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Janet the polar bear. Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

Janet the polar bear. Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

by Vanessa Desorcy with photos by George Turner

How does a 28-year old with a corporate background in advertising, working for clients like Marc Jacobs and British Petroleum in England, end up face-to-face with a polar bear in the Canadian wilderness as a professional photo leader?

George Turner can tell you.

Originally from Dorset, England and now living just southwest of London in Basingstoke, George started his career with Cult LDN in 2012. In 2014 he moved to the global advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather, where he worked on their creative team, pitching campaigns to clients in what he calls ‘tissue sessions’, which were named for the way clients would rip apart ideas — and for the way some creatives would leave these meetings in tears.

After one particularly difficult project, George decided he’d had enough of that environment and informed his boss he was leaving to pursue a dream of moving to New Zealand. As fate would have it, Ogilvy’s New Zealand office was establishing a social media division and offered George the move, so he stayed on until 2016.

George Turner in action on the high seas.

George Turner in action on the high seas.

Around the same time that he started with Ogilvy, George began pursuing part-time freelance creative work based on his photography, a hobby-turned-profession that took root after receiving his first digital camera when he was just 13. He still remembers going into his garden and waiting for birds to land on the bird-feeder so he could capture them. Once he mastered that, he moved onto actions shots — birds landing and taking off from the bird-feeders. When he received a new camera for his 18th birthday, a Nikon D3000, his passion for photography was reignited and took off.

George started taking a more active role, anticipating the shots he wanted and going after them, shooting badgers at dusk and looking for fox dens to capture kits at play. He kept up his passion during three years at Bristol University, moved to London after graduation and started saving for his first full-frame DSLR, which he was able to purchase a few years later.

As a professional photographer for the past three years, George has amassed a very respectable following and, in the words of Johnny Cash, this self-taught photographer has been everywhere (man).

Western Lowlands Gorilla. Republic of Congo.

Western Lowlands Gorilla. Republic of Congo.

George has visited and worked in 12 African countries, including multiple trips to both Tanzania and Kenya. He’s spent time in Sri Lanka photographing Yala National Park’s leopards and sloth bears, has photographed black kites in Hong Kong, humpback whales in Newfoundland, sea otters in the United States, wolves and wolverines in Norway, European brown bears in Finland, puffins and river otters in Scotland… the list goes on.

On some of his trips, George leads private or group photography tours. On others, he might be on assignment for publications such as Outdoor Photography, Billionaire or Adventure Travel magazine. He also produces marketing collateral for lodges and tourism boards.

George has developed content partnerships with very reputable and well-known brands including Adobe, BBC Earth and more. In addition, he works with Nikon in the UK, leading seminars on wildlife photography and speaking at their 2019 Photography Show.

Cheetah. Ndutu, Tanzania.

Cheetah. Ndutu, Tanzania.

The question remains, how did George end up at one of our Churchill Wild ecolodges last year, face-to-face with a polar bear? Well…

With enough energy and enthusiasm to keep himself and everyone around him going for days, this dynamo bounded onto our radar in mid-2016. He had an undeniable passion for wildlife and a burning desire to visit one of our ecolodges to photograph polar bears. Introducing himself as a Freelance Content Producer, George had a lengthy list of projects and initiatives he wanted to partner with us on. It took some time, but in 2018, thanks to our partners at Destination Canada and Travel Manitoba, we brought George up to Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge for the first time.

This fall, he’ll be back with us for three weeks, one at Seal River Heritage Lodge and two at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. He says he’s already anxiously “wishing away the time.” George will be giving photography tips and guidance to guests, both in the field and during more formal sessions back at the lodge. He will also be offering post-processing sessions.

I asked George about his first impressions of Nanuk and, even as someone who never seems to run out of words (I can say that about him, we’re friends by now), he had difficulty describing his experience. In a word, he was “stunned.” He spoke about how, on the flight to the lodge, the pilot was pointing out bull moose and polar bears, and how surreal it was to see those same polar bears on the ground just a few hours later. He also mentioned how humbling it felt to walk in a truly wild place, where few have gone before, after hearing about the history of Hudson Bay and nearby York Factory.

Lion. Serengeti, Tanzania.

Lion. Serengeti, Tanzania.

George loved the fact that he and other guests were the ones in the “cage” (our fenced compound around Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge) while the wildlife was completely free. The level of luxury at Nanuk also surprised him, considering its location over 200 km from the nearest town. Even with -40°C temperatures and the wind howling outside his window, he was “cozy and warm in his room, snacking on a freshly baked cookie.”

George’s passion for what he does comes through in every word he speaks and every photograph he takes. He loves wildlife and wants to see future generations enjoy it as much as he has, which is why he’s hoping to do more to promote wildlife conservation and protection. His first such targeted project will take him to Ethiopia later this year to document Africa’s most endangered carnivore, the Ethiopian wolf.

As is often the case, humans pose the largest threat to this species. Farming practices have overtaken large areas of their range, pushing them to higher and higher altitudes. With fewer than 450 remaining in the wild and a successful breeding rate of just 60%, George is hoping to bring awareness to their plight.

George’s interest in conservation has also led him into a collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The most recent project was in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, documenting the endangered Barbary macaques, bringing their story — and indeed, struggle — to large audiences across the globe.

The world has become a much smaller and more beautiful place thanks to the work of photographers like George, who create and share awe-inspiring and educational wildlife photos. The internet has brought these images and experiences to life at our fingertips and taught us about the plights and pleasures of wild creatures in all corners of the planet.

Polar bears under light snow at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

Polar bears under light snow at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

George has been a professional photographer for just three years and has already achieved a prominent place in the wildlife photography realm. The ease with which the Internet allows him to disseminate his photos around the world has been instrumental to his career, but his heart is also in the right place, and his creations are fabulous.

Join George on one of our polar bear photo safaris this November if you’re interested in improving your wildlife photography, honing your photo editing skills, or just want to hang out with a fun guy who has tales to tell and stories to share…

Which now include polar bears.

Contact Us for more details on the polar bear safaris George is leading. Follow George on Instagram @georgetheexplorer

Polar Bear Photo Safari

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