Front Royal photographer Sharon Fisher has seen parts of the world and experienced harsh climates in ways few others do.
She’s photographed grizzly bears in Alaska, polar bears in the Norwegian Arctic, snowy owls and arctic foxes in Canada and penguins in the Falkland Islands near southeastern Argentina.
“I love remote places that are as untouched as they can be,” she said.
Visiting northeastern Canada in November, Fisher stayed four nights in a remote lodge on the Hudson Bay. Arriving for her last flight, she said torches were required to defrost the plane’s doors so they would open.
While she photographed a mother polar bear and her cub, the temperature was negative 16 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of negative 41.
Once the Hudson froze, polar bears would scoot out onto the ice to hunt seals, she said.
“The sunsets were stunning,” she said. “I could just see what the potential would be [for photos] if there were more polar bears there.”
Drastic weather changes are part of being a wildlife photographer, she said, and cold is expected in Canada in late fall. Weather is one of those uncontrollable factors she has to be ready for.
“You have to understand the whole system,” she said.
However, she said weather is becoming more difficult to predict as signs of climate change become more evident.
“It was extremely cold,” she recalled of her visit to Canada. “[But] three weeks earlier, it was very warm.”
She said incredible swings in weather conditions are a sign of climate change that she’s witnessed.
While in Alaska last year, she said dry conditions led to forest fires. Unexpected heat for the time of year caused grizzly bears to be more lethargic and not hunt for fish as much as usual.
Changes in climate cause animals to alter their behavior, she said, while the pendulum of weather conditions swings from too little rain to too much rain.
While observing a penguin colony in Falklands, she learned they had lost 85 percent of chicks recently because of extreme winds.
One event like that can be devastating for a species, she said.
Despite the challenges she’s experienced, such as her nose freezing when it touched her camera, she looks forward to returning to Canada soon.
“You instantly get frostbite,” she said. “It’s like going to the dermatologist, except for free.”