See what happens when a polar bear finds a camera

For the photographer, it was “the worst moment in my photography career.”

Not too long ago I was the guide on a wildlife-photography trip to Svalbard, an archipelago halfway between Norway’s mainland and the North Pole. After two days of travel on a small passenger ship along the harsh and icy coast, we reached Hornsund fjord on the southern tip of Spitsbergen island. Wildlife is abundant in this remote and fragile area, and we were looking for seals and polar bears.

When we anchored the boat at the fjord ice, we spotted several seals resting on the ice, but no polar bears. I thought I’d try to get a picture of a seal as it came up for breath at a hole in the ice. I placed my camera and a motion sensor near the edge of a hole. The plan was that the motion sensor would fire the camera when the seal poked its head into the air. The image would capture the seal with the cold and hostile environment behind it.

On the way back to the ship, I wondered whether I should have anchored the camera, just in case. But returning to the hole would have disturbed the seals further and possibly prevented me from getting the shot. I decided not to do it.

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