Behind The Shot: Over My Head

Polar bear family, Ellesmere Island, Canada
Polar bear family, Ellesmere Island, Canada

Photo By Amos Nachoum

I began my photography career as a fashion and war photographer in my homeland of Israel. I’m now a wildlife photographer, explorer and motivational speaker. For 40 years, from the High Arctic to Antarctica, I’ve pursued my quest with a camera to dispel the myth of “dangerous wildlife” and to raise compassion toward these wild creatures. I execute my mission by inviting select people to join my expeditions, which aim to inspire harmonious interactions between man and big animals.

On one such trip to Ellesmere Island, Canada, in the late summer, the ice was mostly gone, and polar bears were moving from island to island in search of food, including birds’ eggs on the hill cliffs. I was there to highlight the lives of threatened and endangered wildlife to help raise awareness and protection when I saw this family of two cubs, each at least 18 months old, with their mother. It was a rare sighting since it’s common that by that age only one cub out of two will make it.

The moment was too precious, and we started following them. The hungry family had to go from one island to the next until they got to the tall cliffs where the birds were nesting. We entered the water from the opposite island, facing the incoming bears from about 200 meters away. My safety diver and I treaded water for over 20 minutes as the family made their way toward the island, keeping their eyes on us the whole time. We remained still and in one place and allowed the bears to make their move. When the family was finally 5 meters in front of us, the safety diver and I signaled each other, and we submerged to 4 meters below. The bears continued on, looking at us underwater, perhaps in curiosity and in peace. From the moment I saw the family in the frame, I began holding my breath to prevent any bubbles from getting in the picture and waited for this exact moment when all three bears were looking at us. We didn’t move toward the party as the family continued in their own direction right above our heads.

See more of Amos Nachoum’s work at

Nikon D4S, AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED, Seacam housing. Exposure: 1/320 sec., ƒ/8, ISO 200.