Vancouver – Green grass, blue skies and polar bears.
It’s not a combination of many people picture when they think of the sly creatures in the Canadian Arctic, but it is one that was captured by Martin Gregus. His breathtaking and intimate photographs of polar bears enjoying the summer sun have earned them one of wildlife photography’s most coveted honors.
This week the Vancouver man won the Rising Star Portfolio Award in the Natural History Museum’s 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, an award given to young photographers ages 18 to 26. His work will be exhibited in a London, UK, museum and will be visited later. Worldwide.
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“It was just like a dream come true,” he told Granthshala National News of winning the award. “I’ve been doing photography since I was eight years old.”
Gregus and his team, which included his assistant and a bear guard, traveled to Hudson Bay for 13 days in 2020 and 20 days in 2021 to get up close and personal with local wildlife.
“We managed to document some incredible behaviors, and it was so exciting to wake up in the morning and see these bears right in front of our window,” he said.
But according to Gregus, it’s not just about being in the right place at the right time. Part of the work involves avoiding interference with the animals and allowing them to become accustomed to your presence—something that’s evident in a photo of them, in which a mother nurses her two cubs.
“The thought of it gives me goosebumps,” he said of the photo. “[It was] Very intimate, and it’s just hours and hours of homework that you do to introduce yourself to these bears.”
Other photos from the winning set included two female polar bears playing in shallow water, along with an adult taking an afternoon nap in the grass with cubs.
Many of the photos were taken using drones, allowing Gregus to observe the surrounding wildlife while keeping his distance.
However, keeping the bears away was not always that easy. Camping in the woods without a bathroom can expose a person.
“Every time you need to go, you take a gun with you and you just go out and find a nice area and you hide there and sometimes polar bears go,” Gregus said. .
Gregus had to beat a wide field to win his prize.
“Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the largest wildlife photography competition in the world. It’s been running for 57 years,” Natalie Cooper, a competition judge and senior researcher at the Museum of Natural History, told Granthshala National News. “This year we had over 50,000 entries and we had to narrow them down to just 100.”
This year’s competition included prizes in 19 categories and several accolades.
“What we’re looking for are technically excellent photos, but also really beautiful photos, so things that make you stop and think and keep looking at them,” she said. “We’re also interested in things that also have a story behind them.”
Gregus also wasn’t the only Canadian to be recognized for his wildlife photography.
Gil Wiesen of Mississauga, Ont. won two awards. One was in the “behavior: invertebrate” category, as a spider was in the middle of weaving with its webbing to its close-up. Two more of her pictures received praise under this category.
His second prize was in the “Urban Wildlife” category, where he photographed a large Brazilian wandering spider guarding his newborn, finding them under the bed and sleeping.
Vancouver’s Shane Cullin also won an award in the “Behavior: Birds” category with close-ups of two of his beloved crows.
Selina Chien was praised in the category “photojournalism” for her photo of a Bornean orangutan holding bars between enclosures in a zoo, and Nicole Vijayan in the category “11-14 years” for her photo of an eastern bluebird. Appreciated for the picture. .