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Pictures worth thousands of words

Photographer Paul Nicklen
(Photo: Paul Nicklen)
Paul Nicklen regularly travels with about 450 kilograms of equipment, including six cameras, two aluminum-cast underwatercamera housings, a dozen or more lenses and a scuba dry suit with a rebreather unit that transforms his exhalations into breathable air. He packs this half tonne of gear into 16 or more cases and bags, piles them onto three luggage carts tied together with rope and cajoles his way through customs. Wildlife photography, at this elite level, is expensive, stressful and the ultimate test of grit and self-sufficiency.

“People don’t realize what goes behind making a photograph,” says Nicklen from his home in Whitehorse. “When you work for magazines such as National Geographic, you often work out of fear: fear of failure. To me, it is the hardest job in the world, yet it is also the greatest job.”

Just seeing his pictures published in glossy magazines used to satisfy the awardwinning shooter, who was born in Saskatchewan, raised in Kimmirut, Nunavut, and trained as a marine biologist. But after a few years, the thrill faded, and Nicklen realized the valuable skills he’d acquired on assignment and the knowledge he’d gained of the natural world were too profound to be squandered on pretty pictures alone.

As a regular contributor to numerous major magazines, including Canadian Geographic, Nicklen, 40, has a worldwide audience of millions.

And with the global community focusing on the fragile Arctic and Antarctic environments — Nicklen’s specialty — he is ideally positioned to achieve his ultimate goal: to make people care about the impact of climate change on polar species and their habitats.

Paul Nicklen will share his experiences on April 22 at Ottawa’s Centrepointe Theatre as part of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society Speaker Series.

— Lisa Gregoire

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