Visionary Wild, LLC • 2200 19th St. NW, Ste 806, Washington, DC 20009
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org • Tel: 1-202-558-9596 (9am to 5pm, EST).
Justin Black – Managing Director: 1-202-302-9030 • Email: email@example.com
Sara Robb – Operations Assistant: firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to hearing from you!
After thirty-one visits to Papua New Guinea, photographer and filmmaker Michele Westmorland considers this exotic destination her second home. She invites you to experience this incredible photographic journey in some of the most remote and beautiful areas of Papua New Guinea, featuring the best accommodations available, a three-night luxury river boat cruise, and charter flight transfers between our various locations.
On her first visit to Papua New Guinea in 1991, Westmorland was immediately hooked:
"I was completely taken by the beauty and diversity of the underwater world," she says. "It was on my third or fourth trip that I raised my head above the water and realized how diverse the landscape and the people are."
PNG is home to the most linguistically diverse population on Earth with over 800 different languages spoken in a country with a population of over 7 million people. It is a land of traditional cultures living a subsistence hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and small villages and small-scale farming are the norm. The colorful wigmen of the Huli Tribe of the Southern Highlands and Hela Province use multi-colored clays, feathers, and flowers for traditional body decoration. Birds of Paradise grace the forests with their dramatic color and form.
In contrast the young men of the Sepik region, formerly the home of a head-hunting culture, undergo painful decorative scarring on their backs. Life in the Sepik area revolves around the river, with men paddling narrow dugout canoes full of goods for trade, women fishing or making sago, and children joyfully swinging from trees to splash down in the river. Crocodiles are the manifestation of the local river spirits. The Sepik is a gallery of tribal art – each village boasts a unique style and every villager is an artisan.
Through the song, dance, and pageantry of "sing-sings," proud local people showcase their traditional customs and artistry. It's a wonderful opportunity for us to photograph the various cultures of PNG together in an array of color and passion.
Cape Nelson in Oro Province of PNG is full of mystery as we approach from the air. The short one-hour flight from Port Moresby reveals the green fingers of land stretched out into the turquoise waters of the Solomon Sea. Arriving in the morning, we will settle into our charming accommodations and prepare for the next 3 days of a rich cultural experience in a stunning coastal environment. Our group will experience the beauty of the fjord areas by traditional canoe allowing for exceptional photography, or a bit of video, as exotic birds swoop overhead. Hornbills, parrots and cockatoos are common in this area.
Our village hosts will not only share their daily lives with our group of photographers, but prepare for another sing-sing where we will capture the extensive body décor that reveals the sense of pride these warm and friendly people have in their tradition. In addition to the dance, there will be demonstrations of facial tattooing, fire making and preparation of sago, a staple food source that comes from the pulp of a endemic palm. Other activities will include a trip to waterfalls or hikes with vistas overlooking the fjord areas.
Group size is limited to seven participants, led by Michele and local guides. Michele will be very accessible and generous with her time for all participants. She will provide personalized photographic instruction in the field, and will address post processing tools and techniques, including black & white conversion. We look forward to sharing this off-the-beaten-path cultural documentary journey with you!
This trip is packaged by default as single-occupancy (guests who prefer to share double-occupancy accommodation save $1,100 each), and includes all accommodations, a three-night luxury river cruise aboard Sepik Spirit, all meals, beverages (including beer or wine with dinner), air and ground transfers (including six internal charter flights), excursions, special performances and cultural photo-ops, and of course expert photographic instruction and guiding throughout by Michele Westmorland.
ITINERARY: Click "read more" below right...
Colossal redwoods thrust upward into the coastal fog. The pink blooms of wild rhododendrons take on a translucent glow against the dark greens of the forest. Dramatic seastacks and driftwood accent the wild Pacific coast. One of the world's most creativity-inspiring and evocative landscapes – Northern California's Redwood Coast – will be our outdoor classroom for this photo workshop, presented by photographers Jack Dykinga and Carr Clifton. This place is truly a photographer's playground, rich with diverse photographic opportunities and a dynamic interplay of sun and fog. It's the perfect setting for a fun, upbeat, and supportive workshop focused on developing creativity and honing skills. Participants will learn to take control of the finer points of composition, exposure and tonal control, and specialized techniques for approaching this sublime coastal landscape.
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When I tell folks that my wife Lena is from Kyrgyzstan, the response is usually, "She's from Kurdistan?!?" or alternatively, "What? Where is that?" This little-known Silk Road country is, however, home to an immensely hospitable culture and some of the most awe-inspiring mountain landscapes on the planet. This overland adventure, following a route we scouted in July 2015 from the idyllic alpine lake of Song Kul to the glacier-borne basecamp beneath mighty Khan Tengri – one of the world's most beautiful peaks rising to 23,000ft. – represents what Lena and I consider the finest of the Kyrgyz mountain landscape. We have fallen in love with Kyrgyzstan, and look forward to sharing this wonderful corner of the planet with you! –Justin Black
For lovers of wild mountain landscapes, Kyrgyzstan is among the most underrated travel destinations on Earth. The Tien Shan mountains rise higher and wilder than the Rockies, Sierra Nevada, Alps, or Andes, and peaks below 16,000-feet in elevation are barely considered worthy of a name. Along the Chinese border, the Kakshaal-Too range soars to truly Himalayan heights, on the world's most northerly summits over 7,000 meters: Khan Tengri and Jengish Chokusu (known in the Soviet era as Pik Pobeda). The landscape beneath the peaks is sublime: glacier-carved gorges, slopes covered in alpine wildflowers, raging rivers, spruce and fir forests, and high pastures, or "jailoo," where semi-nomadic Kyrgyz graze small herds of horses, yaks, sheep, and cattle during the short summer.
The sheer scale and beauty of this landscape is phenomenal, but what is almost unimaginable is the fact that it is largely off the tourist radar. Kyrgyzstan is an emerging democracy, commonly referred to as the "Switzerland of Central Asia," but even that compliment isn't fair, as it neglects to recognize the nation's unique qualities. A former Soviet republic with a struggling economy, Kyrgyzstan has been spared excessive development, so what it lacks in infrastructure is made up for with glorious wild nature. The Kyrgyz people are a Turkic nomad culture that boast the longest history of all currently extant groups in Central Asia. Over the last fifteen centuries, their language and culture have survived the Uyghurs, the Chinese, the Mongols, various Khanates, the Russians, the Soviet era, and the challenges of building a viable independent nation.
