Here’s the first trip report, from one of the three photo expeditions to Svalbard this summer. I will soon post the two other reports from these expeditions. You should also keep checking this blog since I will upload more pictures and videos later. More photos will also be posted on the Naturfokus Facebook page.
Before the expedition: There’s always a certain amount of tension on how the photo expeditions to Svalbard will go, but this time I was very excited. For the first time I hired the MS Stockholm for 10 days instead of the normal 7 days. With 3 extra days on the northeastern side of Svalbard, everything was set for a great expedition! Before boarding the ship we had some great photo opportunities with some Arctic Fox, little auks and long-tailes duck.
Little auks. Nikon D3S with 300/2.8 VR II, 1/20 sec, f/11 and ISO 200
Little auks. Nikon D3S with 300/2.8 VR II, 1/30 sec, f/3.5 and ISO 200
Long-tailed ducks. Nikon D3S with 300/2.8 VR II, 1/800 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 1600
Day 1 – 18th of JULY 2010: Just before 4:00 p.m., I met 12 eager photographers near Bykaia in Longyearbyen. Of these 12 photographers, 8 were from Norway, 2 from Spain and 2 from Switzerland. Lisa Strøm was our polar bear guard and expedition leader. After boarding the ship, we sailed out of Isfjorden and then straight north to the northwestern edge of Spitsbergen.
Day 2 – 19th of JULY 2010: After breakfast we anchored at Holmiabukta, where a whale carcass had been in the water all summer. Here we saw our first 6 polar bears, including two females with cubs. The bears dove down to retrieve meat under the surface. With so many bears around the carcass, we got some good action shots of them. The mother and cub in the movie below is filmed here.
Polar bear. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR + 2X III, 1/3 sec, f/32 and ISO 125
Female with cub. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR + 2X III, 1/800 sec, f/10 and ISO 2500
Day 3 – 20th of JULY 2010: We encountered some wind and heavy seas on the north side of Spitsbergen, so we anchored for the night in the sheltered Lady Franklin Bay on Nordaustlandet. The plan was to visit Lågøy in the morning but the heavy seas continued, so we sailed to Sjuøyane instead. Two minutes after going ashore on Phippsøye I saw a polar bear 2 kilometers away, so we decided to get back into the zodiacs. The bear came right down to the beach in front of us. After this close bear encounter we stopped a bit longer at Nelsonøya where we had a great evening close to a bird colony.
Brünnich’s Guillemot. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/1600 sec, f/4.5 and ISO 2000
Smiling spanish photographer on Nelson Island
Day 4 – 21st of JULY 2010: From Sjuøyane we went straight east. Because there was very little ice, we didn´t spot any polar bears in Rijpfjorden or Duvefjorden, but in the small fjord at Pollen, we saw a polar bear (# 8) on the ice floes. We stopped the ship in the ice to wait. This was a good decision as the polar bear came right up to the ship. We had a memorable time with this bear as it stood up on its hind legs several times for the photographers. During the day we saw two more polar bears. That evening we spent up near Karl XII Island, where the water literally boiled with walrus. 3 more polar bears were also seen on the shore. Now this expedition was starting to get very interesting!
Polar bear meating
Wide angle shot. Nikon D3S with 14-24/2.8 (at 15mm), 1/2500 sec, f/9 and ISO 1000
Polar bear. Nikon D3S with 24-70/2.8 (på 60mm), 1/2500 sec, f/10 and ISO 1000
Walrus. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/20 sec, f/13 and ISO 100
Day 5 – 22nd of JULY 2010: We decided to go straight north to try to find more ice. Our captain Per Engwall could sense that the ice was not too far from us, and he was absolutely right. After a few hours we entered the ice field and found a total of three polar bears on ice floes. On the northern most point we were about 81 degrees north, which was a record for most of us. Only 9 degrees to the North Pole! On our way south again, we saw more than 100 Harp seals (Phoca groenlandica) and the weather was great. We anchored near Cape Brunn where we also saw two more polar bears.
Panning Polar bear. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR + 1.4X, 1/13 sec, f/ and ISO 100
Jumping bear. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR + 1.4X, 1/3200 sec, f/10 and ISO 1600
“Areal photo”. Nikon D3S with 14-24/2.8 (at24mm), 1/4000 sec, f/11 and ISO 1600
Day 6 – 23rd of JULY 2010: This day found us in one of the most interesting places on Svalbard, on the northeastern corner of Nordaustlandet. Near Raschøya, the glacier Austfonna and Storøya, located in the eastern most part of Svalbard, we found hundreds of walruses, including many females and cubs. We also saw 10 polar bears, including 8 individuals on Storøya, but most of them were too far away. With 28 bears so far on the trip this started to be an extraordinarily good expedition. That evening we went south along Austfonna, which many people have stated is purely a transport leg. Fortunately it was much more interesting for us!
