Photographing Wildlife at Arctic Haven with Nansen
For Nansen Weber, “traveling north every season just feels right”. Growing up in the Arctic and spending his childhood summers playing on the tundra, Nansen had a unique start as a wildlife photographer. Now with photographs in major publications, Nansen is the professional wildlife photographer at Arctic Watch and Arctic Haven. Born into a lineage of polar explorers, Nansen is as much at home in the Arctic as he is at his home in Revelstoke, BC. He describes trips to the Arctic in the same comforting and familiar light as others might reflect on fond memories of summer getaways to the family cottage.
Nansen on the tundra at Arctic Haven
For nearly twenty years, the Weber family has operated Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge and has spent countless days in Canada’s High Arctic running numerous expeditions. Sitting at the edge of the boreal forest and open tundra, Arctic Haven is the latest addition to the family owned operation. During the fall migration, the Qamanirjuaq Caribou herd flows over the open tundra surrounding Arctic Haven as they move south from Baker Lake. Above treeline, the immense and vast landscape is humbling and quiet. As a photographer, Nansen enjoys the challenge of capturing his appreciation of the expansive wilderness surrounding Arctic Haven and conveying this sentiment in a photograph. “Arctic Haven is unique for its barren ground landscape, the fall colors, northern lights, caribou and predators. No summers are alike, the landscapes and animals are forever changing.”
Fall colors and caribou trails etched into the landscapes.
From a stoic bull caribou, to a goofy flock of ptarmigan running through the rocks, the abundance of animals and ever changing landscape holds Nansen’s interest for hours. While his passion lies in wildlife photography, Nansen finds the open tundra an equally engaging subject. “The endless array of colors and textures, the light rolling over the hills, forever changing against the fall colors and open views of Ennadai Lake. On clear nights, you can enjoy the auroras in the evening sky while trying to capture some unique perspectives under the glow of the dancing sky.”
Aurora borealis under the Arctic sky - photographed at Arctic Haven by Nansen.
For aspiring or professional photographers, knowing what gear to bring is often challenging. Nansen rarely finds himself carting around a tripod, citing that he finds it too cumbersome to carry around and setup on short notice. His go-to kit is a Canon 70-200mm lens with spare batteries, extra cards and a wide-angle 16-35mm on hand. While a 400mm lens is a great choice, he likes the 70-200mm as it is relatively light and allows him to move quickly. Adding a 2x extender for wildlife, allows for more intimate shots while still not disturbing wildlife. “Approaching animals undetected is, personally, one my favourite parts. More than a few times, I have taken my shoes off and walked barefoot in the tundra at Arctic Haven to sneak up on a sleeping caribou.”
A bull caribou peers into Nansen's camera lens.
But as a photographer, Nansen’s time in the Arctic is not just about capturing the perfect image. Some of Nansen’s most memorable encounters have not always resulted in the striking images he is known for. “I have an image of an Arctic wolf pup which, artistically speaking, is really not an incredible image- the light is bland and the scene is average. But the moment I laid eyes on the Arctic wolf pack will forever be one of my most memorable wildlife moments! It was surreal. I am constantly reminded of that memory when I travel around Arctic Haven. Being utterly surrounded by hundreds of miles of wilderness and amongst a wolf pack with their three week old pups laying out in the sun.” The barrenlands of Arctic Haven hold truly unique experiences; and I’ve always got my camera ready!
A young Arctic wolf pup; photographed by Nansen.