has officially come to a close. Guests from all of our adventures submitted their favorite photos and it was great to see all those magical moments again!
We saw polar bears wandering the icy coast line, lazily lounging on rocks and some even sparring. Guests got up close and personal with polar bears and some enjoyed an awesome display of northern lights.
No matter what the photo, each submission was good for one reason or another, which made this an extremely tough job for our judge. We do like to keep him on his toes! Dennis Fast was in charge of judging the contest this year and he has done a great job. It was very tough naming just one first prize winner for each category.
Please watch for all submissions to be posted on the Churchill Wild Web site next week. Without further adieu we announce the winners of this year’s photo contest.
Best Polar Bear Photo – 2nd Place
Best Other Arctic Wildlife Photo – 1st Place
Best Other Arctic Wildlife Photo – 2nd Place
Best Arctic Landscape Photo – 1st Place
Best Arctic Landscape Photo – 2nd Place
Best People Photo – 1st Place
Best People Photo – 2nd Place
We tried to think of some fun taglines for the photos, but if you have some better ideas, please let us know. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who entered! And congratulations to the winners!
Greetings from Polar Bear Country!
You have been welcome guests in our Arctic adventure travel paradise and now it’s time to share your experiences and put your “best shot” forward in our annual photo contest. Please take a look at some of the fabulous photos submitted by our guests for the 2009 Photo Contest to stimulate your imagination!
It was quite a busy year in 2010 and the wildlife gave us many photo opportunities. It’s now time to showcase your pictures from the season. We’re looking for photos of polar bears in snow, grass or water. And don’t forget the mothers and cubs or those unbelievable beluga whale photos you took on your Birds, Bears and Belugas Trip. We saw a variety of birds this year so a bird in flight would be amazing!
We look forward to seeing all of your submissions. Good luck!
Prizes in each category:
- 1st – $1,500.00 off 2011/2012 booking
- 2nd – Dennis Fast photography book
- Best polar bear
- Best other wildlife
- Best landscape
- Best people
- Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Must be jpeg or TIFF format
- File size should be 1 to 3 MB
- Feel free to add a caption
- If you want to provide a paper copy please contact us for a mailing address
Please submit your photos by March 31, 2011 (EXTENDED) in order to be considered for the contest. Winners will be announced April 15, 2011 and will be notified via email. Upon completion of the contest all photos will appear on the Churchill Wild Web site in the 2010 Photo Contest gallery.
A professional photographer will be selected by Mike and Jeanne Reimer to conduct the judging of the submissions.
- Guests may submit one photo per category. If multiple photos are sent for the same category, the first one received will be the one entered.
- Winners may reissue their $1,500 prize to a family or friend if they wish. The application of the prize is dependent on availability and must be used on a direct booking.
We’re finding quite a few good stories and photo albums about Churchill Wild on the Web these days! And they’re written (or photos were taken) by visitors who walked with the polar bears (and us – yes we were there too!) on the coast of Hudson Bay.
Freelance journalist and author James Sturz joined us at Seal River Lodge for the Birds, Bears and Belugas adventure last summer and wrote about it for the Adventure Travel Section of ShermansTravel.com and German wildlife photographer Rudolf Hug put together a beautiful photobook packed with polar bears from his trip.
Sturz, a native New Yorker, has written for over 70 newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Adventure and many more. His novel Sasso was also named one of the top books of 2001 by The Sunday Telegraph.
An avid adventure traveler and PADI-certified divemaster, Sturz’s accomplishments are long and impressive. You can read his full bio (and it is definitely worth reading) on his Web site at: http://www.jamessturz.com/bio.html.
“We’ve all seen pictures of polar bears on receding sheets of ice, but it wasn’t until I flew to the western shore of Hudson Bay, in northern Manitoba, that I understood you could get so close to them you could appreciate the fearsome moistness of their snouts, the awesome sharpness of their claws and teeth, or the fact that the thousand-pound predators still look like fat, furry white blobs you want to leap on and hug.” Read full story…
We then invite you to slip over to the blog of Rudolf Hug to check out his exceptional polar bear photobook. The most important part of his trip to Churchill Wild?
The “impressive meetings with the polar bears,” said Hug on his blog. “To meet the polar bears on an eye to eye level in their natural habitat is an experience of a very special nature!”
You can check out Hug’s polar bear photos at his blog at: http://rudolf-hug-e.blogspot.com/2010/12/bilder-der-eisbaren.html
Professional photographer and world traveler Larry G. Kinney of Lexington, Kentucky was at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Lodge for the Polar Bear Photo Safari last fall and gave a glowing report of his first meeting with Manitoba’s polar bears.
“Having photographed wildlife worldwide, I can truly say that photographing polar bears at Churchill Wild’s Seal River Lodge is one of, if not the best experience I have had,” said Kinney. “The eye-level photography, the amazing scenery and backdrops, and the polar bear-like weather make for an unbeatable adventure.”
High praise considering Kinney has been on some spectacular wildlife photography trips. From grizzly bears in Alaska to penguins in Antarctica, from crocodiles in Kenya to sea lion pups in Australia and more, Kinney has seen some very wild places. He’s now proud to include the polar bears of Northern Manitoba, Canada in his portfolio. But it wasn’t just the polar bears and the northern lights Kinney enjoyed.
“Mike and Jeanne Reimer are excellent hosts,” said Kinney. “Andy and Terry (our guides) are very knowledgeable and safety conscious, and the staff were always busy taking care of the guests. The food was great and the lodge, way beyond my expectations, was perfect. In fact, the whole experience exceeded my expectations on every level.”
A photo gallery of Kinney’s trip to Seal River Lodge, along with his previous adventures, can be seen on his Web site: http://InOurSight.com. Kinney’s next trip will take him to the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda to photograph gorillas, but a return trip to visit the polar bears also made the future agenda.
“It is my goal to return to Churchill Wild’s Seal River lodge and also visit their Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge for a very different experience”, said Kinney. “Mike and Jeanne, please save a space for me and thanks for an incredible adventure!”