Our adventure begins in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, where participants will be met at the airport and driven to the Golden Tulip Hotel, offering thoroughly modern and excellent accommodations in the city center. There, we will welcome you to our introductory orientation and first dinner as a group. Early the next morning, we load up into our four-wheel drive Toyota caravan, comprising three highly capable and comfortable Landcruisers to carry our six guests, Visionary Wild photo leaders Justin Black and Jerry Dodrill, as well as our team's Kyrgyzstan native and Russian-language interpreter, Lena Black, Visionary Wild Director of Operations. Two additional 4WD support vehicles will carry gear, provisions, and camp staff. From there, we set off on our spectacular route through the Tien Shan mountains.
Our itinerary is designed to take advantage of prime light on the landscape morning and evening each day. After dark, clean air and virtual absence of light pollution provide a superb opportunity for nighttime landscapes including the Milky Way. We will also enjoy excellent opportunities for photography of the Kyrgyz people themselves, along the way, at our yurt camps, and at the sprawling and colorful Osh Market in Bishkek. This will be a highly productive and immensely fun photographic adventure that you'll never forget.
Click "read more" at below right for the full itinerary, inclusions, exclusions, and more photos...
Join arctic explorer Chris Linder and Cornell Lab of Ornithology photographer Gerrit Vyn for this unique photographic experience during prime puffin chick-rearing season on a diligently customized route around northwest Iceland.
Iceland’s steep, rocky coastline explodes with life in the summer months. Atlantic puffins, black guillemots, northern fulmars, and kittiwakes all raise their chicks here before returning to a life at sea. Our primary subject will be the colorful, charismatic Atlantic puffin, and we will be visiting some of the best locations for puffin photography in the world. In addition to Iceland’s cliff-dwelling seabirds, we will also spend time looking for tundra breeding birds including red-throated loons, tufted duck, black-tailed godwit, whimbrel, European golden plover, red-necked phalarope, and redshank.
Renowned bird photographers Chris Linder and Gerrit Vyn will lead this nine-night photo workshop for ten participants, which will be focused on the remote Westfjords region of Iceland. Chris is a repeat visitor to Iceland, making his familiarity with the best photography locations, timing for optimal light, and personal contacts there a great benefit for the expedition. He is the 2015 Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards winner for the birds category and recently completed an assignment on climate change impacts on Icelandic puffin populations. Gerrit's 2016 photography book, The Living Bird, was a New York Times Bestseller and he continues to travel around the world to document wildlife and conservation stories. He is well-experienced in creating powerful photography, particularly showcasing birds as they can show affects from climate change and environmental challenges.
The itinerary has been carefully crafted based on numerous assignments to photograph Iceland’s puffins with Icelandic bird researchers, and includes some unique locations you won’t find on any other Icelandic photography tour. The expedition was developed with the focus of puffin chick-rearing in mind; mid-July is the best time to capture images of puffins bringing bill-fulls of spaghetti-like sand eels back to their burrows.
Our small group will travel in comfort in a specially customized bus with room for everyone to have a window seat, complete with Wi-Fi and numerous power outlets to enable us to edit our images while we're on the road. When traveling to the next location, we will take advantage of photogenic opportunities of the Icelandic landscape. Chris and Gerrit scheduled exceptional locations for more instruction inland, such as tiered waterfalls, and will look out for serendipitous moments as the bus rolls onward.
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Renowned landscape photographer Charles Cramer and Visionary Wild's Justin Black have teamed up to lead a small group to the dramatic granite spires, alpine lakes, and meadows in Wyoming's Wind River Range. "The Winds" are the most alpine range in the northern Rockies, with soaring granite peaks reminiscent in many ways of the High Sierra Nevada but less well known and more lightly visited. The alpine wildflowers in the meadows and nearby lakes and streams offer excellent foregrounds for photographing the east-facing Cirque of the Towers and other nearby peaks, which catch spectacular alpenglow at sunrise.
This is one of North America's great mountain wildernesses, but don't take our word for it. Following a summer 1999 horse pack trip into the Winds, internationally acclaimed mountain photographer Galen Rowell wrote the following in his April 2000 column for Outdoor Photographer magazine:
"The Wind River Range is my favorite in the Rockies. Warm, relatively dry summers create a paradise for backpackers, climbers, and photographers. Hundreds of peaks rise over 12,000 feet above glaciers and snows that last late into summer. Melt waters cascade into alpine basins filled with meadows, open pine forest, and countless lakes before joining into rivers separated by the Continental Divide."
Charles Cramer and Justin Black will lead photography outings morning and evening, and whenever else the light and weather conditions offer compelling opportunities. Night photography of the high-elevation starry skies can be amazing too. Options for midday activities will include scouting hikes, talking photography, relaxing around camp, reading, napping, fishing, lake swimming, etc. Beyond the phenomenal landscape and wildlife photography opportunities, these pack trips provide an excellent shared experience with other passionate photographers, enjoying fireside stories and camping under the stars.
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"This was the experience of a lifetime. Visionary Wild provided a terrific photo safari. The educational value of this workshop was unparalleled, and I have participated in many workshops." –African Vision Safari Participant
Join expert African wildlife photographers Johan Greyling, Elana Erasmus, and Wenzel Kotze for this superlative African safari experience for a small group of five, designed to exceed a passionate photographer's wildest dreams. We will visit Africa's very finest wildlife destinations at an ideal time of year: Masai Mara, Kenya during the Great Migration, and Chobe River, Botswana, with mammals and birds concentrated along the river by the dry season.
• Includes loan of big telephotos – 600mm f/4 and 500mm f/4 – so you don't have to travel with them. Full-frame Nikon DSLR bodies available for free loan too!
• Unique custom photo safari vehicles, the best photographer's set-up in the business, both on the land and on the water, complete with photographer's chairs featuring fully adjustable 360-degree revolving Wimberley camera mounts. This makes it a breeze to work with big lenses and capture fleeting moments of dynamic wildlife behavior.
• Excellent accommodations, perfectly positioned at Chobe River Lodge and &Beyond's Kichwa Tembo luxury tented camp in the Mara Triangle.
At Chobe, animals congregate along the river in the dry season to drink and feed on the lush greenery on the banks and flood plain. In addition to Chobe’s population of over 50,000 Kalahari elephants, opportunities include hippos (with young at this time of year), Nile crocs, buffalo, waterbuck, kudu, impala, giraffes, fish eagles, lions, hyenas, baboons, and countless bird species. Johan Greyling and Elana Erasmus will lead inspiring photography instruction at Chobe. Johan has successfully led numerous photo safaris on the Chobe River, and is a talented teacher of wildlife photography. He receives high praise for his image editing and classroom critiques as well. Elana is also a highly experienced professional wildlife photographer experienced in navigating the Chobe River and using photography as a tool to tell a story.
