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Ambassadors Programme

Explorer

Danny Green

Dec16

Photographing Arctic foxes

By Danny Green, Monday December 16, 2013
Arctic fox in early morning light, Churchill, Canada. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF500mm f/4L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/5.6, ISO 800.

Arctic fox in early morning light, Churchill, Canada. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF500mm f/4L IS II USM lens; the exposure was 1/1250sec at f/5.6, ISO 800. © Danny Green

Over the last few years I have been fortunate enough to travel to many parts of the high Arctic. I’ve photographed a range of different species – from polar bears to musk oxen, to wolverines and pine marten – but I’ve got to be honest, I have been desperate for more opportunities to photograph one particular species.

I have photographed a family of Arctic foxes, also known as the polar fox, at their summer breeding den in Svalbard, Sweden, but I’ve always had a burning ambition to capture them in their thick white winter fur coats. For me, the Arctic fox is one of the most beautiful animals in the world and I’d been hoping and praying that I’d have a chance to photograph them at some point during the course of my travels.

I’ve just come back from Churchill on the western shore of the Hudson Bay in the Canadian Arctic. My trip to Churchill was primarily aimed at photographing polar bears, one of the planet’s apex predators. But on the road from the airport to Churchill, I saw a lot of fox tracks in the snow. I couldn’t work out whether they were Red or Arctic fox tracks, but there were a lot of footprints and it was clear that it could be a very good opportunity for photographing both species of fox in their winter coats.

Given the number of fox tracks that I could see from the vehicle window, I was fairly clear that Churchill and its surrounding area had had a ‘lemming year’. Lemmings are small rodents that undergo periodic boom and bust cycles in their populations. During the years of high populations, predators like the Arctic fox take advantage and breed successfully themselves. So the tundra surrounding Churchill this winter was supporting exceptionally high numbers.

Working in some of the coldest conditions on the planet is not just a test of personal stamina and clothing. It is also a great test for camera equipment. During this last trip, the coldest that I was working in was about minus 35 degrees and with the added windchill, these are certainly extremely challenging conditions. Although I had a few issues with battery drainage because of the extreme temperatures, I kept a spare battery in my pocket and my EOS-1D X and Canon lenses performed exceptionally well. In fact, my own breath on the camera, the LCD monitor and eyepiece created my biggest problem when the condensation froze.

I was lucky and got to work in some sublime light; the sort of light that fills every photographer’s dreams. I have photographed some amazing subjects over the years but the Arctic foxes in Churchill have been a real highlight for me. To work in such extraordinary Arctic light with such a beautiful creature was both an amazing privilege and a dream come true.

Arctic fox portrait, Churchill, Canada. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF500mm f/4L IS II USM lens with EF1.4x Extender; the exposure was 1/1600sec at f/7.1, ISO 400.

Arctic fox portrait, Churchill, Canada. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF500mm f/4L IS II USM lens with EF1.4x Extender; the exposure was 1/1600sec at f/7.1, ISO 400.
© Danny Green

Arctic fox Resting during a blizzard, Churchill, Canada. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF500mm f/4L IS II USM lens with EF1.4x Extender; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/8, ISO 800.

Arctic fox Resting during a blizzard, Churchill, Canada. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X with an EF500mm f/4L IS II USM lens with EF1.4x Extender; the exposure was 1/500sec at f/8, ISO 800. © Danny Green