Author Topic: Svalbard  (Read 13384 times)

elsa hoffmann

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #30 on: June 15, 2015, 12:17:57 »
Chris - you are of course correct if you work out the cost /day thing - HOWEVER -
&14k + is not actually do-able for me - whereas $9k+ MIGHT be.

Joshua's trip will be a whole years salary (once you include extras and flights)

remember the Rand exchange rate is very very weak at present. and not looking up.
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Chris Wahl

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #31 on: June 15, 2015, 19:13:42 »
Elsa, you are of course right ...

Anthony

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #32 on: June 16, 2015, 20:24:06 »
Last year I circumnavigated Svalbard on the Academik Sergei Vavilov.  We travelled beyond 80 deg N and saw the polar ice cap.  It was a great trip and later this year we will visit the Antarctic on its sister, the Ioffe.  The ship is a Russian scientific research vessel with a very high ice rating, which means it can handle situations that most other ships on this route could not.  It also has a sophisticated stabilisation system (designed to facilitate accurate scientific measurements - and perhaps tracking NATO submarines?) which we did not need as the sea was so calm.  Generally we were very lucky with the weather.

The ship carries no more than 100 passengers.  This was quite a good number, as it meant that it was big enough to handle rough weather (which we did not have) and we could get to know a variety of people.  It was not so big that it felt like a city on the sea.

We saw four polar bears, but while there is a good chance of seeing them, you are very unlikely to get close.  Even when a bear was on the shore (and especially when it was swimming), our zodiacs kept well away, both for safety and to avoid stressing the bear.   

I do not think that it is at all necessary for a competent photographer to go on a specific photography tour for such a trip.  The crew and expedition leaders (the latter were from a variety of countries) did their best to give everyone a great experience, depending on their needs.  Almost every day we went out in zodiacs twice a day, sometimes staying on the water and sometimes on land.  When on land different options were made available, depending on what people wanted to do.  I usually went with the slow group, because that gave lots of time for photography.  Usually we were on land for two to three hours at a time, and that is really enough.

The voyage had an official photographer, Nikon Ambassador Daisy Gilardini http://www.daisygilardini.com/#/0 and I spent a lot of time with her - it is always interesting to be around an expert.  But even if she had not been there (not every voyage has an official photographer) I would still have had far more photo opportunities than I could exploit. 

Most of the other expedition leaders had MAs or PhDs in relevant subjects.   Some had written books.  There were lots of lectures on the Arctic and its history and I went to as many of those as I could.  The expedition leaders were very professional and greatly added to the experience.

The company tries to offer sharing arrangements for single travellers, and that can help to keep control over the cost.  There were several singles who shared in this way.

We also spent a day and half in Longyearbyen, the capital of Svalbard, and that was as much time as I would want to spend there.  We did take the opportunity to go dog sledding (including harnessing the dogs to the wheeled sledges (no snow in Longyearbyen in the summer).  It was a lot of fun.  I would not recommend basing yourself in Longyearbyen.  We met a Danish couple who had done that and it did not sound very appealing.

Here is a link to some of my photos of the trip.  http://anthonymac.smugmug.com/Travel/Svalbard-July-2014/
Anthony Macaulay

elsa hoffmann

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    • Elsa Hoffmann
Re: Svalbard
« Reply #33 on: June 16, 2015, 21:10:57 »
Wow Anthony - this was the kind of info I wanted.
One of my friends did a trip on the same boat last year - but with a local tour guide (photographer) and his comment was that he might as well have just joined the cruise with everyone else for a cheaper price (which makes sense to me)
The smaller boats take fewer people - that of course appeals to me - the price doesnt.

The part that bothers me most is that you also say you dont really get that close to the Polar bears to get good images. Hence me looking into going to Alaska instead. But nothing is cast in stone. As a matter of interest - lens(es) did you use most of the time?

Your post was really great and informative - thank you. I looked at your images - really a lovely set. The Artic fox (I think) - wow - stunning!

