As the Arctic warms, the sea ice is melting earlier and forming later. No sea ice means no platform for polar bears to catch their main food source, ringed seals, which almost never come onto land.
Polar Bears International is dedicated to securing a future for polar bears across the Arctic. As part of this tour, we are excited to be donating to their important conservation work. In addition, you will receive several exclusive Polar Bears International presentations to learn first-hand about the latest polar bear trends, research, and conservation challenges.
This tour is all about polar bears. You’ll photograph polar bears walking along the shoreline, testing the sea ice, cubs playing with one another, and if we are lucky adults wrestling and sparring with another. There are endless photography possibilities, including every pose and portrait you can imagine.
Seeing polar bears in the wild is special. But photographing wild polar bears on foot, while learning about polar bear conservation, is an experience unlike any other.
From mid-October to mid-November, polar bears congregate near Churchill to test the newly formed sea ice. It’s been months since they’ve consumed a seal, their primary source of food, and they are eager for to disperse out onto the sea ice as it’s solid. Unlike most other popular bear populations, these bears are tolerant of human activity, which allows for close encounters and amazing photographic opportunities.
Our typical day starts shortly before sunrise, when you will be picked up in a SUV from your hotel. Next, it’s time to find some polar bears. All day, with the exception of a quick lunch break, we are in polar bear photography mode.
We rely on expert guides to get us in the best possible positions. Often times, this means leaving a good position to go to a better one. When we do find a polar bear, we are usually able to get out of the vehicle and photograph polar bears while on foot. This gives us many more compositional options and some times we’ll even get right down to ground level to create a more intimate perspective.
Our polar bear viewing ends at sunset, usually around 5pm. After a group dinner, we will head back to our hotel. If it’s a clear sky, chances are good that we will see the aurora, and if so, we will head back out around 10pm to photograph the Northern Lights.
We want help you to become a better photographer. And to do so, we’re going to go the extra mile. Before the tour, we will have 3 hour long one-on-one sessions with you to understand your shooting style, discuss topics of interest (such as field techniques, composition, post-processing), and provide guidance to help you grow as a photographer and storyteller.
During the tour, we will have at least 2 optional image review sessions so that we critique our images and thereby make necessary adjustments while we’re in the field.
After the tour, there will be 3 more hour long one-on-one sessions to help you choose and edit your favorite images from the tour, and discuss other topics of interest. We will also organize a Zoom group event so each of us can present our favorite images and share stories.
Our policy is simple: ask us anything at anytime about gear, technique, strategy, composition, post-processing and beyond. We are here to help you!
The tour departs from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. This year we are not including the cost of the return airfare in the tour price, which gives the option to either fly or take the train to Churchill. We can help you to make the travel arrangement of your choice!
How many polar bears will I see?
Wildlife is unpredictable, BUT we are going at the absolute best time of year to maximize our chances of seeing polar bears. Last year, we saw 15 different polar bears in one day. On another days, it may be 3-5. It depends. The good news is that a sighting can last for a long time. We’re likely to see mom and cubs, sub-adults, and fully grown males and females.
What other wildlife can we see?
Foxes. Lots of foxes. Last year, we saw all 4 different kinds: the arctic fox, the red fox, the cross fox and the silver fox (the latter are variants of the red fox). We are also likely to see ptarmigans, arctic hares, and if we’re really luck, wolves and wolverines (there’s usually 1-2 sightings per polar bear season).
How cold will it be?
Cold and very cold. Temperatures will typically range from -10 to -35 degrees Celsius with the windchill (that’s 14 to -31 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s crucial to bring layers to stay warm, starting with a foundational base layer and a series of successive layers to keep warm. I recommend very warm socks, insulated winter boots that go to your shin (since we may walk through snow drifts), and two pairs of gloves. One base layer that allows you to operate your camera and one larger set up of gloves or mittens that you can slide on top. Last year, I had heated glove liners and it was a game changer. Camera gear is metallic and our fingers are the most at risk from the cold. If you can come with heated gloves or glove liners, you won’t regret it!
What focal range do you recommend?
Churchill is a destination where the more focal reach you have, the better. I advise a focal reach of at least 400mm, though there are definitely times when you can shot a lot wider.
Can I bring a tripod?
Absolutely, there’s lots of space in the back of the vehicles for tripods and monopods.
What's the bathroom situation?
It’s good. There are several places, including the airport and research center, where we can stop to use the washroom when we’re out in the field.
What's the food situation in Churchill?
There are a few hearty restaurants, which are mostly located in the main hotels in town. Each night we will go for a group dinner. There’s also a grocery store and liquor store that is a 2 min walk from our hotel. It’s also a good idea to bring snacks from home.
What's the cell coverage like?
In Churchill town, it’s solid. We tend to lose connection as we venture out for the day. There will also be wifi at your hotel.
Send us an email and we’ll be happy to arrange a time to chat through everything with you and answer any questions you may have.
- All polar bear guiding
- Photography instruction
- Shared accommodation
- All meals
- Transportation to Churchill
- Insurance (required)
We value our guests, so everyone who travels with the Wildlife Collective will automatically receive a 5 percent discount on all subsequent tours. It’s our way of saying thank you for your support!
All of our tours have a conservation focus. We will learn about the challenges facing our primary subject and ongoing conservation work. Plus, every tour makes a donation to a conservation partner.
We take you to the world’s most amazing wilderness destinations, which were chosen based on our ability to offer our guests the ultimate wildlife photography experience.
Every tour includes photography sessions before, during, and after the tour. With our hands on learning, you are going to leave our tours as a better photographer. Ask us anything at anytime!
We will never exceed 8 clients per instructor, and in most tours, the ratio will be even smaller. This ensures that you get the personalized attention that you deserve on our tours.
We work with the world’s best wildlife guides, who also happen to be our good friends. They are experienced, keep us safe, and put us in the best possible position to create a compelling image.