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Canada, Nunavut Territory, Repulse Bay, Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) climbing onto melting iceberg near Arctic Circle on Hudson Bay

“All the easy pictures have been taken. But I’m here to tell you there are still some stupid and crazy ones left out there.”

Coming September 2018, liveBooks client, Paul Souders, release his book Arctic Solitaire: A Boat, A Bay and the Quest for the Perfect Bear.

Published by Mountaineers Books, it tells the story of four summers’ worth of solo polar bear expeditions to the arctic ice of Hudson Bay. It’s a humorous look at all that goes into making polar bear pictures the hard way. No crew, no guides and no National Geographic expense money. Just a guy, a boat and a willingness to do almost anything for a photograph.

About Photographer Paul Souders

Souders never set out to be a nature photographer. He grew up between a trailer park and a chicken farm. Where he’s from, nature was mostly poison ivy, junk cars, and broken glass.

Souders began working as a new photographer back at his college newspaper in the early 1980’s. He started out imagining a career in photojournalism, and learned his craft at a small community newspaper outside Washington, DC. After a brief stint freelancing and maxing out credit cards to go cover an assortment of international conflict stories, he was broke and looking for a steady paycheck. Souders traveled north to another news job, up in Anchorage, Alaska. He spent most days chasing the happy staples of daily journalism; photographing house fires and car wrecks and local sports assignments. But along the way, he found himself drawn to the nature and wildlife he found outside his doorstep. He decided it was at least as much fun to go out and explore those subjects, and have focussed more and more on photographing wild places around the world.

In the 25 years since then, Souders has traveled to nearly seventy countries and visited all seven continents. Nearly all of it was shooting on spec for his stock photography agencies. He says,

“It was always a counterintuitive business model; spend my own money to go someplace, work endless hours creating new images, then hand them over to a stock photo agency, for free, in the hopes that they might actually sell the damn things. But it was a way for me to go out and do the work that I dreamed of doing, without having to beg for assignments or sponsors. It worked for a good long while, even if in the last few years, I’ve seen a precipitous decline in image royalties.”

Most recently, I’ve been drawn to working on longer boat expeditions to the arctic regions, and trying to tell the stories of a regions that’s undergoing rapid change. I already owned most of the gear and the boat I’d need, so I could keep my expenses down and spend lots of time out in the field.”

Canada, Nunavut Territory, Repulse Bay, Polar Bear Cub (Ursus maritimus) beneath mother while standing on sea ice near Harbour Islands

Q&A with Paul Souders

What made you decide to go out and do the solo polar bear expeditions?

A few years back, I started thinking about how to see and photograph polar bears on my own.

I had chartered proper expedition sailboats, steel-hulled seagoing yachts, to take more ambitious high-latitude expeditions; including a couple times up to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, near eighty degrees north latitude. I wanted to photograph polar bears and the barren, Arctic landscape. The place was otherworldly, halfway between the top of Europe and the North Pole—stark, frightening, and breathtaking in its austere beauty. It was also not cheap. The boat charter alone cost more than $25,000, on top of the extortionate costs of plane tickets, food, and the abundant stocks of liquor required to maintain the skipper’s good humor. Even during the photo industry’s flush years, I could never afford a three-week charter on my own, so I cast a wide net and dragged along anyone who could pay. A few even remained friends after the yelling was over. Others, well, there is no enemy quite like the one you make on a cold, cramped boat in the middle of nowhere, with no possible escape from each other. I will accept much of the blame. I know that I can be difficult.

I had come to photograph polar bears, and photograph polar bears I did. I would stand on deck in the cold wind for hour after toe-numbing, finger-freezing hour, doggedly scanning the ice. I adopted my best steely-eyed, thousand-yard stare, feet apart, and scanned the ice through a pair of bulky and overpriced German binoculars. When I finally spotted my quarry, I notified the skipper with a curt flick of my chin to show our new course, and say simply, “Bear.”

No wonder everyone hated me.

