Polar Bear: Spy On The Ice

I was stopped in my tracks the other day as I walked through the living room and saw on TV a wildlife photographer using a remote-controlled video camera to document polar bears in the Arctic. Turns out I was seeing a 60 Minutes repeat from 2011 in which they profiled innovative wildlife filmmaker John Downer as he attempted to make a film about endangered polar bears in a whole new way. Typically polar bears are photographed from great distances with telephoto lenses to avoid getting close to the dangerous animals. But Downer’s approach was the opposite: get up close and very personal with these enormous subjects. To do it, he built remote controlled spy cameras and disguised them as icebergs, snow drifts and even a giant snowball that can be rolled right up to the nose of a curious animal. The result is the film, "Spy on the Ice," a documentary of the polar bear and its existence on the shrinking arctic tundra, which will be released later this month on DVD. There’s plenty of great behind the scenes footage available online that shows just how Downer pulled off this feat of wildlife filmmaking. Start with the 60 Minutes piece, which is online at CBS News, then check out the Animal Planet page on the film with several video excerpts as well as technical explanations of Downer’s equipment and his process. Lastly, visit Amazon to pre-order the film which will be available in two weeks as an affordable double feature DVD.


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