Hillary Moloney of National Geographic Chooses Photographer Paul Nicklen

August 3, 2011

By Hillary Moloney

© Paul Nicklen

The elusive Spirit Bear shot for the<em> </em>August issue of <em>National Geographic </em>Magazine.

Photographer Paul Nicklen and Chris Johns, Editor in Chief of National Geographic Magazine, both had minor feelings of trepidation when it came to Paul’s aspirations to photograph the elusive Kermode Bear for the magazine’s August issue. Chris Johns himself had set out 26 years ago to try to catch a glimpse of the Spirit Bear, as they’re also known, without any luck. But Paul is persistent as Johns points out in the August issue’s Letter from the Editor.

“It’s terrifying taking on assignments where you have a high chance of failing,” Paul told me in a recent Q&A I got to have with him. “And then to finally get that first glimpse of that bear you feel a huge sense of relief and then you just feel in awe because you’ve been in search of this ghost bear all your life and then all of the sudden it is in front of you,” he said.

Paul Nicklen’s images can be almost dreamlike, showing animals in a way that most only get the chance to imagine let alone see in person and capture for the rest of us to view. He has no professional training and has learned the trade through trial and error, with passion and drive, always grateful for the end results of his efforts. “It was a very surreal, powerful, wonderful experience finally getting that bear,” Paul enthuses. Any photographer can appreciate how he must have felt after trying to find the bear for three weeks without any sightings before getting his opportunity. “And then to finally come back with the coverage, I was hoping for a tiny 6 to 8 pager for Geographic, but to get a nice cover story was wonderful,” admits Nicklen humbly.

More of Paul’s captivating and award-winning wildlife photography can be found on his personal Web site, The images from Paul Nicklen’s cover story on the Kermode Bear for the August issue of National Geographic can be found  here.