Masai Mara is famous for its migration of millions of wildebeest, zebras, and Thompson's gazelles, accompanied by an abundance of lion, cheetah, leopard, and other African species. Wenzel Kotze will lead photography instruction at Masai Mara. He is a highly experienced and energetic safari leader and wildlife photographer who is eager to share how to best anticipate animal behavior, timing, and camera handling skills that empower you to capture successful "decisive moment" wildlife images.
At both locations we have arranged use of new photo safari vehicles with innovative custom features that deliver an ideal photographic experience. The heavily customized and air-conditioned 4WD IVECO vehicle we will use at Masai Mara features wide pop-up window panels for a broad unobstructed field of view for each photographer, and the vehicle seals up tight to keep out dust, rain, and heat. Both the IVECO and our custom-built photo boat at Chobe comfortably accommodate our whole group. Both on land and on the water, each photographer will have his or her own rotating photographer's chair with fully adjustable revolving Wimberley-equiped telephoto lens mount.
This package is designed to deliver a superb overall experience, and includes first-rate lodging, all meals, beverages (including fine wine and beer at dinners), expert guides, photographic instruction, loaner Nikon telephotos and cameras, park entry fees, ground transfers, and in-Africa flights during the itinerary.
Click "read more" below right for the itinerary and more information...
"Photographing from the river in a boat set up for photographers was a novel and great way to experience wildlife up close and take good pictures." -J. Allen, 2016 Chobe River Safari participant
"Chobe River is a wonderful wildlife experience, and the Visionary Wild trip gave us an insight into professional wildlife photography and how to approach it which was second to none. I would strongly recommend this trip to anyone wanting to improve their wildlife camera technique and photography in general." -A. Firkin, 2016 Chobe River Safari participant
Set in one of Africa's finest wildlife destinations at an ideal time of year for the dry season, this safari focuses on the incredible biodiversity accessible via the Chobe River's various channels, islands, and wetlands, where animals congregate along the river in the dry season to drink and feed on the lush greenery on the banks and flood plain. In addition to Chobe’s population of over 50,000 Kalahari elephants, opportunities include hippos (with young at this time of year), Nile crocodiles, leopards, buffalo, waterbuck, kudu, impala, giraffes, fish eagles, lions, hyenas, baboons, and countless bird species. In fact, this safari is a bird photographer's dream, featuring the tiny and colorful Malachite Kingfisher, the largest heron in the world – the Goliath, several species of Bee-Eater, African Jacanas, and an endless array of water birds. The concentrated displays of mammalian wildlife behavior, from battling hippos to leopards drinking at water's edge and herds of elephants looming overhead on the riverbank, ensure you will capture peak moments of exceptional behavior. The quality of light in morning and evening is wonderful on the Chobe, as the wide, open floodplain enables low-angle light at sunrise and sunset to skim over the water and bathe the animals in golden illumination.
Join photographers Johan Greyling and Elana Erasmus for this safari experience full of a variety of wildlife. Johan Greyling successfully lead our previous expedition to the Chobe River. He is a talented teacher of wildlife photography and receives high praise for his editing and classroom critiques. Elena Erasmus is also a passionate wildlife photographer experienced in navigating the Chobe River and using photography as a tool to tell a story.
Group size is limited to six participants per photo boat, each guided by one of the instructors. This expedition will co-operate with the African Vision expedition, which includes photo safaris at the Chobe River and Masai Mara, Kenya. Participants of both this expedition and the African Vision expedition will be able to meet each other and share the experience together at the Chobe River.
This package is designed to deliver a superb overall experience, and includes first-rate lodging, all meals, beverages (including fine wine and beer at dinners), expert guides, photographic instruction, loaner Nikon telephotos and cameras, park entry fees, ground transfers, and in-Africa flights during the itinerary. Additionally:
• Includes loan of big telephotos – 600mm f/4 and 500mm f/4 – so you don't have to travel with them. Full-frame Nikon DSLR bodies available for free loan too!
• The best photo safari vehicle set-up in the business, both on the land and on the water, complete with photographer's chairs featuring fully adjustable 360-degree revolving Wimberley camera mounts. This makes it a breeze to work with big lenses and photograph dynamic wildlife behavior.
We have arranged use of these custom-build photo boats with innovative custom features that deliver an ideal photographic experience. Each photographer will have his or her own rotating photographer's chair with fully adjustable revolving Wimberley-equiped telephoto lens mount. Included at no additional cost is loan of Nikon super-telephoto lenses (600mm f/4 and 500mm f/4) and pro camera bodies, so there is no need to carry big glass to Africa.
Click "read more" below right for the itinerary and more information...
I traveled with Visionary Wild to Iceland in 2014. From the time I walked out of the airport, everything was handled for me. That includes travel to/from the airport, meals, lodging, all travel within Iceland. Justin Black made sure everyone was made to feel welcome, wanted and comfortable. He arranged a group dinner for those of us who had arrived a day early which I feel was above and beyond his obligation to us. Every step of the trip was well planned. The instructors were extremely helpful and knowledgeable. Visionary Wild puts a tremendous amount of planning into each and every detail. I highly recommend traveling with them. -E. Ciraolo
You may think you know Iceland...
You’ve made a trip there, maybe two, and seen the standard sights from the Ring Road. You’ve lined your tripod up next to the others on the beach at Jökulsárlón, and waited for tourists snapping selfies to get out from behind the waterfall at Seljalandsfoss. But there is so much more to Iceland than what you see from the Ring Road on the typical tour. The largest wilderness area in Europe lies in the middle of the country—the vast area called “The Highlands," where, according to Icelandic legend, outlaws and evil spirits once roamed. This workshop is intended for those who want to get off the beaten track—literally and figuratively—to make truly unique photographs. Getting into Iceland’s rugged Highlands is a challenge in itself. There are no paved roads or bridges over the rivers. To find your way through this wilderness, a competent 4WD vehicle and experience is required.
Chris Linder and Justin Black will lead this eleven-night photo expedition limited to eight participants. The itinerary has been carefully crafted based on Chris and Justin's numerous prior assignments and explorations in Iceland, and includes incredible locations that can be accessed only be 4WD vehicle. Chris and Justin's extensive knowledge of the Icelandic landscape and environment makes them the perfect fit for getting to the best locations for prime photographic opportunities. Our small group will travel in comfort in four snorkeled Land Rover "Superjeeps," each driven by an experienced Icelandic mountain guide. Every participant will have a window seat, lots of elbow room in the vehicles, and ample space for their equipment. Our guides will set up camp each night in locations that make dawn and dusk shoots very convenient. All camping gear will be provided.
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The Potomac Highlands region of West Virginia's Allegheny Mountains is one of the most scenic areas of the central Appalachians, at its best when brilliant autumn colors adorn the landscape. We invite you to join us for this exciting photo workshop, timed to operate during the peak of fall foliage among mountains densely covered in yellow birch, red maple, black cherry trees, spruce, and eastern hemlock trees. Color is everywhere at this time of year, framing the five-story waterfall and blowing in the mountain breezes.
