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Swimming with Polar Bears


About ten years ago I attempted to photograph a Polar Bear underwater – the bear dove after me to a depth of 75 feet. I was lucky that I was able to escape the powerful paws and crushing jaws of this bear.

I was young but I was also thoughtful and I learned from my mistake.

The Story Behind These Images

After the experience mentioned above, I decided I must work with a team rather than all by myself. The timing was in the middle of my career when I was trying to produce iconic images of the Ocean Giants.

Five years later, Yonatan Nir a young rising Israeli filmmaker and a friend, saw some of my Polar Bear images and embarked on a project to make a film about my life focusing on my childhood, trials and tribulations, fears, limitations, struggles, successes. achievements and inspiration, all with the epic event of a Polar Bear underwater in mind.

I recently returned to the Canadian high arctic, to apply the lessons I had learned in the past in order to capture the images that eluded me before. The goal was to be able to dive, photograph and and film Polar Bears safely and successfully underwater.

We just finished what I would characterize as the most fantastic five days on the edge of the Candian High Arctic. I was privileged to work with Emmy award winner and leading High Arctic filmmaker Adam Ravetch. Joe Kaludjak and his family were our guides and support team.

We experienced an amazing harmony while working together: We sat tight during stormy days and helped each other move extremely fast when the weather cleared up. We took advantage of every moment. The Inuit guides were simply splendid and completely trustworthy. They were quiet, strong and seriously dedicated to the project.

Adam led the underwater activity and filming. Yoni is the Co Producer and surface filmmaker. He was like a bee, always on the move with camera in hand. It did not matter whether we were on land on the boat or what time of the day or night it was. Dani, the other Co Producer and “thinking head”, always came up with new ideas and kept pushing us to think and go deeper into the soul of our adventure – Why are you here? Why are we doing what we are doing?

During the five days of the expedition, we had two days of reasonably good diving and bear encounter conditions. The first encounter was with a bear and one cub, the second one with a bear and two two cubs. Each encounter lasted a few hours.

Polar Bear Mother Carrying Her Cub

Polar Bear Mother Carrying Her Cub

It was tiring work with over 40 pounds of equipment between the scuba and camera gear. I was directed by Yoni on the surface and Adam underwater while I was facing the incoming bears. It was quite hard, but once I got into the groove, it was pure joy working with the Inuit, Adam, Yoni and Dani.

I had a few thrilling moments of encounters that were even better than I had imagined.

You will find a few of my favorite still images of the trip in this article. The movie should be released in the winter of 2016.

Polar Bears Overhead

Polar Bears Overhead

I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Inuit Kaludjak family, Adam, Yoni, Dani and the Polar Bears and cubs that showed up and acted together with me for this movie.

 I wish to inspire people to think that “the enemy of all fears is knowledge and experience”. With responsible leadership and respect for wildlife we can share and enjoy the wilderness; and we can replace the energy of fear with excitement and exploration.

There is no question that with knowledge, respect and passion, a group of humans working together can safely operate in the company of Polar Bears.

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