Saturday, 19 April 2014

Gallery opening!


It has been a while since I have been active on this blog, but as I know some of you are stilling looking in to see what is going on I would like to share some exciting news!

Together with my colleague at WildPhoto Travel I have opened the northernmost fine-art photography gallery in the world, in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. The grand opening was late March and we were happy to see a lot of people visiting, also from the mainland. Special thanks to family taking the long journey north!



In the gallery we have 30 large prints on display, sold as limited edition prints (max 30). The display will be permanent, but some images might be changed after each season.

We will also have a small travelers shop where our clients on expeditions, and others, can get the best quality expedition clothing and bags with WildPhoto Travel branding. There are also books, Svalbard maps and we are waiting for our Svalbard 2015 calendar to return from printing. Our man in Longyearbyen, Frede, will be available if you just want to have a chat about future expeditions.


This summer I will spend a few weeks in the field, and also be at the gallery, and I hope to see many of you there!

You will find us by the main road just opposite Raddison Polar Hotel.



Monday, 2 September 2013

Svalbard trip report #2 2013


In July I hosted a Svalbard expedition for WildPhoto Travel with a great group of clients. It was a truly magic trip and some out of this world wildlife encounters. The Arctic never ceases to stun me, and as soon as I get on the plan home, I dream about going back. Later this September I will, but for now I enjoy the memories of my previous trips. Follow this link to find the full report and the images from the July expedition http://www.naturfokus.com/2013/08/19/trip-report-svalbard-2013-2/

For those who missed it, I also did a Nikon 800mm lens review on this trip. You can find it in the previous post on the blog.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Nikkor 800mm f/5,6E - a field review


Male Polar Bear on ice; Nikon D4, 800mm, 1/3200 sec @ f/7,1 and ISO 640
The good guys at Nikon Norway was friendly and crazy enough to lend me the new (in April-May 2013) Nikkor 800mm f/5,6E FL ED VR lens to try on my latest expedition to the Arctic. This time I travelled as a host on a specialized photographic expedition organized by WildPhoto Travel, and we spent 10 days in the Arctic oceans around Svalbard.

I have never been a big fan of technical reviews, though I do take a sneak peak every now and then. Therefore, I wanted to give you my initial impression of this new Nikon “power tool”.

To give you an insight of the conditions I was working under I will give you some hard facts. I was hosting the trip with 12 guests on a small expedition vessel departing from Longyearbyen. We spent 10 days circling the Svalbard archipelago in the arctic summer. The conditions varied from plus 10 to 1 degree Celcius, some rain and a lot of salt-water spray (sorry Nikon). I shot about 3500 images with the lens and it was my preferred tool during the entire trip. I also carried the 300mm f/2,8 with converters and shorter options. All images with the 800 were shot with the Nikon D4 camera.

Normally I use the Nikkor 500mm f/4 and I am very pleased with the results it gives me. I have also used the 600mm f/4, which is a brill lens, and in the early days I have tried the Canon 800mm.

To be honest I was getting rather cold feet on the flight, leaving my favourite 500mm at home, but I really wanted to give this beast a chance.

First I found the lens rather heavy to work with, being used to 500mm, but I do realize it is almost 0,5 kilogram lighter then the 600mm f/4 and as a travelling photographer I really appreciate that Nikon is moving in that direction. A lot of the photography is done from the vessel itself, but we also use Zodiacs to get the low angel. From the ship I used the Sachtler tripod most of the time, but I also used it handheld with and without alternative support. From the Zodiac I did not have the option of tripod and also being the Zodiac driver I had to trust in my ability to handhold the 800mm, supported only by the vibration reduction.

Little Auks; Nikon D4, 800mm, 1/1600 sec @ f/5,6 and ISO 1250
From the first shots of Little Auks I was really impressed with the sharpness of this lens. Based on my previous stated concern I did not expect revolution, but I must admit this blew me away. Displayed on my 15” Macbook Pro Retina screen the images really pop, and the detail is stunning even at f/5,6.


Arctic Tern at midnight; Nikon D4, 800mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/5,6 and ISO 2000
Just working the focal length was a bit unfamiliar but after a couple of days it felt natural to work with such magnification, and it felt really good. Especially when approaching courting Polar Bears in the pack ice the 800mm came really handy. Tight framing of the action was no problem without disturbing the behaviour of the animals.


