Visionary Wild, LLC • 2200 19th St. NW, Ste 806, Washington, DC 20009

E-mail: info@visionarywild.com    •    Tel: 1-202-558-9596 (9am to 5pm, EST).

Justin Black – Managing Director: 1-202-302-9030 • Email: justin@visionarywild.com

Sara Robb – Operations Assistant: sara@visionarywild.com

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Limit 10 spaces | $10,950* Closed
Advanced November 14 - 20, 2015 | View other workshops

Polar Bears – Eye to Eye with Roy Toft and Justin Black

Map via Google

Picture yourself standing on arctic tundra at the edge of Hudson Bay, photographing a pair of polar bears wrestling in the glow of sunset as they wait for the bay to freeze over so they can begin their annual hunting season on the ice. An arctic fox watches the action from the sidelines. The only sounds are the bears, the breeze, and waves lapping at the ice forming on the shoreline. Then imagine, as the light fades and temperatures drop, you walk just a few feet away to sit beside the fire in a cozy wilderness lodge, joining your fellow photographers for a glass of wine while reviewing the day's photographs, in anticipation of a gourmet dinner and excited conversation about the opportunities that await tomorrow. Keep your camera ready, though... the aurora borealis may well appear in the night sky.

Join Roy Toft and Justin Black at Seal River, a remote wilderness lodge positioned in prime polar bear territory on the shores of Hudson Bay about 40 miles north of Churchill, Manitoba. This is a very special opportunity to intensively photograph polar bear behavior close-up in the wild. Forget the diesel-belching tundra buggies at Churchill and the crowded cruise ships at Svalbard. Our small group will photograph the bears from eye level, on foot, via short excursions onto the tundra and from the grounds of the lodge, where polar bears walk within inches of the fence line.

Roy, a highly regarded and widely published professional wildlife photographer and inspiring workshops instructor, recently had the opportunity to photograph the polar bears at Seal River, and he was blown away by the quality of the photography and the overall experience. Seal River is a comfortable fly-in lodge that offers unique access to a high density of polar bears with a lovely landscape backdrop. To ensure you make the most of your visit, Roy and Justin will provide highly attentive, thoughtful, and generous instruction throughout the trip, offering feedback and useful guidance drawn from their combined four decades of experience as professional nature photographers. They will provide recommendations on camera setup optimized for wildlife photography, teach strategies and techniques to empower you to anticipate and capture fleeting wildlife behaviors, offer advice on composition and working the available light and weather conditions for best effect, and more. In the evening, Roy and Justin will provide feedback and constructive critique of your images to ensure that the quality of your work improves significantly over the course of the trip.

Included in the package are round-trip flights (Winnipeg – Churchill – Seal River Lodge), all lodging, all meals, all beverages, all photographic instruction and bear guiding, and Canadian tax. Though most Visionary Wild workshops and expeditions are packaged and priced as single-occupancy by default, this workshop is packaged as double-occupancy at $10,950 per person, due to the limited number of guest rooms and beds at  Seal River Lodge (its eight rooms sleep a maximum of sixteen guests), and the fact that their operating season is relatively short, which makes the single-occupancy supplement for this trip $6,550. We will be happy to help pair up individual participants of the same gender who wish to share a room, but we can certainly accommodate those who wish to book single-occupancy rooms.

Click "read more" at below right to continue...

We are very pleased that Roy Toft has joined the Visionary Wild instructor team for this workshop. In 2009, Justin and Roy were part of rapid-assessment conservation photography project in British Columbia's Flathead Valley, organized by the International League of Conservation Photographers, and they have been trying to find the time to lead a trip together ever since. In the Flathead, Roy naturally fell into the informal role of "campfire comedian" for the ILCP team, keeping everyone in stitches every night. He's got a great sense of humor and is a great deal of fun to spend time with (he has three Labrador retrievers, which is very revealing of his personality). A Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, Roy is widely recognized as one of the best wildlife photographers working today, published regularly in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Audubon, Wildlife Conservation, and Discover magazines, as well as other notable publications.

