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Plastic Bear and Friends in Svalbard


AKChui

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As a reminder for the Africa-centrists on this forum (I plead guilty!) that there are other safari-worthy destinations in this world, here is a link to my recent photo safari to Norway and the Svalbard Archipelago. Yes, polar bears and walruses!

http://martinwgrosnick.com/Svalbard1.html

And for those who are still considering the Canon 7D Mark II and EF100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS II lens combination as their main safari camera gear, I should point out that 95% of the telephoto images were taken with that combination—any deficiencies were either from operator error or trying conditions!

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michael-ibk

Excellent trip report with wonderful photos, really enjoyed it. I'm often thinking about Svalbard, but the thought of being on a big ship with lots of people does not really appeal to me. Your kind of trip sounds perfect!

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Worth looking, some lovely images. The puffin portrait is impressive. Plastic debris is a major concern ...it is everywhere!!

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SafariChick

@@AKChui WONDERFUL report and photos!! Just stunning. Thanks so much for sharing! You do make this small boat trip sound extremely appealing - another one to put on the 'someday' list!

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elefromoz

@@AKChui, fantastic, especially the Puffin. The whole plastic thing is just so depressing,we're all to blame of course....anyway don't want to detract from your excellent report from a place that I keep hoping Ill get to one day. Those Bears are just so impressive and obviously great swimmers, a skill they may well be increasingly needing going forward. Thanks for posting.

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wilddog

Absolutely superb. Your images are amazing.

Very interesting to read your comments on boat size @@AKChui. Worth remembering if I ever get there.

Are many of the bears collared?

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Superb, a small boat bear safari is definitely on my list. I've always wanted to try the MS Stockholm which similar to the Polaris 1 only takes 12 passengers. I was in Tromso in Feb and it's a beautiful part of the world.

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Kitsafari

Now I understand your title. and that makes me sad that our filth has sailed to the top of the world.

 

Brilliant photos. Svalbard has always been on the list, a distant one but now that you mention you can polar bears there (with luck), it makes it that much more appealing. I too notice a couple of the bears with collars. do u know how many of them are collared?

 

thanks for sharing this gem. :)

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Thanks everyone for the kind comments! Like many other safaris, each day I might not be impressed by the number of ’great’ images captured, but then find when processing images that as a whole the trip was a great success. From what I have gathered, not all trips are as photographically successful as ours was—a testament to great guiding! (and extra doses of decent weather and good luck!)

@@wilddog and @Kitsafari—as for the bear collars, I was told that virtually all breeding age sows are collared, which seems overkill to me. Radio collars are usually placed on a portion of a population (both sexes) to monitor movements and reproduction rates (and then the data is extrapolated for the whole population), so I have to assume that researchers must have something more in mind. Or a too large of a helicopter budget… <_<

I heard other photographers complaining about how hard it will be to eradicate the collars from their images, but I decided to document what I found rather than doctor the images to what I had hoped to find. Too many photographers should be calling themselves ‘digital artists’ rather than photographers…

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twaffle

@@AKChui simply superb photographs, thanks for sharing.

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  • 3 months later...

Wonderful trip report & photos.

 

I was lucky enough to go a few years back and it was absolutely phenomenal. The light, the scenery, the wildlife! Oodles of polar bears, including an amazing mother & cubs sighting, arctic foxes with cubs, walruses, whales, dolphins, seals, countless birds.

 

The ship I went on had 50 passengers, but enough zodiacs so we could all be off at once. Landing groups were split into fast/medium/slow and it never felt crowded.

 

Really amazing place to go

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amybatt

Loved your report and your photos! I wasn't aware that this opportunity is available in Sweden too. I am contemplating Churchill at some point, but this seems to have more variety in wildlife as well as exposure to gorgeous Swedish landscape.

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amybatt

Sorry, I meant NORWAY. Duh. And I'm Finnish too, I should know better to mix those countries up!

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Amybatt - originally I was supposed to go to Churchill too but completely by chance happened to find out about Svalbard so we changed our plans. Obviously I haven't been to Churchill to directly compare, but I couldn't recommend Svalbard highly enough.

 

We got off the ship at least twice a day for walks, whereas in Churchill I believe you can't walk anywhere? The three guides we had were brilliant and made every walk fascinating, even if we didn't see anything particularly "exciting." One of the guides talked about the human history of the Arctic & Antarctic which, to my surprise, I found even more interesting than the natural history side.

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I haven't been to Churchill either, but I wasn't thrilled to see most of the pictures from there shooting down on the bears--the downside of shooting from a high buggy. And I really like shooting in the Arctic summer vs. the cold and snow of early winter in Churchill!