Intimate moment with Polar Bears; Nikon D4, 800mm, 1/2500 sec @ f/7,1 and ISO 640
Young Bearded Seal on the ice; Nikon D4, 800mm, 1/1250 sec @ f/5,6 and ISO 2000
Arctic Fox cub; Nikon D4, 800mm, 1/1600 sec @ f/6,3 and ISO 1250
I did also test the autofocus on birds but I must admit I was struggling to follow them as they flew by. However, I will not put all the blame on the lens itself as it seems to catch the subject extremely fast, but it was hard to follow the birds as they flew by with a tight crop. On a couple of occasions we had some bird action near the boat and I was able to capture this rather well even with this lens. With more practice this will probably become easier with time. Note that autofocus will not work optimally until the latest firmware has been uploaded to the D4 (v1.05).

Black-legged Kittywake on ice; Nikon D4, 800mm, 1/1600 sec @ f/5,6 and ISO 2000
Ivory Gull in flight; Nikon D4, 800mm, 1/1600 sec @ f/6,3 and ISO 1250
One might argue that f/5,6 is not enough to shoot wildlife but with the ISO capabilities of the latest cameras this is no problem in my opinion. I usually find myself shooting at 5,6 or higher anyway to get more depth of field and detail in the subjects.

A 800mm lens would probably seem enough for most people, but Nikon have added a 1,25 converter in the case as well. This is a highly specialized piece of equipment were every converter is perfectly matched with its lens. This I had to try and what else was there to shot then Walruses? I sett up my tripod and worked with tight crops of these massive creatures with 1000mm @ f/7,1. I did find the lens a bit soft on full opening but by stopping down to f/9 or higher the images were back to sharp - sharp! Very impressive and very handy.

Walrus entering the beach; Nikon D4, 1000mm, 1/640 sec @ f/7,1 and ISO 1000
Click image for a 100% crop (1400px) of Walrus using Nikon D4, 1000mm, 1/320 sec @ f/10 and ISO 1000

To conclude I am very impressed with this lens and I cannot wait to get my own!


Despite being comparably lightweight the 800mm do fill some space in the bag. During the last months I have been travelling with the F-stop Literoom Roller to South-Africa and twice to Svalbard. This bag has really made my travelling easier and on my latest trip I filled it with Nikon D4 and D800 bodies, Nikkor 800mm f/5,6, 300mm f/2,8, 70-200mm f/2,8, 24-70m f/2,8, 14-24mm f/2,8, 16mm fisheye as well as TC20, TC14 and TC800-1.25E converters, some LEE filters, SB900 flash with bracket and a few other little things. Of course my Macbook Pro 15" was going in the lid with my memory and documents. I was not using the ICU, to fit more gear, but made sure to secure the lenses from scratches with soft tissue. I do use the Literoom Roller in the Zodiacs but on land I prefer the F-stop Satori fotobag. I get my F-stop bags from fotobag.no.


Stuffed F-stop Literoom Roller

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

WildPhoto Travel - Svalbard report

It has been a while since I've updated the blog, but it doesn't mean I haven't been active on other arenas. In the last two months I have been to South-Africa and Svalbard on assignments for WildPhoto Travel. There will be reports published for both of these trips eventually, but first out is Svalbard. You will find the whole report, with loads of images, on the WildPhoto Travel website on this link; http://www.wildphoto.com

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Galapagos recap



Just wanted to add this recap from my test trip to Galapagos in Nov-Dec 2012, on assignment for Naturfokus (now named WildPhoto Travel AS). If you would like to go on such a trip with me or my colleague check out www.wildphoto.com


Day 1
Arriving from Quito to Baltra in the Galapagos we were all excited to see what the expedition would bring. With 16 passengers, two zodiacs and a crew of 8, the boat that will be our home for the next 11 days seem spacious and nice. Already the same evening we would have our first landing with amazing wildlife encounters. Magnificent Frigatebirds were still displaying, while Blue-footed Boobies showed off along the path. Birds were all over the place and under the cactus huge Land Iguanas were feeding undisturbed by our presence.



Day 2
Next morning we landed at the Tower at dawn. On the beach we were met by several endemic birds of Galapagos included the rare Lava Gull, wandering among Sea Lions. Along the path in the mangroves Red-footed and Blue-footed Boobies raised their chicks while the Nazca Boobies defended their nests on the ground. Night-herons, Darwin’s Finches and Mockingbirds were numerous. Our first Marine Iguana was also spotted.

At noon we had a nice first try in the water with loads of colourful fish and an octopus for us to see. The water was clear and nice.

In the evening we landed on the other side of the Tower caldera and had a great time with Nazca Boobies and Red-Billed Tropicbirds until the sun set on the horizon.