He is a highly talented, caring, and generous teacher too. Each year, Roy leads several small group photo tours and work­shops for photographers of all levels to destinations in Latin America, the Arctic, Africa, and Asia. With a background in wildlife and conservation biology, he is adept at helping others capture images of animals in the wild that that convey a sense of the animal’s character and spirit.

 

Roy Toft

Roy Toft is one of the world's most highly accomplished wildlife photographers, in addition to being a biologist, natural-history educator, and a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). Roy has received top honors in the most prestigious professional competitions in his genre including the London Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and Nature's Best. In 2007, Roy won first place and the Gerald Durrel Award for endangered species in the BBC Wildlife Photographer  of the Year competition. He is a well-loved figure among his professional peers, admired as much for his upbeat good humor, an engaging and compassionate personality, and generously collaborative nature as for his immense talent as a photographer.

Roy's photographic career started with getting his first SLR camera as a college graduation present in 1986. Two days later, Roy was in Alaska working as a biologist on a wolf population study for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Over the next ten years, Roy’s day jobs included bird trainer & educator for the San Diego Wild Animal Park, naturalist, elementary school teacher, natural history museum curator and collaborator with National Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols.

Nature, conservation and education have always been Roy’s passions and since turning to photography full time in 1993, his work has focused on wild animals and their fragile environments. His publications include National Geographic, Smithsonian, Audubon, Discover, Wildlife Conservation, Ranger Rick, and other natural history magazines and publications worldwide. His work is primarily represented by National Geographic Image collection and Getty.

Using photography as a conservation tool has always been important to Roy and in 2005 he became a founding fellow in the prestigious ILCP. Along with making images, Roy has always enjoyed teaching people about nature and photography. His first photo workshop was taught more than a dozen years ago in the Osa peninsula, Costa Rica, and since then Roy has led workshops in Africa, Alaska, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Japan, and Madagascar.

Roy makes his home in the boulder-covered backcountry of Ramona, Ca. (30 miles north east of San Diego), with his wife Robin and their three Labrador Retrievers (Beau, Summer, and Tundra). Roy enjoys essentially everything active out in nature, including hiking with the dogs, surfing, and mountain biking. His favorite pastime when not traveling for photography is designing and cultivating his extensive garden, inspired by South African flora, including a wide variety of aloes and other exotic plants.

ROY TOFT LINKS

Roy Toft Photo Website

ILCP Fellow Bio

Roy Toft's Youtube Channel, with videos on his photo safaris and packing tips

Blast from the Past: Roy Toft appearance on the Chevy Chase Show (1993) as bird trainer for the San Diego Wild Animal Park

 

Justin Black

JUSTIN BLACK is a photographer, writer, editor, expedition leader, photo workshops instructor, and an affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). Through both Visionary Wild and Galen Rowell's Mountain Light Photography (1999 – 2009) he has created inspiring and effective educational photographic experiences for thousands of passionate photographers. He is widely recognized as one of the world's leading photo workshops organizers.

A professional photographer continuously since signing his first agency contract in 1995, before founding Visionary Wild he served the ILCP as Executive Director, and for seven years was General Manager and Curator of Mountain Light Gallery.

Justin's photographs have been published by magazines such as National Geographic Adventure, Sierra, Sunset, American Photo, Outdoor Photographer, Rock & Ice, and Nature Conservancy. His work has also been published by major news outlets in print and online, and has been used in advertising for MasterCard, Nikon, Fujifilm,

Among conservation NGOs that have used his photographs in their campaigns are World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, The Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Panthera, Land Trust Alliance, Earth Justice, The Wilderness Society, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, ILCP, and the Wild Foundation.

