Posts By Trond Sandmo

New London – Camp Mansfield

Port of London, Svalbard

Peirsonhamna. Two remaining houses at London, Svalbard.

The history

The site is located in Kongsfjorden (or Kings Bay in English) on the northwest of Svalbard and is known under several names; London, New London, Ny-London or Camp Mansfield. The Kongsfjord became as early as 1610 discovered by Jonas Poole. Originally he named the fjord Deer Sound. At that time whaling was carried out by Englishmen and Dutchmen in the area. Later, the fjord became known as Koninks Bay (Giles and Rep 1710) and a typing error led to Kings Bay (Scoresby 1820). After the whaling period, the area was mainly used by trappers. Not until the second industrial revolution, New London at Blomstrand Peninsula was explored for resources.

Camp Mansfield

Camp Mansfield, London, Svalbard

In 1906, marble deposits were discovered by Ernest Mansfield on Blomstrand Peninsula, and the company The Northern Exploration Company ltd started up already in 1911. The facility was quickly set up in subsequent years. Residential buildings, workshops, railways, cranes, steam machines and so on were built on site. Up to 70 people could live and work at the facilities in New London. Not much marble was extracted from the marble quarry, because it turned out that the marble crumbled and was useless. This was probably due to frost action. In 1913, Mansfield was removed from the Northern Exploration Company management and had nothing to do with the company after that. In 1920, the activity in New London was over. The failure was a fact, and equipment and building materials were used elsewhere in Svalbard. For example, several houses were moved to Ny-Ålesund for use in the activity that took place there. The industrial equipment left in New London is among the best preserved from the time before World War I.

What is left at Camp Manfield

Steam boilers III

Steam boilers at London, Svalbard

On-sight there are two smaller houses that are in good working order. One is disposed by the welfare of Ny-Ålesund and the other one is used by the Governor of Svalbard. The Governor has field inspectors stationed here during the summer period. Four of the houses have moved to Ny-Ålesund. They are refurbished and used by a company called Kings Bay AS. One also finds remains of steam machines, cranes, and railways. The marble quarry is to be found on the hill above the houses. Three minor sheds are still standing.

There are other buildings associated with the activity in New London: 1) Camp Zoe, located Krossfjorden was set up by Henry Rudi and August Olofson on behalf of Ernest Mansfield in 1911. The cabin is named after Mansfield’s daughter Zoe. Henry Rudi used it for trapping during the winter and served as a watchman. I do not know if The Northern Exploration Company Ltd used the cabin in connection with the operation they had, or if it was only for welfare use. 2) At Storholmen a little further into the Kongsfjord, a house stands and was built in 1911 and used by Mansfield.

Other sites

Rail crane

Rail crane at London, Svalbard

Mansfield and The Northern Exploration Company Ltd have been active elsewhere in Svalbard as well. I can mention Camp Morton was established here to exploit coal. There are other places too, however I think I will save them all for another blog post.

As I wrote, Camp Mansfield was built to accommodate 70 people. One can only wonder how they managed. It was certainly a shock for workers who come from UK up to the ice cold Svalbard. I will believe they lived cramped and had long working days. But still it was a pleasure to work for Mansfield. After what I managed to read about him, he was a well-liked man, with good intentions.

How to get there

Peirsonhamna where New-London is located is 5 km north east over the fjord from Ny-Ålesund. The easiest way to travel there is by boat. Actually it is the only way because the Blomastrand peninsula is actually an island. It came for a day when the glacier melted that the peninsula actually was an island. There are regular tourist boats arriving New London, and you can check with your tourist agency. Peirsonhamna is a very good harbor. Had I not known better, I could believe that it had been cut out for the purpose. Boats are protected from the heavy weather that can come from the west.

Tourism

Port crane

Port crane at Peirsonhamna, London, Svalbard

Such cultural monuments are very exciting to visit, and I understand that tourism is occurring around such places. Unfortunately, tourism has risen enormously in recent decades. Not only in Svalbard, but everywhere. When a cruise ship puts hundreds or, in the worst case, thousands of passengers into vulnerable cultural monuments, it eventually results in wear and tear. I feel this is destructive and want the practice to change for the better. But I think tourism has come to stay and it is up to local politicians to set reasonable limits.

“Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints” Is a good rule to follow. These places exist because there was activity in the area and the facilities and location served people a purpose. Today they are a memory of a bygone era. Let us not destroy them or affect them in any way with today’s activity.

In fact, human traces and cultural monuments from the time before 1945 are protected by the cultural heritage laws for Svalbard. Please be careful and show respect for the place.

 

Wheelbarrow

Wheelbarrow at London, Svalbard

Steam boilers II

Steam boilers at London, Svalbard

Steam boilers

Steam boilers at London, Svalbard

Riksvåpen

Riksvåpen at London, Svalbard

Trolleys

Trolleys at London, Svalbard

Fujifilm X-Pro2 with XF16-55mm F2.8

I am all the time looking for smaller cameras that have excellent image quality and with a single versatile zoom lens. I consider myself to be an outdoor person. I hike a lot in the mountains, driving both boats and snowmobiles. When I search for new photo equipment, I want the weight and volume to be as low as possible. When I have to carry it in the backpack together with other necessary equipment, it goes without saying that large DSLR´s with many lenses are not preferable. I prefer that the camera is solidly built. The equipment need to withstand some beating and bad weather. With a single versatile zoom range, I mean 24-85mm (full frame 35mm equivalent). That is what I am looking for, and I hope this setup suits my needs for a all-around camera.

X-Pro2

Front view Fujifilm X-Pro2. 2017

X-Pro2

Back view X-Pro2. 2017

Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a mirrorless rangefinder camera with interchangeable lenses and a hybrid viewfinder. The viewfinder can be either optical, electronic or a combination of both of them. Fujifilm has installed a 24MP cmos sensor and X-Processor Pro engine to take care of the image processing. The camera has 91 focus points and it is possible to move the focus point easily with the joystick to quickly achieve good focus. It shoots at maximum 8 frames pr seconds and is well suited for fast-paced situations like sports and wildlife. The camera seems to be ruggedly built, and according to Fujifilm, it is weather resistant. They write on their website: “Made from magnesium and designed to be dust-resistant, splash-resistant and freeze resistant up to -10°C.” The camera has both electronic and mechanical shutter. It can take up to 1/32000s with electronic shutter and 1/8000s on mechanical. You can easily take pictures with the largest aperture even in the brightest situations. The important settings is easy to change without having to enter the menu. Aperture, Shutter, ISO and exposure compensation. Fujifilm must have put a lot of thought into the design.

X-Pro2 viewfinder

X-Pro2 viewfinder. 2017

Key specifications XPro-2:

Eriophorum - Myrull

Eriophorum at Longyearbyen Svalbard

  • Sensor: 24MP X-Trans CMOS III with primary colour filter. APS-C size
  • Sensitivity: ISO 200 – 12800
  • Exposure: Program, Aperture priority, shutter speed priority, manual
  • Exposure compensation: +/- 5EV 1/3 step
  • Shutter speed: 1/8000s (mechanical), 1/32000s (electronic), Bulb 60min.
  • Viewfinder: EVF and OVF
  • Continuous shooting: 8fps
  • Focus: Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual
  • Image stabilizer: No, but some lenses have
  • Lens mount: Fujifilm X mount
  • Auto bracketing: Yes
  • Interval time shooting: Yes
  • Video: Yes

 

I Have decided to just have one standard zoom lens on this camera. The choice fell on a 16-55mm f/2.8. (24-85mm) lens. The lens is edge to edge sharp across the entire zoom range and one can easily achieve beautiful bokeh effect both in front and background. According to Fujifilm, the lens is weather-resistant, dust-resistant and -10 ° C low-temperature operation.