Day 3
We woke up to a stunning sunset over Santiago Island and landed as the morning sun swept across the beach. “Blu-bies” and Brown Pelicans watched us from the nearby rocks while Ghost Crabs scattered across the beach. This is the spot to view Galapagos Fur Seals up close and we watched them play alongside Marine Iguanas, Sea Lion and a couple Galapagos Hawks.

Some of us went snorkelling at midday, while others played with the crabs on the beach.
The evening was spent at a stunning beach with beautiful mangroves in the dunes. This is the breeding ground of the Sea Turtle, but also several endemic birds. We stayed until the sun disappeared in the Pacific Ocean.




Day 4
In the morning we passed the northern spit of Isabela. From the boat we observed Killer Whales and Bryde’s Whales from as distance as Storm Petrels and Galapagos Shearwaters followed the vessel.
The following snorkel in crystal clear waters, accompanied by almost hundred Sea Turtles, Galapagos Penguin, Sea Lions, Fur Seal and even The amazing Ocean Sunfish.

The evening was spent at a most amazing place called Punta Espinosa with enormous number of Marine Iguana and also Sally Lightfoot Crabs. The occasional Mockingbird and Lava Lizard were added to the list.



Day 5
The Sea Turtles had already left the beach when we landed in the morning, but just behind these Isabela dunes we found our first Giant Tortoise. The walk also provided nice encounters with Land Iguana, Galapagos Hawk, Passerines, Brown Pelican and the endemic Flightless Cormorant.

The snorkel gave us some great encounters with huge Stingrays and more Sea Turtles in clear waters.
During the evening we entered a stunning mangrove landscape and observed several groups of Spotted, Golden and Mantled Eagle Rays, as well as Sea Turtles and sea birds from the zodiacs.



Day 6
Due to bad weather we had a slow start, but upon landing on the south end of Isabela we had a great encounter with 28 White-tip Reef sharks in a shallow lagoon. Great for photography!

The walk to the nearby Sierra Negra Volcano was cancelled due to very low clouds and a drizzle. Instead we visited the nearby wetlands and photographed the beautiful Flamingos.

The evening was spent on the beach with Sea Lions, Pelicans and wetland birds in low light.



Day 7
On Floreana we went to look for more Flamingos in the lagoon, but they had already left the wetland. Therefore we went to the nearby beach to work with the many Stingrays feeding in the shallows.
On the tiny island of Champion we saw the extremely rare Charles Mockingbird with no more than 150 birds remaining in the world, before we jumped into the ocean for a snorkel. There we had our first shark encounters, as well as a tremendous amount of colourful fish and Barracuda.

During the evening we had a nice zodiac cruise among the lava rocks and lush mangroves. The evening was finished with a cultural stop and a nice sunset Pelican.


Day 8
On Santa Cruz we went into the highland and walked among the prehistoric Giant Tortoises in beautiful Scalesia landscapes. After a visit to nearby crates we had a good lunch and a visit to the Darwin Foundation. The rest of the day was a free day in Puerto Ayora.


Day 9
Another highlight was the landing at Espanola with its stunningly colourful Marine Iguanas and Lava Lizards. The island is also the home of the Waved Albatross. The 20.000 pairs breed only on this island and provide good views both on land and in flight. The Espanola came close to check us out as we stopped by one of the many Booby nest along the path. Even the Tropicbirds gave us some good photo opportunities here. The snorkel of the day was quit exciting with several Eagle Ray and Galapagos Shark sightings, even up close. The evening was spent with Sea Lions on a stunning white sandy beach until the sun set.



Day 10
The morning started with a pleasant walk into the higher lava landscape of San Cristobal, were we saw our fourth and last species of Mockingbird.
The snorkel of the day was particularly exciting with a group of 40 Galapagos Sharks, several Spotted Eagle Rays and the larges Hammerhead shark I have ever seen.
The evening photography on the beach gave us some good light with Sea Lions and fishing seabirds along the shore.



Day 11
The last morning we entered a sandy islet just as the sun rose above the horizon, giving us good silhouettes of Sea Lions and nearby seabirds. The played with the many pups for a couple of hours before we had to pack up and head back for breakfast.

From there it went rather smoothly to the airport. It sure was a happy bunch of people that boarded the aircraft for Quito later that day. All smiles and plenty of images on the hard drive.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Svalbard photographic expedition



I just returned from an amazing expedition to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.  I was traveling as a photo guide together with my good friend Ole Jørgen Liodden (www.naturfokus.com), and a fun group of photographers from Russia. On this ten day trip we only had a rough outline of our route. Instead of setting up a detailed plan we go with the changing conditions to provide the best photographic opportunities for our clients, and ourselves. On this expedition I believe we did quit well.

