Nansen shares tips for photographing at Arctic Watch
Photographing in the Arctic is challenging but very rewarding. It is very unpredictable and can often change drastically year-over-year. At Arctic Watch, I often find myself deciding my day’s photographic journey first thing in the morning. My summer’s activities are controlled by the harshness of the past winter along with current ice conditions and water levels. You have to patient with weather. There is always something great to photograph, from mammals to birds, to fabulous landscapes with amazing light! The belugas, bears and muskox are great but don’t over look little things, like birds and flowers. The variety of landscapes and terrain is amazing. A nice sharp wide-angle lens is an essential piece of equipment, to capture scenery.
Gear I recommend is a fast shooting camera with a lens you are comfortable to hand hold and travel with. The canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II is the best all around lens for Arctic Watch. Most of the time it is plenty strong enough for the belugas. You don’t need a huge lens. When the belugas get rowdy, you are always spinning around and shooting heads and tails from side to side. They are usually in very close proximity. When there are lots of belugas it is hard to keep track of individuals. You have to be able to move fast!! The Canon 400mm is my favorite lens. I can hand hold it and I am comfortable swinging it around without a tripod. Often it is too big for the belugas. You wont get the nice foreground or group pictures. However it gets me closer to the muskox and polar bears. Most of the time I will I don’t find myself using a tripod, unless I am spending long hours at the whales or when I am shooting video or time lapses. A good solid backpack is something I highly recommend. Something you are comfortable hiking with but can also strap onto the front of the ATV’s. I don’t usually worry about rain. We do not normally get torrential rain. Don’t worry about having too many spare batteries. You can always charge them in your cabin at night.
On days when I am having a hard time photographing, I often like to take the time to enjoy the scenery. Sit on the Northwest Passage look at the ice floating by or look off muskox ridge and take the time to appreciate the remoteness and quietness of your surroundings. It is easy to let your thoughts drift off into endless landscape. The arctic is a land of opportunity - be ready for anything, there is something for every photographer out there.
Drones have brought fantastic new opportunities to photograph in the Arctic environment. Aerial photographs of animals (without disturbing them), spectacular landscapes, or wide angle action shots are all possible with a small drone such as the Mavic Air or Mavic Pro. I recommend trying to stay with the smaller drones; they offer good photo quality and most importantly, their size is packable! They fit in a backpack compartment or a large coat pocket! For the wildlife photographer, they tend to disturb animals far less than the larger and louder drones.
More about Nansen:
Nansen Weber is Arctic Watch’s lead and professional wildlife photographer. When he’s not busy leading a private photography trip, or working with film crews in the Arctic, Nansen is a lead guide and makes sure guests capture their picture perfect memories of Arctic Watch on camera.
Nansen knows Arctic animals and environment - don’t be shy to ask him questions! Arctic wolves, caribou, muskoxen fights, sleepy polar bears, curious arctic foxes and playful belugas; with more than ten years of Arctic photography under his belt he’s witnessed fantastic wildlife. When he’s not photographing in the Arctic, Nansen devotes his time to photographic projects across the globe - recently with Netflix.