For me, the chance to go to the Arctic and film polar bears was a dream come true. I have filmed brown bears in Alaska and Canada on a number of occasions but this was to prove to be a very memorable trip indeed. I was one of four cameramen on the trip each there with a specific role to play. Mine was twofold, firstly I was to shoot all the behind the scenes and interviews, and secondly I had with me a remote operated vehicle which I designed and built for filming underwater and had modified specifically for filming under the ice.
The main aims of the shoot were to try and capture a succesfull aquatic stalk and kill by a polar bear as well as the unbelievable rock climbing that a few of these bears undertake to raid birds nests high on the clifs of Svalbard. During the arcic summer as the bears normal habitat, the ice, melts to leave a sea of broken bergs the bears are forced to adapt their hunting strategies in order to survive. Seals, the bears staple diet, haul out on the small floating islands of ice and the bears only hope of a successfull kill is to attempt an aproach in the water untill close enough to pounce. Not suprisingly only 1 in 10 are succesfull making our ods of filming one very slim. Much of the 5 week trip was spent simply trying to find bears who were hunting.
Almost as hard to film was the bird cliff sequence as we had to divide our time between the two objectives. and it could be a few days steaming between locations. Our first two visits to the cliffs yeilded no bears. and it wasnt untill the last two days of the trip that we finally spotted a lone bear, high up on the rocks. Once up there they may stay for several days or longer but our time on location was running out. Due to changes in circumstances I ended up filming the long lens shots of this incredible display on the F55. An earlier attempt by cameraman Rolf Steinman to climb up and get on a level with the bear unfortunately proved unworkable due to the shape of the cliffs. Luckily I was able to position myself to get a clear view from down on the beach. Not the pretties angle but it certainly demonstrated the amazing agility and daring of these beautiful animals.