Polar Bears, Seals, Walruses, and Birds in Sweet Autumn Light
August 29 – September 8, 2024
Svalbard’s location between continental Norway and the North Pole places it squarely in an area with some of the most impressive displays of wildlife in one of the largest undisturbed arctic environments on the planet. Glaciers, snow-covered mountain ranges, and fjords cover much of the archipelago. We hope to see and photograph polar bears, many types of seabirds, reindeer, arctic foxes, whales, walruses, and other marine mammals.
Since it is a series of islands, Svalbard is best explored by a private expedition ship. We’ve limited this workshop to 12 guests on our own private, ice-strengthened ship. With such a high instructor-to-guest ratio, there will be plenty of time for one-on-one instruction and our signature image reviews. We will work with you in the field to capture better wildlife and landscape images. Back on the ship, we will show you how to process your images so that you’d be proud to hang them on your wall.
The main subjects on this Svalbard autumn light photo expedition will be wildlife and landscapes in stunning late-season light. Svalbard is the best place to photograph polar bears, and we hope to find some of them in the best light available. The ice condition at this time of year usually allows us to explore the northeastern parts of the archipelago, making this an extraordinary Svalbard photo tour. September is a great time for watching and photographing big whales. We have good chances of finding blue whales, fin whales, humpback whales, minke whales, beluga, and white-beaked dolphins. The light conditions are excellent at this time of year, so get ready for some stunning wildlife photography. This is the Svalbard photo tour for nature photographers focusing on exceptional light. Join us for an unforgettable experience!
As usual, on all our Svalbard photo tours, we will plan for longer stops than typical tourist cruises when going ashore to provide participants with enough time to get excellent pictures. We use two zodiac boats to get ashore or search for wildlife at sea.
About the wildlife: This workshop offers significant opportunities for photographing wildlife, and while we do our best to maximize our wildlife encounters—based on past experiences, local knowledge, and the current conditions—we need to impress upon you that the wildlife really is wild and that we don’t control it.
This itinerary is subject to change due to weather, local conditions, and other factors.
August 29, 2024: Fly from your home to Longyearbyen, Norway, to arrive anytime before dinnertime. Group dinner and overnight at the hotel in Longyearbyen. You may find that staying overnight in Oslo the night before makes your travel schedule easier. We can recommend a hotel right at the airport in Oslo.
August 30 – September 7, 2024: We are aboard M/S Virgo. Our home for nine days and eight nights will be the M/V Virgo. Newly remodeled for expeditions, Virgo is ideally suited for exploring the Great North. Owned by longtime explorers and photographers of the Arctic, Virgo has been thoughtfully outfitted with our imaging needs in mind and will serve as a comfortable and agile base for accessing the best the region has to offer. There are numerous deck areas ideal for photography, as well as two zodiacs. The cabins are bright and clean, and the meals are freshly prepared, creative, and delicious.
Polar Bears: Our main target on this expedition is the polar bear. We will most likely find them on the drifting ice. During the last 15 expeditions (2011–2017), our local guides have seen and photographed more than 250 of them. It’s one thing to see a lot of bears—but getting close to them in great light is quite another!
Imagine the thrill of spotting one of these magnificent creatures at a distance and then approaching carefully to get shots like this. We may get lucky and find a mom with cubs, a bear with a kill, or even males sparring. While we can never guarantee any sightings, our guides have years of experience and have perfected their approach, providing unforgettable encounters with the King of the Arctic. The resulting images have won awards in competitions such as BBC WPY, Natures Best, and GDT.
Arctic Mammals and Birds: We expect to see and photograph all of the major wildlife that inhabits the region: whales, walrus, seals, arctic foxes, reindeer, and birds too numerous to count! It’s easier to find big marine mammals like walruses and seals when there is less ice. In midsummer, we can discover walruses in water, on the beaches, or ice floes. When conditions permit, we will go to the northeastern parts of Svalbard, where we will even find the small walrus calves. Midsummer is a great time for bird photography in Svalbard, and we will have many opportunities to photograph birds at sea and ashore. Most birds stay in the high Arctic until the end of August before moving out to sea. This time of the year is also good if you dream of seeing the high Arctic specialties like the Sabines’ Gull.
