© Eric Meola 2011
Late one November morning in 1992 as I stood in my studio in lower Manhattan, a thought kept nagging at me—I had always wanted to photograph polar bears. The evening before I had convinced myself that the time wasn't right. The workshop to photograph polar bears had just a couple of openings, but as much as I tried to convince myself, I couldn't make up my mind. Heads I go, tails I don't. That morning, though, I kept asking myself "If now's not right, when is?"
Within minutes I changed my mind, got on the phone, called United Airlines, threw some clothes into a bag, along with film and batteries, and grabbed a taxi just outside the building. And then I hit a wall of midday traffic like I had never seen before. I was on my way to Churchill, Manitoba—a day, an overnight, and several connections from JFK airport.
I had just returned from Hawaii, I was exhausted, I had a huge assignment in less than a week, I was poorly packed, and...well, I just kept thinking about all the negatives. It was the first time I would be photographing with a group, and not just any group. Several world class nature photographers would be on board the "tundra buggy". What would it be like to travel in a group, in close quarters, seeing the same things everyone else was seeing, photographing the same polar bears in the same landscapes?
Two days later, as the buggy made its way across the ice and snow to Hudson Bay, and everyone was shooting out the side windows, I opening the back door and stepped out onto a platform to get my thoughts together. Christ, it was cold! Then, far in the distance, I spotted three polar bears crossing the deep blue ice drifts, and behind them a veil of fog and mist rising off the bay was lit up with the golden glow of sunrise. I shot an entire roll as the bears slowly approached, getting closer and closer. It was a special moment in a spectacular landscape, and now I had my answer: it was possible to travel in a large group and yet be in your own world, to see the same things but do your own thing, to be alone but talk the talk and to make my own images while enjoying this other-worldly place together.
Arctic fox on the ice © Eric Meola 2011
In September of 2012, I will be returning to the Arctic along with Arthur Meyerson, as a team of photographer-instructors. The workshop leaders for this 2012 Arctic Voyage, will be photographers John Paul Caponigro and Seth Resnick. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to join us in two weeks of photographing and exploring some of the most remote and majestic areas of the far North, from Spitsbergen to Greenland, with our final destination in Reykjavik, Iceland. Two weeks with great instructors, photographing fjords, polar bears, icebergs and puffins. Two weeks of exploring some of the most spectacular landscapes on Earth along with some of the most unique creatures on Earth, and two weeks of having fun while learning first hand from people who love to teach and who love to make your photographic dreams come true.