Before I found myself set adrift on some lonely iceberg by mutinous shipmates, I needed to find another way. I turned to my own small boat, named appropriately enough C-Sick. I imagined that if I could take her north, I might see polar bears on my own terms, living among them for weeks or months at time.

I wanted to go alone, since I never saw much point in venturing out into the wilderness as part of a group tour, paying good money to be alternately bossed around and cosseted by guides who were younger, smarter, and better looking than me. I wasn’t getting any younger, but I still imagined myself tough enough to travel hard across most any wilderness. Besides, sleeping in the dirt and eating dismal camp food makes good practice for the day my wife grows weary of these antics and changes the locks.

A trip like this could, and probably should, take years of preparation: a slow acquisition of the necessary skills and training and professional-grade equipment. Given enough time, anyone in their right mind would likely come to their senses and decide to stay home and catch up on the yard work instead. For me, it’s always made more sense to just go. Go before doubt creeps in, and then figure things out along the way. I wasn’t getting any younger and I imagined that, if nothing else, I could fail in truly spectacular and memorable fashion.

Canada, Nunavut Territory, Underwater view of Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) swimming near Arctic Circle along Hudson Bay

How would you describe your experience on your expedition?

The whole thing began as a sort of lark: I wondered if I could step out my front door and travel overland to the shores of a cold and mysterious sea; Hudson Bay, then set off by boat to see polar bears, maybe have some adventures? Whether any of this was possible, advisable, or even strictly legal, I never thought to ask.

Pretty much anybody can walk off the plane in Churchill, Manitoba, the self-proclaimed Polar Bear Capital of the World and, with the application of a few thousand dollars, hop onto the nearest oversized, overstuffed, and overpriced Tundra Buggy, and join a gaggle of other photographers and tourists to go trundling off to see dozens of polar bears in an afternoon. But that’s not really my style.

I decided that if I wanted to go out on my own, it would be a BYOB job—Bring Your Own Boat.

This is as good time as any to point out that I, at the time at least, I hated boats. I hated the smell of them. I hated the cloying dampness, the sea-sickening bobbing-cork lurch, and the musty, cramped spaces. I can’t be the first to notice that a life at sea offers all the benefits of prison time, with better odds of drowning.

Starting with the purchase of an inflatable boat barely ten feet long and a small ten-horsepower outboard motor, I assembled a mountain of gear in my garage. I packed up layer upon layer of long underwear and weather- proof sailing gear, goggles and gloves, hats and boots. I stuffed cases with photographic and underwater equipment. I gathered camping and survival gear, a stove and weeks’ worth of dried camp food, satellite phones and beacons and ‘bear-banger’ noisemaking shells.

I admit that I may have gone a little overboard with the bear protection. I found a tripwire fence that would emit a deafening shotgun-shell blast if a bear stumbled through its perimeter—great if you wanted to try reasoning with a wire-entangled, half-deaf, and fully enraged polar bear. I bought dozens of noisemaker shells and a pen-sized flare launcher, which was like the shittiest gadget from the worst Bond movie ever, a pen that goes “bang” . . . but not very loudly. I would deploy it in case stern looks and strong language failed to dissuade.

I’d owned C-Sick, a 22-foot cabin cruiser for a few years, and had traveled extensively along coastal Alaska. She was small enough—eight-and-a-half feet wide, and twenty-two feet long—to haul on a trailer, but came equipped with a rudimentary bed, table, and kitchen. She reminded me of my old VW camper.

I imagined a grand journey that would begin at the end of my driveway and ultimately deliver me to the top of the world. I started planning with an outdated Rand McNally road atlas. I traced the fat blue ribbons of American interstates to where they fed into an orange-colored line that marked the Trans-Canada Highway. From there, I could cross over the Rockies and traverse the rolling heartland prairie that spanned almost half the continent. After that, the path turned thin and red as it wound up into the northwoods of Manitoba, until finally dwindling to a tentative dotted track, like a string of breadcrumbs, that ended at a town I’d never heard of along a river I didn’t know existed.

