Thinking on your feet to get the winning shot
Photographers are known for packing tonnes of gear, so I asked Paul if there was ever a time when he had to think on his feet to get a shot:
“The first time I travelled to Hudson Bay, I carried more than 225 kg of gear: Everything from an inflatable Zodiac boat and outboard motor to camping gear, bear fence and 12-gauge shotgun loaded with noisemaker shells. I looked like a homeless, survivalist hoarder. So I spent a couple of weeks taking the small, loaded dinghy 48 km from land, out to the sea ice edge in search of polar bears.”
I spotted a polar bear heading toward the water and followed from a distance. She finally relaxed and grew curious, and eventually, less than 10 m, then 5 m separated us. She swam parallel to the boat and I tried to hang a camera off a nearly 2 m-long pole for a wide-angle, water’s level view. I was steering and operating the outboard with one hand, trying to operate the camera with my other and somehow brace the pole against my legs. It was about as easy and graceful as it sounds! I managed to dunk the camera and it’s Pocket Wizard remote into the salt water, killing both.
I had another body, but had to hard-wire a shutter release trigger in a hurry, so I tore the remote cable apart with my teeth then spliced the wires together by hand. The polar bear swam beneath a pan of ice, I held out the pole and somehow the whole thing managed to work. It was only later that I realised it would be the best picture of my 30-year career. And it all hinged on a piece of wire worth a few pennies.”