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October 31, 2019 5:02 pm

Israeli Photographer Wins Prize for Photographs of Polar Bears

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A polar bear. Photo: Ansgar Walk via Wikimedia Commons.

Israeli wildlife photographer Roie Galitz won a major prize at the 2019 Siena International Photo Awards for his pictures of polar bears.

The most striking image, which received an honorable mention, showed a curious bear approaching Galitz’s cameras on tripods.

Galitz described taking the picture while on an expedition to Svalbard, Norway, above the Arctic Circle.

“While photographing a big male polar bear in Svalbard, he suddenly turned around and started walking towards us,” said Galitz. “I jumped on my snowmobile and left my gear. The bear reached the camera and looked through it for a few seconds before walking away. Clearly, he was only curious.”

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This is the fifth year in which Galitz has won a major prize for his photography. He told Israel’s Channel 13, “Every year I am amazed at the quality of the photographers and photographs that come — it is a huge privilege for me to face them.”

The Arctic is one of Galitz’s favorite places to shoot due its unique landscape and fauna.

“It’s a desert, it’s all white, and the animals there are the biggest highlight of the visit,” he said.

Shooting polar bears — the largest land predators in the world — is particularly challenging, Galitz said, noting, “Sometimes it’s hard for me to get close enough to get the right angles for a particular photo, but I got a special license that allows me to come up to 50 meters from the bears.”

Galitz also pays special attention to the bears’ behavior, noting that he avoids bears that appear to be afraid of humans and “sometimes the bears get annoyed, but I’d never get close to one like that.”

“When a bear is indifferent to me, I’m happy to photograph him,” he said. “More than that, when a polar bear falls asleep in front of me — that’s the biggest compliment, it means he trusts me.”

The bears are not Galitz’s only subject. His most recent expedition was to Brazil to photograph jaguars.

He is also fond of Israel’s own indigenous fauna, saying, “There are many animals in Israel. Nature here is amazing and not really familiar to everyone — but there are many animals: hyenas, wolves, moose, and deer. We can be proud of the country’s natural environment and, most importantly, protect it.”

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