Arctic Photography and Commentary

Here are three social media posts that mention Florian Schultz, a leading arctic photographer.  

I have seen Florian's work in various contexts and first met him in person at a chance encounter in Kavik, a gravel airstrip just west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as described in this item first posted on July 4, 2015:

Arctic trips often involve chance encounters. For example, just two days ago (seems much longer!), I flew with two members of our Wilderness Society rafting party from our last campsite on the Hulahula River to a gravel airstrip known as Kavik. This was part of a complicated logistical maneuver necessitated by fog that closed the airstrip at Kaktovik, a village on Barter Island that the rest of the group was able to reach by shuttle flight from our camp.

Kavik consists of a Quonset hut where one can buy coffee and sandwiches, several ATCO trailers that serve as bunkhouses for overnight stays, and a small fueling hut for aviation gas. Like many such spots in the north, it is a crossroads where various groups intersect and mingle briefly.

On the occasion of our visit the other day, Kavik was populated by its year-round manager, Sue; a young man who appeared to be her only employee; a couple of geologists (read: oil exploration) with a helicopter; Michael Brune, the head of the Sierra Club, and a portion of his group who like us had been diverted to Kavik from a trip elsewhere in the arctic; and a German photographer and his brother and small-plane pilot.

Which leads me to the point of this little story. The photographer was Florian Schultz, who has been spending years in the circumpolar arctic, both summer and winter, making beautiful photographs and videos. He is a committed conservationist and is using his art to spread the word about the beauty, complexity and fragility of the arctic ecosystem.

I was very familiar with Florian's work, in particular with his beautiful pictures in Debbie Miller's "On Arctic Ground." Accordingly, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to chat with him for almost an hour before we were able to take off and fly to Kaktovik, where the fog had lifted.

Florian has a wonderful photographic exhibit, "To the Arctic," currently on display at the Anchorage Museum. The link below will take you to a gallery of some of those pictures.

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I ran into Florian again last week in Kaktovik and posted this:

I posted the Anchorage Museum's link [above] on July 4, shortly after I had a chance meeting with Florian Schultz, a renowned arctic photographer, at the gravel airstrip known as Kavik, just outside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  His exhibit, "To the Arctic," runs at the Museum through the end of October, so there is still time to see it.

I am re-posting the link now because I ran into Florian again, and his brother Solomon, earlier this week.  They are now in Kaktovik, an Inupiaq community on Barter Island in the Beaufort Sea (off the northern coast of Alaska), for several weeks to make high-quality photographs of the polar bears who frequent the area at this time of year.

I was also there to view the bears, and snapped a few lesser-quality shots myself, some of which I have been posting on this Northern Passages page.

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Someone evidently got even better polar bear photos than those I posted from my trip to Kaktovik last week -- see below. (Could it have been Florian Schultz? Check out his exhibit running through November 1 at the Anchorage Museum.) However, I have two cautionary comments about using these "charismatic megafauna" to rally conservation support for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other arctic lands.

One is that, despite the undeniable cuteness of these magnificent animals, especially in mother-and-cub shots like the one below and several that I posted last week, these are wild, carnivorous animals that are not in fact particularly cuddly. As fellow top predators, they deserve our respect for their hunting skills and ecological adaptation to cold, snow, ice and open water, not just for their physical beauty.

The other is that the importance of the Arctic Refuge, and arctic lands generally, is about much more than polar bears. I have written before about other large land animals, especially caribou, wolves and grizzlies, and smaller ones ranging from marmots to mosquitos, as well the plethora of wildflowers and other plants, even those bunched together into dreaded tussocks, that populate the arctic tundra. And, of course, I have poked fun at birders, but always in the context of awe at the diversity of avian species that are found everywhere in the arctic, and at the incredible migrations of many of these birds, who fly from around the globe to nest and breed in the Refuge and other parts of northern Alaska.

Polar bears are important, and majestic, but they are only part of the complex ecosystem of the arctic and its magnificent landscapes, ranging from the north and south slopes of the Brooks Range mountains, to the foothills, to the coastal plain.

That said, they are kind of photogenic, aren't they?

Please join with the Alaska Wilderness League in encouraging our legislators to further protect these animals and their arctic habitat.