Polar bears in Svalbard, captured through the lense of Svein Wik. (Photo: Svein Wik)
Polar bears in Svalbard, captured through the lense of Svein Wik. (Photo: Svein Wik)

Captures the light, the raw and life in Arctic


Physically and mentally exhausted after years of IT engineering, Svein Wik (53) made the Arctic, nature and the fauna his new living. His quest for a fresher daily life lead him to exclusive photo tourism.

– I am an IT engineer by education and all of a sudden, I just came to a halt. I was completely exhausted by the computer world. I started searching for a different life, one in which I could live well. So I re-trained to become a nature photographer as well as a muscle therapist, and I created a new everyday life with a different set of values, Wik says.

He just got home from an eight-day photo-safari trip on Svalbard, in pursuit of a close-up with extraordinary views.

– I bring people from all over the world to capture the light, the rawness of nature, life and nature as they are, with all their moods among birds and animals, the photographer says. He was raised in Steinkjer, Central Norway.


Photographer Svein Wik feels that he belongs in the Arctic; that the high north fascinates him and gives him the extraordinary. So he brings tourists to Svalbard, to a nature he knows will transform something in people, like experiencing MS Malmö anchored by Sjuøyene on an August night; a barbecue at Texas Bar, a cabin in the Liefde Fjord, blue whales, mammals that may grow to a hundred tons and live for a hundred years, and polar bears physically arguing over a whale cadaver. (Photo: Svein Wik)

Photographer Svein Wik feels that he belongs in the Arctic; that the high north fascinates him and gives him the extraordinary. So he brings tourists to Svalbard, to a nature he knows will transform something in people, like experiencing MS Malmö anchored by Sjuøyene on an August night; a barbecue at Texas Bar, a cabin in the Liefde Fjord, blue whales, mammals that may grow to a hundred tons and live for a hundred years, and polar bears physically arguing over a whale cadaver. (Photo: Svein Wik)


Cure for body and soul

Wik argues that today’s busy society makes many people ill. That capitalism drives people into a routine that results in their bodies and minds not functioning optimally. That the requirement to continually ‘make it’ exhausts people.

– I see it in my job as a muscle therapist, and I see it when I lead expeditions for Arctic Wildlife Tours. Getting out into nature is a wonderful recipe for body and soul, and that is what drives me to do what I do, says Wik.

For people to get something more, for them to participate in what is about to go missing from today’s society. They get to experience the High North, an area most captivating. A feeling that has no name, and where the busy urban lifestyle simply does not exist – for a moment.

– Bringing people to Svalbard is exotic. There is still barren lands in the north, or at least that’s how it feels. Despite oil exploration and research, nature is still in charge – not man. People realize that owning things and maintaining a high living standard does not necessarily signify a good life, good experiences, Wik says.


Svein Wik (53) was mentally and physically exhausted following years in the IT business. Through starting up Arctic Wildlife Tours life got its meaning back. He believes that if he had not taken action, he would have ended up with a life on social welfare benefits. (Photo: Private)

Svein Wik (53) was mentally and physically exhausted following years in the IT business. Through starting up Arctic Wildlife Tours life got its meaning back. He believes that if he had not taken action, he would have ended up with a life on social welfare benefits. (Photo: Private)

It is all about capturing the light, the atmosphere and reality. The ice provides a distinct fauna habitat in the Arctic, and Svalbard means ever-changing weather, experiences and challenges. Polar bears in their right element. Spectacular landscapes around the fjords. Walruses resting on drifting ice flakes. Fulmars in the ice, a bird most exposed to plastic littering. (Photo: Svein Wik)

It is all about capturing the light, the atmosphere and reality. The ice provides a distinct fauna habitat in the Arctic, and Svalbard means ever-changing weather, experiences and challenges. Polar bears in their right element. Spectacular landscapes around the fjords. Walruses resting on drifting ice flakes. Fulmars in the ice, a bird most exposed to plastic littering. (Photo: Svein Wik)


Different people

People have their reasons for joining Wik on his expeditions. Some want to come home with images to brag about, others have dreamt about the Arctic for a lifetime.

– I went to Svalbard for the first time in 2005, and my first expedition with guests was in 2011. During a year there are at least eight trips with everything from 12 to 16 people. And people are willing to pay. The price is NOK 50,000-60,000 per person. It is a good concept and something that earns me a living, the nature photographer says.

Often people who are not rich will contact him, people who have a life-long dream about an intense once-in-a-lifetime experience. They know that life passes fast.

– We work out solutions. And believe me; many are bitten by the polar bug. Getting out and away from the mundane has a strong effect on people. Imagine the drifting ice, a floating continent where warm and cold water meet. It is tremendously beautiful, and provides a pantry for both animals and a hungry photographer, Wik says with a smile.