If I could get past that last pinprick of a town, Gillam, and find the spot where my map showed the Nelson River flowing winding and blue, it would be only seventy-five miles to the vastness of Hudson Bay. From there, I’d hang a left at the river’s mouth and head north. It was only a couple hundred miles to Churchill. Beyond that, I counted five little dots, tiny towns or villages scattered along the coastline between Churchill and the Arctic Circle, nearly six hundred miles north as the crow flies.

And that was where I planned to spend as much time as I could, traveling along the edge of the melting summer ice and searching for polar bears.

Canada, Nunavut Territory, Young Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) peers through window of expedition boat on ice pack near Arctic Circle along Hudson Bay

How do you capture the “perfect” photograph?

The first year I went north, I had traveled ‘light,’ carrying my inflatable Zodiac dinghy, and outboard and 500 pounds worth of gear north on the train to Churchill, Manitoba in late June. I must have looked like a homeless, survivalist hoarder when I stepped off the train and unloaded everything.

I spent weeks driving the Zodiac through the melting sea ice on Hudson Bay, in northern Manitoba. I wound my way through the shifting maze, and stopped frequently, climbing up onto any high spot I could find on the ice, then slowly scanning the horizon with binoculars for the white-on-white outline of a bear. This had been going on for days, and I was venturing farther and farther from shore, feeling anything but hopeful about my prospects. But from one crumbled snow-covered ridge, I looked, and then looked again, and—to my surprise—saw movement. A half mile away, a young bear woke and quickly shambled from the ice off toward water.

Polar bears are creatures of the sea. Classified as marine mammals, they spend most of their lives on the ice or in the ocean. Though possessed of a fearsome reputation, most bears will often as not avoid human contact when they can. This one, a young female judging by her size and build, gradually calmed and began to grow curious as I slowly trailed her. We were soon moving through the water in tandem, separated by a hundred yards, then fifty, then—holy shit, that bear was really close.

I dumped my camera gear out of its waterproof cases and shot her with the works. Telephoto lens. Wide-angle lens. Underwater pictures with a housing and fisheye lens. I held the outboard’s throttle and steered the boat with one hand while shooting with the other. I even mounted one camera onto a six-foot boom and then awkwardly tried to swing it closer to her, but succeeded only in dunking the contraption into salt water, killing the camera, lens, and trigger.

Undeterred, I dug out a spare camera and began chewing the insulation off a copper wire to jury-rig a replacement shutter cord. As the bear swam beneath an iceberg, I managed to drift the boat in closer and hang the boom beside a hole in the ice. She rose to breathe and I began shooting, blindly pressing the shutter cable and hoping that something, anything, might be in focus. She submerged for a moment, then surfaced again for one more breath before disappearing beneath the ice.

I sat there for a long while, the scene burning into memory. But I was still more than thirty miles from shore, and darkness was gathering. I pulled the out- board’s starter cord, felt the motor catch, and steered my boat toward shore.

Canada, Manitoba, Churchill, Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) hides while submerged at edge of melting ice floe on summer evening

How did it feel you felt like you captured the perfect polar bear photos?

On the southbound train a week later, I finally had time to sort through all the photographs on my laptop. I finally got to that image sequence, and there was my bear, walking across the ice, swimming and diving. Suddenly, there it was: one magical image that I’d never seen before, nor imagined, not even in dreams. In it, the polar bear floats beneath the surface, staring back up at my camera, surrounded by ice and empty sea, lit by the burnished, hazy sun.

I laughed out loud, then started parading up and down through the passenger cars like some lunatic, showing the picture to a trainload of complete strangers.

Canada, Nunavut Territory, Close-up of Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) biting at camera near Arctic Circle along Hudson Bay

What else would you like to tell us about your book?

In the end, I spent four summers there, living weeks and months at a time on my small boat, cruising at the edge of the melting ice and searching for polar bears and other animals. I photographed dozens of polar bears living wild and unafraid near the Arctic Circle at the northern reaches of Hudson Bay. I spent vast amounts of time watching the bears as they moved along the melting sea ice and on shore. There were times when the bears relaxed completely, and I was able to show them staring through the boat’s window at me, or swimming through the water, hunting on the ice.

