Special Prize International Polar Year
About the picture “Polar Bears”:
Camera: CANON 350D
Lens: Canon zoom EF 100-400mm (at 400mm)
The picture was made on June 17 2006 between 02.00 and 02.30 a.m. in the sea east of Olav V Land (Spitsbergen).
On previous trips to photograph the nature and wildlife of Spitsbergen (sailing trip in 1986 and hiking trip in 1992) I didn’t encounter any polar bears, and so it was a dream that came true when I could make these (and on this same trip some more) photo’s of this magnificent animal. After a few days of hail- and snowstorms, the pack-ice was covered with a virgin-white blanket, which made the environment look even more “arctic” than before, and the sun made it possible to make pictures 24 hours a day, so we didn’t miss any photographic opportunity.
I started to practice nature photography in 1979 and started to do presentations and slideshows to show the public the beauty of the mountains’nature and the threats it was under. The first presentation was about the Parc National de la Vanoise in the French Alps and somewhat later I made a slide-show on the province of Huesca with some fellow nature-photographers, which we could show to a large audience.
In 1980 we had formed a club (- see: www.bvnf.be) to promote responsible nature- and wildlife-photography (“nature and its welfare are more important than any picture of it”), and to provide nature-conservation groups with pictures made with respect for nature. Today this club has some 250 members. As a club we provide pictures for magazines, have exhibitions and organize an international festival on nature photography. I have been editing ‘Objectief’ the club’s magazine since more than 20 years now.
Right from the start for me nature-photography wasn’t just a hobby, but part of my commitment to nature. Actually I participate with BVNF in a project on climate change that WWF-Belgium is preparing for schools. Photographing nature and wildlife in many parts of the world over the years, allowed me to provide pictures for this project from polar regions over tropical forests to mountains and deserts .
The fact that the Memorial Maria Luisa had a special category on the International Polar Year was what attracted me in this contest.
I believed the photos I have made of the bears express very well the atmosphere of the Arctic and its wildlife in the same way I experienced it. And so I am very grateful the jury have seen this in my pictures.
Alfons Van den Heuvel, Belgium