There is extensive marking of polar bears around Svalbard, according to expedition manager and photographer Svein Wik. The sows get enclaved around their neck, the boars get ear marks, because the latter are so thick-necked that they tear off enclaves. (Photo: Svein Wik)

There is extensive marking of polar bears around Svalbard, according to expedition manager and photographer Svein Wik. The sows get enclaved around their neck, the boars get ear marks, because the latter are so thick-necked that they tear off enclaves. (Photo: Svein Wik)


Demanding responsibility

Going on an expedition with cameras and with people who are not accustomed to the Arctic implies responsibility, both for people, animals and for vulnerable nature.

– It is hard. We sleep very little, and nights often blend into days. The Svalbard light makes us sleep only when we have to, and often the tourists do not want to go to bed. They just want more, as much as possible. And there are many considerations to make, because politics, regulations and laws do not always see eye-to-eye with tourism, Wik explains.

He tells of research activities, polar bears that tourists are fortunate to come close to, walruses and littering.

– Research has really taken off on Svalbard. Seeing animals with visible marks has become common. Polar bears or walruses with ‘number 13’ sprayed on their behind. Getting close to the animal and then discovering that it wears large and visible enclaves reduces the experience, Wik says.

He thinks conducting research is fine, however; perhaps limitations should be considered.

– I bring guests who are shocked at the number of animals that are subject to research. At the same time I must explain them why. The other day we found a seahorse that lay dead on the ice. It turned out that its entire intestines was an encapsulated plug of plastic waste, the photographer explains.


A grazing polar bear family. They grazed systematically for days. Perhaps the sow considered it beneficial for her cubs. Photographer Svein Wik often experiences the curiosities of nature. (Photo: Svein Wik)

A grazing polar bear family. They grazed systematically for days. Perhaps the sow considered it beneficial for her cubs. Photographer Svein Wik often experiences the curiosities of nature. (Photo: Svein Wik)


Ignorance

Last Sunday, he returned to Svalbard. Had it been possible, he would have invited Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Terje Søviknes to come along, giving the Minister a camera and let him see up close what the risk of oil drilling in the Arctic really is.

– He would definitely reconsider his own policies if he had had a close encounter with the ice edge over the course of a few days, seeing the vulnerability for himself, seeing what he’s putting at risk in a gamble, Wik argues.

Being a photographer who is deeply attached to the pristine, the natural and the vulnerable, he has seen a lot and has formed some thoughts and opinions through what he has captured with his lenses.

– As nature photographers we learn techniques to get close to the animals without disturbing. I have seen a lot through the years. And I believe our skepticism towards both bears and wolves are just nonsense, ignorance, Wik says.

Being a child in Lierne, one of the areas in Norway with the highest bear density, he was warned about the bears. As an adult, he has seen hundreds of brown bears, been just a few feet away and has photographed them in all kinds of situations.

– I believe photographing wildlife fauna on the mainland could be an interesting industry too, however, in Norway we tend to shoot the predators. If we had looked towards Finland and Russia, we would see that they have created a tourist industry that performs well while the predators get to live. They have zones for predator tourism. If anyone were to do that in Norway, it would generate millions, Wik says.

– I do not do this for profits, but I have found a niche that people want, the nature photographer says.


Photographer Svein Wik has been on trips to Finland, near the Russian border. He calls it a ‘no-man’s land’ – a place where predators live freely and are left to their own devices, an area in which it is exceptionally intriguing to be a photographer. Encountering  a wolf in Finland on a summer’s night, an animal most fearful of man, was a tremendous experience. Or observing a brown bear while it was merrymaking a late summer night. In Finland, predator tourism in selected areas constitutes a million-making industry. Back home in Trøndelag, Central Norway, the photographer shoots golden eagles with his lenses. The contrasts are huge from one part of nature to the other. (Photo: Svein Wik)

Photographer Svein Wik has been on trips to Finland, near the Russian border. He calls it a ‘no-man’s land’ – a place where predators live freely and are left to their own devices, an area in which it is exceptionally intriguing to be a photographer. Encountering a wolf in Finland on a summer’s night, an animal most fearful of man, was a tremendous experience. Or observing a brown bear while it was merrymaking a late summer night. In Finland, predator tourism in selected areas constitutes a million-making industry. Back home in Trøndelag, Central Norway, the photographer shoots golden eagles with his lenses. The contrasts are huge from one part of nature to the other. (Photo: Svein Wik)

Sometimes Wik organizes treks on-foot to interesting locations. The polar bear danger is a genuine risk, and the trips focus on avoiding land-based confrontations with the predator. Walruses are curious near the rubber dinghys.  Excited participants enjoy photographing the animals. Drift ice at 81.5 degrees North during a fall sunrise. Up there is a silence you cannot experience elsewhere. (Photo: Steinar Wik)

Sometimes Wik organizes on-foot treks to interesting locations. The polar bear danger is a genuine risk, and the trips focus on avoiding land-based confrontations with the predator. Walruses are curious near the rubber dinghys. Excited participants enjoy photographing the animals. Drift ice at 81.5 degrees North during a fall sunrise. Up there is a silence you cannot experience elsewhere. (Photo: Steinar Wik)

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