• Austfonna

    After our exciting time with the guillemots, we headed to see the expansive ice wall called Austfonna. Austfonna is an ice cap located on Nordaustlandet in Svalbard archipelago in Norway covering an area of 8492 sq kilometers.

    Just as we approached the massive wall of ice, the sun came out and an old sailing ship made its way into the photo frame. It captured a scene that looked like it was from a different time in history.

  • Alkefjellet – Mount Guillemot

    Day 6 of our Arctic journey sent us to Akerfjellet, which is known for the guillemot birds covering the cliff side all summer before taking their heroic journey south. These little birds are a tough species. When the birds reach adolescence at only 20-21 days old they must jump off the high cliffs into the arctic waters joined by their fathers for a swimming migration in the rough seas to travel away from the breeding ground to areas around Iceland and Greenland. They travel back to the same breeding area each spring.

    As we entered the zodiac boats to take a closer look at the birds, gone are thoughts of framing that perfect wildlife shot. Rough seas and swells were crashing against the small boats. Instead, hastily taken photos to be cropped later are snatched between sheltering one’s camera from sea spray and the ever-present risk of aerial excrement.  It was definitely a risky boat ride with a boat full of photographers with expensive cameras. Giant zip-lock plastic bags were the saving grace of the day.

  • Arctic Ice

    Late on Saturday evening, Ortelius had entered the fringes of the pack ice; I stayed up in anticipation of this moment. Around 1 am, a patchwork blanket of ice covering the ocean started to appear. We were moving at a steady able continuously northward. By 6 am we had reached 82° 23’2 N, which was much further North than the trip was planned to reach. The ice was 400 miles more north this year than in previous years.

    It was cold but all guests seemed to stay on deck as long as possible to enjoy the spectacular views before warming up in the lounge area with hot coffee and warm hot chocolate. This is a vista uniquely arctic and one that is sadly in decline. It is a pleasure to enjoy the expanse of such a landscape and be in the moment.

  • Karl XI Part 2

    The visit to Karl XI was a little heart-wrenching. The bears on the island had clearly missed their ride on the Arctic ice and were stranded on the island until the freeze would come back. The bears had limited food supply and most likely they would all not make it through the long summer until the ice returns. One of the bears was injured and we also witnessed the saddest scene of a mother carrying her dead cub around. The cub had died at least a month before based on reports and she was still grieving.

    The week before our visit there was a large controversy after a polar bear was shot by a crew on a German tourist ship after one member was attacked on land. This brought up the debate on whether this type of tourist excursion to the area where there is the risk of human interaction with the vulnerable status bears should be continued.

    This particular German expedition did not participate in information sharing about bear locations as part of the treaty in the Svalbard area with 99% of boats in the area. This could have likely resulted in preventing this incident where this bear was known to be on land for several weeks. The crew has strict guidelines and share information daily on the locations of all bears in the area to avoid these types of interactions.

    My personal opinion is that the more people see and learn first hand about the effects global warming and the retraction of polar ice caps have on the environment maybe they will do something to prevent further climate change issues. My eyes were opened on this trip to the realities of the shrinking of the Arctic ice by seeing first hand the impact on these amazing animals.

     

  • Karl XI Part 1

    On Day 4 of our Arctic adventure, we headed straight into the clear skies towards the green mystical mountain kingdom of Polar bears and wily walrus called Karl XI. As we headed toward the island in the zodiacs it looked like we were heading straight into a missing scene from the TV show Lost.

    We saw six polar bears on the island as we cruised around that showed off their personalities as we came by in the boats circling the small island. Polar Bears are listed as Vulnerable Status by the World Wildlife Fund due to the shrinking amount of animals that are left on the planet. In the Svalbard archipelago, the 3000 polar bears actually outnumber humans according to the Norwegian government.

  • Ny London – Svalbard

    We woke to our first morning on Ortelius entering Kongsfjorden under blue skies and sunshine. The relatively calm waters overnight had made for a restful sleep and we were all eager to head off for our first excursion in the Svalbard archipelago. Onshore there was one guesthouse where visitors were having a holiday far from the comforts of city life.

    During the course of the day, we learned a little about the history of Arctic exploration and the attempts to reach the North Pole from Ny Ålesund. One amazing thing about this trip was that the expedition leaders are trained in safety for our tour but also in history and science. They conduct lectures daily on a variety of topics on wildlife and arctic expeditions.

  • Oceanwide Expeditions – Norway   

    On August 1, 2018, I started my journey to one of the most remote places on Earth to visit the Arctic Circle and photograph the vast landscapes and wildlife found only in the Arctic regions.

    I took 4 flights over 30 hours to reach Longyearbyen, Norway, a small city named after American John Munro Longyear. John Munro was one of the first pioneers in mining industries and expedition cruises in Spitsbergen. He founded a coal mining settlement in 1906 in Adventfjord called Longyear City.

