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David Yarrow

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Kaktovik, Alaska - 206

On one unforgettable August evening in the North Slope of Alaska, I was offered a spectacularly close encounter with a group of polar bears. In the modest village of Kaktovik, I worked with two locals who had a boat license to trawl along the land slip. ... show more
HELLO
Kaktovik, Alaska - 206

On one unforgettable August evening in the North Slope of Alaska, I was offered a spectacularly close encounter with a group of polar bears. In the modest village of Kaktovik, I worked with two locals who had a boat license to trawl along the land slip. They knew the topography of the area intimately and I had briefed them on my style which favoured height alignment and close proximity. However, they also work within strict safety laws and are absolutely forbidden to approach or harass the bears. They can stay still and allow the bears to approach them, so long as they are protected by the hull of their little fishing boat.

I trusted my Inuit guide - he had a weathered and wise countenance and spoke with such familiarity on each bear we saw from our little boat. After two hours of trawling the land strip one evening, the big moment arrived and on reflection I did the very best I could do given the special scene that unfolded in front of me.

This image was run in the British press a few days after my encounter on Barter Island. It is something of a platitude to say that the bigger an image is printed, the greater the detail, but on this occasion it is very pertinent for two reasons.

Firstly, a polar bear is a huge animal. If possible, any portrait should reflect this.

Secondly, the bear is pin sharp around its eyes. I think that I must have been as close to a polar bear as is possible in the wild and lived to tell the tale. I was also using Nikon’s flagship 58m lens, which captures every hair at the assigned focal point. When the first large print of the image came off the drum in LA, one of the team turned to me and said, ‘David, look at the eyes – you are in them!’. He was right; I had inadvertently taken a selfie through the eyes of a polar bear.
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