Musings Of A Fellow Adventurer…Churchill Polar Bears

Hi, my name is Sallie Jo and I live in NYC with my husband, Jim, I mention Jim because it is all his fault.  I know some of you may think that statement is a little harsh so let me explain.  About 13 years ago for my birthday, Jim bought me a Canon rebel film camera and from there I have spiralled into a black hole of photography equipment, photography trips – well, I am guessing that you reading this, my photo brethren, understand the photo black hole and if Jim hadn’t gotten me that first camera I wonder if I would be taking pictures today.  Luckily he did get me that camera and more importantly he is my constant source of support, understanding and encouragement – even when I tell him about some crazy trip I just have to do – thanks Jim!


I am primarily a wildlife photographer.  I get an amazing sense of wonder from animals and capturing their rawness and emotion which can be so much more unfiltered than people is very fulfilling to me.  Also, it is great excuse to travel to some amazing places like Antarctica (twice!), Alaska, Kenya, Iceland, etc.  My photography of wildlife can be a little divergent – I like to switch between the literal animal shot and the abstractions of animals and blurs.  The flamingo photo below was one of the first shots I took where I knew there was a path for my photography and it has now turned into a portfolio called The Art of Flamingos.  I love the abstraction of this flamingo collections, but also love literal animal shots too like the emperor penguin shot below…

Canon D30, EF 100-400mm 4-5.6 IS


Canon EOS 1D MK III EF 300mm 2.8L IS


I am writing this blog entry while I am still on a photo high from photographing polar bears in Churchill, Canada with Laurie and gang last week.  I have been trying to think about how best to describe Laurie’s workshops and I think I have so bear (get it – bear!) with me.  I sent a picture of the Northern Lights taken a week ago to my buddy Jed this past Sunday when I got back and after he told me how much he liked it I responded that I was pretty lucky to have gotten the shot.  Jed replied that it wasn’t luck being in the right place at the right time and I think he is on to something.   Going on a workshop with Laurie isn’t about luck, but about being in the right place at the right time.  I think this was my sixth workshop with Laurie and I keep signing up with her because I trust her to put me in the right place at the right time so I can get beautiful images – definitely not luck, but skill on Laurie’s part.

When I first met Laurie (it was a large workshop with multiple instructors) and she showed us pictures of bears, I told her right then and there that I wanted to go with her and only her for bears so here are a few gratuitous bear shots from last week.  For the record the polar bear sleeping here about a half hour before this picture was less than a foot away from me.




I cannot confirm or deny this, but Laurie, Joann, Craig and Ted said I was giggling the whole time I was a foot away from the world’s largest land carnivore.  Admittedly it wasn’t the first time that Laurie has told me to stop giggling and take the picture.

Oh, did I mention I was a Canon shooter?  I know some Canon folks might think Laurie is Nikon only and might not want to go with her on a trip, so let me just tell you about how when I was freaking out last week during the Northern Lights and couldn’t figure out my Canon settings it was Ms. Nikon who came to the rescue of this Canon shooter.

Besides beautiful pictures one of the best things workshops have given me are some truly great friends.  Sometimes when you are in the photography bubble it can be a little isolating so finding like-minded friends and enjoying a sense of community can be pretty terrific.  In 2005 I went on my first workshop to Antarctica (heck of a first workshop) where John Paul Caponigro and Seth Resnisk became some of my photo heroes, but more importantly I met friends Jed and Stephen who are like my photo brothers.  I met Bruce on my first workshop with Laurie and we have stayed in touch over the years and last year he showed me Kenya as I never thought I would see it along with Terry (best photo roommate ever) whom I had met with along with Dave, Bob and Marissa in Iceland.  I was invited to join JP’s NextStep group where I am a little bit of an odd ball being a kind of a token wildlife photographer in a sea of abstract photographers, compositors, and landscape photographers, but they like me anyway and our differences give some interesting perspective (go NS gals – Barbara, Beverly, Margie, Ginette & April).  I have created my own photo web of friends and support and if it hasn’t been for some great workshops I wouldn’t have that today – so maybe you should run not walk to a workshop – just saying.

Oh, so is this luck or was I just in the right place at the right time last week?  Maybe a little bit of both!




Please visit my hopelessly out-of-date website and my advice to you is to start giggling (even you guys) if you haven’t been when taking those pictures!