Svalbard. The Arctic light photo tour, 9-20 April 2019

Photography guides: Mike Reyfman, Dmitry Arkhipov

It’s an unforgettable 11-days trip across the Arctic together with a small team of 12 photographers. We’ll focus on animal kingdom and on the beautiful arctic landscapes. Spitsbergen means deep fjords, peaks’ snowcaps, glaciers and of course polar bears. We’ll search for the most interesting scenes taking into account ice situation. Probably there is no better case for shooting than a small team, 11 days at sea together with experienced sailors in a constant search of beautiful scenes.

We chose September dates not randomly: first sunset happens at Svalbard in September! So we’ve planned the most amazing Arctic light journey! All the summer long the light is worst possible: sun will be far above horizon all the night long. The archipelago is situated far beyond the Arctic Circle between 74° – 81°N , so the sun sets first time only in September. You’ll get the best light possible all the night long!

The advantages of travelling by the private ship are obvious: we are more mobile and we can listen to every participant’s opinion what is difficult in a team of 30-50 people on board. The big ships can scare away the animals and can’t be as mobile as we are. Moreover, we have a quick and maneuver “Zodiacs” which can be launched at any moment to get closer to the animals or to go ashore. Everyone can fit 2 Zodiacs simultaneously. Safety measures’ questions are paid special attention: satellite phone, navigational system, ice maps and guide team arming (fires, rifles).

Our timetable is more or less free. Ideally we want to go to North Spitsbergen (as we always do) but that’s not the main goal. The main goal is to make beautiful shots of the Arctic, especially animals’ kingdom and landscape. One of the main goals is to shoot a polar bear. We’ll see fur seals, whales, walruses and arctic foxes for sure. That’s why we’ll work out our everyday timetable taking into account ice situation and the weather. If we see an animal we’ll try to study it and observe, so it’s very desirable to take telephoto with you. 500 mm, 600 mm lens will be right for a close-up and 300 mm, 70-200 for a long shot and an extender.

Arrival – departure

SAS fly regularly to Longyearbyen through Oslo and Tromso. You are recommended to arrive to Spitsbergen at 14:00 approximately the day before and check in to hotel. We will welcome you at the dinner together. Recommended hotels:

Radisson Blu Polar Hotel is one of the biggest hotels and moreover is well-placed.

Basecamp Trapper’s Hotel is good – colorful and unusual.

Since XVII century Spitsbergen was called Grumant. Now it’s the name of one of the laid-up Russian villages on the islands. Since 1194 some Svalbard was mentioned in Norwegian chronicles. Although one can’t be sure that the today’s Spitsbergen was meant. It could possibly be Greenland as well as Jan Mayen. In 1596 the islands were undoubtedly discovered and documented by a Dutchman William Barents who named the main island “Spitsbergen” that means “sharp mountains”. Barents discovered a great number of whales and walruses on the island and in its waters. This gave a start to a large number of fishing expeditions. Approximately at that time the archipelago appeared on the Russian maps as “Saint Russian Islands”. A few years passed and England and Denmark claimed their rights to these lands.

Whale catching

In XVII- XVIII centuries the city was a whale catching base for many countries until almost all the whales were exterminated in this region. Since 1614 the settlement Smeerenburg became Dutch whale catching center. Norway, Iceland and Japan continue this trade even today in spite of International Whaling Commission’ moratorium and export whale meat ban. In 1765 -1766 Mikhail Lomonosov organized 2 sea research expeditions to Spitsbergen led by V.J.Chichagov but the severe climate didn’t let people live on the archipelago permanently and until the beginning of XX century Spitsbergen didn’t have an official Russian presence. Nevertheless the Pomors hunted during the season on the archipelago and the most desperate stayed regularly for winter. At the end of XVIII after whale catching and fur business decline, Spitsbergen was desolated for the next 100 years and was considered terra nullius – nobody’s territory; it means that despite different countries’ nominal claims, the archipelago wasn’t ruled by anybody. The interest aroused only at the end of XIX century when all-the-year-round port access and relatively mild climate make Spitsbergen the main base for Polar expeditions and Arctic tourism.

M/S Malmö owners, captains and crew have several years of experience from Svalbard and is actively working to make responsible expeditions that respect the fragile environment. Vessels route on the expeditions depends on ice, weather conditions and wildlife encounters, but also on what group that is on board. The ship’s Master is always the one who decides when and where the ship will sail and when it is appropriate to put passengers ashore. Below are some examples of the places we usually visit during our expeditions.

Day 1-9: Arrival in Longyearbyen and boarding the Ship in the afternoon

We are now in a part of the world where natural forces rule. Our exact itinerary depends on weather, ice conditions and the wildlife we encounter on the road. Every day we plan to make landings by Zodiac and the following are just examples of some of the exciting places we might visit.

Not included in the price:

  • Airticket to Svalbard;
  • Hotel in Longyearbyen the night before the expedition starts for those who arrive the day before;
  • Transfers in Longyearbyen;
  • Visa and insurance;
  • Alcohol;
  • Tips for the team – about 0,5-1,5% of the trip cost from each person;
  • Fuel extra charge*;

*If the cost of fuel rises extremely in Longyearbyen, additional costs may arise – usually it’s no more than $250-350 per person.

 

What to bring

Gear:
– DSLR camera with tripod and remote shutter release
– A wide angle lens. For example, Nikkor 14-24 or Canon 17-40.
– A middle-zoom lens such as a 24-70 mm
– A telephoto zoom lens, such as a 70-200 mm
– Zoom lens (200 – 500 mm, 100 – 400 mm, 500 mm – one of these lenses) for animal and polar bear photography

Wear:
– Waterproof and windproof jacket
– Waterproof pants
– Warm down-jacket and thermal pants
– Casual clothes for dinners and lunches and photography workshops

The full list of wear will be sent to participants.


Tour leaders Mike Reyfman, Dmitry Arkhipov

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