Blog: Notes from Longyearbyen
I am writing from Longyearbyen, the biggest settlement on the arctic island of Spitsbergen, at 78.1N.
I have spent the last few days camping on a beautiful piece of land next to a sheltered lagoon teeming with birdlife. Beyond that, the Barentz Sea tempts you in for a dip now and then. In every other direction, mountains and glaciers line the horizon. It is a special place to be.
This campsite ranks as my favorite in the world. The air here is refreshingly crisp and the people are warm and welcoming. Sleeping at night in a tent is a challenge though. Light pours in from the midnight sun and the arctic chill penetrates your sleeping bag and thermals (well mine anyway!), but night does not last long and there is plenty to do to keep you from sleeping.
Last night, the sun set for the first time since April 19th. I watched this special occasion beside a small fire on the beach, with five newly made friends. I set my camera up on my tripod, left it to shoot the event for a time-lapse video and enjoyed the show.
I have only been here for 13 days but seeing the sunset for the first time over Spitsbergen in over four months stirred emotions in me. It signals the start of a new season. The darkness is coming, bringing with it plummeting temperatures, snowfall and ice.
Interestingly, winter is considered the favorite part of the year for many locals I have spoken to. The snowmobiles and skis come out. The tourists disappear. The community draws together for support and warmth. Long cold nights mean log fires with friends and family and fewer reasons not to climb into bed for a long nights sleep. It sounds rather nice and I plan to return again in the winter….perhaps to photograph the first sunrise of 2015.
Twelve days ago, I joined an expedition ship and circumnavigated the islands over a period of seven days. We hugged the shoreline to a latitude of 80 degrees north, stopping each day to hike, photograph and take out kayaks. There was time for swimming too.
The archipelago is absolutely stunning and the photography opportunities are plentiful, assisted in no small way by the midnight sun. I was lucky with the weather (twelve days of sunshine out of thirteen is unusual) and the wildlife we encountered. With my 500mm 4.0 G lens, I photographed polar bears (fourteen in total), arctic foxes, reindeer, whales and plenty of the 130 species of bird found around the island.
The photographs will be printed and made available very shortly. If you would like more information on the pictures or my trip, please feel free to get in touch. I receive a high volume of emails so please be patient. I will do my best to get back to you as quickly as I can!