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Travel Blog

Baatsfjord, Varanger, Norway

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Baatsfjord on the Varanger Peninsula in the North of Norway borders directly to the Barents Sea north of the Arctic Circle. It is guaranteed ice-free all year which is why many seaducks spend their winter here before leaving to breed in Siberia during spring.

After a long journey from Copenhagen, I arrived on a late afternoon in March 2014 to enjoy a wonderful photo adventure with 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.


Baatsfjord Harbour

Each morning we had access to a great floating hide in the harbour for about 4 to 5 hours. Before 5 o'clock, we were sailed to the hide as we had to be ready before the birds started to arrive by sunrise.

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.

 
Photo hides in Baatsfjord Harbour (left) and from the inside of the major hide that we used (right)


It was not very convenient lying flat on the ground in awkward positions for so long; however, the outcome was very rewarding!

 
Long-tailed duck showing off


 
Female eider in the harbour


 
Two male King Eiders in rough waters one morning in the harbour


 
Male Steller's Eider


 
Male King Eider at close range


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 exiting images of birds in flight. The weather was fine and the birds were plenty.

 
Sailing on the fjord looking for arctic seaducks


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.

When the RIB slowly approached the birds, you had to be ready to shoot. Good to know that birds are taking off into the wind.

 
Long-tailed duck taking off


 
Two male King Eiders in flight


 
Common Eider taking off


 
It was not all about seaducks. This is a Kittiwake captured on the fjord


Closing remarks

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!