The polar bear, the largest land carnivore, ranges over some five million miles of snow-covered northern land and frozen sea. The often ferocious weather of the Arctic, its remoteness, and the bear's own fierce reputation have conspired to discourage many photographers from tracking them there. Mangelsen, who spent eight years following and photographing polar bears under extraordinarily daunting conditions, has produced a vivid documentary of their lives, focusing on a female polar bear and her two cubs through the four seasons. The 280 color photographs are both technically accomplished (many, despite the speed with which the bears can move, are beautifully composed) and fascinating: shots of bears drowsing in the snow, navigating icefields, stalking seals, and serenely swimming in Arctic waters. Mangelsen includes photographs of other Arctic wildlife (foxes, geese, walrus, ptarmigan) and some shots of icy landscapes that nicely convey the Arctic's size and harsh beauty. Naturalist and photographer Bruemmer contributes a lively, precise narrative detailing the specifics of a polar bear's life. A handsome, eye-opening work.
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