Two polar bears stand upright while one seems to give a friendly wave to something in the distance. The two cubs were in fact watching another pair of cubs and their mother. Clinical pharmacist Laura Keene, 57, spotted the animals while visiting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the northeastern reaches of Alaska.

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“It was such a surreal moment when I saw that wave. Though I knew it was simply the cub moving to keep his balance as he stood upright, I pressed the shutter desperately hoping that I could capture that scene,” says Laura Keene, 57, clinical pharmacist and amateur photographer from Mason, Ohio.

Bears gather on the barrier islands of Kaktovik in northern Alaska every autumn to look for leftovers from whaling by Inupiat inuits before the Beaufort Sea freezes and they move on to hunt seal. However, as Keene notes, “adult [polar bear] males have been known to attack and kill young bears, so the moms were protectively monitoring activity.”

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By the numbers: 6

Keene and her expedition team spent six hours per day watching and photographing the polar bears on a boat while dealing with temperatures as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. “[The polar bears’] behavior at the moment this photograph was taken differed from their usual playing or sleeping. They were all on alert, the mom was serious and anxious and the cubs curious and attentive,” said Keene.