The Svalbard Reindeer

Reindeer at Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Key specifications XF 16-55mm f/2.8 LM WR

  • Focal length: 16-55mm (24-85mm)
  • Angle of view: 83°-29°
  • Max aperture: F/2.8
  • Min aperture: F22
  • Filter size: 77mm

What I liked

  • I like the style of shooting with this camera. Aperture on the lens and shutter / ISO on a dial on top of the camera body.
  • Easy to move focus point with joystick even with an eye on the viewfinder.
  • Electronic viewfinder is super and has worked for me in all cases
  • Sharp, bright and versatile lens
  • Fast startup time
Part of cableway

Longyearbyen, Svalbard

What I did not like

  • The weight is too high and it becomes difficult to operate with one hand
  • The exposure compensation dial needs a lock. Easy to make a mistake.
  • The lens is in the way of the optical viewfinder. About 30%. Probably better on shorter lenses.
  • The LCD screen has no tilt. Useful in tight spaces
  • The viewfinder window is tiny.
  • This setup is expensive. About 2900 USD for both camera and lens

I have been using a Fujifilm X100T the recent years, and been very pleased with it. I was excited to see if Fujifilm managed to make a rangefinder that would also work well with interchangeable lenses. Fujifilm has managed to make a great camera, but I see that the electronic viewfinder is chosen over the optical viewfinder in all cases. In addition to that, I see that the weight of this configuration was somewhat high. There is not much to grab onto, and the best way is to use my right hand on the camera house and my left hand on the lense. Wondering how a 3rd party thumbrest would work on this camera.

Longyearbyen cableway central

Cableway central Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Fujifilm claims the camera can work down to -10 celsius. Considering battery life, I am excited about how it will work in the cold at Svalbard. Global warming is a fact, but it is still very cold many months of the year. The camera seems to be weather resistant and as solidly built as they claim, however I would still find a suitable bag for it.

Fujifilm has added a feature called lossless compression on the RAW file. Using it achieves a 50% reduction in file size, but the files are slower to process in Lightroom. I prefer uncompressed. I noticed that the original jpg files looked very good. They were sharp and the colours looked correct when using auto white balance. I had to struggle in Lightroom to achieve the same result with the RAW files.

When it comes to the lens there is nothing negative to say. I have mentioned that it lacks optical stabilization (OIS), but at the same time it is so bright that I do not think it will be absolutely necessary for me with such a feature.

Detail of 32m Antenna II

Eiscat Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Detail of 32m Antenna

Eiscat Longyearbyen, Svalbard

32m Antenna

Eiscat Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Conclusion

If I had to compromise and just owning a single camera, then I think the Fujifilm X-Pro2 would suit me best. I could deal with weight/grip and other minor issues, and the fact that the battery empties faster than with a DSLR. It is rugged, versatile and the images it produces are really good. The way the camera is built encourages an original/native shooting style. I like it.

It will be exciting to see how Fujifilm evolve these mirrorless cameras in the future. If I were in charge and could influence the next upcoming X-Pro3, then I would make a operator lock on the exposure compensation dial, make a larger viewfinder window and redesign the grip.

Port of Longyearbyen III

Port of Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Port of Longyearbyen II

Port of Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Port of Longyearbyen I

Port of Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Note: All photos taken with Fujifilm X-Pro-2 are from Longyearbyen, Svalbard or the surrounding area. Three pictures from the Eiscat radar located at Breinosa 15 km east of Longyearbyen. Three pictures from the tourist harbor in Longyearbyen and two pictures of old industrial facility used in the coal industry. The image of the reindeer and eriophorum is taken close to the center of Longyearbyen.

Drone shots North-West of Svalbard

After moving to New-Ålesund, I have not flown as much drone as I wish. This is because Ny-Ålesund does not allow us to use wi-fi frequencies or mobile phones. There is scientific research going on in the area that does not want any rf-interference. But beyond the 20km radius, I can fly as much as I want. I have been to a few trips this summer and there are some pictures to present.

Prins Kars Forland

Fuglehuken

Drone shot over Fuglehuken at Prins Kars Forland. Svalbard

Sarstangen

Drone shot taken over Sarstangen / Forlandssunden. Prins Kars Forland seen in the distant.

Prins Karls Forland, is an island off the west coast of Svalbard. The island was first discovered by the Dutch explorer Willem Barents in 1596. The whole island and the sea around make up Forlandet National Park.

Krossfjorden

Mayerbukta

Drone shot at Mayerbukta Krossfjorden Svalbard.

