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Making Animals Real…

…in a world that is losing animals. In my lifetime, half the world’s population of animals has disappeared. Increasingly, animals are known to us not by their presence in our lives, but by their disappearance as they become endangered, rare, and extinct. We have to think about animals in new ways and call them back into our lives. To learn to see them again and anew, which is a precondition to learning to live with them in a more sustainable way. I want animals to be living presences, not vanishing afterthoughts. I tell stories that recall animals and make them real to us again. Read my blog and other pieces I write to see the world through the eyes of animals.

World Polar Bear Day is February 27 | Polar Bears at Midnight

The gray clouds lifted as we crossed the Arctic Circle. The sun emerged, brighter and brighter. It was night, but not dark. About midnight, our guide announced that he had spotted polar bears on a small island almost a mile ahead. We scrambled into the Zodiacs. The ocean and ice and the blue sky had a golden haze from the sun, which was low on the horizon.

We found the bears about midnight. Resting near the shoreline, they were only partially visible behind a driftwood log. One bear lifted its head, regarding us without concern. When two smaller bears also lifted their heads, we realized this was a mother bear with two large cubs. The sun lit them from the side, and they glowed with a golden fringe.

In our Zodiacs, we idled offshore, not wanting to disturb the bears. The mother stood and walked along the edge of the water. One of her cubs followed. The air was still, the water on the ocean glassy smooth. As they padded slowly on the snow, their images reflected off the mirrored sea.

The mother bear stopped and began scratching at the snow. The second cub shuffled to catch up, its fur bouncing. The mother was excavating a hole in the snow and ice. She took several swipes with her huge paws to scoop out a spot which she sat and leaded back. She had made a seat for herself with back support. It was her nursing chair and, incredibly, she let us watch as her cubs nursed.

We spent an hour with these midnight bears. For really good photographs of wild animals, you have to let them show you how they want to be photographed. It may sound strange, but you have to watch them for that moment when they will reveal themselves to you. You have to let them control the interaction. This is how you get the intimate moments. This is how creatures let you in. This mother bear was in charge. The result? Three midnight photos: the bears looking at us, lit by the sun; the bears reflected in the stillness of the sea; and the mother reclining as she nursed her cubs.

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