Polar Bear Shot Dead in Svalbard because of the Ignorance of Tourists

Today I am sharing a photograph I took less than a week ago in Svalbard whilst I was on a scouting trip to photograph Polar Bears in winter from snow mobile. I watched and photographed this magnificent Polar Bear play around this piece of blue ice against the backdrop of the glacier in Tempelfjorden in Svalbard for several hours only days ago. The teenage bear had been in the fjord for days and had been hunting seals at breathing holes along the edge of the frozen ice. I photographed the same bear two days before this image as it lay on a fresh seal kill under the polar winter sunset.

I was deeply saddened and moved to tears today to learn that this Polar Bear is now Dead. Shot dead because of the ignorance and arrogance of tourists who travelled to Svalbard to witness the Solar Eclipse. From what I have been able to piece together from the various news reports now popping up online it seems a tourist suffered minor injuries when the polar bear attacked the tent where he was sleeping. An area where the bear was known to be hunting and where these tourists irresponsibly set up their camp. Svalbard-RIPPolice spokesman Vidar Arnesen said the man was among a group of six that was on a combined ski and snow scooter trip on the remote islands more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the Norwegian mainland. The group was camping north of the main town of Longyearbyen.

The man, Jakub Moravec, told local media he hoped to be out of the hospital later Thursday.

“Now I am fine. I have some scratches in the face, on one arm and on the back. But I feel fine,” he told the Svalbardposten newspaper.

Jakub Moravec I am glad you feel fine. You don’t deserve to feel fine. It is because of you and your friends ignorance and stupidity that this beautiful Polar Bear had to be killed. Tent camping in an area a Polar Bear is known to be currently in is not only incredibly stupid, but its incredibly ignorant. Shame on you. I hope the life of this bear that you and your friends caused the death of haunts you for a very long time.

Read more.. Friday, March 20th, 2015

South Georgia Antarctica Experience Video 2014

My good friend and fellow photographer Antony Watson has just finished a video of our experiences last year in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica and you can now watch the video online (Click to Read the Trip Report). Just click on the image below to watch the video – Enjoy.southgeorgiavideoIf you are interested in travelling to South Georgia Island and the Weddell Sea Antarctica I have an expedition this November to South Georgia Island and to Antarctica in February next year. Places are now extremely limited on both expeditions. There is now only one remaining place on South Georgia Island expedition before it will be sold out.Antarctica-Weddell2015I am heading out of Reykjavik later today up to the very north (and very wild and remote) western tip of Iceland on an expedition to Photograph Arctic Foxes for an ongoing project. See you back in Reykjavik in a week or so – weather permitting a timely return.

Read more.. Friday, March 20th, 2015

Landscape Photography with Emotion and Mystery Part Four

Yesterday I was delayed leaving Svalbard by eight hours from my Winter Scouting trip to the Arctic due to significant ice on the runaway. This isn’t the first time I have experienced lengthy airport delays due to weather (and I am sure it will not be the last either) but the time did give me an opportunity to put further thought toward Landscape Photography with Emotion and Mystery and as such I want to expand a little further on the previous articles.

There is another aspect to the creation of evocative imagery that I have not yet touched on in this series of articles (See Part One, Part Two and Part Three) and that is post production. Post production is the generally accepted term for the adjustments made in software to the original RAW file that was captured in the field (post production can be applied to jpeg files as well but there are significant advantages to using RAW images). There are numerous programs available in the marketplace that facilitate post production. Two of the most well known and commonly used are Adobe Camera Raw and Adobe Lightroom.

The purpose of this article is not to provide a step by step set of instructions on how to process your photographs in these applications to create emotive photographs. That is frankly beyond the scope of this article and it is best demonstrated in person or via a video tutorial in any case. Or dare I say it – in a book. One of the best books on this topic is Jeff Schewe’s ‘The Digital Negative‘ (I recommend you add it to your library and will be reviewing it here on my blog in the coming weeks). Rather the purpose of this article is to understand the relationship between time of capture, post production and the creative vision.

When we return to the studio with a memory card full of RAW files what approach should we take to fulfil our creative vision? Specifically, what is the mental process we go through that is going to lead to editing, selecting and ultimately processing a RAW file that is powerful, evocative and that tells a story?