Walrus cub. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/1600 sec, f/9 and ISO 2000
Walrus. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/500 sec, f/11 and ISO 2000
Bear on Austfonna glacier. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR + 1.4X, 1/3200 sec, f/9 and ISO 1000
Day 7 – 24th of JULY 2010: I will never forget the 24th of July, 2010. That night and day we had many great and close encounters with polar bears like I’ve never experienced before and I’ll probably never experience again. This was definitely the day when everything worked out, and we just had to be alert and be quick to change our CF cards. The arctic light conditions were awful the whole night and day, and with 10 great polar bears about there was no time for sleep. The bears were extremely photogenic when they were swimming, lying on blue ice, nursing or approaching the ship. Finally, we decided to anchor in the Vibebukta and get some sleep.
Midnight sun. Nikon D3S wirh 600/4 VR, 1/1250 sec, f/10 and ISO 1000
IBlue ice. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/1600 sec, f/8.0 and ISO 1000
Blue ice. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/1250 sec, f/8.0 and ISO 1000
Sleeping Polar bear. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/800 sec, f/8.0 and ISO 1000
In the water. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/800 sec, f/8.0 and ISO 1000
Swimming bear. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/1600 sec, f/8.0 and ISO 1000
Blue ice. Nikon D3X with 24-70/2.8 (at 45mm), 1/5000 sec, f/7,1 and ISO 800
Blue ice. Nikon D3X with 300/2.8 VR II, 1/1600 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 800
Blue ice. Nikon D3S with 70-200 VR 1/2000 sec, f/8.0 and ISO 1000
Sleeping bear. Nikon D3S with 70-200 VR 1/3200 sec, f/6.3 and ISO 1000
Female. Nikon D3S with 600/4,0 + 1.4X, 1/2500 sec, f/9.0 and ISO 1000
Playing hide and seek. Nikon D3S with 600/4.0, 1/1600 sec, f/14 and ISO 1600
Jumping bear. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/3200 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 1250
Into the water. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR 1/3200 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 1250
6-legged bear. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR 1/1600 sec, f/10 and ISO 1600
Nursing Polar bear. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/2000 sec, f/10 and ISO 1600
Polar bears. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/1600 sec, f/10 and ISO 1600
Day 8 – 25th of JULY 2010: After our great encounters yesterday, this day should probably have been a disappointment, but it wasn’t. It was a most interesting day. First we had a cruise along the Blåsvellbreen glacier before heading to a walrus colony on Torellneset. Here we found 3 new polar bears on the ice floes, and 2 of them were photogenic and cooperative. With 41 polar bears in a week, we could also focus more on other aspects of the Svalbard, like birds and landscapes. On Torellneset we were pleasantly surprised by a group of nearly 50 belugas. Some of them were just offshore from the beach and we enjoyed it a lot! After the walrus and belugas we headed north up Hinlopen toward a great bird cliff colony called Alkefjellet.
Black-legged Kittiwake. Nikon D3X with 300/2.8 VR II, 1/250 sec, f/7.1 and ISO 400
Reflections. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/1000 sec, f/10 and ISO 1000
Photographers in zodiac
Day 9 – 26th of JULY 2010: Around midnight we came upon the enormous Alkefjellet cliffs with nearly 200,000 nesting Brünnich’s Guillemot. It almost feels like shooting in a mosquito swarm on the tundra, where hundreds of guillemots are flying around your ears. The first chicks also started to jump from the cliffs this night, but were quickly eaten by the gulls. We shoot for as long as we could still lift our cameras. After the bird cliffs we headed towards the western side of Spitsbergen. It was time to think about our return to Longyerabyen.
Alkefjellet. Nikon D3S with 70-200/2.8 VR II, 1/30 sec, f/9 and ISO 100
Brünnich’s Guillemot. Nikon D3S with 70-200/2.8 VR II, 1/30 sec, f/9 and ISO 100
Day 10 – 27th JULY 2010: During the night we had a long sail back and after breakfast we entered Isfjorden. We landed at Alkehornet where we photographed flowers and Svalbard reindeer. Last stop before Longyearbyen was Skansenbukta, full of wildflowers and a colony of Atlantic puffins. Around midnight we arrived at Longyearbyen, and all of the photographers were extremely satisfied. The next morning most of the group flew home, but I and a few others wanted to stay a bit longer in Longyearbyen.
Svalbard Reindeer. Nikon D3S with 600/4, 1/2500 sec, f/4.0 and ISO 1000
Svalbard Reindeer. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/3200 sec, f/4,0 and ISO 1000
Boreal Jacobs-ladder. Nikon D3X with PC-E 24/3.5, 1/500 sec, f/8.0 and ISO 800
After docking: There is always something to photograph in Longyearbyen and the evening session was in the Adventdalen. There were plenty of arctic terns [see previous blog] and waders, and with great light and friendly birds, this became a very busy night.
Dunlin. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/3200 sec, f/5.6 and ISO 1600
Dunlin. Nikon D3S with 600/4.0 VR, 1/1250 sec, f/6.3 and SO 2000
Ringed plover. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/1250 sec, f/6.3 and ISO 2000
Dunlin. Nikon D3S with 600/4 VR, 1/1250 sec, f/6.3 and ISO 2000
Follow us on the new Naturfokus Facebook page for more images from this photo expedition.
NOTE: If you wish to participate in a similar photo expedition to Svalbard, you should book soon! Both Photo Expeditions to Svalbard 2011 are already sold out, but there are still spots available at 15-25/7 2012 and 25/7-4/8 2012!