A woman covers her mouth. A stunned man emerges from underwater. Others shriek from the stinging cold, an adrenaline rush, fears overcome—or a mix of all these.
These were expressions I was seeking when I took my Nikon camera once again to the Polar Bear Splash in Long Beach, Long Island, on Super Bowl Sunday.
With the Polar Vortex at bay and temps climbing into the 40s, some polar bears wore refreshed faces sprinting from the chilled Atlantic as though it were mid-July.
But it was early February and an estimated 3,000 polar bears dashed, dove or dipped a toe into the ocean during this 19th annual fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation, the charitable organization that assists children with life-threatening illnesses to fulfill their wishes.
Through the years I’ve attended the event either as a reporter or a spectator who sometimes lugs his camera along to capture the pre-game revelry. Typically, I snap wide profile shots of polar bears quickly entering and exiting the water, like the images that bookend this blog. This year, though, I arrived with a narrower purpose and focus: zoom in on the faces of the most expressive individual bears.
The Long Beach Polar Bears, whose two co-founders first jumped in the ocean on Super Bowl Sunday in 1998, have raised nearly $500,000 for the Metro New York and Western New York arm of Make-A-Wish and $6.8 million overall.