Wild and bracingly beautiful, the Arctic captured photographer Florian Ledoux’s heart at age ten. “The scale of the landscape and the incredible species that live there draw me to the Arctic. I was deeply touched when I took my first journey above the Arctic Circle and that feeling continues to intensify as I explore further,” says Ledoux.
These days, Ledoux finds himself traversing land and sky in Iceland, Greenland, Canada, and beyond, with a focus on capturing footage of the landscape and wildlife. While working as photojournalist in the French Navy, Ledoux honed his skills on a personal project where he photographed Greenland’s Inuit culture and their relationship with the land. He has entered a number of his photos into the 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contest.
In 2017, Ledoux sailed off in search of polar bears near Canada’s Tremblay Sound. After an unsuccessful night of searching, Ledoux and his team encountered a large piece of ice the next day that held promise—the ice was ideal for polar bears to hunt prey. As they approached the area, the group found what they were looking for—four polar bears hopping from ice sheet to ice sheet, scouting for seals. To find a new perspective of the scene, Ledoux captured the bears wandering the ice from above: “I used a drone to capture aerials because drones bring a new perspective to traditional wildlife photography.” On top of the challenges the Arctic poses for drones—from extreme cold to the magnetic poles impacting devices and even compass errors—Ledoux operated his drone from the moving sailboat to create his images.
Ledoux approaches all habitats with care, researching animal behavior and spending time learning about wildlife before he is in the field. He seeks to photograph the larger story of the Arctic and the animals that live there against the odds. “For me there is no better feeling than being close to them and sharing space. I will always remember my first polar bear encounter—I cried during the three hours we stayed near them.”
The Arctic has become the photographer’s home away from home and drives his photographic passion. “Those moments are incredible to me, something happens within me—it is a deep vibe that consumes all my body and soul. It’s what I live for. When I photograph, I’m somewhere else.”
What’s next for Ledoux? He plans to work on his long-term Arctic project, capturing aerial footage at different times of the year. In the meantime, he’s guiding Arctic tours with his partner to help educate visitors and share his photographic passion.
Think you have the winning photo? Enter your best nature photography for a chance to be named the 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year. Submissions end November 17th.