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Svalbard photography - what to expect?

Svalbard, or also Spitsbergen, is the most easy accessible place in the High Arctic to travel to. The settlement Longyearbyen have a airport where regular flights is able to land. The city have hotels, restaurants and everything you need for a comfortable stay.

However, it is easy to forget that you are in the High Arctic when you arrive in Longyearbyen. The weather is cold most of the year. You can have fog, snow storms or strong wind that makes it impossible to stay outside and sometimes even land a plane on the airstrip. Even in summer you need to think about where you are. This is the High Arctic!

svalbard photography
Svalbard summer in late June. Canon 5D mk III, Samyang 14 mm. 1/15 sec, f / 22. Tripod.
svalbard photography
Polar Bear in front of glazier. Winter. Canon 1Dx, EF800 mm IS, 1/2500 sec, f / 6,3, ISO 800. Tripod.

The contrasts is for sure high. Between the seasons summer, autumn, winter and spring it is huge differences. In temperatures ranging from + 20 degrees Celcius in summer to effective - 50 degrees Celsius in winter. Svalbard photography expeditions is all about these differences during the seasons. Everything is constantly changing. We plan and schedule our Svalbard photography expeditions according to this.

Svalbard Photography in Winter.

The landscape and the light is the surroundings we think about for every expedition we plan into this wilderness. Different seasons and different possibilities. In winter-time from February the sunlight slowly returns, this could be the time to photograph Northern Light in Svalbard, or also in November and December when the darkness is total. In end of February we see the sunrises and sunsets. For a short time the sun rise over the horizon and creates som spectacular light scenes. Usually this is a very cold period of the year and clothing is important together with protecting the gear as you are traveling around there.

svalbard photography
Northern light photographed in end of February. Canon 5Dmk III, EF16-35, f / 3,2, 8,0 sec. Tripod.
svalbard photography
First light. Canon 5D, EF16-35, f/22, 1/13 sec, ISO 640. Tripod.
svalbard photography
Shapes and light. Canon 5D, EF800, f/5,6, 1/1600 sec, ISO 640.
svalbard photography
Sunlight returns. The sun was over the horizon for one hour.

Traveling around in Svalbard during winter is kind of extreme. Temperatures down to - 30-40 degrees celsius can occur. Just to illustrate the challenges for photography I use some pictures from one of the winter expeditions we have done.

Sometimes we charter ships also in winter-time. Next year we are chartering the yacht Arctica II for a expedition from April 22. April is not that extreme as February and March, but its still considered as winter.

svalbard photography
Strong wind. Early March. Hard work keeping the photo equipment safe.
svalbard photography
Keeping warm in -30 celsius.

Svalbard photography in summer

In summertime Svalbard can be like a warm summer day in central parts of Norway one day and like the High Arctic the next day. It is difficult to predict and all activities we decide to do is highly dependent on the weather. In summer it is very rare that we have bad weather that prevent us from doing what we plan, we only adjust the plans according to prevailing weather situation. Mostly because we want the best possibly light and weather for photography and wildlife viewings.

svalbard photography
Summer in Svalbard. Still the mountains we sail by can look like this. From Forlandsundet. EOS 1Dx, EF 200-400 IS, 1/1600 sec, f / 7,1, ISO1250.

Depending on the year and ice conditions the situation around Svalbard will be very different from year to year. In June its usually still lots of ice, in July the ice starts open up and in August most of the remote areas around the archipelago will be accessible. Recent years though we have had some seasons when we could sail into areas that normally would be difficult because of the drifting ice. We are afraid this is because of the climate change and in the future it might change the concept for our Svalbard photography expeditions.

svalbard photography
Late summer in the drifting ice. EOS 1Dx, EF16-35mm, 1/160sec, f/9,0, ISO400
svalbard photography
Landscape in mid August. EOS 1Dx, EF200-400mm, 1/2000sec, f/10, ISO800

You can have everything in Svalbard. All the light, all the situations and all the challenges. The light changes during the seasons and during the day and nights. Even in summer when you have the midnight sun and daylight 24 hours you find the light to change. During our expeditions we usually try to do most of the photography during night because of a softer light.

Already in August the light is changing dramatically and in late August you will have colors on the sky and sunsets and sunrises. The light is still good and its possible to do some of the photography by handheld camera. Because of sailing by ship its usually not possible to use a tripod. That will be only possible when we do landings.

Upcoming Svalbard tours

OPEN FOR BOOKING

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Svalbard July 17 – 26 expedition 2023 MS Origo

Svalbard photo tours and small vessel cruises in mid summer to photograph and experience the wildlife in typically warmer weather with lengthy daylight hours, providing great opportunities to see Svalbard's…

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Svalbard expedition August 5 – 15 2023 MS Origo

Svalbard wildlife photography tours in the early autumn to enjoy the wildlife in typically warmer weather with lengthy daylight hours but also sunsets and sunrises.

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Svalbard expedition July-August 2023 MS Origo

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From Svalbard to North East Greenland cruise

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Svalbard August Expedition 2023 MS Origo

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Svalbard Masterclass on board 2023

Join our photography masterclass onboard hosted by Nat Geo photographer Stefano Unterthiner and Arctic Wildlife Tours

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Svalbard September 04 – 14 2023 Expedition MS Origo

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Svalbard Winter expedition 2024 onboard MS Origo

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Iceland photography tour autumn 2023

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If you have any questions or are wondering about something,
please feel free and do not hesitate to contact us at any given time.
We might be traveling some but will answer as fast as possible.