In order to attempt to answer this question I think we need to look at the step between capture and post production that I feel gets glossed over all to often by photographers (especially in this age of social media and the rush to share photographs) and that goes a good deal of the way to understanding the mental process of going from capture to fulfilled vision. When we are out in the field capturing photographs we are actively looking at the ‘real world’ in front of us. The ‘real world’ for lack of a better term gets absorbed by our eyes and baked into our brain as a memory. Occasionally, when the conditions are really good we ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ (known affectionately as ‘chimping’) because we feel we have captured the scene in such a way that it meets with our eyes and brains perception of what lies in front of us. We then come back to the studio, look at the file on our monitors and are subsequently disappointed. We are disappointed because the flat 2-dimensional file on our computer monitor fails to live up to the image and memory we still have in our minds eye. This is an interesting phenomena that I have experienced many times and I have learnt how to overcome it to some degree with a staged approach to my post production. Just as an interesting observation: I will caution you now that the approach I am advocating goes against everything you are witnessing (and possibly participating in) on Social media today. Social Media has given birth to an age where prolificacy is seen as a virtue. Quantity is rewarded over quality as photographers race to outdo each other by simply posting more images more quickly than the next photographer.  Its a death spiral that has resulted in a torrent of mediocrity.

The problem is that the original scene is still fresh in my mind and quite honestly the flat 2-dimensional photograph cannot compete with my memory of what it was like when I pushed the shutter. Something got lost in the translation between being at the location in person and the capture of the image. Or did it?

With the experience of being out in the field still fresh and at the forefront of my mind I feel I do myself a disservice when I try to compare my recent RAW capture to my memory of what it actually looked like. I need to let some time go past so that my memory of the scene fades. I need to forget about the morning dew droplets on the long grass, the smell of the clean, cool air, the sound of the nearby waterfall, the way the low mist hugged the ground, and the way the slight breeze caused it to curl ever so gently over the fallen logs. All of that sensory input got locked up in my brain when I was out trying to capture the photograph and its what my brain is now using to compare against what my eye sees in the RAW file on my computer monitor. Good Luck with that!

The problem for me is that this comparison gets in the way of my vision and the story I want to tell in my photograph. If I let a period of time elapse the memory of the scene begins to fade. I forget that the dew drops were so pure, that the air was so fresh and clean. I no longer remember the sound of the nearby waterfall or how the mist was gently curling just so at the time I made the photograph. My memory has faded and like the RAW file that lacks contrast the playing field has been levelled. Now I can look at my photographs without my brain instantly telling me they are a failure because they fail to live up to the fresh memory my senses worked so well to create. I can now also be far more objective in my assessment of the RAW file and am far better equipped to make the critical decision of wether I should process the file and take it to output – and then possibly share it. This is something I have experienced time and time again in my own photography and learning to understand it has enabled me to give myself the best chance to overcome it.

It has been an interesting experience for me to watch other photographers grapple with this phenomena. I have seen photographers on workshops and expeditions come back from a single days shooting in places like Antarctica with over a thousand photographs. I have then watched them diligently sort, edit, select and process their favourites all within the space of a few hours. What I find when I subsequently look at their photographs is that quite often they are what I term ‘record shots’. ‘Record shots’ are photographs that have accurately recorded the scene but that usually fail to convey an emotive story. This isn’t always the case, but I find it holds true most of the time. It holds true because the photographers brain is working to record the scene as they remembered it and not to fulfil a creative vision. They are not trying to tell stories with the photographs and are focusing instead on documenting the scene as quickly as possible (usually because of the seemingly omnipotent Social Media call).  There is nothing wrong with this by the way and I do not mean to in any way disparage this approach. It is just not an approach that works for me if I want to do more than document the scene.

There is a marked difference between just recording the scene in camera and fulfilling your creative vision through storytelling using a photograph as the medium. I want to also clarify that I am not advocating extensive post production long after the image was taken (I don’t do extensive post production – see my Ethics Statement. I actually have a strong distaste for post production that disingenuously misrepresents Nature and will have more to say on this rather disturbing trend in a future article). I am advocating story telling and understanding the relationship between what you were thinking when you pushed the shutter, how the RAW file matches up to your vision both immediately after the shoot compared to how it compares with your vision after the passage of time. And finally how the passage of time ultimately frees you from the memory of being there and thus liberates you to fulfil your creative vision.

