A lot can go wrong when you’re filming in -50℉.

“Your equipment can freeze up. Tripods get sluggish. Carbon fibre snaps. And when you take equipment from extreme cold to interior temps you have to watch for condensation,” says Patrick McGowan, filmmaker and founder of BlackBox Guild.

And then there are the polar bears. McGowan was on assignment in Pond Inlet, Nunavut—one of the farthest reaches of Canadian Arctic territory—looking for narwhals when he ran into a wild polar bear for the first time. Rather than fear, McGowan felt awe—and he vowed to return to the Arctic to find the endangered species again.

“I fell in love. Hard,” he says.

Polar bear tracks in the snow in the Canadian Arctic

Polar bear tracks in the snow, photographed by McGowan in the Canadian Arctic

McGowan recognized an opportunity to expand his business into stock filmmaking a few years ago, which has allowed him to monetize his return trips to the far North. “I have a great deal of freedom when I shoot stock and it takes me to some awesome situations,” he explains.

Since his narwhal assignment, McGowan has befriended local guides who know how to safely track polar bears. He has filmed them in Churchill, Manitoba, Arctic Bay, Nunavut, and Pond Inlet, Nunavut—all in the far reaches of the Canadian Arctic. There, the cold is a greater danger than the wildlife. “Proper gear is essential,” McGowan notes. But the challenges involved are not enough to deter him.

“I love what I do and intend to make many more trips to the Arctic in my quest for great polar bear footage.”

A polar bear tries to sleep while her cubs play in the background

His favourite camera for remote work is the Canon Cinema EOS series and he currently uses the C300 MK II. “Since I work alone, I need to travel light and tight. I can build the camera up to cinema spec or strip it down to a run-and-gun configuration with ease.”

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McGowan setting up his tripod and camera in the middle of a creek

McGowan hopes that the stock he captures gives viewers a taste of the wonder that he felt while shooting it. See more of his work in the VideoBlocks Marketplace.

Melissa Mapes writes about stock and filmmaking for VideoBlocks.

 

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