Smell the flowers: Manitoba photographer snaps photos of frolicking polar bears
Published Saturday, August 22, 2015 3:30PM EDT
A Manitoba-based photographer is turning heads online over a series of photos of playful polar bears stopping to smell the flowers.
Dennis Fast snapped the photos in 2008 during his time as a nature guide at Seal River Lodge, built on the shores of Hudson Bay about 60 kilometres from Churchill, Man. But they’ve recently earned renewed attention after being picked up by several photography websites, as well as Buzzfeed.
The images were captured on an unnamed island in the Hudson Bay that Fast calls “Fireweed Island” on account of a patch of bright fuschia flowers. He says it’s become somewhat of a summer getaway for polar bears.
“They come off the ice and they loaf all summer,” Fast said. “There are lots of beluga whales, and they try to catch those when they can. It’s just become a popular spot.”
To get the pictures, Fast positioned himself inside an electric fence, his camera at the ready.
“Any self-respecting bear could lean on it hard and it would be down,” he said. “Hopefully when they feel that little jolt in the nose, they’ll back off. And they usually do.”
He estimates that “a dozen” bears were there the day he caught the pictures, and one got a little curious.
“We make it a policy not to get closer than 50 metres, but sometimes bears don’t follow the rules,” he said. “One bear had touched the electric fence, he was coming back and he wanted me in the worst way. I’m, gosh, 10 feet away from them?”
The photographer was armed with firecrackers and a gun, neither of which he needed to use; the bear eventually backed away, leaving Fast to focus on the shot.
Fast has been a nature photographer since the 1980s, and began visiting Churchill regularly in the 1990s to run photography workshops. His photos have been featured in several books, including “Touch the Arctic,” a coffee table book published in 2015.