An Arctic Expedition
Though I have spent much of my life on boats, sailing on Barba in late October in the Norwegian fjords was new territory for me.
Barba is a 37 foot expedition vessel operated by marine biologist, fellow ocean conservationist and former navy diver Andreas B. Heide from Norway. I joined this expedition to photograph orcas in their natural habitat. Andreas has spent 4 seasons tracking orcas in the Winter months when the herring seeks shelter in the fjords, followed by orcas in the thousands and joined by increasing numbers of humpback whales. During my stay we operated in the Kvænangen Fjord, a 7 hour sail North of Tromsø.
We spent our days chasing and documenting the herring, orcas and humpback whales. This unfamiliar environment pushed me right out of my comfort zone. Sailing through snow and sleet, I had to jump into 3 degrees of water at a moment’s notice to capture these apex predators. I felt vulnerable and insignificant and very aware that I was an outsider in the orcas natural habitat. We only had one hour of daylight per day so I was under pressure to capture on camera all I could in this limited time.
As a yachting and underwater photographer for the past 20 years I have learnt to always be prepared for the unexpected . Preparation is key and having all the gear on hand whether underwater housing, a diversity of lenses, my drone, are always within an arm’s length ready to assist me to capture that fleeting moment. This is what allows me to enter that mindset where my natural instinct can take over and I am present to wholly connect with my subject.
Having said that, nothing can quite prepare you for the overwhelming adrenaline rush when coming face to face with a pod of orcas. My heart has never beaten as fast. The water felt icy cold at first, even though wearing an 7 millimetre wetsuit. I needed a few seconds to get my breathing under control but once in the zone I could stay in the water for up to 10 to 15 minutes, making the most of the hour of daylight as we followed the pods of orcas and humpbacks.
It is easy for the expansive beauty of the Norwegian fjords to leave a huge impression on any visitor and I am already planing my next photographic expedition to spend more time there. In June 2021, Barba sets sail on a 4 month expedition called “Arctic Sense”, leaving from Norway and heading to the polar archipelago of Svalbard, of which I am looking forward to being a part of.