Personally, I can make a few quick selects after a field shoot (I call it cherry picking), but I find I really need that passage of time to go past before my vision is clear and I can be sure I have selected the very best photographs to subsequently process. That passage of time that has dulled my memory somehow lets me take the RAW file and better fulfil my creative vision. Its a fascinating phenomena that I admit I do not fully understand. Part of this process is certainly letting the RAW file speak to me about what ‘it’ needs in terms of post production but a larger part is about my brain recognising the story I am trying to tell whilst being free of the immediate memory of actually being there. And remember telling a story is the key to the creation of an evocative photograph.

Read more.. Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Svalbard Arctic Winter Scouting Trip Complete

Yesterday we arrived back in the small town of Longyearbyen via snow mobiles from our scouting trip to the wilderness in the north of Svalbard where we photographed Polar Bear, Reindeer and icy landscapes in the deep freeze of an Arctic Winter. This scouting trip ranks in the top five most amazing and extraodinary expeditions I have ever been fortunate to undertake – it was also the coldest. The mercury plummeted below -30º Celsius with wind chill on many occasions. Although it was cold (its the Arctic in Winter!) we had a mix of incredible light, landscape and wildlife in a deep winter scene that was a very special experience. Part of the problem in dealing with the cold during this test trip was that we were out in the elements for ten or more hours a day with no option to return to our hut to warm up. This meant donning lots of layers and being prepared to deal with really extreme temperatures for many hours. One of the few places you could actually get some warmth into your body when the cold seeped its way through the layers was from the heated handgrips on the snowmobiles and I was personally very pleased to have these available. Being able to operate the camera requires thin gloves and these offer little protection in this extreme environment. We were over two hundred kilometres from Longyearbyen in the remote northern part of Svalbard  which limited us to what we could take with us and the provisions already supplied at the hut. We travelled more than five hundred kilometres in total during the expedition.

During the expedition we encountered and photographed Polar Bears, Seals, Arctic Fox, as well as Reindeer and were able to make some very unique photographs of these animals in the Arctic Winter light. I will be sharing some of the photographs I made when I get a chance to process them on my return to Australia. As tempting as it is to process a few images on my macbook now, I really prefer to save this work for my studio editing machine where I have a much more tightly controlled colour managed environment.

I am going to stay in Longyearbyen for the next couple of days before I fly back to Iceland to continue my Arctic Fox project in the extreme north-east of Iceland. As it happens, there are several fox dens just outside of town in Longyearbyen and I want to check these out before I leave and potentially spend a day photographing the foxes if they are around. Once back in Iceland I am going to to drive up to Isafjord where I will take a charter boat up to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. This very remote part of Iceland is very rarely visited in winter and is only accessible by chartered boat (approximately four hours steam north of Isafjord) and there is no infrastructure (power, running water, roads etc.) in place in this wilderness so we have to take everything with us for the duration of the trip. It is a major undertaking to travel and photograph in Hornvik in winter requiring the co-ordination of not only a chartered boat, supplies, and emergency EPIRB, satellite communication equipment, but also special permission from the park ranger. I want to take a moment and thank my friends in Iceland who have helped make this all possible. Without their assistance in co-ordinating and arranging this expedition it simply would not have been possible. I spent a week or so last year in this area photographing Arctic Fox with their assistance from a snow blind and was able to get several images for my project that I was extremely happy with. I hope to get sufficient images from this expedition to complete the project. In the meantime I am going to enjoy a couple of days in Longyearbyen with hot water, electricity and a warm room. See you back in Iceland in a few days.

Arctic Fox Howl

Read more.. Sunday, March 15th, 2015

March Photo of the Month Winner: Caroline Hind

Congratulations to the third print winner ‘Caroline Hind’, for the photograph of the month for March 2015: ‘Epic Sense of Scale’

What Caroline said: That is a truly spectacular image! I’ve been to Antarctica only once, but it’s captured my heart and I know I’ll be back.An Epic Sense of Scale

Congratulations Caroline, you were the first, and your print will be sent to you when I return to Australia in early April.

Keep an eye out on my blog for the next print giveaway with the April photograph of the month. Remember the best way to get instant updates is to subscribe via email.