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Atravelynn

These are spectacular--bears, walrus, & birds.

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amybatt

@@Feliz did you go with the same tour operator that @@AKChui did?

 

@@AKChui, good point about the angle of the photos too. Something to consider for sure. I agree on the weather too!

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I doubt if @@Feliz and I had the same operator, based on the size of the group. There are several small group tours (12 people, must be some kind of a legal passenger limitation), some larger vessels with about 50 passengers, and the cruise-style vessels with hundreds of people. All that the latter people can do is wave at the polar bears from the ship's deck, since off-loading 600 passengers into 10 person Zodiac rafts really isn't practical.

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Hi, yes definitely not the same trip as AKChui. The vessel we went on did at least have enough zodiacs for all passengers at once, but of course it takes a little while to embark/disembark 50 people. Though the reality was that most of the passengers were a little older & didn't feel the need to race to the zodiacs so if you wanted to be the first one off every time you probably could have been.

 

I was a bit shocked when I first saw one of those enormous cruise ships. They looked so incongruous in that sublime landscape.

 

The other strike against Churchill is that the it seemed like you only spent 2 days actually looking for polar bears. From what I can remember it was 5 days up there – day 1 & 5 were essentially travelling & day 3 was some filler activities. Plus the interaction with the bears seemed very 'artificial' for lack of a better word.

 

AKChui - I'm afraid I had zero photography considerations in mind :P I took a fairly elderly point'n'shoot jobbie but managed to get some shots that I still enjoy. There's definitely a big difference in the polar bear & cubs photos from the zodiac vs the polar bears on the icepack shot from the ship.

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  • 1 month later...
Photo-Kiboko

Martin,

thank you for sharing the trip report and the great pictures.

You had very good luck with the bears and the weather.

It is a good choice, to travel with a small boat.

 

I have been to Svalbard in June 2013 on the Plancius.

The Plancius has about the same size as the Ortelius (about 100 passengers).

With 10 Zodicas, all can be on boat-safari, at the same time.

But, 100 people on the same landing spot can be too much for good photos.

The ship provides on the lowest level a small gap on the side board.

If you go down on the floor, you can shoot through the gap to get a low angular.

 

Last May, I was in Greenland on the Rembrandt van Rijn.

It is a sailing boat for 31 passengers.

The Rembrandt will operate from Savalbard this year.

 

In your travel report was a picture of the Ortelius.

I am very familar with the ship, the 90 knots wind and your description.

First, I thought we were on the same tour.

But, I was on the first tour of the same season (Nov. 2014).

 

However, I have enjoyed your excellent pictures from Antartica and the outher tours.

Now I can understand, why image thefts love your home page.

 

Bernd

Edited by Photo-Kiboko
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@@Photo-Kiboko. Thanks for the kind words! My next Arctic trip (2018?) will probably be Greenland, and the Rembrandt is one possibility. Are you planning to post a trip report here? I'd be interested to hear how a sailing vessel works on a photo tour.

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pomkiwi

@@AKChui I'm very late to this report but want to add my thanks - lovely images. The Arctic is on my list (the Antarctic as well but probably less practical) and having looked at ypour tour organiser on the web I like what they are offering.

Edited by pomkiwi
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  • 3 weeks later...
Photo-Kiboko

@@Photo-Kiboko. Thanks for the kind words! My next Arctic trip (2018?) will probably be Greenland, and the Rembrandt is one possibility. Are you planning to post a trip report here? I'd be interested to hear how a sailing vessel works on a photo tour.

 

@@AKChui I wish you a nice time in Greenland.

 

I have been in Ivory Coast last week.

Now, I have many new pictures waiting for post processing.

Therefore, I do not have the time to write a trip report.

 

I have published a very small trip report on the site of the travel agency.

Sorry, it is in German. But, it contains 28 pictures.

It might give you some feeling about light conditions and what can be seen.

 

https://www.diamir.de/home/reisebericht/groenland-mit-rembrandt-in-die-disko.html

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@Photo-Kiboko Thanks for the link! Great photos—a good sampling of what I might expect—and an informative narration. I don’t speak/read German, but instead used “translate.google.com” for a fairly decent automated translation.

One thing that surprised me was that your tour was in May—I had expected it would take well into June for the winter ice to break-up. Were you unable to visit some places because of the ice?

Does the Rembrandt have enough Zodiacs so everyone can be out on the water photographing at the same time? Did you find living conditions aboard comfortable and not cramped?

Have fun processing those Ivory Coast images… :)

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