Award-winning photographer Robert Postma couldn’t have picked a more perfect time for his return to Churchill Wild and Manitoba.
Postma’s photo of a polar bear on the ice (shown above) at Seal River Heritage Lodge was selected from among thousands to represent Manitoba in Lonely Planet’s announcement that the province had been chosen for their Best in Travel 2019 Top Regions list. Quite an honour on both fronts! Additionally, a number of Postma’s photos appear in our new anniversary book Churchill Wild — 25 Years of Adventure on the Hudson Bay Coast.
Postma returns to Manitoba on October 30 as the Photo Leader for our Polar Bear Photo Safari at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge and then moves on to the Great Ice Bear Adventure at Dymond Lake Ecolodge, which he’s been leading for the past five years.
The 47-year-old from Whitehorse, Yukon hasn’t been at home much lately. Since finishing up with the Great Ice Bear Adventure last year he’s led photo tours to India, France, Iceland, Africa and back to Canada to photograph Spirit Bears in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest.
Postma’s subjects on his trips have included tigers and leopards in India, the White Horses of the Camargue in France, landscapes in Iceland, bears in Canada and giraffes, elephants, lions, leopards, crocodiles and “everything else wild” in Africa.
“I coordinate private group tours with a friend,” said Postma. “If people want photography training I provide it, but some people already know what they’re doing and just want to go to cool places with someone who has been there before. It helps increase your odds of getting that perfect shot, the real keeper.
“We already know what to do and where to go in these places, and which areas hold the most potential for getting a great photo. And the more times you go to a place, the more chances you have to get that shot. I’ve been to Iceland more than 20 times and I still keep going back.”
The most exciting part of Postma’s recent trips?
“I would say coming face-to-face with a wild tiger in India,” said Postma. “That was pretty crazy. You can’t get out of the jeep and it’s low to the ground. He was about a foot away from us, and I have a great respect for the power of wild animals. Lions are tough, but tigers are stronger, beautiful and more athletic. I don’t really have a favourite, I just love wildlife in general, and birds too, but after polar bears, I guess I prefer the big cats. It’s their sleekness, power and grace.”
Postma has been leading photo tours at Churchill Wild for a number of years now and has been to all three polar bear lodges, but this year he wanted to make sure he got back to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge to see the wolves, which have been especially active this year. This will be his third trip to Nanuk. He’s also hoping to see his old friend Scarbrow, who has already been sighted at Dymond Lake Ecolodge this year.
“We’ve seen him every year,” said Postma. “Hopefully he’ll be there when I get there. He was a real ham there last year.”
As much as he loves the adventure of photographing wildlife, Postma says he enjoys the people part of the job even more.
“I would have to say, honestly, that my favourite part of these trips is meeting the clientele,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’ve met some really great people through Churchill Wild, and through these photo tours. You just never know who you are going to meet on these trips. Some of the people I’ve met have now been on other photo tours with me. The connections you make through photography, and on Instagram later, are amazing.”
Postma has been to the Churchill Wild lodges during the summer, fall and early winter, and actually prefers the windblown and snowy blizzard conditions.
“You have to dress for it, but for me it just gives wildlife photography an elemental feeling,” said Postma, recalling the shot he took of a polar bear emerging through a blizzard at Dymond Lake. “The wild life encounters I’ve had at Churchill Wild have been pretty incredible, and some of them have been life changing. We were out walking in a snowstorm when that polar bear came over the ridge and through the willows. That that was a pretty powerful moment for me.
“The most important things are low angles, getting as low as you’re comfortable getting, on the ground. And getting the eyes in focus.”
We’ll add staying calm to that list.
Along with wildlife and landscapes, Postma has captured some exceptional northern lights shots at the Churchill Wild lodges, and he’ll be hoping for more of the same this year. He’d also like to match the wolf photo he captured at Seal River Heritage Lodge last year, and maybe even catch the polar bears and wolves in the ice fog. The conditions for the latter will be in direct contrast to those he’ll be feeling this winter.
Postma’s future photographic adventures will take him to Hawaii, where he’ll be photographing landscapes and waves, and then on to Chile, where his subjects will be wild pumas. The Chile trip is also a scouting mission to determine whether the location is viable for future photo tours. Churchill Wild has set the bar high.
“The experience at the Churchill Wild lodges is exemplary,” said Postma. “It doesn’t get any better. The food, the hospitality, the polar bears, the wildlife. It’s all superb.”