Picture yourself with polar bears
If wild landscapes, remote communities and polar bears are on your wish list, then you can’t go past the Arctic! World-renowned photographer and travel author Steve Davey loves exploring this part of the world and he’s got great tips to help you capture this extraordinary region on camera…
“The Arctic region of Svalbard is an incredible part of the world: far more accessible than the Antarctic, it can be reached in a just few hours from most European capitals. Yet Svalbard is also the home of the polar bear, one of the most fearsome predators on the planet.
Every visitor to Svalbard has the polar bear on their mind; it is hard not to. The first thing that you will see as you get into the terminal building is a giant stuffed bear, dominating the baggage reclaim. As you drive from the airport to the main settlement of Longyearbyen, you will pass Euro-style road signs warning about the danger of polar bears; and if you set foot out of town, you are required to be with an armed guard.
The best place way to explore the Svalbard Archipelago is on a ship. This will allow you to get to into the less travelled regions in the north, where the bears retreat in the relatively warmer summer months.
You have to be lucky to get a good sighting of a polar bear. Often they are some distance away, or disappear in a tantalising heart-beat. A good crew of naturalists will help; as will the ability to go on a zodiac excursion. You will also want to be prepared to take pictures quickly if the captain announces that bears have been spotted. On this exclusive photography tour, I will quickly give you the technical and creative skills that you will need to come away with the best pictures possible of the incredible wildlife you might encounter.
A few quick photography tips are as follows:
1. Always have your camera on you ready to take pictures – don’t be the one who has to go running to their cabin and miss the action.
2. Make sure your batteries are charged and you have a new memory card.
3. Snow and polar bears will need more exposure if they are to come out white: allow for +1 or even +2 stops!
4. Think about composition: leave space in the frame for the bear to move or look into.
5. If the bears are too far away to get a close-up shot, then compose your picture so that they become a part of the landscape.
Svalbard is not just about the Polar Bear though; you can see a range of wildlife, including whales, seals, the Arctic fox and the comical walrus. These leviathans haul themselves out in garrulous, squabbling groups where they bask until their skin turns pink; indicating overheating, before they plunge back into the cold Arctic waters.
The largest island in the Svalbard Archipelago is called Spitsbergen. This is home to the two biggest settlements in the region: Longyearbyen and Barentsburg, a Russian mining settlement. Another Russian settlement called Pyramiden lies empty nearby; deserted after a plane of workers and their families crashed into a mountain when coming into land at Longyearbyen. The ruins of this settlement can still be seen, complete with a bust of Lenin and a drinking den made entirely out of empty glass bottles – a reminder of the harshness of life in this barren region.”
Steve Davey is a writer and photographer based in London. He leads his own range of travel photography tours with land arrangements provided by Intrepid Travel. Steve is escorting an exclusive Arctic with the Experts photography tour to Svalbard. Spitsbergen Explorer departs Longyearbyen on 9 June, 2014, for 12 days and you won’t want to delay booking because places are limited on this special departure.
To see more of Steve’s work, head to bettertravelphotography.com.