Dennis Fast is hosting our first ever Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. This one week departure takes place August 26-September 1, 2012 on the coast of Hudson Bay in the Cape Tatnum Wildlife Management area.
Dennis’ work can be seen all over our website and promotional materials. He has been working with Churchill Wild since the beginning and is our resident photo expert (as well as an incredible guide).
Below he answers some questions many photographers have asked in recent weeks.
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Everyone who comes to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge wants to know what lenses to bring, and that is an important question.
Most pros would bring at least one lens that can reach out to 500mm or even 600mm. We all know, however, that those lenses are both costly and heavy. So a compromise may be in order for both reasons.
On my trip to Nanuk, I used my 500mm least of all. It’s true that the coast is vast, and bears often are spotted at a distance. The temptation is to get as big a lens as possible on the camera and start shooting. In the end, a little patience delivers a curious bear right into easy range for a 100-400mm zoom or something in that range.
I have taken a lot of photos of bears using just my 70-200mm with a variety of multipliers, including 1.4x. 1.7x, and 2.0x. When mothers and cubs show up at the lodge, and they frequently do, they will be at close range and you will quickly be abandoning your long lenses. Remember also that the multiplier effect of most digital cameras, unless they are “full frame” increases the power of all your lenses by a factor of 1.3x to 1.6x depending on the camera you are using. I have a very compact 28-300mm lens which I plan to use a lot in the North this year. It’s light weight and size makes it easy to hand-hold and keep at the ready at all times. With a C-size sensor it quickly becomes about a 40-450mm lens – great for almost anything.
Nanuk, however, is not just about the bears. The scenery is spectacular along the coast with sandy beaches and shallow inshore lagoons great for birds and reflections – there goes my 28-300mm again!
The sun spot activity is also increasing at a steady rate as we approach the zenith of its 11-13 year cycle. That means the northern lights could be awesome this year all over the arctic. For that you will definitely want a reasonably fast wide-angle lens. I use my 14-24mm lens a lot for the aurora, but my 24mm-70mm seems to be a great lens for that too. Any wide-angle will allow you to get some of the landscape included in the shots of the sweeping aurora to add a sense of scale. Without that you don’t get the feel of how vast the aurora-filled sky really is!
In short, bring what you can comfortably carry without jeopardizing your weight restrictions. And don’t over-do it: a few zooms should cover almost everything for you. Unless you are a pro, you can probably leave your biggest lens at home.
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For more information you can call our office at 204-377-5090 or toll free at 1-866-UGO-WILD (846-9453)
You can also email Doreen at firstname.lastname@example.org
by Nolan Booth
There were three big polar bears hanging around Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge on the first day, one you could see from the Lodge. A mix of honkers and snow geese were buzzing the coast on and off all day. The numbers were low but it was still early. A mother black bear with three cubs showed up just outside the compound this afternoon while the guests were out “playing” with the white bears.
We have a small group of people for this trip and all are really getting along well with each other. Now all settled in and excited about the early bear sightings. Guest expectations were met right off the bat.
Had some good polar sighting bear sightings over the next two days and the guests got within 30 feet of a wicked black wolf. It was slower trying to travel east against a high tide and lots of water. Dinner was a little less formal than at Seal River Heritage Lodge as per guest recommendations and also the Aussies kept trying to clear the table etc. Everyone enjoyed the York Factory DVD.
The final day of the trip started off with a bang, literally! Lying in bed after the alarm went off I was woken up by a Kapow! That made me jump, and the screamer that followed it had me out the door in seconds to see one of our guides, Andy, backing off a big polar bear that had charged the fence. The bear backed off and we started getting the guests moving, but they certainly didn’t need much encouragement after that!
The big bear stayed with us, circling, hissing, and showing us how thrilled he was with Andy. He walked the entire way around from the kitchen to the runway. He then laid around for awhile before heading towards Hudson Bay to wake up another old timer for an argument followed by a morning mud bath. There was a wolf running east on the coast. All the guests spotted him, then another and another, five arctic wolves in total. Then the horseshoe jokes started.
It was a great way to end the trip!