    We boarded the Ortelius for our 10-day journey and once onboard met our expedition team led by Captain Mikka Appel and Ali our expedition leader. I quickly realized this was not one of my normal cruises when we attended mandatory safety training, which included topics on Polar Bear safety. It was clear the goal was to not meet up with a polar bear on land. All of the expedition leaders carry weapons in case of emergency but there are heavy fines for killing any wildlife in Norway. Their goal is to protect the environment with responsible tourism.

    The crew on the Ortelius provided a regimented schedule each day with excursions by zodiac boat and hikes on foot throughout our 10-day journey. This schedule helped me cope with the fact that there is no nighttime because the sun does not set this time of year in the Arctic. We had fantastic service and meals on board with an amazing staff and I cannot say enough positive things about Oceanwide Expeditions. If you are planning a trip to any of the Polar Regions, I highly recommend this company for a safe once in a lifetime experience.

     

  • Banksy Paris

    I decided to stay in Paris for one day after a work week in France on a search to find the new Banksy art that was created at the end of June when the artist visited the city. It is always important to find his pieces as soon as possible because they are always outside in the elements and also often vandalized because of the political undertones. There are eight new graffiti art pieces that highlight issues ranging from France’s tough immigration laws to the tragedy at the Bataclan Theater.

    The Maison Albar Paris Celine Hotel concierge Fabrice helped me plan the most efficient route and hire a driver named Nolan to start my scavenger hunt around the city for all the Banksy artwork. We had the perfect weather with 75 degrees and sunshine to track down the pieces, which were located in alleyways, under bridges, on signage in tourist hotspots and on the side of homeless shelters across the city.

    Banksy always makes political statements and these particular art pieces have ties to French politics in the past and present.  Several of them are believed to be a tribute to the May 1968 uprising like the piece where Banksy sprayed a rat wearing a Minnie Mouse bow under the caption “May 1968” near the Sorbonne University over the weekend, one of the centers of the uprising, which some say implies the decline of French revolutionary spirit.

    Another of the new works touches on the sensitive subject of the ban on the niqab in France. It’s a take on the famous painting of Napoleon on the back of his rearing horse as he crosses the Alps to invade Italy in 1800. Except in Banksy’s version the figure on the horse is wearing a full red Islamic headscarf. This piece has now been covered with clear plexiglass to protect it from vandalism.

    The one Banksy painting that hit the closest to home for me personally was the image of girl huddled in mourning in a fire exit next to the Bataclan concert hall, where 90 people were massacred by jihadist gunmen in November 2015. I know the Eagles of Death Metal and spend so many of my evenings photographing rock shows that this one felt personal while remembering this tragedy.

    The only painting that was completely destroyed was in a north Paris neighborhood next to a refugee shelter that was controversially closed in March. It was of a young black girl spraying a pink wallpaper pattern over a swastika on a wall next to her sleeping bag and a teddy bear. This was a rough neighborhood in Paris and I had issues when I got out of the car to photograph the art. The people outside had put up a barricade and when I attempted to take pictures I was yelled at to leave immediately. Nolan drove me past while I was in the backseat with tinted windows so that I could at least take a few photos of the scene and the remnants of the painting.

    Some of the pieces are more festive like the one on the city’s famous Montmartre staircases in the 18th arrondissement, Banksy has painted a rat being catapulted like a cork out of a bottle of champagne.

    On my last stop and the hardest location to pinpoint, there is also a faded picture of a rat couple admiring the Eiffel tower in the city of love under a bridge.

    If you are interested in finding the artwork this article gives the approximate locations with descriptions of all the remaining pieces.

  • My Perfect Day in Paris

    I was only able to stay in Paris for one day due to work commitments but after many trips to the city I planned and designed my complete Saturday. A lot of help for the day was provided by the staff at Maison Albar Paris Celine Hotel with special assistance from Fabrice the Concierge. My perfect days always involve photography so this day was no exception.

    I started out very early Saturday morning with a lovely breakfast at Odette the restaurant in the hotel of fried egg whites, waffles (the best EVER!), bacon and a cold Coca-Cola in a glass bottle. Don’t judge…I need fuel for the perfect day.

    The hotel had arranged a driver for the morning to take me on the ultimate scavenger hunt to find all the new Banksy artwork across the city. The weather was amazing at 75 degrees and sunshine. My driver Nolan was a great sport and patient as he parked at eight locations across the city and helped me search for the graffiti art. We were successful in finding all of the pieces.  We then extended the tour an hour and visited some great locations for Eiffel tower photos since there were puffy clouds on the horizon.

    After my morning car trip, I decided to take a walk outside to the Louvre only a quick 10-minute walk from the hotel to see my favorite of all time – Mona Lisa. I expected large crowds in the middle of a Saturday afternoon but to my surprise, there was no queue outside so I went in for a visit after taking photos outside of the pyramid structure. I still cannot believe it only costs 15 euros to visit these masterpieces.