"You don’t take a photograph – you make it” – Ansel Adams. Thats why I use photoshop.
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Asle Feten

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #34 on: June 16, 2015, 21:37:08 »
You never know what will happen, and that is part of the experiencing with this type of adventure. You can have luck and see many bears and come close to some of them or you can have less luck. I was lucky and saw 13 bears at my first trip with a boat with about 70 passengers. We were very close to 2 of them, and got excellent opportunities to photograph at least 3 more of them at little longer distances. Some of them was just a white spot at long distances.

And don't forget that Svalbard is more than polar bears. There are also valross, seals, reindeer, arctic fox, plenty of birds, landscape and the unique polar light.
There is no illusion, it just looks that way.

Anthony

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #35 on: June 17, 2015, 01:05:56 »
Elsa, I started with the 300/4 AFS on the D3s, and later added the T/C 1.4.  I was really impressed with this combination - the arctic fox cub close ups were shot with this.  I found I could hand hold successfully.  The polar bear was with the 300 on its own, and heavily cropped.  The 300/4 has slow AF, so BiFs are problematic, but the rendering is lovely  I took a tripod but did not use it.  On a ship or a zodiac the engine vibrations are an issue as a tripod or monopod can transmit these.

I agree with Asle's comments - Svalbard is more than bears, but bears are of course what we want.

A smaller ship might be challenged if the weather turns bad.

I contacted One Ocean direct to book.  They got back to me after a while with a last minute cancellation space, and a discount offer.  They asked me to book through http://www.polarcruises.com as their preferred agent to deal with the paperwork.  It did feel a bit strange sending rather a lot of money to a bank in Bend, Oregon, but it all worked out fine.

We have booked our Antarctic trip through the same agent.  They have given me a returning client discount, and so have One Ocean.  Every bit helps.  Please feel free to contact me for further information if this would help.
Anthony Macaulay

elsa hoffmann

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #36 on: June 17, 2015, 11:30:59 »
I am of course quite happy Svalbard is about more than Polar bears - the Arctic fox is another favourite of mine.
But of course one wants to see those bears up close - and come away with good - if not great - photos.

One Ocean's trip is really more affordable than any other's I have seen. But being between 70 - 100 people is not what I had in mind.

Mind you - I also didn't plan on being bankrupted by a trip..... so the jury is still not out and I am still thinking

Just purchasing the right clothes is going to cost a fortune. Remember I live in sunny South Africa. We don't have weather like you do in Norway
"You don’t take a photograph – you make it” – Ansel Adams. Thats why I use photoshop.
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Asle Feten

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #37 on: June 17, 2015, 13:00:31 »
But being between 70 - 100 people is not what I had in mind.

Actually my first trip was arranged by a friend of mine. So all of the 70 was our friends and their friends. My friend was telling me that it was the one trip for the lifetime. But actually it was just a start... My second trip, when we also went to Greenland, was with the same ship, but with only 34 passengers.

If 70-100 was more then you had in mind, and a trip specially adapted for photographers, I can recommend wildphoto.com, but then you will get the same pictures as many of the best naturphotografers in Norway. Their autumn-light-trip use the same ship that I have been on.

With bigger ships and more passengers, the chances to get good photographs of polar bear get poorer. Both because a bigger group can't get as close, and because a smaller ship can go many places where bigger ships can't go. For the really big ships, the chances for good photos of polar bears are near zero.

Yes you need good clothes. Underwear of wool and rain- and windproof outerwear.

As we are still beta-testing, I try to post another polar bear. ( D1X with 180mm/2.8 )
There is no illusion, it just looks that way.

Anthony

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #38 on: June 18, 2015, 00:34:12 »
One important thing to research is the ice classification of the ship.  More highly rated ships can go to more interesting places.
Anthony Macaulay

elsa hoffmann

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #39 on: June 23, 2015, 08:30:47 »
I spoke to another photographer last night who did the Svalbard trip last year with C4 (touring company)
They were a group of 10 people, on a boat dedicated for photography - specifically low (where-ever it is supposed to be low and zodiacs - I think they are low too - for photography. She only raved about the boat and crew - skipper being very cautious and experienced - and never took any chances where safety was concerned.
The boat ride can be rough and most people got sea sick along the way. Not for the faint hearted. One needs to be fit also to hang on at times. The wind can be hectic too.
The time of year is very important - she went in September which was a bit late, so the saw only 5 Polar bears. 2 Walrus  - right up close and very smelly - and many other things including great landscapes. She used her 200-400 mostly which worked well. The ride on the zodiac can also be rocky and you need to keep your wits about you and shoot fast. Her friend did the trip the previous year in August and saw many more bears - including babies.