Tinayrebreen

Drone shot at Tinayrebreen and Tinayrebukta. Krossfjorden Svalbard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lloyds Hotel Møllerhamna

Drone shot taken in Møllerhamna over Lloyds Hotel. In the distanse we see Kollerfjorden and Kollerbreen. To the left Kronprins Olavs fjell. Krossfjorden Svalbard

Tinayrebukta

Drone shot Tinayrebukta Krossfjorden Svalbard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Means Cross fjord in English. 15 km into the fjord, Krossfjorden is divided into two by the King Haakon Peninsula. The eastern fjord side is also divided into several smaller fjord arms. Ebeltofthamna In the inlet to Krossfjorden was the first semi-permanent whaling station on Spitsbergen. Here came English already in 1610. In the period after the whalers, the area was used by fur hunters on wintering. In recent times the area is used primarily for tourism and research.

Magdalenefjorden

Magdalenefjorden

Droneshot over Magdalenefjorden Svalbard.

William Barents was the first to explore Magdalenefjorden in 1596. Both Englishmen and Dutchmen have since had a whaling station in the fjord. In Trinity Harbor one can find remains after the whaling period. And a burial site of 130 graves.

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Grumant

Drone shot III over Grumant

Drone shot III over Grumant / Svalbard

I continue my series about abandoned places here at Svalbard. This time there is also an abandoned Soviet mining town I want to present. Previous post about Coles Bay is closely related to Grumant. And I encourage you to read it first. Urban/Rural exploration is a nice hobby that combines photography and my fascination with abandoned human activity. I urge people to experience these places but to explore carefully and not damage anything.

How to get there

Map Grumant Longyearbyen

Map Grumant Longyearbyen Svalbard

There are no fences around Grumant or other obstacles that keeps you out of Grumant, however the settlement is quite inaccessible. The safest route is probably by boat in the summer time. It is less than 20km one way and should not take long. There is not a particularly good harbor in the area around Grumant, and I recommend that you enter at calm sea. The other routes on foot in summer time and by snowmobile in winter is both dangerous and difficult for most people. I would not describe them here considering what situation people might put themselves in. No liner or regular tours go there. It is best if visitors acquire a local tour guide who is willing to show you Grumant.

What is it

Blue room at Grumant

Blue room at Grumant / Svalbard

As described in my previous article about Coles Bay, Grumant and Coles Bay was connected by railway. Grumant had a poor harbor and Coles Bay suited much better for shipment of coal and other transport that went by sea. Grumant is a small town between high mountains near the Icefjord, and at the most there were 1,100 residents in the 50s. Grumant had the coal-mine entrances and other buildings with related industrial workplaces. In addition the workers had their living quarters in that narrow valley. I am lucky to have lived in a time that we still could visit the houses and see the beautiful wall paintings and ceiling decorations. It is clear that they had a canteen there and a building for either an infirmary or a kindergarten. Maybe both!

 

Condition

Wall paintings III

Wall paintings III. In Grumant / Svalbard

There are not many buildings left in Grumant and those still standing are in a miserable condition. It is especially the severe weather conditions that is the problem. Roofs have collapsed, erosion from the seaside has came dangerously close to the buildings and the permafrost is constantly moving the ground under the houses. Slowly, but surely this destroys the concrete structures in Grumant. Considering the condition I would discourage people to enter in the buildings that still stand.

“Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints” Is a good rule to follow. These places exist because there was activity in the area and the facilities and location served people a purpose. Today they are a memory of a bygone era. Let us not destroy them or affect them in any way with today’s activity.

A few shots from Grumant

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Fuji GW690iii review

Fuji GW690iii

Fuji GW690iii

When I did the research to buy my first medium format camera, I quickly came to the Fuji rangefinder series. If you read forums and other online sources, good things are often written about the Texas Leica (as it is also known as). When looking to other 135 film rangefinders the GW690 is huge and bulky, but compared with many other medium-format cameras, the GW690 series has a manageable size and are reasonably priced. My photos is mainly taken in the field, so I depend on being able to carry it in my backpack among thermos and lunch. Size matters. I prefer the 2:3 format and a positive feature is that each frame measures 6 x 9 cm. One can easily make large prints from a picture made with the GW690. All this together the Fuji GW690 stood out to me as a good first buy, and the search for a good item started at ebay. Finally, I landed on a camera for sale in Japan. And after a few weeks of waiting, I received a third generations GW690 camera in mail here at Svalbard.