In 2015 and 2017, Justin was invited to serve as a judge for the Nature's Best Photography Africa competition. He has also served as an editor and contributor to numerous award-winning photo book projects, including Galen Rowell: A Retrospective; Freshwater: The Essence of Life; The Wealth of Nature: Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity, and Human Well-Being; Our National Parks: America's Natural Heritage; as well as Flying South: A Pilot's Inner Journey by Barbara Rowell. His limited edition fine prints are represented by G2 Gallery in Venice, California, and in Europe by The Art of Wild gallery.

An early career as a travel photographer and image licensing specialist led him to Mountain Light Photography in the San Francisco Bay Area, founded by Galen Rowell – a world-renowned National Geographic photographer, author, and mountaineer – and his wife and business partner, Barbara Cushman Rowell. Beginning in May of 1999, Justin managed marketing of the Rowell image collection, assisted Galen on assignments and in his workshop program, and taught seminars on nature photography. In April 2002, the Rowells invited Justin to relocate with them to California's scenic Owens Valley as Mountain Light's General Manager. Justin eagerly embraced his new responsibility, along with the sublime Eastern Sierra Nevada landscape as his new home.

Four months later, Galen and Barbara perished in the crash of a chartered plane, leaving behind a tremendous creative and visionary vacuum. Justin went to work, building on the impressive Rowell legacy to reinvigorate Mountain Light by establishing a seasonal series of guest photographer exhibitions, expanding the image collection, and relaunching the highly acclaimed photo workshop program through collaboration with Galen's leading professional peers, including Frans Lanting, Pat O'Hara, Jack Dykinga, John Shaw, David Muench, and Jeff Foott. In May 2008, Justin's successful efforts were recognized by both Sunset and American Photo magazines, as each magazine featured editorial recommendations of his workshop program at Mountain Light.

After ten years with Mountain Light, Justin was recruited to take over the position of Executive Director of ILCP, a non-profit association of the best photographers worldwide working in the field of environmental and cultural conservation. At ILCP, Justin oversaw an explosion of productivity in expeditions, publishing, multimedia production, and the achievement of successful conservation outcomes. He contributed photographic coverage to ILCP's Rapid Assessment Visual Expeditions (RAVE) program, including Flathead Valley (Canada, 2009), Yucatán (Mexico, 2009), and Chesapeake (USA, 2010), as well as a solo project for The Nature Conservancy, documenting the Dragon Run wetland on Virginia's Middle Peninsula. One of Justin's photographs from the Flathead River project appeared as a section opener in the Vancouver Sun newspaper – the first time the threatened watershed received significant coverage in that nationally important media outlet.  The photograph was later selected by the United States Senate for display in the U.S. Capitol Building, as Canada and the USA reached an agreement to protect the Flathead.

Justin left his position at ILCP in late 2010 to establish Visionary Wild, building on his successful leadership of the Mountain Light workshop program and applying expertise gained at ILCP to provide superlative workshops and expeditions for passionate photographers seeking to advance to the next level of creativity, quality, purpose, and meaning in their work. His own work continues to evolve in new directions, driven by the ongoing search for extraordinary qualities in our world's dynamic landscapes.

Justin lives in Washington, DC, with his brilliant wife, Lena (Visionary Wild's Director of Operations), and their children Philippe and Alexandra.

Justin Black's limited editions portfolio

Justin's Outdoor Photographer Profile

Bringing focus and meaning to your photography

The Top 40 Nature Photos Project

Justin's Conservation Photography Projects

 

Justin’s Camera Bag

After using an array of 4x5, medium format, and 35mm film cameras in the first two decades of his career, Justin fully embraced digital cameras in 2010. His current gear includes Nikon DSLRs and Fujifilm mirrorless systems.

