Capture the Arctic: tips from photographer Steve Davey

Polar bear cubs | Photography by Steve Davey

With his very own Arctic photography trip on the Peregrine roster, experienced Arctic photographer Steve Davey is perhaps one of the most qualified lensmen in the world to offer advice on how best to capture the Arctic. He's escorted passengers to many destinations over the years and has visited a little under 90 countries in total. Steve's written a number of successful books, the latest of which, Footprint Travel Photography, is one of the leading titles on travel and location photography. Here, he imparts some wisdom for those interested in following in his footsteps. 

What advice do you have for budding photographers?

I am a great believer in learning the basics of exposure and composition and how to approach a subject, as armed with this knowledge a photographer will be equipped to tackle just about any situation they will encounter. A travel photographer will need to be confident in a many styles of photography, from landscapes to cities; and from wildlife to portraits. Once you have mastered the basics, then you can spend more time thinking creatively and not practically.

Is there anything more than just the practical photography skills you can teach passengers on your trips?

I also aim to teach people that good photography should not be a chore: if done well, then it should help you to see more, appreciate your destination more and crucially have a much better time on your trip. As some recent feedback for one of my trips puts it: "Your love of photography and travel is infectious and I can honestly say I have never laughed or learnt so much on a holiday before!"

What is it about the Arctic that makes it such hallowed ground for photographers?

There are a number of incredible landscapes in the world, but the Arctic is one of the most stunning I have visited. Partly, as it is such a harsh and potentially unforgiving environment. It is stunningly beautiful, and has the extra frisson of being home to one of the world's great predators: the Polar Bear!

The Arctic is obviously very different, in terms of its climate and landscape, to most other places in the world – will photography skills learned there be easily transferable to other locations, climates and scenery? Or are the skills Arctic-specific? 

A lot of the direct photography tuition will be aimed at helping people to get the best photographs from their trip to the Arctic, but a lot of the skills will be transferable. We will also have a lot of spare time on the ship, and so I am planning on running a number of masterclasses and talks that will benefit peoples' wider photographic skills. There will even be the time to review and critique pictures taken from other trips if desired.

What have been some of your personal highlights from shooting in the Arctic?

The undoubted highlight has been some of the polar bear encounters. One amazing encounter with three cubs, who spent a considerable time close to the ship. On another occasion, two older cubs and their mother took a great interest in the ship, and spent almost forty minutes with us: calling out to each other and exploring the big red vessel that had suddenly added a splash of colour and intrigue to their lives!

Do you have any advice for photographers that might better prepare them for such an adventure? 

The best advice whenever you are taking pictures is to simply stop and think. Think about composition and what you are trying to show; and also about the settings and whether you re getting things right. A few moments in the camera can save hours at a computer later!

Jump on board Steve Davey's next Spitsbergen departure over on our main site, or check out a selection of Steve's Arctic snaps

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