At the end of each day, while I was downloading and backing up my digital images, I began keeping a journal of each day’s dramas and minor disasters. I sometimes shared those in my blog, and that eventually evolved into my first book; Arctic Solitaire: A Boat, A Bay, and the Quest for the Perfect Bear.

The book took more than a year to write, and I finished it last summer while traveling alone up the coast of northern Labrador in a new boat, a 43-foot steel sailboat. Cranking out a quick dispatch or blog post is one thing, but writing a book uses a completely different set of muscles, and made me think about photography and wilderness travel in far greater depth than I had ever done.

A lot of folks imagine that working as a wildlife photographer is an altogether glamorous and wonderful job. On good days, it really is. But there’s also an incredible amount of hard work and frustration and disappointment. And, in my case anyway, a vast trove of ridiculous mistakes to be made. I like to think of this book not as a how-to manual for photographers, but more of a cautionary tale.

Find out more about the book here:

Purchase the book here:

Canada, Nunavut Territory, C-Dory expedition boat caught in sea ice in Frozen Strait near White Island on summer morning

Alan Karchmer has been a freelance architectural photographer for about forty years. His life in photography began while studying architecture. He got a camera and found that he had a good eye for form and space, and photography came naturally. Karchmer completed his Masters degree and began a career in architectural photography at that point.

He brings to his work an authoritative sense of space, form, texture, light and use. He hones in on defining angles in photographs that capture the spirit, life, and poetry of the architect’s vision. Karchmer’s photographs have been published in the architectural press worldwide, and appeared in major museum exhibitions.

Q&A with Alan Karchmer

Q1: How would you describe the aesthetic of your website in three words?

Image-centric, simple, engaging

Q2: How often do you typically update your website?

Not as often as I should, about twice a year.

Q3: How do you choose the photos that you display on your homepage?

First priority is strength of image. Then I look to represent the range of my portfolio and importance of the projects shown.

Q4: What is your favorite new feature of liveBooks8?

The ability to filter and find images within the Image Library using keywording.

Q5: What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone designing their website?

Think about what your prospective clients are looking for.

livBooks is a great platform for showcasing photography. The EditSuite interface is robust, intuitive, and easy to navigate and there is tremendous range to customize to tailor to your needs and aesthetic preferences. During the development stage when transitioning from the old Flash site to liveBooks8 I found support to be prompt, responsive, and thorough.

See more of Alan Karchmer’s work here.

T-2 Tanglewood House 2, West Stockbridge MA, Architect: Schwartz Silver Architects

Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa)

Donald M. Jones of Great Gray Imagery has been a full-time Wildlife Photographer for the past 25 years. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 10 seasons following college (B.S.’ Forestry and Finance) before his Photography career. It was during those years that he honed his skills and began selling images to outdoor publications around the country.

With the blessing’s of his wife, he went full time and didn’t look back. Donald M. Jones’ coverage spans the North American continent rather than the entire planet, as he thought it was more important to be a good husband and father than a globe trotter – he has no regrets…

Jones’ specialty is mammals, though birds are very close to his heart – just tougher to make a living with. All his subjects are wild – no Game Farms, pets or zoo animals. Jones’ clients are varied from most all the larger Natural History and sporting magazines to calendars, advertising companies, etc. His 12th book “Wild Montana” was just released this past March.

Elk (Cervus canadensis)

Q&A with Donald M. Jones

Q1: How would you describe the aesthetic of your website in three words?

DMJ: Simple – Clean – Vibrant

Q2: How often do you typically update your website?

DMJ: I update my “Recent Adventures” Portfolio about every 6-8 weeks. I add new images to my existing portfolios as I produce images that I feel will bolster a particular portfolio.

Sea Otter (Enhydra lutris) mother and pup, Price William Sound, Alaska.

Q3: How do you choose the photos that you display on your homepage?

