Paul Souders of Seattle won the Grand Prize in the latest National Wildlife Federation photo contest. His entry was an amazing shot of a polar bear peering up at him from beneath the water in Hudson Bay.
During the summer of 2012, Souders gathered together 500 pounds of gear, including a Zodiac boat and outboard motor, as he explains in his blog. He hauled the equipment 1,800 miles from his home in Seattle to the end of the road in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada. Then he continued on by train another 600 miles to Churchill, Manitoba, all so he could take his time on the water, aiming to get the best possible photos.
Souders spent days in the Zodiac, waiting and watching before this female bear presented herself — and then he continued to wait to make her comfortable with him.
“Maybe that’s why this image feels so much like a gift,” Souders writes. “Having come so far and worked so hard to find this one special bear, tolerant of my presence, curious but not aggressive.”
He first thought his best shot was the moment the bear raised her head out of the water. Later, when he looked at his images, he realized he had an even better one. The bear had been watching him from underwater as he waited, and that was winning shot.
Souders and his bear photo also won a top prize in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, co-sponsored by the Natural History Museum of London and BBC Worldwide. The category was “Animals in their Environment.” See all the winning photos on the website of the Natural History Museum. Details of that competition, which will take new entries for 2014 starting today, can be found on the “enter page.”
As for the National Wildlife Federation contest, that competition is now in its 43rd year. Associated with “National Wildlife” magazine, the contest received some 43,000 entries during 2013. The slide show below shows the top winners. You may also wish to read the stories behind the photos.