In addition to visiting the iconic Blackwater Falls itself, we will take advantage of the best seasonal conditions in the surrounding mountain and valley landscapes, including excursions to Dolly Sods Wilderness and Canaan Valley, the highest large valley east of the Mississippi.
National Geographic photographer Michael Melford and renowned landscape photographer Justin Black will lead this workshop. Both have photographed extensively in the area, and are very familiar with an array of potential locations. Working one-on-one with participants, Michael and Justin aim to improve your photographic vision and composition skills, understanding of how to use changing qualities of light and weather to your advantage, and ability to effectively control exposure. They will also focus on creative exposure techniques to create mood, essential gear and creative tools, fundamentals of digital workflow, digital exposure blending and panoramic stitching, and lots of photography in the field followed by constructive group critiques.
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Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island where over 80% of animal and plant species are found nowhere else on Earth, encourages exploration and rewards curiosity. Truly one-of-a-kind, Madagascar features tremendous diversity of landscape and ecology – from rainforest to sandstone canyons, limestone karats to forested mountains – and offers the wildlife photographer exceptional opportunities to document unique animal behavior. Encounter lemurs (there are seventy species) that practice communal parenting and labor, and the extraordinarily vibrant colors of the panther chameleon. Join us for a photography and travel experience that does not exist anywhere else!
The itinerary below reveals more information about what parks and reserves are included, and what wildlife can be seen at each location. Scientists continue to discover new species of mammals and reptiles every year. The threat of ecological damage caused by humans in significant, however; visiting this bizarrely beautiful island to witness and experience its current natural wonder is certainly a trip we would recommend to put at the top of every wildlife photographer's bucket list.
We are very pleased that Roy Toft and Morgan Heim will be leading this workshop. Roy is a highly talented, caring, and generous teacher, who leads several small group photo tours and workshops each year, for photographers of all levels to destinations around the globe. With a background in wildlife and conservation biology, he is adept at helping others capture images of animals in the wild that that convey a sense of the animal’s character and spirit. A Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, Roy is widely recognized as one of the leading wildlife photographers working today, published regularly in National Geographic, Smithsonian, Audubon, and other notable publications. He is also a natural "campfire comedian," keeping everyone in stitches, and an excellent host.
Morgan Heim is also a gifted professional photographer with a background in zoology and environmental journalism. She is a photojournalist and filmmaker dedicated to sharing the stories of wildlife and wild places. She views her photography as her tool to be a catalyst in conservation movements, and enjoys helping others to grow and develop their photographic talents beyond what they believed possible. Morgan also happens to be one of the most kind and conscientious people we know.
This 22-night package is designed to deliver a superb overall experience, and includes first-rate lodging, all meals, beverages (including fine wine and beer at dinners), expert guides, photographic instruction, park entry fees, ground transfers, and four flights within Madagascar during the itinerary.
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The southwest United States holds some of the world's most inspiring landscape photography destinations, and the area including Capitol Reef National Park is one of our favorites. In addition to numerous steep ridges, colorful canyons, and sandstone formations, Capitol Reef National Park boosts the largest exposed monocline in North America and layers of sedimentary rock recording nearly 200 million years of geological change. This outdoor classroom is a highlight of our Vision series, a special program of advanced instruction focusing on refining your personal creative vision, composition, and digital workflow, designed and presented by renowned photographers Jack Dykinga and John Shaw. Packaged with single-occupancy lodging at The Broken Spur Inn in Torrey, the closest town to the Park, this is a superb workshop scenario set to challenge and amaze all participants. We hope you'll join us!
Photography sessions will take place in locations with very unique geology, including the Waterpocket Fold, Cathedral Valley, Temples of the Sun and Moon, and other opportunities in and around Capitol Reef National Park scouted in advance by the instructors. The timing of this workshop was specifically chosen to coincide with the burst of peak fall foliage found among the cottonwoods and willows in the canyons, and aspens in the high country. The leaves of these trees turn into a brilliant hues of yellow, orange, and red during the fall. When set against a background of reddish-orange Entrada Sandstone or grayish desert storm clouds, capturing photos of these glowing leaves will be a very rewarding and exhilarating experience for the landscape photographer.
Packaged with single-occupancy lodging at The Broken Spur Inn, located ideally near the entrance to Capitol Reef National Park, and with all meals, snacks and beverages included, this is a superb fall foliage and landscape photography workshop scenario. We hope you'll join us!
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"I feel my experience in New Zealand has made me a much better photographer. I had several 'a-ha' moments that I will carry with me everytime I pick up the camera." –Marla R., 2016 participant
"The expedition greatly exceeded my expectations. It was no doubt an amazing and awesome experience of a lifetime!" – Susan S., 2015 participant
Towering mountain ranges, hanging alpine glaciers, wind-swept coastlines, crystal blue lakes, pristine turquoise river valleys, and primordial tree fern rainforests are just some of the scenes we will photograph as we explore the South Island on this intimate 16-day journey led by two top pros: National Geographic photographer Michael Melford (who recently covered the South Island on assignment for Nat Geo), and Phillip Bartlett, a renowned Kiwi landscape photographer and guide who is acclaimed for his professionalism and intimate knowledge of New Zealand's stunning landscape. It was with good reason that motion picture director Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as his location for the fantasy world of Tolkien's "Middle Earth": the variety of incredible landscapes found in such a compact area is simply astounding.
We sought to design a trip that would take your breath away, visiting locations off the regular tourist path that offer superb photography. To access these areas we will be travelling by 4WD Toyota Landcruisers, with two guests per vehicle. In addition, private charter excursions by helicopter and boat – at Fox Glacier and Milford Sound – provide us access to some truly phenomenal opportunities. All the while, your trip leaders offer generous guidance and instruction to ensure that you make the most of the photographic possibilities.
All of our past three annual excursions were exceedingly well received by our guests (see testimonials at the top and bottom of this page), but nevertheless we have adjusted the itinerary slightly to maximize the quality of the overall experience.
