I have to reiterate how bad the photos I’ve taken in Svalbard are. I feel frustrated whenever I look at them but in terms of photography I can’t imagine worse conditions, light is afterall pretty essential!
The photo at the top of this post was of the mountain opposite our hotel, whilst I was testing my settings incase the Northern lights decided to show up. It’s one of the only photos I took with my SLR as it was so dark.
As Svalbard is so far North -78° North and the last land stop before the North Pole- during the Polar night the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon at all for several months.
I’ve experienced the Polar night in Iceland and Norway, where there were three or four hours of daylight and a sort of twilight in-between but this was totally different, not seeing light at all for days was surreal.
The dark sky in Svalbard makes it a great place to see the Northern lights, although unfortunately we weren’t lucky this time and during our stay they didn’t come up far North enough. We kept a close eye on the forecast at all times though and regularly popped outside (during the day and night!) to see if we could see that familiar green tinge.
Each day at a slightly different time we experienced the blue hour, or the far North’s version which was more like ‘ever so slightly less dark hour’.
As Longyearbyen is so small -literally just a cluster of streets- there’s no light polution which means even walking between roads or buildings can leave you in the pitch black at lunch time. This was so surreal and took a lot of getting used to, whilst I felt strangely at ease walking around at midnight there was an almost fear at all times as you can’t see very far infront of you.
We tried to walk to the edge of the settlement on three occassions to take a photo of the polar bear warning sign, but turned back as it was just too dark. The thought of a polar bear stalking you in that darkness was enough to give me the creeps and chicken out every time.
Inside the hotel, paraphin lamps burned night and day which made it feel very cosy.
I definitely find the Midnight Sun more disorientating, but five days without any daylight was a really strange experience. In the absence of being able to see clearly, your mind plays tricks and makes shapes in the darkness. Even though we didn’t see the Northern lights here, I love the magic of knowing they could appear at any time and spending time gazing up at the stars in such a clear sky.