DMJ: My homepage is simple. The name of my business is “Great Gray Imagery” Named after the largest Owl in North America. As a kid I always wanted to see a Great Gray Owl, I was fascinated by them so I named my business after them – yet I still had never seen one. Time has past and I have had the opportunity to spend a good deal of time with them (I will this weekend as a matter of fact) so what better homepage image than a full frontal of the “Gray Ghost” the Great Gray Owl.

Q4: What is your favorite feature of liveBooks?

DMJ: The uploading of new images is very simple and having the ability to design from my office desktop, awesome.

Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus)

Q5:What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone designing their website?

DMJ: I’ll comment on what I know and that’s Wildlife. If you are showcasing portfolios on a certain species be sure you show your depth of your coverage. I see too many sites where an individual wants to showcase a certain species, i.e. Elk – yet there coverage is all taken from a two week period once a year – I feel you don’t want a portfolio to look like you shot it over the holiday week. You want to have your perspective clients to say “if he has this, this, this and that, what else might he have.” I find it’s better to have 10 subjects done well than 100 subjects superficially done.

I find my website to critically important to those new clients but it’s my searchable database through my website that is the gift that keeps on giving with old and new clients alike. Let your website be a sampling of who you are but let those that care to review your entire library (or nearly entire library…) at there whim day or night.

See more from Donald M. Jones here:

Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

Michael Grecco is an award-winning internationally renowned director and photographer of celebrity portraits, advertising and editorial commissions, private collections and fine art.

One of the most respected and sought after visual storytellers in the world, his conceptual vision and signature dramatic lighting create distinctive images that are evocative, sophisticated and comedic. Grecco has been shooting iconic portraits of the most recognized entertainment stars such as Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Will Ferrell and Penelope Cruz.

Known not only for his high-concept imagery and his ability to light like no other, Grecco is also valued for his innate ability to connect with each subject to bring out surprising nuance and a conceptual twist that makes even the most recognizable faces intriguing and fresh. Photographing intimate portraits of celebrities, boxers, rappers, scientists, and business leaders, Grecco’s images captivate our attention and imagination. Thus he delivers on every aspect of his client’s vision, satisfying the most recognized brands including Apple, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Direct TV, and Pfizer.

On the pulse point of cutting edge technology and innovation, Grecco is a regarded expert and celebrated speaker on creativity, photography and his signature lighting and directorial technique worldwide. As a Hasselblad Master he is a sought after trainer, traveling the globe speaking and leading informative and hands on workshops.

His provocative documentary movie and accompanying book Naked Ambition has earned critical acclaim. His award winning still images are published the world over in magazines such as Esquire, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and Time.

Grecco is often referred to as the Master of Lighting. He is the author of the best-selling photographer’s guidebook: Lighting and the Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Celebrity and Editorial Photography, which is now available as an eBook. His lectures on photography are popular and he has been profiled extensively in key photographic trade journals.

Michael Grecco is based in Los Angeles. He is a devoted father to three children. In his spare time he can be seen exploring his hometown subcultures on his Triumph Bonneville with his favorite camera in tow, ready to find, capture and inspire.

Q&A with Michael Grecco

Q1: How would you describe the aesthetic of your website in three words?


Q2: How do you choose the work you display on your homepage?

MG: I worked closely with my film editor in picking images, Cinemagraphs and motion segments that would work together in the director’s real. All the images are from the portfolios on the site and then he made the final selects to use in the finished piece.

Q3: What is your favorite feature of liveBooks?

MG: That they have an already formatted backend that makes changing the content easy.

Q4: What’s one piece of advice you’d offer to someone designing their website?

MG: Take your time and do it right. We redid things that did not work, and it makes a difference in the end product.

Q5: Tell us about a recent project that you’re proud of.

MG: I am currently working on a 6-part documentary TV series, documentary film, book and fashion line based on some of my archival images.

“To shoot dramatic and conceptual portraits, I create moments to capture with my lens that unlock the hidden story of our innermost being to reveal the drama, comedy, and irony of who we really are.” – Michael Grecco

See more of Michael Grecco’s work here:


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