Last week I attended a presentation of the Norwegian professional nature photographer and tour leader Roy Mangersnes about Svalbard during the successful Lowland Photo Festival in Antwerp.
This lecture inspired me to review my own pictures made during my travels in the Svalbard archipelago. Since 2013 I was in Svalbard on an expedition cruise on 4 occasions: in 2013 (July) with Vega Expeditions under the guidance of Yves Adams - the man who boosted my photo adventures for the rest of my retired life - , in 2016 (July) one with Starling again with Yves, and one (April) with Wildphoto Travel - the company where Roy Mangersnes is involved - and finally in 2017 (September) again with Wildphoto.
My most successful pictures are definitively from the April trip. So far Roy has made 28 similar Svalbard trips and in his lecture I recognized the great majority of his landscape pictures (the animal images I could not tell) also to be from April trips. For those who also attend the lecture you will recognize my similar images.How I recognized them? The light! and often I was next to him!
It was only in 2016 that companies were allowed by Norwegian authorities to organize expedition cruises up the Svalbard coast be it under certain restrictions. The most significant being not to break any ice in the fjords (ringed seal breeding ground protection) and not sailing further east than Moffen Island. On the other hand landing on Moffen is allowed which is not the case in summer (important for walrus and Sabine's gull).
So photographers I tell you: go in spring! The light is beyond imagination; you have a low angle sun whole day and a sunset that lasts 3 to 4 hours. You will have to stand the cold of course; Minus 20° is not unusual. I had the tip of my nose frozen when it was in contact with the lcd screen of my camera. Especially in the fjords where the water is less disturbed by the wind I often found myself at the bow of the ship almost in tears of joy and emotion photographing the amazing scenery.
And a second advise I would like to give: don't wait too long! As you should know by now (unless your name is Trump) the climate is changing things. Every year there is less ice around Svalbard and especially on the west and northwest coast. Travel companies face a huge dilemma, because people want to see polar bears, and the polar bears live on the ice, that is where their prey is and the pack ice, where the healthy bears are, is far away (more than 80° north on my last trip). It takes a lot of time sailing in open water and time is short (9 days); if you are lucky to find polar bears in the fjords it will be hungry ones, skinny and dirty.
And just to see how amazing the light is: have a look at the Svalbard photo album on my website https://www.julienherremansphotography.com