Perfect reflection in Adventsdalen. Nikon D800, 14-24mm, 1/200 sec @ f/9, ISO 250
I started on my own with a couple of days in Longyearbyen. Spending the nights out around the settlement can really provide with some great photography. The nights are usually calm, and with a hint of midnight sun it came together on a few occasions. Several arctic birds and an Arctic Fox were captured in pleasant light.

Arctic turn on the run. Nikon D4, 500mm, 1/8 sec @ f/11, ISO100
Boarding the small vessel M/S Origo on the 15th of July we set up a rough outline of the trip and convinced the guests that we should go as fast as possible northwards. So we did, only stopping to check of a couple of Polar Bears on the way.


Northern Fulmar following the vessel on the way north. Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 1/1600 sec @ f/8, ISO 800
What surprised me on this trip was how far north we needed to go to find ice. At one point we even crossed 82° North. The next few days we moved slowly eastwards in the drifting ice. Constantly using binoculars to spot wildlife, Liodden, the crew and myself were scouting on shifts. You might think finding Polar Bears and other wildlife are easy in the Arctic but it does need some real effort.  Just to make a point I will sum up our trip at ones. We met some Germans that was in the ice and was lucky to find one Polar Bear. We found a total of 38 on our ten days! Of course this is not normal, but it shows that with knowledge and some effort you will have more success.


82 degrees north - top of the world. Nikon D800, 16mm fisheye, 1/400 sec @f/10, ISO 160
Polar Bear tracks on drifting sea ice. Nikon D800, 14-24mm, 1/400 sec @ f/13, ISO 160
One of the many Polar Bears we met in the northern oceans. Nikon D4, 500mm, 1/1600 sec @ f/8, ISO 320
It is a special feeling to go slowly through the drifting ice, as the summer mist makes visibility hard. The only sound except the engine is of ice floes getting crushed against the boat. Suddenly, as you feel like you are getting closer to the top of the world, a yellowish shape is moving across the horizon – the Polar Bear. The difference between bears in the ice, and on shore is huge. The Polar Bear belongs in the ice, with plenty of food to go around. Three of the bears we found in the ice actually had a seal kill. At one point three bears were hanging around, partly sharing a large seal carcass. An amazing sighting in “the middle of nowhere”.


Feeding Polar Bear at night. Nikon D800, 14-24mm, 1/250 sec @ f/7,1 ISO 320
Summer swim in the Arctic. Nikon D4, 500mm, 1/2000 sec @ f/7,1, ISO 800
Two large male bears sharing a seal kill. Nikon D4, 500mm and 1,4 ext, 1/1600 sec @ f/6,3, ISO 800
With the ice being far north we passed over Nordaustlandet and continued down the stunning Austfonna glacier. This is one of the largest glacier fronts in the world measuring over 200km from north to south. We were of course hoping to get Polar Bears on blue ice along this cap, but instead we were blessed with four Humpback Whales bubble net feeding and eventually breaching close to our vessel. Even the chef got the photos to prove it!

Waterfalls from Austfonna Glacier. Nikon D4, 500mm, 1/2000 sec @ f/11, ISO 800
Feeding Humpback Whales. Nikon D800, 70-200mm, 1/160 sec @ f/8, ISO 320
Humpback Whales east of Svalbard. Nikon D800, 14-24mm, 1/400 sec @ f/7,1, ISO 320
Hearing rumors of 10-12 bears in front of a glacier a bit further south we anchored for the night and had a well-deserved rest for guest, guides and crew. The next morning we headed into this “secret bay”.  The large glacier in the background made it hard to spot any abnormal shapes, but suddenly the first Polar Bear showed up, then the next and the next. From the vessel we spotted at least 12-15 bears and decided to enter the Zodiacs.

Zodiac cruise in a "secret bay". Nikon D4, 500mm, 1/ 3200 sec @ f/10, ISO 800
During the next 24 hours we spent 10 in Zodiacs on three different cruises, not raising anchor before 3 o’clock in the morning. A total of 19 bears were counted in this bay, all of them mothers with cubs and younger animals. Some were really inquisitive and gave us some great photography.

