A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Top Wildlife Photos of the Year

Predatory Steps

Eirik Grønningsæter, Norway
Winner of the Animal Portraits award

There are lots of great photos of polar bears, so how do you come up with something new?

In the Animal Portraits category of the competition, photographers are invited to capture the character or spirit of an animal in an original and memorable way.

Eirik Grønningsæter set out to capture the view that a seal might have of an approaching polar bear. He spotted the bear from his boat. She was resting close to shore on Kvalbeinøya, an island in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

Knowing that polar bears are insatiably curious, Grønningsæter set up his camera on the snow, within sight of the bear, hoping that “the ground view and wide angle lens would give a totally different kind of image.”

Sure enough, the moment Eirik retreated to his boat, the bear made straight for the camera, checking it out from all angles, gently pushing it around, even picked it up in her mouth.

“By not including the whole animal, I wanted to leave the end of the story untold,” he said.

The intimacy also conveys a powerful gentleness about the polar bear. When eventually she got bored and dropped the camera, there wasn’t even a tooth mark in the rubber.

Canon EOS 40D + 10-16mm f.2.8 lens; 1/250 sec at f13; ISO 640; remote control.
© Eirik Grønningsæter / Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010

About polar bears

Polar bears are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a vulnerable species. Eight out of their 19 subpopulations are in decline. Along with the Kodiak bear, they are the world’s largest mammals, weighing up to 1,500 pounds. Most polar bears are born on land but spend much of their time at sea, hunting for seals. While they are good swimmers, they move from one ice flow to another on their expeditions, and the warming of the polar regions means fewer and smaller ice floes, making it more and more difficult for the bears to find food.