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TESTIMONIALS FROM OUR 2015 and 2016 POLAR BEAR GUESTS:
I have to say that was the best trip ever!!!!! So many great photos and a really great group. I would love to go back, but I think the mark that was set would be hard to beat. –J. Furber
Loved our polar bear trip. Many thanks for putting together such a great trip. Am very pleased with my pictures and still trying to decide which ones to cull out. –J. Allen
Back from the shores of Hudson Bay on a polar bear photo safari with lots of images. Great adventure with expert assistance from Visionary Wild. The experience of a lifetime! –K. Cochran
Big thanks for the special expertise of our fabulous professional photographers! They were always there to help, provide tips and give one on one consultations. It was so surprising to see so many large polar bears close to each other and sparring, and it was extra special to watch the wolf on the ice. Nanuk Lodge is full of wow experiences. The bear guides were skilled, experienced, knew the animals behaviors, and were very safe. To be able to freely walk with wild polar bears is something we will cherish. And the cuisine was amazing. The fresh vegetables, delicious wild rice, spices, baked goods and more. Every meal was truly a superb gourmet treat! Thanks to you very very much for a great trip! –J. Pace.
Picture yourself standing on arctic tundra at the edge of Hudson Bay, photographing a pair of polar bears wrestling in the glow of sunset as they wait for the bay to freeze over so they can begin their annual hunting season on the ice. An arctic fox watches the action from the sidelines. The only sounds are the bears, the breeze, and waves lapping at the ice forming on the shoreline. Then imagine, as the light fades and temperatures drop, you walk just a few feet away to sit beside the fire in a cozy wilderness lodge – reserved for our group's use only – joining your fellow photographers for a glass of wine while reviewing the day's photographs, in anticipation of a gourmet dinner and excited conversation about the opportunities that await tomorrow. Keep your camera ready, though... the aurora borealis may well appear in the night sky.
Join Frans Lanting, Chris Eckstrom, and Justin Black at Nanuk, a remote wilderness lodge positioned in prime polar bear territory on the shores of Hudson Bay east of the mouth of the Nelson River in Manitoba. This is a very special opportunity to intensively photograph polar bear behavior close-up in the wild. Our small group will photograph the bears from eye level, on foot, via short excursions onto the tundra and from the grounds of the lodge, where polar bears walk within inches of the fence line. This area is unusual in also enjoying excellent sightings of wolves, and it's also one of the few places on Earth where polar bears and black bears can be seen together.
Nanuk is a very comfortable, recently renovated and upgraded fly-in lodge that offers unique access to a high density of polar bears with a lovely coastal landscape backdrop. To ensure you make the most of your visit, Frans, Chris, and Justin will provide highly attentive, thoughtful, and generous instruction throughout the trip, offering feedback and useful guidance drawn from their combined four decades of experience as professional nature photographers. They will provide recommendations on camera setup optimized for wildlife photography, teach strategies and techniques to empower you to anticipate and capture fleeting wildlife behaviors, offer advice on composition and working the available light and weather conditions for best effect, and more. In the evening, Frans, Chris, and Justin will provide feedback and constructive critique of your images to ensure that the quality of your work improves significantly over the course of the trip.
Included in the package are round-trip flights (Winnipeg – Churchill – Nanuk Lodge), all lodging, all meals, all beverages, all photographic instruction and bear guiding, partial gratuities, and Canadian tax. Though most Visionary Wild workshops and expeditions are packaged and priced as single-occupancy by default, this workshop is packaged as double-occupancy at $12,675 per person, due to the limited number of guest rooms and beds at Nanuk Lodge, and the fact that their operating season is relatively short, which makes the cost for a room for one person exactly double the double-occupancy price. We will be happy to help pair up individual participants of the same gender who wish to share a room, but we can certainly accommodate those who wish to book single-occupancy rooms.
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Exotic Birds – Poison Dart Frogs – Monkeys – Waterfalls – Wild Pacific Beach
All of this and more is to be found in one of the most biologically exciting places on Earth – Coast Rica's remote Osa Peninsula – and we'd like to share the best of it with you. Envision original primary rainforest rising up a low ridge from a pristine and entirely undeveloped Pacific beach, stretching as far as the eye can see. Native toucans, scarlet macaws, two- and three-toed sloths, and four species of New World monkeys cruise through the trees, while dramatic waterfalls roar in the jungle. Numerous species of visually striking frogs inhabit the area, including three species of colorful poison dart frogs, red-eyed tree frogs, masked tree frogs, and massive cane toads in their native habitat. Hundreds of exotic bird species abound. In addition to the toucans and macaws, long-tail hermit hummingbirds, elegant and violaceous trogons, blue-capped manakins, crested caracaras, ibis, various raptors and myriad other species are readily photographed. The forest itself is stunning, with old-growth trees and vegetation full of character and beautiful graphic designs just waiting to be discovered.
Expedition leader Justin Black will share their creative approaches to photographing rainforest fauna and flora, as well as the dramatic landscape. Hands-on in the field, we will cover long-lens and macro wildlife techniques, control of composition and light, fill-flash, control of focal plane and perspective with tilt-shift lenses, panoramic stitching, and other techniques that can be used to great effect in this amazing place.
Our base camp is El Remanso, a top-rated eco-lodge, which offers a uniquely rich and accessible environment to witness and explore the incredible flora and fauna of Central America's rainforests. The owners are our personal friends, and the staff make guests feel like family. It’s a peaceful resort where it’s easy to let go of the hassles of travel logistics and fully immerse yourself in exploring and photographing the birds, waterfalls, monkeys and frogs, gorgeous old-growth trees, and the stunning Pacific beach.
The staff at El Remanso take great care of us – providing a delicious mix of international and local Tico cuisine, fresh tropical fruits, not to mention the superb margaritas, caipirinhas, and piña coladas – all on an inviting and spacious covered dining deck perched at the top of a canyon, at eye-level with the forest canopy. We'll bring our long lenses to breakfast to photograph monkeys, macaws and toucans feeding in the trees. The opportunities to explore don’t end with the setting sun. A stroll with our naturalist guides around El Remanso just after dark reveals all manner of nocturnal species.
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Refine your vision and harness the aesthetic potential of one of the world's most geological wonders.
Wondering where to travel in winter? Bryce Canyon National Park is one of our favorite places to go to view some of the most unique opportunities during this season of snow dustings and low-angled light. Ponderosa pines, fir-spruce forests, slot canyons, horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters, and pink cliffs cover this area. Utah has a wealth of parks to explore and challenge your photographic senses, and Bryce Canyon National Park in among the most rewarding.
This greatest concentration of hoodoos in the world – an unearthly landscape to be sure – was formed over hundreds of millions of years of deposition and erosion. Bryce's colorful rock spires are oriented perfectly to catch the reflected morning light, resulting in a glowing fairytale landscape providing endless options for creative photography. Join us to capture its splendor.
This outdoor classroom is a highlight of our Vision series, a special program of advanced instruction focusing on refining your personal creative vision, composition, digital workflow and image processing, designed and presented by renowned photographers Jack Dykinga, John Shaw, and Justin Black. All three instructors have photographed Bryce extensively and know its secrets well. We will photograph at a variety of locations in the park during our morning and evening field sessions, with emphasis on the hoodoos and sculpted designs in the canyons.