 

Fujifilm Medium Format Mirrorless:

GFX 50S camera

23mm f/4 GF Fujinon

32-64 f/4 GF Fujinon

120mm f/4 GF Fujinon

 

Fujifilm APS-C Mirrorless:

X-Pro2 Cameras (x2)

14mm f/2.8 XF Fujinon

23mm f/2 XF Fujinon

35mm f/1.4 XF Fujinon

50mm f/2 XF Fujinon

18-55mm f/2.8-4 XF Fujinon

55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 XF Fujinon

 

Nikon DSLR:

Nikon D810 cameras (x2)

24mm f/3.5 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

45mm f/2.8 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

85mm f/2.8 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

24mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

35mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

50mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

85mm f/1.8 G AF-S ED Nikkor

200mm f/4 AF-D Micro-Nikkor

500mm f/4 AF-S Nikkor

18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G AF-S ED Nikkor

24-70mm f/2.8 G AF-S ED Nikkor

70-200mm f/4.0 G AF-S ED VR Nikkor

200-400mm f/4.0 G AF-S ED VR Nikkor

Nikon TC-14EII teleconverter

Nikon TC-20EIII teleconverter

Nikon SB-900 flash

Nikon SB-700 flash

Assorted Nikon TTL flash cables

Lumiquest soft boxes

Rogue Flashbender

Rosco gels

 

Filters

Nikon Circular Polarizer II

Singh-Ray Vari-ND

Tiffen WW IRND neutral density filters

 

Tripods

Really Right Stuff TVC-24L with leveling base and Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead or Arca-Swiss D4 geared head

Gitzo 1028 with RRS BH-25 ballhead

 

Photo Packs

MindShift Rotation 180 Pro

Mindshift Rotation 180 Horizon

Mindshift FirstLight 30L

Think Tank Photo (TTP) Streetwalker Harddrive

TTP Streetwalker Pro

TTP Airport Addicted V2.0

TTP Airport Acceleration

TTP Urban Disguise 50 V2.0

 

Highlights

  • Polar bears in their native habitat, easily approached on foot in a pristine and untrammeled wilderness setting perfect for first-rate photography.
  • Roy Toft and Justin Black draw upon their combined forty years of experience as professional nature photographers to provide insightful guidance, recommendations, and feedback.
  • Constructive critique of your images to ensure that the quality of your work improves significantly over the course of the trip.
  • Wildly rugged and remote – the conditions in November at this costal tundra location enables us to dedicate full days in the field getting up close and personal with Arctic wildlife.
  • Excellent photo opportunities for other Arctic wildlife, including caribou and Arctic fox.
  • Seal River Lodge’s position on Hudson Bay experiences the most clear days and nights in the region, delivering great light by day, and  and unobstructed views of the nights for photography of the Aurora Borealis.
  • Excellent dining, featuring the finest food and wine in the Arctic. Mealtimes will be adjusted or delayed as required to ensure maximum photo opportunities.

Accommodations & Travel

 

Included are round trip flights (Winnipeg – Churchill – Seal River Lodge) all lodging (double-occupancy; single supplement available), all meals, all beverages (including wine and beer with dinner), all photographic instruction and bear guiding.

Seal River Heritage Lodge

  • Authentic wilderness lodge style with all the comforts of home
  • Expansive picture windows to maximize ground level viewing
  • Spectacular coastal view of Hudson Bay while hiking, dining or relaxing.
  • A viewing tower to take in the expansive tundra landscape and its wild inhabitants
  • Cozy common area with fireplace for evening wind down
  • Eight guest rooms, each with their own ensuite washrooms
  • Full service meals
  • Electricity 24 hours a day, every day
  • Natural gas and wood heat
  • Library with maps
  • Gift Shop
  • Radio/Telephone

Inbound and outbound: accommodations are provided at Four Points by Sheraton at Winnipeg International Airport

airplane iconfoot iconweather icon
Round trip flights included from Winnipeg – Churchill – Seal River Lodge. All excursions will be on foot, though we will not need to walk more than a 1/2-mile or so per day. Weather at Seal River Lodge in November is cold, but perfectly manageable with proper dress. Expect highs around 25F and lows around 0F. There is z a small chance of light snow.