Mostly older people (50 - 76) on the boat - the young ones cant afford such a trip.

And it was cold. very very cold. They all recommended BOG HIGH boots - as you do step into water, and if water flows into your boots - you are done for the day.

This is for sure a trip of a life time - but I am having second thoughts because of the cost involved. Her trip cost $15k for the 10 days - including flights. 2016 will be more expensive - for us in SA due to the weak Rand value. (our currency) I would also have to spend at least $1500 on clothes - and order everything from overseas as we simply dont stock cold weather gear like that here in SA.

Trips on the big ships are not recommended, boat is too high and the trips have a fixed itinerary - whereas the photo tours have no schedule to keep to.

I am waiting for info on the boat she was on. It may be possible to contact the company in Norway direct and book through them - which would make it less expensive already.


 
"You don’t take a photograph – you make it” – Ansel Adams. Thats why I use photoshop.
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Anthony

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #40 on: June 23, 2015, 13:29:54 »
Thanks, interesting update.

The sea sickness issue is potentially a problem with smaller ships.  We were lucky - the sea was very calm for our trip.  It can be severe.  We had one bouncy zodiac trip, and I was not sorry when that ended.

Another issue is the ice class of the ship, which determines how well they can deal with ice in the water, which in turn influences where they can go.  In this context it was interesting to read on the C4 website that the ship they use, the Stockholm, does not currently meet the forthcoming International Maritime Organisation standards for polar cruises.  http://www.c4images-safaris.co.za/Arctic-Photo-Expedition-Svalbard-15-25-September-2014-@54.html

It is not correct that the larger ships have a fixed itinerary.  Nothing is fixed in polar waters and all itineraries are indicative only.  Our ship's captain and the expedition leader constantly reviewed conditions and had a variety of options to maximise the experience.  In our case, the decision to go round Svalbard rather than return was only taken the day before, based on the up to date assessment of ice conditions.

Our ship provided waterproof parkas, trousers and boots as standard.  There were options to hire other gear.  You can also consider buying most of your clothing in Longyearbyen (there are several outdoor gear shops) which is likely to be less expensive than SA.

It will probably be less expensive to book direct with the ship or with a northern hemisphere agent.  You would then avoid paying the cost of the photographer flying out from SA, and his profit margin.  Of course, it is the overall price which counts, and a package booked in SA may make financial sense.

Anthony Macaulay

Asle Feten

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #41 on: June 23, 2015, 16:36:53 »
MS Stockholm is a nice ship. That ship was actually used in a swedish movie from 2012, En fiende att dö för http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1904887/

We met her by Austfonna in 2009. She was the second ship that sailed through Hinlopenstrertet that season, we were thorough an hour before. This picture is taken 27 second before midnight:

MS Stockholm
by Asle Feten, on Flickr
There is no illusion, it just looks that way.

elsa hoffmann

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #42 on: June 24, 2015, 14:45:55 »
You guys are correct - the M/S Stockholm is the ship my friend was on.

Regarding bigger ships - the captain makes a call on what is best for everybody - not only the photographers. I have no idea how much that will change the whole thing though.

At this point I am scrapping the idea of a trip to Svalbard - just too expensive. C4's new price apparently is $13000. Excluding flights and lots of clothes.

I can do 5 trips for the price of that one trip. So come on guys - where to??

"You don’t take a photograph – you make it” – Ansel Adams. Thats why I use photoshop.
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Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #43 on: June 26, 2015, 11:07:46 »
Come over to Norway. Lots of friends to greet you here.

You lured me to South Africa remember, so time to reciprocate :D

elsa hoffmann

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Re: Svalbard
« Reply #44 on: June 26, 2015, 21:36:58 »
Bjørn - keep talking. And arrange a place and space with lots of things to shoot - besides landscapes that is :)
"You don’t take a photograph – you make it” – Ansel Adams. Thats why I use photoshop.
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