Read more.. Saturday, March 14th, 2015

2015 March Photograph of the Month: Epic Sense of Scale

The photograph of the month for March 2015 was shot during one of the last zodiac cruises on my 2013 Antarctica expedition. We were fortunate to come across an iceberg of truly monumental size near the entrance to Antarctic Sound. Whilst I have been fortunate to see and photograph icebergs even larger than this (and the biggest icebergs are measured in kilometres) this particular iceberg also had an incredible chasm, wonderful form and shape and beautifully chiselled features. Our expedition ship ‘Polar Pioneer’ pictured here is seventy two metres long and a full six decks high at the fly bridge.  This was actually one giant iceberg joined underneath the water.  Our ship could have easily fit through the chasm however such a venture would have been exceedingly dangerous. I admit though my mind was racing with the thought of a blast through this chasm in our zodiac! VPPY - Gold AwardDon’t forget! You can win a free 13″ x 19″ Win a Fine art Print of this photograph including shipping anywhere in the world. All you need do is to be the first to comment on this post on the home page with your thoughts on why you like this photograph or why you would like to own a print of the image and then share the post with your preferred social media outlet. Just keep in mind that due to my hectic travel schedule it may take me some time to make and post out each print so if you are the lucky winner for a given month I ask that you jut exercise a little patience and as soon as I am back in my studio in Australia and as soon as practical I will make the print and send it to you – free of charge. Each print will be made and personally signed by me with the same care and attention to detail I exercise on my large gallery prints. There will be a total of twelve prints to win throughout the calendar year. The first two prints of the year were won by Fred Jennings and Chris Roberts and their prints have now been delivered, framed by them and are hanging on their walls.

This particular print is one I hold quite close to my heart as it won a coveted Gold Award at both the 2014 VPPY Victorian Professional Photography Awards and also at the National APPA Australian Professional Photography Awards. It was one of my four portfolio photographs that won me the 2014 Australian Canon Science, Nature and Environment Photographer of the Year award.

Good luck and don’t forget in order to win the print you need to be the first to comment here on the home page on the March photograph of the Month for the 2015 calendar year with your thoughts on why you like the photograph or why you would like to own a print and to then share the post with your social media outlet of choice.

Read more.. Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Svalbard in Winter – The Deep Freeze of an Arctic Winter

I arrived in Longyearbyen a few hours ago where the temperature is currently -5º Celsius plus a little wind chill factor. Outside the frozen mountainous landscape is covered in fresh snow and is spectacular to behold – I am looking forward to heading outside shortly to grab a few snapshots of the town in winter. It is fantastic and very exciting to be here in winter and tomorrow I will be heading north with a few friends on snow mobiles to a remote hut by the side of one of Svalbard’s spectacular glaciers on our scouting trip to photograph Polar Bears, Reindeer and landscapes under winter arctic light. For now it is time to enjoy a few feature comforts and the warmth of Basecamp whilst making final gear preparations for our departure tomorrow morning. _H9P3362-Edit-MoabSMR-RelCol32013

Read more.. Monday, March 9th, 2015

Iceland Winter Workshop 2015 Complete – Heading North in search of Polar Bears

Daniel Bergmann and I have just wrapped up an absolutely brilliant 2015 Winter workshop here in Iceland. We had some incredible light, Aurora and experiences during our time exploring the winter countryside with a fabulous group of passionate photographers. In brief, we photographed the spectacular snow covered landscapes of Southern Iceland, partially frozen waterfalls, and the magical Northern Lights over a period of ten days.Iceland-7629 A full trip report and photographs from the workshop will come later once I have a chance to sort through the images and fully digest our shared experiences. Just a reminder if you would like to join us on our 2016 Winter workshop to Iceland there are now only a few places remaining before it will be sold out. We will be exploring the northern landscapes of Iceland and visiting some of the spectacular northern features and landscapes whilst they are covered in fresh snow. You can register your interest by dropping me an email.GullFoss in WinterI am headed North tomorrow via Oslo to the small town of Longyearbyen in Svalbard on a scouting trip to photograph Polar Bears and Reindeer in the deep freeze of an Arctic Winter. Longyearbyen is the world’s most northerly permanent settlement at 78º North and has a population of around 2,500 people. In summer, it is the jumping off point for many Arctic adventures including my own Polar Bear Photography Expeditions. In winter, it is a sleepy frozen town held tightly in the clutches of the Arctic night. Longyearbyen is only my starting point for this scouting trip however, and I will be heading further north with a few friends via snowmobile (snowmobile and dog sleds are the only way to get further north in winter) to a very remote hut by the edge of one of Svalbard’s most spectacular glaciers. We intend to spend a week at this location photographing wildlife and landscapes in the Arctic winter light. At this time of year we are expecting temperatures to potentially dip as low as -30 Celsius and possibly even colder, but we are also expecting incredible winter light should the weather and conditions co-operate. Because of the extremes of temperature at this time of year as well as the danger of camping with Polar Bears we are utilising the small hut as our Basecamp and will explore the landscape daily on snowmobiles and then return to rest in the warmth of the hut. This is the first time a photographic expedition of this nature has been undertaken to my knowledge and it should be an incredible experience. It is our hope that we may be able to offer this remarkable opportunity as a workshop expedition in the near future if our scouting trip is successful. I am very excited about this new opportunity and will have more to report once I return. In the meantime it is time to catch a few hours sleep before I catch my flight to Oslo.