September 8, 2024: The workshop concludes after breakfast. Disembark M/S Virgo, domestic flight to Oslo, with connections home or elsewhere. *** there usually is an SAS flight at 2:30 AM on this day. It’s OK to take this flight. Or, you can take a later flight at approximately 2:40 PM.
Aboard the M/S Virgo
Our home for nine days and eight nights will be the M/S Virgo. Newly remodeled for expeditions, she was built in 1976 and worked as a buoy-laying vessel for the Swedish maritime authorities before she was bought and rebuilt for Arctic photo tourism in 2021. Virgo is spacious both on deck and inside, giving ample space for 12 guests and a guide team of two. All the suites/cabins have private facilities (WC/shower). Bed linen and towels are provided. Food service will be at designated times in our dining room, but as always, we intend to be flexible should any photo opportunities arise. The chef has a varied and tasty menu that can be adapted to special dietary needs. As part of the photography and wildlife experience, we offer a spacious lounge with outstanding viewing opportunities and plenty of space for photo editing, charging batteries, listening to lectures, or hanging out with fellow travelers.
Virgo has been rebuilt and fitted, especially with photography tourism in Svalbard in mind during 2021. The adjustments were based on our team's many years of experience running photography tours in Arctic waters, including adaptations to work in very low temperatures making her ideally suited to year-round Svalbard expeditions. Other essential features are her strong hull and powerful engines that will take us where we need to go.
There are two types of cabins aboard Virgo:
- 6 single cabins with private bathroom and shower.
- 3 twin cabins (convertible for couples or twins) with private bathroom and shower.
Easy: You can live on a small ship for a week, climb up and down steep stairs on the ship, and get in and out of zodiacs into knee-deep water. Short walks on land.
Arrive Svalbard Airport, Longyear (LYR), Longyearbyen, Svalbard anytime on August 29, 2024. Flights out can be made anytime on September 8, 2024.
What to Bring
Please see our page How To Prepare For Your Workshop. We will send you a detailed information document 90 days before your workshop. This document will include specifics of where and when to meet, gear and clothing recommendations, and more.
- Double occupancy lodging. Single available for $275 supplement. (Hotel only.)
- All meals, soft drinks, and snacks during the workshop
- All permits and park fees
- Internal flights during the workshop
- All transportation during the workshop
- Tips for crew, drivers, and local guides
- Meals and lodging onboard the ship
- Naturalist lectures and presentations on board
- English speaking local guide throughout the workshop
- Photographic guiding and instruction from 2 pros
- Image reviews and post-processing instruction
- Adventure, fun, inspiration, and a great time!
- Travel to and from Longyearbyen, Svalbard.
- While not expected, we do reserve the right to add a surcharge for possible fuel cost increases. This can happen even right up until the time of the expedition, but we try to get as much notice as possible.
- Passport and visa fees (if applicable).
- Any meals or accommodations before or after the workshop dates.
- Items of a personal nature.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Medical Evacuation Insurance (required).
- Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended).
- Anything else specifically not listed as included.
- Single rooming available for $275 supplement. (Hotel only.)
- Your non-refundable deposit will hold your space in this workshop.
- Further non-refundable payment is due by February 1, 2024.
- The non-refundable balance is due not later than May 1, 2024.
- The payment amounts are determined by your cabin choice.
- In addition to our standard Terms and Conditions, for this workshop all payments are non-refundable, and this is why we recommend comprehensive travel insurance including trip cancelation.
- Need special payment arrangements? No problem, just ask us.
|Cabin Choice||Tuition||Deposit||Further Payment||Balance Payment|
|Twin with Private Facilities||$13,995||$4,995||$5,000||$4,000|
|Single with Private Facilities||$14,500||$5,500||$5,000||$4,000|
“I was really glad I came on this trip! The food, guides, location, accommodations, and the guides made the trip phenomenal. In addition, seeing the wildlife that I had not seen before made it even more so. ”
“I can't think of anyone that I would trust more to take me to some of the most remote areas in the world than Muench Workshops. They use the best resources available in the area your traveling. They handle all the logistics, they do all the work. You just show up at the designated meeting point and from there it is all about the photography. Traveling out into the true north Arctic where the Polar Bear lives is truly a bucket list item. Great trip! ”