Packaged with single-occupancy lodging at the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel (a Best Western Plus property), located ideally near the park entrance, and with all meals, snacks and beverages included, this is a superb workshop scenario. We hope you'll join us!
About Vision Workshops
The creation of a truly great finished photograph is part of a process from initial concept and vision through execution in the field to digital workflow and creation of a high-quality, final master file ready for printing or publication. Vision workshops with John Shaw and Jack Dykinga address the two greatest challenges faced by photographers as they advance. The first of these is the tendency for original creative vision to reach a plateau in development, and the second is a digital workflow in need of streamlining and refinement to make the most of your images.
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On Creative Vision:
When we experience images that really move us, we are aware that they have impacted us, though we may not know what it was in the image that made it so powerful. In other words, we know when it works, but can be difficult to quantify. I try to teach the time-honored components of fine photography to build successful compositions…even in ordinary situations. People ask me, “What’s the difference between a pro and an amateur?” My response is, (a) the amateur has better equipment and (b) the professional photographer must create a publishable image every single time. To be successful, the professional must be the practitioner of a disciplined approach to situations that will result in compelling images that inform and move people. This workshop is designed to unleash that creativity in my students. – Jack Dykinga
Jack will focus on advanced seeing and ways to unlock creativity in situations that require conceptual and compositional ingenuity on the part of the photographer. In other words, he'll answer the questions, "How do I make a great photograph when the subject matter and composition don't suggest themselves to me, and how do I avoid photographic clichés when the situation offers up a beautiful composition that is almost too obvious?"
As photographers have switched to digital, one fact has become apparent: we are drowning in files. We’re shooting more images than ever, and digital file sizes are increasing with each new generation of cameras. Without a smart, logical workflow – and a familiarity with programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop – we will quickly be overwhelmed with data. – John Shaw
John will focus on teaching a logical, effective workflow that ensures the highest quality for your work, as well an image archive that is stable, consistent, and retrievable over the long term, and that ultimately liberates rather than burdens. He will cover step by step the process from shooting RAW files in the field to optimizing the final image in Photoshop.
Workflow topics to be covered include:
The workshop includes eight field sessions, classroom lectures and ample hands-on instruction, critiques, single-occupancy lodging in deluxe rooms (prorated fee available for double-occupancy or for those who do not require lodging), and all meals and drinks. Justin Black will be present to serve as an instructor and to ensure everything runs smoothly. As always, all three instructors will be present to teach and assist students throughout the workshop.
Field sessions begin the evening of the first day. Each morning and evening, we'll be out to photograph first light before breakfast, and out for evening light before dinner. During mid-day hours in our classroom at the hotel, Jack and John will make presentations on advanced seeing, composition and creativity, digital workflow, and maximizing image potential. Critique sessions will be held each of the last three days before returning to the field for photography in afternoon and evening light. Friday morning will be the final field session, followed by critique until we adjourn at 3:00 pm.
The class size is limited to a small group of ten to ensure that everyone gets the time and attention they need, both in the field and the classroom.
Basecamp is the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel. Group meals provide an informal setting to socialize and address specific interests that may not be covered during lectures and classroom discussion.
We supply materials in advance of the session to get newcomers up to speed with basics having to do with digital camera set-up and techniques, essential equipment recommendations, and other guidelines to ensure that everyone is ready to make the most of the experience.
Lodging, all meals, and beverages are included in the package.
Please click the "Register" button at the top of the page or contact us directly to reserve your space. A deposit of 50% is required at time of booking, with balance payable 60 days prior to workshop start date.
The workshop begins at 1pm on Monday, January 8th, and ends by 3pm on Friday, January 12th, 2018.
Note: Visionary Wild, LLC operates this workshop under a permit issued by the National Park Service at Bryce Canyon National Park.
We are excited to operate our second workshop with basecamp in Moab as we visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. We are going during the best time of the year—early. After researching visitor statistics, there is no better time: "In January of 2016, about 20,000 people visited Arches. By May, that number jumped to more than 200,000, according to the National Park Service." Roads will be open and soft sheets of snow will illuminate the Parks. Arches National Park contains the highest density of natural arches in the world and Canyonlands National Park has multiple waterways carving away at the sandstone buttes and ephemeral pools with frozen surfaces, making for an impressive and serene landscape like no other.
Instructors Jeff Foott and Justin Black will lead eight field sessions to explore remote coves, canyons, rivers and streams, and striking desert ecology. As Jeff lives nearby and frequently visits these Parks, he will know a lot of locations to scout and use for instruction. They will share insights that will help you to refine your creative vision, composition skills, and field techniques, understand the practical implications of human visual cognition, explore ways to use the element of time to expand your creative horizons, and help find ways to add greater purpose and meaning to your photography.
Field sessions begin the evening of the first day. Each day, we'll be out to photograph during the best morning and evening light, following the daily weather conditions to make the most of opportunities. During mid-day hours, Jeff and Justin will make presentations from the lecture room at the Gonao Inn on composition and creativity, light and exposure, digital workflow, and maximizing image potential through post-production. During field sessions, Jeff and Justin will offer hands-on guidance on composition and technique, suggest creative ways to capture the mood and spirit of the place, and provide tips on creative use of aperture, shutter speed, filtration, multiple exposures, exposure blending, and panoramic stitching. Classroom sessions to review and critique your photographs will empower you to revisit and improve upon your creative ideas during subsequent outings. Friday morning will be the final field session, followed by critique until we adjourn at 3:00 pm.
Any enthusiastic photographer will feel right at home in this workshop. Jeff and Justin are both experienced at successfully accommodating a range of experience levels in photography workshops. We supply materials in advance of the session to make sure all participants are prepared to get the most out of the experience.
The group size is limited to ten participants, and the package includes the workshop itself from 1pm on January 15 to 3pm on January 19, four nights accommodations in a suite at Gonzo Inn (arguably the nicest place to stay in Moab), all meals, snacks, and drinks (including adult beverages with dinner). The rate for single-occupancy is $3,695; double-occupancy is $3,395 per-participant; for those who do not need lodging arrangements provided in Moab, the rate is $3,095.
Workshop will be operated under a commercial use authorization issued by Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
Join Roy Toft – renowned wildlife photographer and animal behaviorist – for this unique itinerary focusing on intimate encounters with some of humanity's closest living relatives: Mountain Gorillas at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Chimpanzees at Mahale Mountains National Park on the shores of Tanzania's Lake Tanganyika. Our basecamps for this all-inclusive expedition are two of Africa's finest accommodations – Virunga Lodge and Mahale Greystoke Camp – and excellent logistics have been arranged throughout.