    I went back to the hotel after the museum visit and walk around the city and decided to check out the spa and again to my surprise an appointment was available for an aromatherapy massage within an hour. The massage was flawless with orange blossom essential oils and provided much-needed relaxation after a long week of work in Europe. The spa was beautiful and private inside the hotel and has a full-service spa for guests.

    I had an early dinner at a small café called Le Moliere where I found the impeccable snack of warm goat cheese salad with honey. Back at the hotel, I was happy to find an endless supply of the most delicious gummy bears for guests in the lobby, which provided the perfect ending to the perfect day.

  • Top 10 Museums in Paris

    Paris is arguably one of the world’s centers for seeing art and culture. I have visited Paris over a dozen times and during each visit, I still find hidden treasures inside the museums throughout the city. The museums range from displays of classic artists and their work, as well as writers, geology, architecture, fashion and much more. Check out a list of some of my favorite museums in Paris.

    10. Musee Marmottan Monet

    Housed in a former hunting lodge contains the largest collection of Claude Monet’s work in the world.  The museum also includes works by other famous impressionists of the time Degas, Renoir and Manet. The museum is on the outskirts of the city center so it is rarely crowded.

    9. Musee Rodin

    This museum is a charming space dedicated to sculptor Auguste Rodin. It is housed in an 18th-century mansion called Hotel Biron that the artist used as a workspace and exhibition venue until he donated it to the city of Paris with the stipulation that it be used as a museum of his works of art. The gardens around the museum contain several of his most important works and are a must see.

    The museum is home to the majority of Rodin’s significant works are located on site including famed statues The Thinker and The Kiss.

    8. Musee de L’Orangerie

    The Musee de L’Orangerie is a renowned art gallery filled with impressionist and post-impressionist paintings including the famous Water Lilies painting by Claude Monet.  The museum is situated in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens.

    7. Maison de Victor Hugo

    This small museum honors literary giant Victor Hugo. Hugo is one of the romantic movement’s most famous writers. He is best known for Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He lived in the house where the museum is located for 16 years from 1832-1848.  It is a unique view of the living quarter and art collection of the writer.

    6. Pompidou Center- National Museum of Modern Art

    The Pompidou is a unique piece of architecture inside and out. It looks like a building that has been turned inside out. Inside the building houses the National Museum of Modern Art, which is the largest museum for contemporary art in Europe.

    The Pompidou is the only museum in the world to offer a comprehensive view of modernism from the 20th and 21st centuries.  The museum is also home to many traveling exhibits that usually include unique photography exhibitions.

    5. Louis Vuitton Foundation

    Frank Gehry designed space to display art and culture. The $143 million museum in Paris was opened in October 2014. The museum was funded by LVMH and bears the name of its flagship brand, Louis Vuitton. The building will pass into the hands of the city’s government after 55 years.

    Temporary exhibits that highlight modern and contemporary art are open to the public throughout the year. The combination of works shown includes art owned by LVMH such as works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a few other artists. The foundation commissioned works by Ellsworth Kelly, Olafur Eliasson, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

    4. French Museum of Natural History

    The French Museum of Natural History was founded in 1793 during the French Revolution but was established earlier in 1635 by King Louis XIII.  It combines three museums into one, including a four-story taxonomy wing, a building of skeletons and fossils and a separate structure devoted entirely to geology. There’s also a zoo nearby! As of 2017, it has 14 sites throughout France, with four in Paris, including the original location at the royal botanical garden.

    3. Louvre

    The Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world and one of Paris’s most historic monuments.  Over 10 million visitors attend each year to see the over 35000 paintings including the Mona Lisa and The Winged Victory of Samothrace.

    My favorite exhibits also include Napoleon III apartments that you can tour as well as the Department of Egyptian Antiquities of the Louvre of Paris, comprising over 50,000 pieces, includes artifacts from the Nile civilizations which date from 4,000 BC to the 4th century.

    Travel Tip: By tickets ahead to avoid long lines. Insert link

    2. Musee Picasso

    Set in a 17th-century hotel the National Picasso museum houses over 5000 works of arts by Picasso. Works include drawings, paintings, sculptures, and ceramics from every period of his career.

    The museum also houses some of Picasso’s personal art collection with works by Degas, Seurat, and Matisse, as well as an extensive collection of African art, from which Picasso drew inspiration.

    1. Musee d’Orsay

    Musee d’Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900.

    This is my favorite museum because of its vast collection of Impressionist artists including Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir and my personal favorite Edgar Degas. Degas produced amazing paintings of Ballerinas that are on display. Other famous items include Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone Aries and Renoir’s al au Moulin de la Galette, Montmartre.