©Martin Gregus

Basking in Blooms

A typical photo of a polar bear is often made against the backdrop of a predictably icy white scene. But Martin Gregus wanted to capture the bears in the summer months, when their snow white coats contrast the colorful wildflowers that bloom in a remote area about three hours north of Churchill, Manitoba.

In 2020 and 2021, he spent 33 summer days with the bears, successfully capturing them lazing about in fields of bright purple blooms. He used his drone for aerial captures high and low. He thinks of it as a camera on a tripod with a remote-control trigger that allows him to get intimate perspectives without endangering himself or disturbing the wildlife.

Many challenges come with a polar bear photography trek: Arctic conditions are harsh, the primitive camp has no shower or toilet, food is in short supply, and the bears attempt to enter camp at night. Gregus says he sometimes hears them sniffing on the other side of the wall, and they have to be frightened away. Despite the challenging conditions, Gregus describes photographing polar bears—one bear trusted him enough that she brought her cubs within 10 to 15 feet of him, where she left them for two hours—as an emotional experience. “It’s almost relaxing to be in the bear’s [presence],” he says. “There is something so emotional and raw about it that I just find pleasure in it, just sitting there and watching these animals live in the moment.” 

Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.