Few Mountain Gorillas remain in the world; the subspecies (Gorilla beringei beringei) has dwindled down to fewer than 1,000 individuals due to war, poaching, habitat loss, and disease. About half of those that remain reside in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda, where George Schaller and Dian Fossey both studied the Mountain Gorilla groups extensively. To get up close and eye-to-eye with these apes in their natural surroundings is truly an experience of a lifetime. Like their lush forests, these gorillas are prodigious. Weighing as much as 500 pounds, their extra fur helps them adapt to the high altitudes of the mountains when the temperatures fall. The gorillas' survival depends on the health of their forests and a continued stable political climate; we hope to share the experience of seeing these wild and beautiful primates first-hand with you!
Experienced trackers will lead our group on gorilla hikes which can take anything from a total of three to eight hours depending on the movements and activity of the family groups. Participants need to be reasonably fit and prepared to hike. Our group will have eight of the 38 available gorilla tracking total for the group of those 38. Groups are permitted to remain with their assigned gorilla family for one hour once they encounter it, and this time is precious, magical, and photographically productive. The golden monkeys (also known as blue monkeys) are a local subspecies of the Sykes monkey and also require permitting to track. They also reside in the Volcanoes National Park area, but behave in a more sociable and playful manner. We will have two gorilla trekking sessions and one golden monkey trekking session over a span of three days.
While at Volcanoes National Park, we retreat to Virunga Lodge, a first-rate sustainable eco-lodge, spectacularly located on a hillside overlooking the Virunga Volcanoes and Lakes Ruhondo and Bulera. The views, luxurious comfort, and its intimate feel make Virunga one of the top lodge destinations in the continent. All of Viruga's eight bandas (cabins) have private verandas with views over the lakes and volcanoes. Open fire places in the lounge and dining room are a warm welcome after a day tracking the mountain gorillas.
Following our time in Rwanda, we fly into Tanzania and visit Mahale Mountains National Park to track chimpanzees. This area of western Tanzania is home to the world`s largest chimp population. These intelligent apes are also on the endangered species list, particularly due to loss of habitat, hunting, and commercial exportation. Hear their hoots and watch them traipse around the tropical jungle that surrounds you. Watch them communicate with numerous facial expressions and gestures, and use their long arms and opposable thumbs to use tools to help them feed as they forage for food. A truly amazing experience!
While in Mahale Mountains National Park, we will be accommodated in exotic wooden bandas overlooking the white sand beach at Nomads Greystoke Camp: a luxurious camp in a small bay lined with palm trees and backing on to the lush green slopes of the Mahale Mountains. The camp provides direct access to one of the largest habituated troops of chimpanzees.
Through the itinerary, Roy Toft will provide attentive, hands-on photographic guidance and instruction, including sharing his insights into gorilla and chimp behavior, to help every guest make the most of the experience.
This 9-night package is designed to deliver a superb overall experience, and includes first-rate lodging, all meals, beverages (including fine wine and beer at dinners), expert guides, photographic instruction, park entry fees, trekking permits, ground transfers, and three flights during the itinerary.
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Join our deeply engaging and inspirational instructors, Jack Dykinga and Justin Black, in one of the sunniest parts of the United States in winter: southern Texas. We plan to navigate around the high mountains and into the canyons of Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park for a customized itinerary to visit locations scouted for the most favorable photography instruction and practice.
Big Bend National Park, one of the least-visited national parks, and Big Bend Ranch State Park comprise desert, mountain, and river landscapes that are home to a remarkable variety of cacti, birds, and reptiles. This region’s layers of mountain ranges within the "bend" of the Rio Grande River make for majestic and breathtaking views to experience first-hand, particularly in the crisp air during crimson sunsets. We will be visiting the parks before spring break, when even these overlooked destinations can get busy.
Jack and Justin will lead eight field sessions to explore the uncountable location options for photography. Big Bend National Park alone has over 100 miles of paved road, giving us access to stunning vistas and geological wonders. At the same time, they won't get in the way of our photos, since Big Bend also contains the largest expanse of roadless public lands in Texas.
Field sessions begin the evening of the first day. Each day, we'll be out to photograph during the best morning and evening light, following the daily weather conditions to make the most of opportunities. During mid-day hours, Jack and Justin will make presentations on composition and creativity, light and exposure, digital workflow, and maximizing image potential through post-production. Refreshments and light snacks are provided in the classroom. During field sessions, Jack and Justin will offer hands-on guidance on composition and technique, suggest creative ways to capture the mood and spirit of the place, and provide tips on creative use of aperture, shutter speed, filtration, multiple exposures, exposure blending, and panoramic stitching. Classroom sessions to review and critique your photographs will empower you to revisit and improve upon your creative ideas during subsequent outings. Friday morning will be the final field session, followed by critique until we adjourn at 3:00 pm.
The group size is limited to ten participants, and the package includes the workshop itself from 1:00 pm on February 26 to 3:00 pm on March 2, four nights’ accommodations, all meals, snacks, and drinks (including adult beverages with dinner). The rate for single-occupancy is $4,245; double-occupancy is $3,745 per-participant; for those who do not need lodging arrangements provided, the rate is $3,245.
Workshop will be operated under a commercial use authorization issued by Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park.
This combination of workshop and expedition is a unique hit! The leaders knew the area, worked well together, imparted their knowledge with enthusiasm and congeniality to each participant and the local staff were professional and helped us as a group and individually at all times. The logistics and lodgings were excellent. An outstanding photographic experience! –S. Dater, 2015 Patagonia participant
Patagonia: the word is synonymous with awe-inspiring landscape, and Torres del Paine National Park is both its crown jewel and a microcosm of the most aesthetically appealing features of the region. This hybrid program – part expedition, part workshop, led by acclaimed fine art photography instructor Eddie Soloway and Justin Black of Visionary Wild is designed to maximize opportunities to execute well-crafted and compelling photographs that capture the spirit of this incredible place. Participants will have ample time to get to know Torres del Paine during its colorful autumn splendor, and your photography there will benefit from the opportunity to revisit fruitful situations to apply lessons learned and to take advantage of changing weather and light. Assuming the weather cooperates, moonless nights during our itinerary will mean excellent opportunities to incorporate the Milky Way in nocturnal landscapes. The goal is for each participant to come away from this trip with a strong body of work, a new body of knowledge, new friendships, rejuvenation, and priceless memories.
