Svalbard: Polar Bears, Arctic Wildlife, and Landscapes

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 fox, whales, walruses, and other marine mammals.

Since it is a series of islands, Svalbard is best explored by private expedition ship. We’ve strictly 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 landscapes 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 focus of this workshop will be the abundant wildlife—think polar bears on ice, breeding birds, walrus, whales, and seals. Then there is the awe-inspiring scenery that surrounds you. Our schedule has been designed to optimize our time on small-boat excursions. We use two large Zodiacs to get off the ship and get close to the wildlife, and into the frozen landscape. With 24 hours of daylight, the photography never stops!

Don’t wait! This is one of our most popular workshops, and sells out early, year after year.

Watch the video below to see more of what’s in store!

Location:

Svalbard, Norway

Tuition:

From $12,995 and is
Based on Cabin Choice

Dates:

June 1–10, 2020

Fitness Level:
Your Pros:

David Rosenthal
Randy Hanna
Ole Jørgen Liodden

Availability:

1 Spot Left
Limited to 12 Guests

Marc and Andy were beyond hospitable and did everything possible to make certain that everyone was having a good time and had everything that they needed. Their leadership is much appreciated. The photographic instruction was amazing, I learned so much!
— Steve Hollander, Galápagos '13

Itinerary and General Information

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.

Polar Bears: Our main target on this expedition is the polar bear. In June we are most likely to 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—or 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 fox, reindeer, and birds too numerous to count! It’s easier to find big marine mammals like walrus and seals when there is less ice. In midsummer we can find walruses in water, on the beaches, or on ice floes. When conditions permit, we will go to the northeastern parts of Svalbard were we even find the small walrus cubs. 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 they start to move out to sea. This time of the year is also good if you dream of seeing the high Arctic specialties like the Sabines' Gull.

Aboard M/S Origo: Our home for nine days and eight nights will be the M/S Origo, a traditional ship built in 1955 for the Swedish Martime Administration. After a long and successful career as an ice-strengthened pilot ship, school, and training vessel, she was rebuilt in the 1990's to become an expedition ship with space for 12 passengers, 2–4 guides, and a crew of 8. She is a well-maintained ship, in excellent condition, with all the latest navigation, security, and safety equipment on board. The Origo is 40 meters long and carries two zodiacs on board for our off-ship activities. She is ice-strengthened to Lloyds' highest ice class.

Origo is an expedition ship, not a cruise ship. You’ll be safe and comfortable, but don’t expect gold-plated faucets, and mahogany paneling everywhere. She’s a working expedition ship and she is perfectly suited for our photography needs, getting us close to the wildlife and low down in the water. Accommodations on Origo consist of eight single cabins and two twin cabins all with lower bunks, and most with private bathroom and shower. Some cabins have bathroom/shower just outside the cabin. The cabins are bright, clean, and comfortable. The ship has large observation decks for wildlife spotting and photography. The decks are lower on Origo, so we’ll be closer to eye-level when photographing the polar bears on ice. We’ll have a feeling of privacy and intimacy on our ship for 12, unlike many ships that ply these waters with 50, 100, or even more passengers. We will enjoy three great meals a day on board Origo, as well as afternoon tea and coffee. Special dietary requirements can be handled with no problem. Mealtimes will be as regular as possible, but our crew knows that photography has priority on this expedition and that flexibility is necessary.

Muench-workshops-origo-deckplan.jpg

There are four types of Cabins aboard M/S Origo:

$13,995 Cabins 9, 10, 25, 26, and 30: Single cabins with private bathroom and shower
$13,495 Cabins 22, 23, 24: Single cabins with shared bathroom and shower
$13,495 per person Cabin 31: Twin cabin with private bathroom and shower
$12,995 per person Cabin 21: Twin cabin with shared bathroom and shower

General Itinerary:

June 1, 2020: Fly from your home to Longyearbyen, Norway (LYR airport code) to arrive anytime before dinnertime. Group dinner TBD, overnight at hotel in Longyearbyen. You may find that staying overnight in Oslo (OSL) on May 31, 2020 makes your travel schedule easier. We can recommend a hotel right at the airport in Oslo no problem. 

June 2–10, 2020: We are aboard M/S Origo

June 10, 2020: Workshop concludes after breakfast. Disembark M/S Origo, 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 on the 10th, at approximately 2:40 PM.

What to Bring and How to Prepare for Your Workshop

Please see our How To Prepare For Your Workshop page now for guidelines on workshop prep, gear, and packing. Approximately 90 days before your workshop, you will be sent a PDF with more specific instructions.

What’s Included

  • Lodging during the workshop

  • All meals during the workshop

  • Photographic guiding and instruction from two pros

  • Tips for the ship's crew

  • Image reviews and post-processing instruction in Lightroom

  • Fun, inspiration, and a great time!

Whats Not Included?

Travel from your home to Longyearbyen, Norway, and back. Passport and visa fees, if any. Any meals and accommodations before or after the workshop dates. Medical Evacuation Insurance (required). Travel Medical and Trip Cancellation Insurance (optional, but recommended). Items of a personal nature. Alcoholic beverages. Anything not specifically listed as included.

Payment Terms

Your non-refundable deposit of $4,000 will hold your place on this workshop. Further non-refundable payment of $4,000 is due on November 1, 2019. Final non-refundable balance payment is due by February 1, 2020. All payments are non-refundable and this is why we recommend comprehensive travel insurance including trip cancelation. All of our other standard terms and conditions apply. While not expected, a standard clause with all voyages like this is that if fuel prices increase between now and our voyage more than anticipated, there is the possibility of a fuel surcharge. 

Need special payment arrangements for your deposit? No problem, just ask us.

Additional Information

Small group, three pros, polar bears—what more could you ask for? If you've been thinking about this, don't delay—click the “Sign Me Up!“ button now and register, and we'll see you in Svalbard! Got questions?