Key features

  • 90mm, 58 degree field of view (equivalent to 39mm on a 35mm camera)
  • Leaf shutter
  • 120 film rolls. Medium format
  • f/3,5 – f/32 half-stop increments
  • 1s – 1/500s plus T-mode. full-stop increments

This rangefinder series from fuji (fujica) was introduced in the late 70s and was produced until 90s. All the pictures and tests I have done is with a third generation GW690 made in 1992. The camera has a very good fixed prime lens at 90mm with leaf shutter integrated between the glasses. The aperture goes from f/3.5 to f/32 and shutter speed between 1s and 1/500s. The lens has a somewhat long minimum focusing distance of just 1 meter. Other things worth mentioning is that the camera has a hotshoe for flash, a lock on the trigger, and a built in retractable lens hood. The lens has inner threads with 67mm diameter for your ND or color filters.

What I liked

  1. GW690iii Viewfinder

    Fuji GW690iii Viewfinder.

    What I like the most with this camera is the huge negative it produces. 6 cm x 9 cm is the biggest size negative one can make on a medium format camera. If you want a larger format than that you need to scale up to large format cameras (4×5″ for example). And that is a different ball game.

  2. The lens on this camera is really sharp, and I cannot see any noticeable distortion or aberration. It is a prime lens, so something else would be strange.
  3. This camera is 100% mechanically and it seems to be very solidly constructed. I can imagine it will withstand some beating.
  4. There are no batteries that die in the cold on this camera (if we disregard the external light meter you probably need). Here in the Arctic, I often find that batteries do not last a photo session. Digital mirrorless cameras are the worst.
  5. I often make long exposures, and this camera has its own little twist on how it is designed. T mode is constructed so that when the shutter is trigged, it stays open till the shutter settings on the lens is changed towards “1s”. I like this solution compared to Bulb mode on most cameras.
  6. Among other things I particularly want to mention about the GW690 is that one can find these cameras relatively cheap even though I have seen that prices on iconic analog cameras only rises. Analog photography have become popular.

What I did not like

  1. GW690iii Lens

    GW690iii Lens

    What I liked least about this camera is that I find it a bit difficult to achieve focus. The yellow spot focus area is tiny, and I need to search around the image to find a suitable place to align the “double image”. It is tough in a low contrast scenery and bit difficult on a tripod.

  2. The next issue that bothers me a little is that the shutter and aperture ring are very close. I have seen on several occasions that it easily result in a mistake. I intent to change the aperture, but ends up also changing the shutter time.
  3. One thing that I painfully have experienced is that one must remember to take off the lens cap. With only 8 frames each 120 roll, I must not be wasting precious film on the inside of the lens cap.
  4. The closest point of focus with this camera is 1 meter. Since this is a fixed lens camera it makes it unfit for macro photography and similar. Even not for a close portrait.
  5. Although aperture goes to f / 32, I find the fastest shutter speed of 1 / 500s a bit too long. 1 / 2000s had been better especially for a situation where you shoot both inside and outside. And I don’t want to attach a ND filter to achieve a bokeh effect in daylight.

Conclusion

Fuji comparison

Fuji GW690iii compared with Fujifilm x100t

After shooting approximately 20+ rolls of 120 film, I have discovered a little light leak which appears in the bottom of the image. I have solved this easily with electrical tape. The workaround has not been a major problem for me. One can expect such error with old cameras, and if it bothers me too much I will replace the gasket with a new one. I have really enjoyed this camera and think it should run a great deal of rolls before I switch to other medium format cameras. The camera has been perfect as a introduction to the medium format. I have learned a lot with the fact that the settings are all manual. This is probably not the camera for the person who takes pictures of fast moving scenes or prefer full automation. With this camera one must think carefully and use some time before the photo is taken.

Here are a few images taken with the GW690iii :

 

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