Torres del Paine National Park and Biosphere Reserve is the centerpiece of Patagonia – the ultimate distillation of the region's most inspiring qualities. It's one of those rare places that routinely exceeds the grandest dreams of even the most experienced photographers. Peaks and spires thrust abruptly upward above turquoise lakes, forcing moisture-laden winds off the ocean to form soaring lenticular clouds that catch the fiery sunrise and sunset alpenglow. Glaciers spill down from the Patagonian icecap, depositing cobalt blue icebergs on the shores of Lago Grey. Endemic lenga tree forests glow in hues of gold and copper in the southern autumn. Rivers tumble over cascading waterfalls as condors ride thermals on the flanks of the Cordillera del Paine mountains. Guanacos and foxes range over the golden pampas, and flamingoes wade the lagoons. At this time of year, the days are a manageable length with extended periods of dawn and dusk, and the sun never rises more than 35 degrees above the horizon. The quality of light is spectacular.
Our trip begins in Santiago, Chile, where we will meet participants at the airport and transfer to The Aubrey, a splendidly remodeled historic boutique hotel in the colorful and photogenic Bellavista district of Santiago, next to the Park Metropolitano and Cerro San Cristobal. We'll all gather there and go out as a group for a welcome dinner to get to know everyone. The next day features a guided photo walk through highlights of the historic city center, with lunch featuring superb local seafood at our favorite restaurant in the Mercado Central. The next morning, we'll catch a flight to Punta Arenas, our jumping off point in Patagonia. There we will be joined by our local guide team, good friends regarded as some of the very best local guides in Chilean Patagonia. We proceed to Torres del Paine National Park (with lunch at a restaurant along the way) where we'll check into Hotel Las Torres, the first of three excellent lodges in the park that will serve as our base camps for the next nine days and nights – the others are the spectacularly located Hostería Pehoe, and recently upgraded Hotel Lago Grey.
Eddie Soloway and Justin Black will lead the small group on field sessions adapted to make the most of the prevailing conditions each day. Emphasis will be on photography and hands-on mentoring in the field. We'll photograph when the conditions are good, and we'll gather in the lodge for presentations on light, composition, visualization, technique, and digital workflow at times when light or weather aren't as conducive for photography (during harsh mid-day light, if a rain storm passes through, etc.). We will also hold constructive critiques of participant photographs, and then head back out into the field to apply what we've learned.
Excursions will include a trip by ferry to visit Glacier Grey and, via our comfortable group vehicles, spectacular locations around the park that we have scouted in detail on prior visits. Some locations involve short hikes, but nothing particularly strenuous.
After dusk each day, we will gather for a nice dinner and some good Chilean wine. Then it's off to bed to rest, as most mornings we'll be out around 6:00am to take advantage of the incredible pre-dawn light. Breakfasts and lunches will be handled in relation to our photographic activities, served either at our lodges or in the field as a gourmet picnic.
Included in the program:
Designed for photographers by photographers, this expedition to the Svalbard archipelago will be led by a dream team: Michael Melford, Roy Toft, Daisy Gilardini, Eddie Soloway, Justin Black, and Chris Linder. We will take you to the places we love to make the most of the great spectacle of Arctic light, landscape, wildlife, and ice. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Our expedition's private charter vessel, M/V Plancius, optimizes the photographic potential and overall quality of experience on this trip. She is a very comfortable and capable 296-foot ice-rated expedition ship with accommodation in comfortable en suite cabins and staterooms. We have deliberately limited her passenger capacity for this voyage to only fifty guests (though the ship sleeps up to 116 normally). We have chosen to do this voyage on this ship because she offers the capabilities, amenities, comfort, dining, and photographic support that will enable us to deliver a uniquely enjoyable and creatively productive experience, both aboard and on shore. If you wish to travel with a world-class team of photographic instructors to the best locations, and you appreciate the advantages of an adventure designed specifically to optimize both the photography and overall experience, this is an exceptional opportunity.
Our expedition begins in Oslo, Norway, with an introductory reception dinner at one of the capital's finest restaurants. After a restful night at The Thief – a modern Scandinavian boutique hotel that is one of Oslo’s very best – we fly as a group to the small harbor of Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen, where our ship awaits us. We set sail that afternoon through the sheltered waters of Adventfjord on our way to the west coast where we will work our way northward with views of the stunning mountain landscape.
The wild landscape of Svalbard and the pack ice are characterized by a mesmerizing serenity... I felt like I was floating through a dream. –Justin Black
The High Arctic is one of Earth’s most serene, sublime, and evocative places, and in our opinion the mountainous, glacier-covered islands of the Svalbard archipelago are the crown jewels, in part because a visitor here experiences the best features of the Arctic in microcosm. We have deliberately timed this expedition for Arctic autumn – late August and early September – to take advantage of special seasonal phenomena. The quality of light at this time of year is beautiful. The sun sets for several hours at this time of year, but gorgeous post-sunset light lingers all night long. Also, by this time the mountains typically have had their first fresh snow for the season, making the landscape look its best. Polar bears are to be found on both the islands and the pack ice, and Arctic fox patrol the shorelines. Blue whales – the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth – ply the coastal waters. Large walrus colonies can be photographed both ashore and at sea, and seals – bearded, ringed, harp, and harbor – are commonly sighted. Migratory birds linger on for a while, including Ivory Gulls, Kittywakes, Fulmars, Eider ducks, and more, while native Rock Ptarmigans transition to their winter plumage. Temperatures are still relatively comfortable by Arctic standards, but the summer’s mosquitoes will have been killed off by the frost. Weather and seas tend to be calm, and free of fog that can limit visibility in summer.
We have conceived this Svalbard expedition with considerable advantages for the passionate photographer. The first-rate photo leader team comprises six outstanding professionals, all known as generous and engaging teachers, who have a superb collaborative chemistry. Their photographic specialties cover a cross-section of the opportunities we will be presented with during the expedition: wildlife, landscape, natural abstract, travel, fine art, and conservation.
M/V Plancius: Our exclusive charter vessel provides an excellent platform for this voyage, in part due to her strength, maneuverability, and ability to navigate the ice pack and waters that can be impassable to larger ships. Those who appreciate small-group travel will enjoy our passenger limit of fifty guests, self-imposed to optimize both the photographic scenario and overall experience. Other “small-ship” trips operating in these waters carry 110 to 150 guests, resulting in a far less intimate experience and less nimble operations when making excursions from the ship. Superb expedition support includes a fleet of ten zodiacs, a highly experienced expedition staff of eight, and a top-notch crew who welcome guests on the ship's spacious bridge. With our relatively small group and large photo leader team, everyone will have excellent access to leaders and expedition staff, landing operations are far more efficient, and we'll be able to get to know one another much better. Plancius offers an impressive range of vantage points for photography, from close to waterline to up high, and her three diesel-electric engines are surprisingly quiet and produce little vibration.
Dining aboard Plancius is of a high standard, with menus prepared by an accomplished German chef, sous chefs, and baker, with ample fresh ingredients and healthy options available. We are assembling an excellent wine list for the trip as well! She’s just a great ship.