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Herd of Walrus, Karl XII Island, Svalbard
Phase One XF 150MP, 240mm Schneider, f5 @ 1/1600, ISO 400

You might be wondering why this blog is titled 'Beautiful Colours...' when the image is very monochromatic. Or more precisely, duo-chromatic! Many photographers suggest that to create a strong, powerful photograph, the first thing you should do is limit the colour palette. I guess the premise is because we see lots of colours all the time (at least when we're awake), by introducing a limited colour palette, our photographs are 'different from expected reality' and receive a second glance from our viewers. And taken to extremes, some photographers suggest going fully black and white.

As we circumnavigated this tiny Svalbard islet, what struck me was the starkness - the almost colourless black rocks, surmounted by a dirty white topping of snow. There was a hint of colour in the water, but that was it. Low, sombre clouds added to the mood and I confess to loving these types of days - they just seem to work so much better than bright sunshine with a blue sky.

As our zodiac came around a headland, in the distance there was a splash of tan - a small herd of walrus sleeping on the rocks. The contrast was wonderful and immediately I had my centre of interest. Of course, in the dull light, the walrus (or walruses - take your pick) weren't quite as bright as they are in the photograph above, but that's the role of the photographer, to help interpret the scene so it can be shared with an audience. And a background of ideas and approaches, filed away in my memory banks, means I'm usually able to find something of interest that can be further interpreted along existing lines.

So, the idea of minimal colour isn't new. The idea of dropping a subject into the corner of a frame, balanced by a wider landscape isn't new either. But having these ideas as part of your thought process means when something like this pops up, you're ready to photograph it. And that's why I love my library of photography books and magazines - it's a database of ideas.

So, Peter, why are you writing about Svalbard in the middle of an Australian summer? Well, surprise, surprise, it's because I've just been confirming my trips to Svalbard this June and July, would you like to join me? Covid-permitting, I will be on board the Aurora Expedition's Greg Mortimer for two voyages and there are berths available. For more information, visit our website or click here.