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We go on an Arctic adventure with wildlife pro Rick Tomlinson

Rick Tomlinson / Secret Atlas
To see a polar bear in the wild is a real privilege. Rick came across this male bear gnawing on a whale carcass (Image credit: Rick Tomlinson / Secret Atlas)

I specialize in guiding sailing and high-latitude private photography expeditions on vessels that explore remote areas, offering advice to passengers and documenting their voyage for books and photo albums. 

This series was taken while guiding on two different high-latitude assignments, while working as a guide with Secret Atlas, who provide small-ship micro-cruise expeditions to the remote areas of the Arctic: one in Svalbard/Spitsbergen, the other in Greenland. Each of these excursions lasted about two weeks.

Rick loves the greens and blues of the water in this picture of an iceberg lagoon, the scale of the ice world is hard to imagine. (Image credit: Rick Tomlinson / Secret Atlas)

In my work with Secret Atlas, we sail on private voyages with just 12 passengers, which brings us closer to nature and wildlife, allowing for a more personal travel and photography experience.

I do like to plan a few shots in advance, or list types of wildlife species I’d like to photograph, but this is nature and you can take nothing for granted. To see a polar bear in the wild is a real privilege, and I am always on the lookout for an unusual shot.

A small blue fishing boat amongst a sea of ice off Ilulissat, Greenland. (Image credit: Rick Tomlinson / Secret Atlas)

I have used Nikon gear for more than 30 years, and currently have D850 and D810, and prior to that used the D800. I chose Nikon originally as someone told me the mount was stronger than Canon! That was back in the 1980s. Lens-wise, I have the Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8 and 200-500mm f/5.6, enabling me to capture everything from the epic Arctic wilderness to close ups of far-off wildlife. My favourite lens is the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6, while it’s not an ‘exotic’ fast telephoto lens, it is very sharp.

The beautiful yacht Adele is dwarfed by the dramatic glacier in Smeerenburg fjord, in the north of Svalbard.  (Image credit: Rick Tomlinson / Secret Atlas)

The small-ship tours with Secret Atlas permits us to travel in a slow, sustainable way that allows us to get closer to the wildlife, without disturbing their natural habitat. The main challenges are the weather and finding the wildlife. But most important of all is looking after yourself and staying safe. Photography from a zodiac landing craft is safe, but I often travel alongside a guide with a gun!

Random colour with sharp diagonal lines always make great pictures, so the colourful houses that make up the small village of Aasiaat were a natural focal point. Although it has a population of only 3000, it is still Greenland’s fourth-largest town.  (Image credit: Rick Tomlinson / Secret Atlas)

About Secret Atlas

Secret Atlas is the home of small-ship voyages that explore the world’s most remote locations in the Arctic, including Svalbard, Greenland and Antarctica. Created by veteran explorers devoted to sustainability and slow travel, the bespoke small group adventures of Secret Atlas provide voyagers a truly experiential view of nature, while minimizing the impact on wildlife and the environment. 

Secret Atlas specializes in highly customizable expedition micro-cruises, photo tours and luxury voyages aboard a fully staffed private vessel that can accommodate up to 12 guests. For those in search of the adventure of a lifetime, Secret Atlas delivers a transformational travel experience that revives the lost spirit of exploration.  

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Adam Waring

Adam has been the editor of N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine for almost 12 years, and as such is one of Digital Camera World's leading experts when it comes to all things Nikon-related. 


Whether it’s reviews and hands-on tests of the latest Nikon cameras and lenses, sharing his skills using filters, tripods, lighting, L brackets and other photography equipment, or trading tips and techniques on shooting landscapes, wildlife and almost any genre of photography, Adam is always on hand to provide his insights. 


Prior to his tenure on N-Photo, Adam was also a veteran of publications such as PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, so his wealth of photographic knowledge isn’t solely limited to the Big N.