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Polar Bears and the Wildlife
of Svalbard/Spitsbergen

Photo Tour/Safari
Exclusive 7 and 10 day tours!

An exclusive shoot limited to
only ten participants


In 2015 we worried that small boat trips to the high arctic might be stopped. At this time, and in the foreseeable future they have not been, but you never know! At any rate, our trip uses a wonderful ship -- the envy of arctic tour leaders -- that allows us passage in areas where larger boats cannot go. Both of these tours will maximize our time in the ice, for polar bears and for walruses, and other wildlife.

Arctic Fox, Harp Seal
Parasitic Jaegar and Kittiwake, Common Eider

7-day tour: Dates: TBA
Price $ TBA

10-day tour: Dates: TBA
Price: $ TBA

Single Supplement, Longyearbyen only: $ TBA


Svalbard, Norway, is widely known as the new Polar Bear Capital of the World, where bears can be seen hunting or roaming the pack ice, snow fields, or shorelines of this ruggedly beautiful island landscape. In addition to Polar Bears, our tour is timed to maximize our opportunities for all of the wildlife found this far north, from Walruses and Bearded Seals to Arctic Terns and Eiders.
King Eider photo composite

Our ship is one of the most sought-after in the islands, the M/S Stockholm, a beautiful vessel that is ideally suited for photography. With only twelve photographers, ten participants and Mary and I, there is plenty of room on deck for photography. The vessel's primary attraction is the low decks, allowing the lowest possible shooting angle for photography of any vessel, other than that done from a zodiac.

We will be working with one of the best Arctic expedition leaders, Adam Rheborg. Along with Adam will be another Polar Quest leader and between these two, and our incredible ship's crew, we will have someone watching 24/7 for polar bears and other photo subjects. And with two experienced guides driving our zodiacs, we'll be able to spread out the group between the two small boats giving us ample room to photograph from water level. So far we've done some of their longest zodiac rides: one for walrus and birds among mini icebergs and another time for a polar bear walking along the ice edge and then feasting on a seal kill. Both times were magical!

Our Itinerary

bearOur Tour begins when the group arrives in Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen, far above the Arctic Circle. We've rented two SUV vehicles for our first days in Svalbard, where we'll go, in the afternoon, to photograph the nesting Common Eiders, Barnacle Geese, and possibly Arctic Fox and Jaegers, and we'll look for and hopefully photograph the incredibly well-camouflaged Rock Ptarmigans and the unique wild Reindeer that roam the tundra.

We'll have two chances at photographing these subjects, on the afternoon of our first day and the morning of our second, before we board the M/S Stockholm for our journey north towards the ice and polar bears.
Few if any other tour offers these opportunities for land-based photography of these species.




For the next six or nine full days (depending on the trip) we'll be traveling along the coastline of Spitsbergen, exploring the fjords, bays, and surrounding ice for polar bears, seals, walruses, and birds. If the weather and ice cooperate we may get to other parts of Svalbard east of the big island.

Exactly where we go will be determined by the ice, especially the pack ice which, a year in advance, can simply not be predicted. If the ice behaves 'normally,' we'll be photographing at several different glacial fronts, incredible Common Murre or Black-legged Kittiwake nesting colonies, and the pack ice somewhere at sea.

For a far more complete idea of a 'typical tour,' if there is such a tour in this land, please read either our latest trip report, which covers both our 2019 tours. You can also read our 2017, 2015 or our 2013 trip report aboard the M/S Stockholm or our 2012 scouting report where we were aboard a larger ship, with over fifty passengers and where we were only participants scouting out the locations. That experience convinced us that
we would only lead our own Svalbard trips on a smaller boat like the incredible M/S Stockholm.


In Brief, our itinerary will be:
Day 1, Arrive in Longyearbyen and do a PM land excursion via SUVs for Common Eiders at the nesting colony, Barnacle Geese, Rock Ptarmigan, Reindeer, landscapes, etc.

Arctic Fox photo composite


Day 2, AM land excursion to the Common Eider nesting colony, and the other subjects listed above. After lunch we'll visit the Museum which highlights the natural and cultural history of Longyearbyen and the Arctic.
PM. We'll board the ship late afternoon and then will head out to sea, beginning our Arctic journey.


Days 3-8 or Days 3-11. We'll be at sea, where we'll either photograph from zodiacs or from the main boat, or both, depending upon the conditions. Weather and ice permitting, we'll be traveling into bays and fjords and straits, looking for and hopefully photographing Atlantic Walruses, Bearded Seals, Harbor Seals, Polar Bears, various birds, and incredible landscapes.



