Behind the scenes in the Arctic

The dust (or should that be snow?) has settled on this year’s epic trip to the Arctic onboard the Kinfish, and I’m sure, like me, many of those on the trip are only just beginning to look at all the amazing images they took. I’m sure we’ll come to those in due course, perhaps on a zoom so that we can take our time to discuss the adventure firsthand.

For this week’s article, I just wanted to show a few behind the scenes images from the expedition. If you’ve never been on a small ship in the Arctic it’s perhaps hard to imagine what it’s like. Well, I managed to sneak a few shots – often candid – of those on the trip and this is a photo story with captions to give you a sense of life on board.

I always think with any holiday or trip you do, shooting a few documentary-style images is a great idea, whether you do that with your camera or smartphone. When you meet someone with an interesting face (like Roger the chef who you’ll see later), a 50mm or 80mm lens is a good addition to the kit bag. A 50mm gives you a wider angle of view if you want to include some environment, whereas an 80mm gives you the perfect focal length for a head and shoulders style of portrait. Of course, they both also allow you to use a wide aperture such as f2.8 to blur the background beautifully.

Also, taking some behind the scenes shots on any trip you take, capturing the people travelling with you and those little moments, is a great way to document the experience in a way that brings a lot more individuality and perspective to a set of holiday images than a series of landscape or wildlife pictures alone can provide. Often these are the memories we look back on in the future with the most fondness as it puts us back into the moment and captures the camaraderie and spirit of the adventure.

On the bow
The bow of the ship was often the gathering point to view the amazing landscapes or wait as the ship crept closer to a distant seal or walrus. I love the interaction here between Phil and Sandy, with Suzanne watching on, while on the right, Christine is simply gazing at the wonder of it all. You needed full coat, hats, and gloves for your time outside on deck, but there was always a warming coffee or hot chocolate waiting inside!

On the bridge
The bridge of the ship was always open – something that proved very popular as you could chat with the captain and the rest of the crew as well as get a near 360-degree view of the scenery.  Of course, it was also the place that our expedition leaders watched for wildlife – something that everyone got into a little bit. Coming up you’ll see Beau, Expedition leader, Basil scanning the ice with his binos, and Mike Bennett who appears to be resting his eyes with binos in hand.

Through the round window
Portholes aren’t the biggest windows to view the passing world from, but they were useful for keeping an eye on the changing seascape and weather. In this shot, Mary is looking at looking out on the winter Arctic landscape and smiling simply because it’s so beautiful!

Lounging about
The lounge area was a popular spot for sitting and chatting or processing a few photos. Here Sandy and Phil discuss the finer points of some of Sandy’s images.

Nikon watch
Help is always on hand on a trip. Here Phil the Nikon Man aids Liz to navigate her camera’s menu. I can’t remember what they were looking for, but it must have been warm for the Arctic as neither are wearing gloves!

Up a fjord with a paddle
Mike went paddleboarding. It was a brave decision since the bright sunshine quickly turned to freezing snow. At this point it’s hard to tell whether he is loving his decision or regretting it.

Expedition experts
To be able to take a group to the Arctic you MUST employ experienced and trained expeditions leaders. Ours were Christian (left) and Beau. Here they are next to the fast ice, debating our next move in search of polar bear and walrus.

The sheer isolation and magnificence of the Arctic seascape takes your breath away. Getting a quiet moment to yourself on deck to soak it all in and shoot a few pictures is something special. This could be Phil but it’s hard to tell under all that padding!

Messing about on boats
On a couple of occasions we took to the zodiacs to photograph polar bear and walrus. This walrus encounter was pretty special as the mother and cub were on the ice in perfect conditions, and remained really chilled. I’ve included one of my images below so you can see what it looked like from the boat side.

Master chef
Roger our chef was a popular man as he was in control of everything we ate. How he does it onboard I don’t know but we certainly never went hungry. As well as being a great chef, he’s also a keen photographer, though I thought his seafarer’s looks were also great for portraits!

Buzz on ice
Finally here’s a team shot taken on the ice. Almost everyone is here – including Basil who stayed on the ship, but you can see him waving from the bow. I’m behind the camera obviously, and a few crew members were added to the group for this shot.

Join us for winter 23
We are excited to be doing another winter season Arctic expedition in April 2024. It is absolutely the BEST time to go to take in the amazing scenery with all the different forms of ice you can get! If you are interested in joining me on the R/V Kinfish drop me an email on I’d love to show this special and unique place so you can have a truly wild experience.

Published in Camera Skills
  1. Great account of what looks like a great trip AJ. Love the chefs portraits and the walrus.

    • Thanks Graham. You’re right, it was an awesome trip out. Winter Arctic in all its icy splendour!

  2. great write up, I would join you for the next one but it’s a bit of a journey from NZ!

  3. oh and yes please to a zoom on the trip would be great

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