Mum and her two youngsters. Nikon D4, 500mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/11, ISO 1000
Getting close to the Polar Bear. Nikon D4, 24-70mm, 1/1600 sec @ f/7,1, ISO 800
Resting Polar Bear at night. Nikon D4, 500mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/9, ISO 800
The next morning (around midday) we were woken up by the anchor as we had arrived at one of the major Walrus haulouts in the Hinlopen strait. The chef served another great lunch and we entered the Zodiacs again. This was our first proper landing in several days and the guests were eager to get ashore. After securing the beach, making sure no Polar Bears were hiding nearby, we moved slowly towards the pile of Walruses on the other side of the beach. Sitting down on the beach seemed very effective, as the animals were very curious of these two-legged creatures. We spent almost five hours photographing Walruses and nearby scenery. A great landing!

Getting to know my neighbor on the beach. Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 1/50 sec @ f/8, ISO 320, and flash
Still room for one more. Nikon D800, 14-24mm, 1/160 sec @ f/11, ISO 250
With a promising forecast we started our journey northwards to get the best light at Alkefjellet. As we moved north the sea settled and the sun started peaking through. Brünnich’s Guillemots became more and more abundant and added to the spectacular scenery along the coast. Arriving at Alkefjellet, pretty much everyone was startled by the pure abundance of birds and the constant noise. Cameras were going warm, and we continued shooting from the vessel and from Zodiacs until early morning.


Brünnich's Guillemots by night. Nikon D4, 14-24mm, 1/1250 sec @ f/7,1, ISO 400
Alkefjellet cathedral. Nikon D800, 14-24mm, 1/1000 sec @ f/8, ISO 250
As the vessel moved north in the early morning, I was talking to the first officer on the bridge about whaling and his childhood dream to become a whaler. Today he was enjoying the “whale hunt” with photographers and was glad that he did not go into the shady business of hunting the marine giants. As we were chatting along I suddenly spotted two large spouts further north. As we were getting closer it turned out to be two large Fin Whales. One of the largest animals on earth. The next couple of hours we enjoyed their presence, getting lots of nice images. I believe all went to bed, pretty content, at 8 in the morning, as the boat continued north and west into the fjords.

Two Fin Whales in Hinlopen. Nikon D4, 70-200mm, 1/1250 sec @ f/7,1, ISO 640
Later that evening we woke up just in time for dinner, and realized we anchored up near the always stunning Monaco Glacier. After a solid meal we headed out on a Zodiac cruise among the ice. Getting closer to the glacier we heard the rumbling sound of the calving glacier, but always at a safe distance. The waves formed by the falling ice was the only thing that moved the water in the fjord this evening. The guests were happy to stretch their legs and to use those tripods. There were some brilliant landscape photographers among the Russians. Leaving Liefdefjorden we were followed by no less then 30 Belugas. My first encounter with this white whale among the ice.

Monaco Glacier in evening light. Nikon D800, 14-24mm, 1/640 sec @ f/11, ISO 160
Midnight reflection, Liefdefjorden. Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 1/800 sec @ f/7,1, ISO 250, Polarizer
The following evening we visited another of the famous Svalbard glacier, Lilliehöökbreen. A Bearded Seal gave us some nice images, as well as some amazingly blue ice.

Bearded Seal on ice floe. Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 1/250 sec @ f/5,6, ISO 400
Blue ice. Nikon D800, 24-70mm, 1/320 sec @ f/6,3, ISO 500
The last day we visited Alkehornet to finish of with some landscapes and Svalbard Reindeer. We also heard rumors about Arctic Fox cubs. It didn’t take long before we saw two cubs playing, but when we arrived they were gone. On the way down to the Zodiacs we walked right into them and had a marvelous time watching and photographing these little critters. Lunch was late again, but everyone was happy.


Arctic Fox cub, taking life easy. Nikon D4, 500mm, 1/1250 sec @ f/5,6, ISO 800

This was a perfect trip!

I will be guiding a similar trip in 2013, but all spots have been reserved. (http://www.naturfokus.com/2011/12/23/svalbard-1-2013/) Contact Naturfokus for enquiries on future photographic expeditions to Svalbard. 

Photographic equipment on this expedition;

Camera bodies
Nikon D4
Nikon D800
Nikon D3s

Lenses
500mm f/4
70-200mm f/2,8
24-70mm f/2,8
14-24mm f/2,8
16mm fisheye f/2,8
24mm tilt/shift f/3,5
105mm f/2,8 macro
TC14 extender
TC20 extender

Other
SB 900 flash
R1C1 macro flashes
Nikon EDG binoculars
Sacthler tripod
Macbook Pro
And tons of little things...