One on One with Polar Photographer Sue Forbes

February 3, 2016 Paul A. Teolis

  • We reached out to photographer Paul Teolis to share insights on the Expedition’s on-board passenger education program. Here, he interviews Sue Forbes, one of his fellow Photographers-in-Residence.

The Photographer-in-Residence program aboard the Expedition is entering its fourth season and has been a welcome addition to the on-board passenger education program available as the ship visits the polar regions. Originally launched in 2012 as a pilot project, it was an immediate success with passengers and staff alike. 

Every sailing of the polar season has a dedicated photographer on board, not only to educate passengers on the technical challenges of shooting in the cold, but to simply get everyone to slow down and see things differently.

Sue Forbes joined the residency program in the Arctic, and it is a pleasure to have her as part of the team. I got a chance to speak with her about her experiences on board.

Being a Photographer-in-Residence as an Expedition staff member is my dream job. Photo courtesy Sue Forbes.

1. Tell us about your background and current path as a photographer.

I have an unusual background, with a degree in electronic engineering and an MBA. I spent time as an Engineer Officer in the Royal Air Force, then in various high-tech companies in Silicon Valley, California. My photography was a pastime, as I loved to travel the world and capture what I saw. Finally, about five years ago, I managed to escape Silicon Valley and focus on my photography full time. I still love exploring the world and finding new places to see with different cultures and wildlife. I also really enjoy teaching photography, so Photographer-in-Residence as an Expedition staff member is my dream job.

2. What do you enjoy most about the polar regions that makes you want to return each year?

The polar regions are unlike any other place on Earth with the immense landscape and plethora of wildlife. There are so many things that make these regions special for me; I love the “crunch” sound that comes from the ship nudging its way through the pack ice in search of polar bears, or just sitting in amongst a colony of penguins watching the comical antics of this species.

An adolescent king penguin struts for the camera lens. Photo courtesy Sue Forbes.

An adolescent king penguin struts for the camera lens. Photo courtesy Sue Forbes.

3. What advice can you share on shooting in the snow and cold?

Camera gear tends to hold up really well in the snow and cold. It’s actually more important that you, as the photographer, wrap up warm so you can stay out there shooting. Make sure to pack a great pair of gloves that give you both the warmth you need but the flexibility to get that index finger out to press the shutter button or to change settings. Then, of course, I have to mention a quality dry bag or at the least, a Ziploc bag for those Zodiac rides and landings, when you’re bound to get wet at some point!

4. How much does gear affect your ability to get “the perfect shot”?

I believe “the perfect shot” is achieved by the photographer rather than the gear. These days, you can get amazing photographs with your smartphone, let alone the capabilities of compact (point-and-shoot) and bridge cameras. However, to get a nice, crisp shot of distant wildlife you will require a quality zoom lens. It’s also all about what you intend to use the photos for. Virtually any camera will work for computer and Internet use, but if you want to print large images, you need a more expensive digital camera with a good zoom lens.

The polar regions are particularly suited for the small video cameras like GoPro. With the ship crashing through ice or the penguin walks of the Antarctic, there are plenty of opportunities for some great, fun video moments.

5. What are some of the more challenging aspects of being a Photographer-in-Residence?

I feel so excited about being out on the deck helping passengers and getting shots of the abundant wildlife. When I need to be inside to process images together for the lectures, I dream about running back out, hoping I didn’t miss anything!

6. What is your most fond memory from photographing in the polar regions?

It has to be watching a female polar bear with her two young cubs hunt for a seal through the ice. The cubs had been messing around, annoying their mother, but as soon as she stopped suddenly in the hunting stance, they settled down for the wait. We were only about 30m (100 ft) away on the ship, and we watched as she broke through the ice into a cave that a seal was in. It was just amazing to watch the whole hunt, and definitely a rare event to see.

A polar bear jumping across the ice in the Olga Straight in Svalbard. Photo courtesy Sue Forbes.

A polar bear jumping across the ice in the Olga Straight in Svalbard. Photo courtesy Sue Forbes.

Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures on the [Expedition](( We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.

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