Barnacle Goose © Andrew Grassie
In early June, Andy flew up from Edinburgh to join us on the Arctic Adventure photo holiday. Used to photographing Scottish landscapes in all extremes of weather, it didn't take long for Andy to adapt to Svalbard's comparatively tropical climate! Being surrounded by so much wildlife was a new experience which he embraced to the max - no less by setting himself the challenge of photographing birds in flight from the back of a bumpy boat!
From Grumant to Borebukta © Andrew Grassie
The Isfjorden (Ice Fjord) is our gateway to the white open wilderness of the Arctic Circle. Andy came on two boat trips - one to the abandoned mining town of Pyramiden and one to a walrus colony on the ice floes of Borebukta. Drifting through Isfjorden with chocolate-brown peaks and cobalt blue icebergs as far as the eye can see is an unforgettable sight for everyone on board. Add the spectacle of thousands of seabirds and the possibility of beluga or blue whales and it's a winning formula for photographers wanting an experience unlike any other.
As we left the port at Longyearbyen, our group assembled at the back of the boat and got cameras ready for the seabird bonanza. Barely 5 minutes passed before our first flock of Black-Legged Kittiwakes came by, attracted to the waves made by our boat. These came close enough for Andy to photograph with a short magnification lens.
Black-Legged Kittiwake © Andrew Grassie
As our boat hugged the coastline at Grumant, coastal ducks like Common Eider and Long-Tailed Duck graced us with fly-bys against the snowy peaks, whilst Arctic Skuas and ubiquitous Glaucous Gulls were on the prowl for fish. Once we hit the calm open waters, it was a never-ending stream of seabirds that stole the show - a mouthwatering parade of Brunnich's, Common and Black Guillemots, Little Auks, Puffins, Razorbills and 'Blue' Fulmars, plus flotillas of King Eider and freshly migrated Red-Necked and Grey Phalaropes.
Arctic Skua, Glaucous Gull and Common Eider © Andrew Grassie
Reaching the ice floes, we have our best chances of seeing Ringed and Bearded Seals - and maybe even a Polar Bear! So Andy was over the moon to see this female bear crossing the lunar landscape of Borebukta, and even managed a record shot with his home-made 600mm lens as it strolled by!
Ice floes of Borebukta and Polar Bear © Andrew Grassie
We coincide our photo holiday with the mass migration of whales, in particular Belugas - and boy did they deliver! 60 of these extraordinary-looking white whales came to check our boat out, and for Andy it was an unexpected highlight to spend a half hour in their company before the pod continued its way deeper into the fjord. Wow!
Beluga Whale © Andrew Grassie
For many a whale or polar bear sighting is the holy grail of an Arctic trip, and Andy was about to score a hat trick - as no boat voyage to Borebukta is complete without a visit to its walrus colony. In a further stroke of good fortune, these toothed females slipped into the water to barely a few metres from Andy as he excitedly snapped away. A privileged encounter with another of Svalbard's great giants. Then it's the same all over again on the return boat trip!
Walrus © Andrew Grassie
PHOTOGRAPH WHALES, SEABIRDS AND POLAR BEARS IN SVALBARD!
If you want to experience the amazing wildlife of the fjords for yourself, join me and Mattia Cialoni in Svalbard for an unforgettable 5-day photo holiday in June 2020. Take advantage of our Early Bird discount (just £2050 single supplement, flights included!) until January 6th 2020. Details Here For 2020 Trip!