Svalbard

Updated: Jul 2

Why a Wonder: Svalbard is seascape photographer’s paradise, with blue-and-white glaciers, beautiful and jagged snow-covered mountains, and breathtaking fjords filled with intricate icebergs.



Svalbard is also a wildlife photographer's wonderland, where pros and photo enthusiasts come to photograph polar bears, seals, walrus and a wide variety of sea birds.



Where: Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago located between mainland Norway and the North Pole.



When: Summer, when there is light all day long, giving photographers more time for photography. During the summer months, it’s easier for ships to navigate through the fjords because the icebergs are much smaller and fewer in number than in winter. In fact, in winter the ice can be so thick that even large ships can’t get to opportune locations due to ice blockages.



It’s also warmer in summer, so you are not freezing off your butt during your Zodiac excursions and land tours.



Photography: You can get nice seascapes from the deck of your ship and from the Zodiacs, as well as during your land excursions. Use a zoom like the Canon RF15-35mm or Canon RF24-105mm. Pack a polarizing filter (like the filters made by Breakthrough Photography Filters) to reduce glare on water and ice, and to make white clouds look brighter against a blue sky.


For maximum depth of field, use a wide-angle lens, set a small aperture and focus 1/3 into the scene. Or, use a depth-of-field calculator app.


When composing, be careful where you place the horizon line. If the sky is more interesting than the land, place the land at the bottom of the frame, and vice versa.


For your seascape photographs, take super wide-angle shots as well as detail shots.



Detail shots help to tell the story of your experience.



Try converting a color file to black-and-white for perhaps a more dramatic photograph. Most pros use Nik Silver Efex pro by DXO labs.



You can get wonderful wildlife photographs from the deck of the ship (above right) and from a Zodiac, as well as on land (above left). My favorite wildlife photography lens is the Canon RF100-500mm lens.



If your camera has Animal Tracking and Eye Detection, use it on fast-moving subjects, such as flying birds. Also set the highest frame rate to capture subtle differences in gesture. To reduce camera shake, set your lens to Image Stabilization (Vibration Reduction).



Keep this wildlife photo tip in mind: If the eye is not in focus and well lit, you’ve missed the shot – in most cases.



Remember: the background can make or break a wildlife photograph, so compose carefully. If the background is busy, use a wide aperture and a telephoto lens to blur the background.


As it may rain or snow, it’s advisable to have a waterproof camera backpack or backpack with a rain cover. Also bring a plastic camera sleeve for your camera, especially when you are photographing from a Zodiac.



Learn More: Check out this short video (that's me on piano) for more photo tips. Click here to learn about Svalbard expeditions.



P.S. On my recent Svalbard trip we had two polar bear sightings, but the animals were too far away for good photographs. This photograph was taken by my good friend Mike Cullivan, who, on a different trip and on a smaller boat, was lucky to have a close encounter with a polar bear - and because Mike is a well-prepared photographer, he turned a lucky encounter into a great shot.


© Rick Sammon



This post sponsored by Breakthrough Photography Filters.





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