Tom Wielkopolski: British Columbia

Given the choice how many of us would welcome being in a river, out in the wilds of British Columbia in a sparsely populated area and in close proximity to huge grizzly bears? And to add to the occasion - being nominated as ‘the bear prodder’ which meant having the awesome responsibility of carrying the deterrent of choice – a boat paddle – for when the bears came just that little bit too friendly?!

Such was the devotion to bears of the club’s latest speaker, Tom Wielkopolski from Dulverton as he recounted his experiences off Vancouver Island that these were not important issues. He was rewarded with an impressive portfolio of pictures that showed how bears live and play in their natural habitat. Tom’s real interest was to photograph uncommon ‘spirit bears’ – which are really white black bears and he was fortunate to record several of these. Whilst these were impressive perhaps more so was his sequence of shots of a mother and her cub play wrestling.

However, Tom also showed a wide range of other wildlife images and landscapes that were extremely powerful. His shots of hump-backed whales ‘bubble netting’ in which the creatures release huge air bubbles into these to stun and confuse fish were wonderful as they conveyed not only this unique behaviour but also the sheer power of the whales. The club was also treated to images of eagles in very wet and difficult conditions for photography but Tom’s pictures showed that he was up to more obstacles than an approaching black bear with evil intent.