Arctic Springs to Life

Arctic Springs to Life

POND INLET, BAFFIN BAY - I wish every Canadian could see the Arctic. It’s a land full of diversity with a raw beauty beyond imagination.

Springtime in the Arctic is magical.

This past June, I took a group of seven photographers to the Pond Inlet Baffin Bay floe-edge. Sun never sets that time of the year. Our leader was David Reid from Polar Sea Adventures/Black Feather.

Our adventure began in the picturesque community of Pond Inlet — Mittimatalik in Inuktitut — located on the northern tip of Baffin Island. The surrounding mountains, scenic fjords, glaciers and icebergs make it one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Our destination was the floe-edge, where the land-fast sea ice meets the open water. As sea ice starts to give way, it leaves behind an ice edge that attracts an abundance of Arctic wildlife such as polar bears, seals, walrus, whales and birds. It is one of the most dramatic and dynamic ecosystems on Earth.


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Left: Michelle and the other photographers were treated to an Inuit cultural performance. Right: We travelled four hours in a qamutiik (Inuit sled) pulled by a snowmobile on our journey to the high Arctic floe-edge.

We left Pond Inlet for the floe-edge in traditional qamutiks (Inuit sleds) pulled by snowmobiles. We carried everything with us, including our tents, food, gas and camera equipment. Camp was set up tucked into a cove surrounded by majestic scenery. Each day we would visit the floe-edge in search of polar bears and narwhals.

Our Inuit guides and leader looked after us well. We had three delicious meals a day and our guides would take iceberg ice and melt it for us so we always had plenty of water to drink. We had great weather our entire week. The beautiful 24-hour light was a bonus for this group of serious photographers. We visited the bird sanctuary on Bylot Island and explored the fascinating bird caves underneath. Narwhal made their appearance every day and delighted us with many opportunities to snap fantastic images.


Above: Our base camp tucked into a cove near the floe-edge.

The Arctic has a way of reminding you how vulnerable and insignificant you are. One day we decided to call it quits at 11 p.m. The floe-edge was about four kilometres from our camp when we went to bed. When we got up at 5 a.m., the floe-edge was only 400 metres away. During the night, the floe-edge had broken off and we hadn’t heard a thing. The ice where we had stood just a few hours earlier was gone. The next night our group decided to forego our tents and sleep out on the hillside behind our camp because that would give us the best vantage point for seeing incoming narwhal and polar bears.

Our hunch paid off. A few hours into the evening we were startled by a loud blowing sound, and we knew immediately it couldn’t be a narwhal. As we clambered down to the floe with our cameras we saw a bowhead whale surfacing. As the whale showed its tail I was able to fire off a few images before it disappeared.


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Left: A polar bear stands up to paw at the king eider ducks flying above him. Right: Thick-billed murres entertain us with a fly by on a calm day on the floe-edge.

To properly capture the majesty of the Arctic, I brought three camera bodies — the new Nikon D5, the D4S and the D810.  Depending on the circumstances, I would switch between NIKKOR 800mm, 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 80-400mm lenses. It was a lot of gear to carry but since we were never short of photographic opportunities, it was well worth it.

On the last day of our adventure we found a polar bear. The ice between us and the bear was precarious so we weren’t able to get close (not such a bad thing) but it delighted us with its reaction to a group of eider ducks flying above. With the ducks flying overhead, it became curious and gave us a show, standing up and pawing at them. My favourite image from the trip is the bird watching polar bear.

Six days later we were back in Pond Inlet (and in need of a long, hot shower). Before we left we were treated to an Inuit cultural performance including storytelling, throat singing, Inuit games and drum dancing. It was a perfect end to an incredible adventure.


Michelle Valberg is a Nikon Ambassador and the first Canadian Geographic Photographer-in-Residence. Nikon Ambassadors are some of the most talented and influential visual artists working in the business today. These gifted storytellers go above and beyond most, and are admired for their passion, energy and commitment to their craft. / Learn more about the Nikon Canada Ambassadors at'> / Find Nikon Canada at / Michelle Valberg: and follow Michelle on Instagram - michellevalbergphotography





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