Read more.. Friday, March 6th, 2015

Yellowstone 2015 Winter Wonderland Workshop Complete – Heading to Iceland

Early this afternoon I wrapped up the 2015 Yellowstone Winter Wonderland Experience Workshop in Jackson Hole. We have spent the last ten days travelling through Yellowstone and the Grand Teton area photographing both landscape and wildlife by private snow-coach and it has been an incredible experience. We actually spent the last part of our workshop in the Grand Tetons  and it was a wonderful experience from beginning to end. There were many fantastic photographic opportunities and from what I have already seen some beautiful winter images have been created by all on the trip. The landscape of Yellowstone is stunningly beautiful in Winter with clean crisp air and stunning winter light. The combination of geothermal features, snow and wildlife is truly a miracle of Nature and has created a photographic paradise. Personally I took over a thousand images during the course of the trip and as always it will take me some time to sort, edit and process my favourites. Travelling and photographing in Yellowstone in Winter with a small group of good friends and talented, passionate photographers has been a wonderful experience that I hope to repeat in future years. In fact, I already can’t wait to return and do it all again and am planning another winter trip for early 2017. Watch for the trip report from our 2015 experience over the coming weeks if you would like to get an idea what a workshop to Yellowstone is like in Winter.

Tomorrow I am flying to Denver and onto Iceland for my 2015 Winter Aurora Workshop with my good friend Daniel Bergmann. It has been nearly six months since I was last in Iceland and I am itching to return to this wonderful country. Iceland is a country I hold very near and dear to my heart and feels very much like my home away from home. I am particularly fond of winter in Iceland – the streets of Reykjavik are quiet, and with a dusting of fresh snow there is wonderful fairy tale feel to the city. I am particularly looking forward to Kaffi (thats Icelandic for coffee) at my favourite cafe ‘C is for Cookie‘ cafe and a big bowl of seafood soup from the hipster restaurant Vegamote when I arrive in Reykjavik.

Whilst it will be nowhere near as cold in Iceland as it has been in Yellowstone during winter (actually it has been a very mild winter in Yellowstone) we should still see the mercury dip below 0º celsius on regular occasions – especially in the evening when we are out photographing the Aurora. I am personally looking forward to more ice cave photography during this workshop as well photographing the beautiful Snæfellsnes Peninsula in winter and of course the glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón as well as many other excellent locations. We may even get up into the helicopter for some aerial photography of the fissure eruption near the Bárðarbunga volcano that has been ongoing for some months now. This last option is very weather dependant so we shall have to wait and see what Nature dishes up. The 2015 Winter Iceland Workshop has been sold out for many months now, but there are still a couple of places available on the 2016 Frozen North Workshop if you would like to join us. See you in Iceland.IcelandWinter2016

Read more.. Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

World Photographic Cup Medalist 2015

Final judging of the World Photographic Cup 2015 is underway in France and I was thrilled to learn this evening that one of my photographs has made the podium as a medalist for Australia in the reportage category. We will have to wait until April when the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded to know where my photograph has placed. Regardless of the final place however, it is a great thrill and honour to have had my photograph selected to represent Australia, to have made the finals, and to subsequently have received a medal.

The overall Winners will be announced in Montpellier, France, on April 12th, 2015. If you are wondering which photograph has medalled – you will have to wait until the overall winners are announced….Stay tuned.

Read more.. Tuesday, February 17th, 2015