Day 9 or Day 12. We'll be returning to Longyearbyen and departing either in the wee hours of the night or in the afternoon to Oslo.

Again, a review of our 2019 trip report will give you a great idea of these trips, and will also explain why we must use the qualifier 'weather and ice permitting' because we are in the extreme far north, the land of ice and polar bears.


w s
ice ice


bWe are using what may be the most sought-after photography vessel in Svalbard, the M/S Stockholm. With only ten photographers and Mary and I, we'll have plenty of space for shooting, and plenty of time for personal attention to your photography needs. Our trips are designed for photography, and between our unique land excursions in Longyearbyen and our cruising, via the ship or by small boats, we'll maximize every opportunity we have.

The image here shows all of us as we're photographing a mother bear and her cub. Everyone has a great position, and there is no struggling to squeeze in or to shoot over another photographer. Additionally, we're only a few yards above the level of the ice -- so low, in fact, that a bear could look into a porthole! We've even photographed at ice-level from open portholes, as well as from our zodiacs when that was the best option for photographing walruses or bears. In short, the photographic possibilities are incredible.


Northern Fulmars cruising by our boat, so close that a 70-200mm was usually too big a lens.
Most shooting was with much shorter lenses, which allowed us to include
the landscape as well as frame-filling birds in our shots!


Our Roles as Leaders, and Your Role

Mary and I know wildlife, and how to photograph it. We want everyone to obtain great photographs, and to enjoy himself or herself while doing so. Great photography requires patience, luck, and time, plus a degree of skill that our guides and Mary and I can provide. You can trust us that everything we do as your trip leaders will have those priorities - your photos and well-being as an individual in our group - in mind.

About Your Leaders

Our main expedition leader for this trip, Adam Rheborg, is one of the top Arctic guides and has been guiding in this northern realm for many years. Adam will be joined by another expedition leader from Polar Quest and between the two, along with our ship's crew, we will be in good hands.

Joe and Mary Ann McDonald are the most prolific and active husband-wife wildlife and nature photography team in the United States today. At least half of each year is spent in the field, leading photo tours and safaris to Africa, South America, India, and other exotic locations, as well as various tours and workshops in the US. They conduct their Complete Nature Photo Course and Advanced (Flash) Courses at their studio at Hoot Hollow, in central Pennsylvania. At their studio they have hosted students and photographers from around the world, including photographers from Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Belgum, South Africa, Singapore, Canada, and Mexico, as well as from all four corners of the US.

Additionally, in their free time Joe and Mary Ann occasionally conduct one-day and weekend seminars on photography, offered across the country.

Both Mary and I are photographers, and I'd hope you've seen our credits. These include Audubon, National Geographic, National Wildlife, Ranger Rick, Natural History, Living Bird, Birder's World, Wildlife Conservation, and most nature/wildlife calendars.
In 1994 Mary Ann won two first place awards in the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, in Endangered Species and in Bird Behavior. In 1998 she had three highly commended images published in the BBC competition, ALL THREE from Kenya! She won first place in the Cemex/Nature's Best photo contest in the Humor Division for Professional Photographers. In 2003 she won first place in Mammal Behavior in the Agfa All Africa photo competition with a dust bathing bull elephant from Samburu. Mary has written a number of children's books, including Leopards, Grizzly Bears, Woodpeckers, Flying Squirrels, Sunflowers, Cobras, Jupiter, Boas, Garter Snakes, Pythons, Rattlesnakes, Ducks, Chickens, Horses, and Cows, and a coffee table book, Out of the Past: Amish Tradition and Faith.
I've written several how-to wildlife photography books -- A Practical Guide to Photographing American Wildlife, The Wildlife Photographer's Field Manual, The Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography, Designing Wildlife Photographs, Photographing on Safari, A Field Guide to Photographing in East Africa, and The New Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography. In 1999 Todtri published African Wildlife, and in 1999 we produced our first instructional video, A Video Guide to Photographing on Safari with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald. The video has received rave reviews, and it is the definitive guide for preparing yourself for a safari. I've won several times for highly commended images in both the Cemex/Nature's Best and the Agfa all Africa photo competitions. In 2003 I won 2nd place in the World in Our Hands category in the BBC competition with an image from Africa. In 2013 I won 1st place in Mammal Behavior.
Mary and I were featured in the book, the World's Best Wildlife Photographers, and we write regularly appearing columns in Outdoor Photographer magazine and in several web magazines. Our latest book, Digital Nature Photography, From Capture to Output, is a PDF file that covers EVERYTHING you need to know about digital nature photography, including workflow, file management, RAW conversion, and maximizing the digital image. It is available directly through our office.


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Or Call (717) 543-6423