The Land of the Midnight Sun

Arctic tern

I was up in Svalbard in July. I was on a ship for 2 weeks of 24/7 daylight and 24/7 photography. It was wonderful, necessary, refreshing, inspiring and just what the doctor ordered - nature’s prozac at it’s best.

Due to work commitments, expensive renovations and the upheaval of leaving the London rat race behind for a better life in our beautiful village down here, I’d not been away anywhere for the last four years or so and needed to put myself into completely new, unchartered territory and to immerse myself in my photography. I was ready. I have traveled the globe fairly well and although I have been above the arctic circle twice in wintertime I have never experienced true Northern Arctic conditions in summertime. And boy did we go north.. right up to within 500 miles of the North Pole at 81.5 degrees.

In Svalbard my iPhone said sunset at 00:00 and sunrise at 00:05!

Atlantic puffin

Svalbard is a truly magical place. It is eerie, mystical, mesmerising and stunningly beautiful

Limited colours in the landscape ranged from powdery blue skies to incredible ranges of turquoises in the sea and ice and pale buffy brown mountains and white snow often topped with the most beautiful patterns of brown sand and earth.

The weather ranged from between minus 6 and plus 6, changing between sunny days with clear blue skies and mirror-like calm seas to windy, rainy days that were moody and rough.

And the light cast down by the midnight sun was so beautiful it made me weep.

It was so great just concentrating on photography without interruptions, without the internet, without the news, without attending to family duties, without thinking about DIY and renovations, without work, without anything other than me and my camera. Nothing else was important during those two weeks.

Little auks


Once we left Longyearben there was no phone signal, no internet, no phone, no nothing. Out there any accident would have meant the end to the trip for everyone, days of sailing to return to Longyearben and then further flights to a hospital. Not what anyone wants. It was easy to forget how far from civilisation we were.

The other-worldly 81.5 degrees north

As well as going around Spitzbergen we sailed right up much further north, to the edge of the ice cap. 500 miles further was the North Pole!

Up there it was other-worldly and hard to describe:

  • White fog

  • Fog bows

  • The clear defined edge of the ice cap

  • A blue whale

  • Harp seals playing at the edge of the ice

  • Birds

  • Ever changing

  • Utterly freezing winds

  • Calm sunshine

  • Blue skies

  • Loudly crinkling, crackling, ever-moving ice

  • Sea

  • Nothingness yet everything

This is the actual, clearly defined edge of the ice cap

Sailing around Svalbard, what was it like out on the zodiacs?

Getting ready was complicated!

Wrapped in our multiple layers of thermals we trotted down to the 'wet room' where we donned our outer gear - fisherman trousers from ankle to shoulders, giant wellies, thick coats and lifejackets.