Jonas Beyer is a wildlife photographer living in eastern Greenland. Regularly exploring his polar backyard where he photographs rarely seen arctic wildlife and shares his experiences online through social media. Jonas’ work has been featured in National Geographic and his respectful and gentle approach for photographing wildlife has earned him the opportunity to take clients on photography trips from around the world.
I first met Jonas in 2018 in Northern Norway where we experienced free diving with orca and humpback whales together. His approach to guiding and his sensitivity towards wildlife really made an impression on me. I really admired Jonas’ awareness of the animal’s well-being. They make his incredible photos that much more impressive!
How do you manage to work and explore during the polar night while living in the arctic over winter?
I wake up early, get to the gym for a workout. We work about 5 days a week, when the weekend comes around I try to get outside. During the polar nights, the stars and the moonlight, and snow is incredible. I still get out and go hiking a little bit, and just getting fresh air.
What’s it like exploring Greenland alone, aren’t you worried about the wildlife and Polar Bears?
Polar bears are definitely out there, and there is always a concern. However, it’s actually the musk ox I’m a little more worried about. The musk ox can actually be very territorial. I can usually tell if a polar bear will be a problem or not. If the bears are running away, that’s a good indicator they’re afraid of humans. If they’re too curios, if they haven’t run away, it’s probably too curious for me to be around them.
Tell me about Uganda, what’s special about Uganda?
The funny thing about me and planning those trips is, it’s never about the country, it’s about the animals. It’s the animals that make me want to go. I really wanted to see the silver back gorillas.
The gorillas are just so – I don’t know what it is about them. They’re so fascinating and so strong, and so… human-like. The way they sit down and use their fingers and peel back the sticks. They even roll their eyes the way people do.
What lights the fire in you and makes you light up when you’re shooting these animals, what is it about these particular animals?
I’m a total newbie in these environments, I’m an easy target for these animals. However, to have them accept me and let them take their photos and share those experiences, it’s definitely the biggest reason.
Even just the little hares in Greenland can just be so cute, and funny looking and fight with other rabbits. It seems so stupid, but when I get the photo I’m so excited.
When it comes to wildlife photography, not everyone puts the animals first. Some people can be really irresponsible. What is the best way to protect the animal’s interests?
Education and word of mouth is important. When I have my clients out on the water, I’ll teach them about the animals and why we approach the wildlife the way that we do.
Unfortunately not every tour operator does this. There are also some regulations and by-laws which help enforce these rules. I’m sure the government will continue to add more rules and regulations.
How do you find responsible tour guides or operators?
My first time out to Norway, I did a scouting trip to explore some of the operators and some of my touring options. A lot of them were great, but none of them were offering exactly what I was looking for.
Tourism is a big way to make money, but I would rather pay a little bit extra and have operators more focussed on the animals and respecting nature. I think it’s just a lot of research, what kind of photos they post on their webpage.
Word of mouth is also great. Having someone refer you to another friend when they know you’ll get along with the guide. You should definitely chat with operators and simply ask how they respect the approach of these animals.
What’s your setup like typically?
I normally buy a lot of extra luggage. Norway is really expensive because I have 5 luggages full of underwater gear, swimming gear, regular clothing, camera equipment.
I have three underwater housing units. I usually have a wide-angle on and ready to shoot. I have a zoom on a 1DX III on another camera in another house. I also use a Canon EOSR mirrorless for vloging and behind the scenes. I’ve been uploading to youtube for fun, it’s fun bring a few people on these journey’s with me.
I’ve also started using organizer bags with transparent lids for my camera bag. That’s helped me keep everything organized and easy to find when I’m searching for particular loose items in my camera bag like a GoPro clip or battery.
Peak Design just made a new travel tripod that’s also a game changer.
What’s one piece of advice you might share to an upcoming wildlife photographer?
Don’t be in a rush to take those great animal photos. Have a lot of patience, learn the in and outs of your camera and and the buttons. Go focus on one specific thing and get good at that. It’s easy to get distracted on Instagram.
Just do it, go out and shoot and get comfortable with your camera. If something really crazy happens in front of you and you’re not hitting the right buttons and miss the shot, it’s so frustrating. Know your buttons.