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Archive 2016 · polar bears in Churchill
  
 
kameramann
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · polar bears in Churchill


I'm going to Churchill next month, taking two day trips on a tundra buggy. I'd appreciate any information FM members can provide on photographing polar bears. equipment, clothing, experiences, etc.
Thanks for your input.



Oct 16, 2016 at 12:56 AM
Scott Stoness
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · polar bears in Churchill


I have done this trip about 10 times. It is fantastic. Typically I saw/photographed >15 bears a day.

Here is some brief thoughts:
- a longer lens is better because if you use short you will be shooting down on them because the tundra buggy is so high
- I have used 100-400, 500/f4, and 600f4. You can't bring it all. Either 100-400 alone or 200-400/f4 or 600 with 100-400 is what I would suggest. I rented a 500 from lensrentals for this trip when they delivered to Canada and it was great but 600 is better. Sometimes they are really far away and 600/1.4 is better. If you had infinite choices/money I would take 600v2, 1.4x and 100-400 and 5dsr.You don't need fast fps but you need the best high iso performance you can get. I have used the 7d and 7dii and 5diii. All are good but I like the 5dsr now because it can crop big and has good iso. But 1dx, 1dxii or 5div would be good too. Again if resources were infinite I would take a 5div and 5dsr or both because the ability to crop and high iso performance is important and fps is less important.
- tundra buggies have a viewing area at the back. I recommend choosing a seat near the back to be first out and be close to your equipment
- the space on the tb is quite tight so you need a solution to hauling a big lens for when they are far away and switching to shorter when they are close. The best solution is a spouse/friend who is not a photographer so you can use some of their space and put your 600 in the seat. Or two seats.
- it will be cold but not super cold. There is a heater on the bus but you will want to stand out for 20minutes. Long underwear, touque, good gloves that are sensitive to permit adjusting focus.
- monopods or tripods won't work because the bus move every time someone moves. Best to handheld.
- manage your shutter speed to at least 1/500. Crank up the iso. Take a camera that has good high iso.
- snow cause you to underexpose. I usually go +1/2. And check my histogram a lot.
- my strategy wide open, aperture priority, is +1/3 or so autoiso, spot focus, meter under c3, autoservo. Blast some off. Check histogram, adjust +1/3 to avoid blinking. Then if time permits move to aperture priority, shoot with quick settings while checking histogram to right. This maximizes chance of right exposure and if the bear hangs out longer, best composition.

I have stayed, gone single day.... PM me if you have any questions.

Scott



Oct 25, 2016 at 05:06 PM
Scott Stoness
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · polar bears in Churchill


BTW - landscape pictures are difficult because the whole area is swarming with polar bears. Standing outside at this time of year is daunting (and cold). IF you want to do it get someone to drive out where you want to go and watch while you shoot near the vehicle.

In Churchill, you look left and right as you leave the building more because of bears than cars.

However, Churchill is almost perfect for northern lights if you get lucky with clear skys and aurora.. The challenge is getting to a safe spot with a good composition.



Oct 25, 2016 at 05:19 PM
Scott Stoness
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · polar bears in Churchill


I am reposting my answers to your pm questions in case its helpful to others:

1. You will be on the buggy from 10:30am to 3pm or so. I would bring as many batteries as you have. But I would think at most you would need 4-5 so bring 6 at least. Batteries do last longer when they are warm but I) it will not be that cold - perhaps 20-40f. and ii) my experience is that waming them only works tempoarly in emergency to eek out 5 more minutes ot permanently.


2. I don't think you have to worry about condensation. You will only be shooting on the tundra buggy. Most times someone will have a window open so it will not be overly cold. I have not experienced condensation problems. Condensation ocurrs when you come in from the cold into a humid place. The tundra buggy will not be that warm or muggy.

3. Pool noodle to rest on or similar is a good idea. You can bring a tripod or monopod but everytime that someone walks the bus will move. I prefer the shock absorber of my body. In addition there really is not enough room for a tripod when a bear comes everyone will rush outside and you will have enough to do to find a gap that tripod will be problematic. A monopod will be better but then you will miss shots when someone is walking. I brought tripod and monopod and never used them because of the logistics of where to put it, people tripping over it, bouncing buggy...

4. I was shooting aurora last night at iso 1600/f2 4seconds. Obviously 2.8 would be 8 seconds ant f4 would be 16 seconds... It depends on your lens, the brightness of the aurora. I usually put camera on manual setting. iso 1600, try 15s, wide open, and bracket +- 1 stop. If too dark, up the iso. to 3200 or 64000. If too light decrease the time to 5s or less. Keep in mind that what you see on your histogram is likely darker on computer. And shorter ss will look more defined. Set your lighbalance at 3200.

5. The number of bears is independent of weather. It will just be harder to see them if cloudy or snowy. Perfect would be a light cloud.



Oct 26, 2016 at 10:04 PM
Scott Stoness
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · polar bears in Churchill


In addition I am not sure if you have a choice - there are two tundra buggy companies and an hotel that has there own bus.

Take https://frontiersnorth.com/sites/default/files/u19/autumn_tbdaytours_dates2016.pdf

They each have a separate place they go on the beach. I think the above is best.




Oct 26, 2016 at 10:07 PM
 

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Scott Stoness
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · polar bears in Churchill


If you have some spare time, get the taxi driver to take you out to where dogs are quartered at edge of town. You might get pictures of polars playing with dogs.

Ask the taxi guy - do not get out of the vehicle anywhere near a bear.



Oct 26, 2016 at 10:09 PM
kameramann
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · polar bears in Churchill


thank you for answering my questions Scott.


Oct 26, 2016 at 10:12 PM
Scott Stoness
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · polar bears in Churchill


You are welcome - churchill in early November is one of the best wildlife experiences you can ever have. In my >8 trips I have never failed to see at least 12 polar bears in a day. You are in for a treat.

The key is

bring a good body (7d, 7dii or 5diii or 5div or 5dsr) and bring a long and a short lens (ideally 500 or 600 with 1.4s and 100-400 or equivalent). Your best shots will be further away because you are so high up in tundra buggy.

Bring lots of storage cards and ample batteries.

not to over-gear (tripods, monopods, more than 2 lens or bodies because you seating space is small unless you go on a speciality trip for just photographers on the tundra buggy, which has more space.

Have enough cloths/gloves to stand outside at 10f for 15 minutes.

Have fun, Scott






Edited on Oct 28, 2016 at 02:39 AM · View previous versions



Oct 27, 2016 at 12:55 PM
kameramann
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · polar bears in Churchill


Thanks again Scott.


Oct 27, 2016 at 10:36 PM







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