Congratulations are in order for two veteran Churchill Wild photographers and photo leaders! Both Dennis Fast and Robert Postma had photos that were taken at Seal River Heritage Lodge selected for the most recent Canada Post Stamp Collection: Snow Mammals.
The selection committee chose a photo of a stalking Arctic fox taken by Fast and a photo of a cute ermine that popped up for Postma at Seal River. The fact that two of the five photos in the collection were captured at Seal River Heritage Lodge was amazing in itself, considering the stiff level of competition.
The Snow Mammals collection features stunning photos of five Canadian mammals: ermine, snowshoe hare, Arctic fox, Peary caribou and northern collared lemming. Each stamp also has a reproduction of its subject’s tracks in the snow, composed with fluorescent ink and only visible under ultraviolet light.
The animals for the collection were selected based on the fact that that their coats change colour with the seasons, from shades of brown or grey in the summer months to weightier whites during the winter, providing them with effective camouflage and increasing their chances of survival in the harsh Artic environment.
For Postma, who has been a photo leader at Churchill Wild for over a decade, it was the second time one of his photos had been selected for one of the prestigious Canada Post stamp collections. His photo of a grizzly bear was also chosen as part of the iconic Canadian Bears Stamp Collection in 2019.
While both photographers and authors have received numerous awards for their photos, the Canada Post honour was a new one for the 77-year-old Fast, who was the first chief photographer, guide and photo leader to walk with polar bears at Churchill Wild. Fast spent over 20 years leading polar bear photography tours at the Churchill Wild ecolodges while also becoming a world-renowned wildlife photographer and author.
“I was surprised when I found out,” said Fast, who was also interviewed by CBC news (see the 50-minute mark of the clip). “It’s my first, and a rare treat. That photo was taken in 2013 and there was a phenomenal number of Arctic foxes around the lodge. We had 30 every day. Some days we saw 50. There would be 20 around the lodge all day long and more scooting along the coast. It was a wonderful time.”
Postma, who led polar bear safaris at all three of the Churchill Wild ecolodges in 2019, also remembered the day he captured his ermine photo.
“We were out on the viewing platform at Seal River waiting for the polar bears to arrive,” said Postma. “I’d seen this little ermine running back and forth around the yurt. He’d pop down holes and pop back up, but he was using a few different holes consistently. So I set up my camera and waited by one of them. Once he popped up, I got a few shots, then he’d pop down and I’d wait, and back up he’d come and I’d get a few more shots. I just kept shooting until I got a couple keepers.”
Neither Postma nor Fast were at the Churchill Wild ecolodges in 2020, as the pandemic put a damper on polar bear safaris for the year, but both hope to back again soon. In the meantime, they’ve found other ways to amuse themselves.
Postma, who is a registered nurse, hails from Whitehorse, Yukon, and when he’s not out in the surrounding communities protecting people as part of the mobile vaccination team, he’s wandering around the stunning Yukon countryside taking photos with his girlfriend Rebecca.
“We’ve had it pretty good here,” said Postma. “We haven’t had a lot of cases. Technically, I’m okay to travel and I have a few summer storm chasing trips planned. I also want to go to Vancouver Island to capture some greenery, ocean and trees. And then hopefully be back up at the polar bear lodges in November.”
Fast has also been sticking close home in Steinbach, Manitoba, with his wife of 56 years, Frieda, who is also a photographer. They’ve been driving around the countryside capturing anything interesting that presents itself. Fast was supposed to be an artist in residence in Georgia (USA) this winter, but that assignment was cancelled due to the pandemic, as was a 10-week trip to California.
“We got some great deer shots at Buffalo Point,” said Fast. “But I’ve actually been spending a lot of time in the backyard photographing bugs. There’s a fascinating world of insects out there that you just take for granted, until you start looking.
“I’m also doing a lot more movies now, and the behaviour that gets revealed is incredible, especially when I’m doing slow motion video. Like hummingbirds fighting with wasps. Sometimes the wasps will drive the hummingbird off and sometimes the hummingbird wins. I’m going to post one of those videos to my Facebook page soon.”
Fast found a bonus during the pandemic year, when he was invited to display his photos in an empty mall space that a tenant had vacated. That resulted in some unexpected print sales over the winter, and he also noticed an uptick in sales on his website.
Still, like Postma and the rest of us, Fast wants to get back into action doing what he does best.
“I’m hoping to do some filming at the Churchill Wild lodges,” said Fast.
“Someday before I’m 104.”