Professional photographer Harry Skeggs has a passion for wildlife. Based in London, England, he has visited 50 countries in pursuit of the perfect shot to feed his love for wildlife photography. Recently, he went on an arctic expedition specifically to shoot polar bears … with his camera, of course!
White World- Harry Skeggs
Introduction to Spitsbergen: Polar Bear Safari was the perfect trip for Harry’s quest. It took him to the heart of polar bear habitat, where as many as 3,500 polar bears are believed to live. Little did he know that he was hot on the trail of a shot that would win second place in Quark Expeditions®’ cover photo contest!
Venturing into a Natural Polar Bear Habitat
Harry’s traveled all over the globe, from the jungle to the desert, but nothing prepared him for the quiet calm of the Arctic.
“It’s an abstract, silent world,” says Harry. “I couldn’t hear a wave, couldn’t hear the wind and couldn’t hear another person. It was absolutely fantastic. It really felt like I was on the other side of the world, away from all the humans. It has a very muted color – all browns, whites and blacks – unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. It’s almost moonlike.”
Abandoned- Harry Skeggs
Although the expedition team was constantly on the lookout for polar bears, the first few days of the voyage didn’t yield a lot of sightings. But there were many other incredible vistas, and the monochromatic aspects of the terrain appealed to his photographer’s eye, plus the adventurer in him was intrigued by the isolation. Harry also liked that he could do as much or as little as he wanted.
“I absolutely loved the kayaking,” he says. “It was amazing traveling around icebergs, just seeing these massive things so up close. We also visited some arctic bird cliffs, where there are hundreds of thousands of nesting birds. It was incredible.”
Approaching Wildlife Photography on Expedition
According to Harry, getting the best wildlife shot has as much to do with luck as it does with skill and patience. As far as polar bears go, his luck changed a few days into his trip.
“One day, we saw 10 polar bears on the same sheet of ice at the same time, all quite a long way away, but there was a huge amount of interaction. As the day went on, one actually made a beeline toward us, so I watched it the whole way,” says Harry.
The Path Less Trodden- Harry Skeggs
While many of the other passengers were inside for lunch, Harry set up camp on the deck to watch the bears. That’s when he got his best shot.
“I wanted to show this lonely, barren part of the world,” he explains. “When the bear turned and walked away, I took a wide shot with its tracks in the foreground, which evoked a little more story and atmosphere that spoke to the polar bear’s lonely existence on the ice.”
Topping an Arctic Expedition with Awards, Accolades & More
Harry’s photo also won him accolades in National Geographic’s 2016 Nature Photographer of the Year contest. His work has been featured in all of the United Kingdom’s national newspapers, in print and online, and he’s won a number of other awards in photographic competitions. So what’s next?
“I’m working on leading some nature photography tours to all corners of the globe,” he says. “I’ve traveled to 50 other countries, so I’m confident taking people around the world. I’ll be doing my own traveling and photography and continuing to shoot for competitions.”
His advice to future wildlife photographers?
Downwind- Harry Skeggs
“A lot of wildlife photography just comes down to patience, especially in the Arctic,” he says. “You know, you may get good excursions where you see [a lot] – I think we saw 15 polar bears – and the trip before saw none. So it’s one of those things where you just keep on going, and if you don’t see it this time, next time maybe you will.”
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