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.