Svalbard in Winter 2018 Expedition Report

In late March this year (2018) I lead my second ship based expedition to Svalbard in Winter to photograph the wildlife and arctic landscapes of this remote archipelago in a winter setting. The primary reason for choosing late March was at this time of the year (and at this latitude of nearly 80º North) the sun is very low in the sky all day and thus there is hours of golden light available for photography. Dawn and twilight light at this time of year typically last three or more hours and even at midday the sun is still very low in the sky. This situation provides hours and hours of superb light for photography. There is also something about the quality of light in winter at this latitude that translates very well into photographs. The light is soft and ethereal and often has wonderful pink and blue pastel shades not found at other times of the year. For the landscape photographer this combination of light, snow and ice is simply unmatched in my experience.This expedition was for just twelve photographers and utilised the same ice-hardened expedition class ship I have been using for Polar Bear photography over recent years. Amongst the twelve photographers was my surprise special guest for the expedition – French wildlife photographer Vincent Munier. It was an absolute pleasure to host Vincent for this expedition and on a personal note, it was a thrill for me to photograph the wildlife and landscape of Svalbard together (in particular the evening we spent photographing the full moon rising over the snow caped mountains). Our wildlife count for the trip included five Polar Bears, three Arctic fox, seven Walrus, seven Ivory Gulls plus a plethora of Reindeer and other sea birds.Temperatures during our expedition ranged between -0º celsius and -28º Celsius plus wind chill factor. Our coldest day was around -35º Celsius with wind of around 7 metres a second and air temperature of -28º celsius. These sort of temperatures can be quite demanding on body and camera. However, the wonderful thing about ship based expeditions such as this is its easy to walk back inside the ship (where its around plus 20º degrees celsius) and warm up with a hot drink. Being outside and making photographs in these sort of temperatures does require some thought and planning in terms of both equipment and clothing but if you are properly prepared its quite possible to spend very long periods of time out on deck making photographs.The landscape opportunities in Svalbard in winter rate as the very best I have ever experienced (even better than Antarctica). The formation of new sea ice is nothing short of spectacular and set against a back drop of snow covered peaks and glaciers with sea smoke billowing off the open areas of ocean and you quite literally have one of Natures most dramatic and breathtaking scenes.One of the great pleasures of ship based photography is that the scene is constantly changing as the boat moves slowly through the ice filled fjords. Opportunities for photographs are everywhere and part of the experience is watching the incredible landscape roll past. I particularly enjoy this sort of landscape photography as no two images are ever the same.Svalbard (and the Arctic in general) in winter is not for the faint of heart. With temperatures well below freezing it can be challenging to both person and equipment. However, the rewards for those brave enough to take on the challenge are absolutely extraordinary and not to be missed. In my own personal opinion Svalbard in Winter offers the most extraordinary opportunities for dramatic landscape imagery I have had the good fortune to experience. It is quite literally breathtaking.If you are interested in travelling to the Arctic and photographing the incredible landscapes and wildlife of the Svalbard archipelago in a winter setting I am repeating this expedition in late March next year (March 26th – April 3rd 2019). Late March offers us the best opportunity for wonderful light over the dramatic winter landscape. Due to initial registrations and bookings places are already extremely limited – In fact there is only one place remaining before the expedition will be sold out! If you would like more information or a detailed itinerary please just drop me an email.

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