Svalbard This June or July for Anyone?

March 13, 2022

Melting ice, Isispynten, SvalbardMelting ice, Isispynten, SvalbardWhat makes a strong composition? What makes an abstract? I've been sub-editing Len Metcalf's wonderful articles on abstracts and composition for Better Photography over the past few issues and he's given me (and our readers) lots to think about. If you're a subscriber, may I suggest you pull out the last few issues and have a read!

I'm suggesting this photo is an abstract. Yes, it's also a literal photograph with very little in the way of post-production (for me, at least). I've used some clarity in this version to bring out the texture in the ice and to separate the ice from the water, but at the end of the day, it's an abstract photograph that relies on the random positioning of ice. The only 'intentional' aspect to the composition is the placement of the large blue berg up the top which hopefully anchors the image.
I took 10 shots to get this one. The other 9 aren't nearly so strong. Why do I mention this?

A photographer who purchased my book, The New Tradition, pointed to a caption I'd written, where I confessed I'd taken around 50 shots to get the good one. For him it was a weight off his mind, because he thought that good photographers only needed to take one or maybe two shots to get it right. Maybe that's true for some photographers, but not in my case. And sometimes, when I'm there in the moment, I have no idea whether or not I have the best shot possible, so I keep taking lots of shots. It's not costing me anything except a little more time selecting the best frame from multiple ones later on.

These days, with so many photographers taking so many great shots, to produce images that stand out, we really need to get our compositional balance working and sometimes, especially with moving subjects like this, lots of photos is the best way to achieve success.

This is shot up in the north of Svalbard on a photo tour I did with Kevin Raber last year. Kevin and I are returning there next year in August if you'd like to join us - but berths sell quickly on our ship, so jump in soon!

For more information, check out my Svalbard video here or by visiting thewww.betterphotography.com website and looking for the workshops link.

In amongst the ice, Svalbard
Phase One XF 150MP, 55mm lens, f8 @ 1/800 second, IS 200.

We finally think we're getting over COVID so travelling will open up again and bloody Putin starts a war, throwing our travel plans into disarray once more. There's no doubt that travel has become challenging, but as far as I know (as of 16 March), the voyages with Aurora Expeditions to Svalbard this June and July are still going ahead. Naturally, if there are issues travelling to and from Norway, things will adapt, but my personal thoughts are that Svalbard is a long way from trouble and I'm looking forward to travelling there.

Of course, there's a part of my conscience that thinks about the people of the Ukraine and my heart goes out to them. Perhaps it is selfish to consider a photography voyage at this time - no doubt we all have these thoughts and, if we live in a safe country, count our blessings. 

However, if you're thinking you need to get back out into the world, I can guarantee that a voyage around the Svalbard archipelago will be unforgettable. It's a true polar experience and there will be lots of snow and ice. Exactly how much depends on the weather and, even before taking into account global warming, there would be some years when it was a struggle to sail around Svalbard because the pack ice was so thick, while in other years you might have to voyage a day or so north to reach the ice.

Pack ice is popular with photographers hoping to photograph polar bears. That being said, we found several bears on the small islands around Svalbard as well. It's nature, so there are no guarantees about what you'll find. I remember on my first voyage to Svalbard being disappointed that my only photos of walrus were about as unexciting as my only photo of a polar bear from four kilometres away! On the next voyage, I took the winning photo you see below, plus lots of polar bears.

But wildlife aside, for me the landscape is simply compelling. There are opportunities to shoot it from the ship, from zodiacs and from walking around on land - beaches, glaciers, grasslands, Svalbard in summer has it all!

If you're interest in knowing more, send me an email or check out the presentation on the website -  click here. There are still berths available, but now is the time to make it happen.

And to see a Youtube video on a voyage I did to Svalbard with Kevin Raber, follow this link https://youtu.be/69rP-qnNHjg

 


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