This is a story about my first ever photo workshop abroad.
In March 2014, I went to Baatsfjord on the Varanger Peninsula in Norway north of the Arctic Circle to photograph arctic seaducks.
Baatsfjord borders directly to the Barents Sea and is guaranteed ice-free all year why many seaducks spend their winter here before leaving to breed in Siberia during spring.
After a long journey, I arrived a late afternoon and joined the Swedish wildlife photographer Brutus Östling and his group.
In Baatsfjord the Polar night and total darkness last from late November to late January. However, in the beginning of March the sun rises well before 6 o’clock in the morning and sets just before 5 o’clock in the afternoon, thus allowing a full day of photography.
Each morning we had access to an amazing floating hide in the harbour for about 4 to 5 hours. Just before 5 o’clock we were sailed to the hide as we had to be ready before the birds arrived by sunrise.
Above are the photo hides in Baatsfjord Harbour. The major one to the right facilitates up to ten photographers at a time and was the one we used.
Openings in the hide are right by the water surface and give an excellent opportunity to be on eye level with these beautiful ducks swimming close by. This was a great opportunity to get images of the spectacular artic seaducks as King and Common Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks and the iconic Steller’s Eider.
It was not very convenient lying flat on the ground in awkward positions for so long; however, the outcome was very rewarding!
On the fjord
Following the morning sessions in the photo hide we enjoyed the open sea every afternoon.
Orjan Hansen from Arctic Tourist and his staff took us on a two-hour ride in their high-speed RIBs and knew exactly where to go and look for arctic seaducks.
The sceneries on the fjord were great and we had a lot of opportunities to get images of birds in flight. The weather was fine and the birds were plenty.
At first it was not easy to photograph flying birds at sea handholding the camera with a long and heavy lens. However, with some practice you soon became familiar with their flying patterns and suddenly, it all fell into place.
Wish we could have had more time!
The three days workshop with Brutus Östling in the North of Norway was awesome and a huge inspiration.
The workshop was well arranged combining the use of a fine photo hide in the harbour with time on the fjord.
It was very rewarding to get the opportunity to take pictures of these beautiful seaducks and a privilege to learn from Brutus. He is very straightforward and eager to share his great knowledge as well as equipment – thanks for letting me use the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens … ; – )
A warm thanks to Brutus and his fine workshop – hopefully more will follow!