Virgil Reglioni

Expedition Leader & Photographer

Virgil has been an expedition leader in the polar regions since 2016. He is a professional photographer specializing in polar landscapes, with a particular focus on capturing the famous Northern Lights.

Virgil was awarded in several international photography competitions and was part of the 2021 & 2022 Best Northern Light Photographer of the Year collection, showcasing his powerful storytelling and unique impactful photography style. Following this accomplishment, he also made contributions to the European Space Agency, thanks to his renowned images. During late winters, he educates and teaches photography in Tromsø, Northern Norway, sharing his love for the untouched polar dark nights and remote locations.

After years of building connections, experiences and skills in the Arctic, he now works about five months a year on expedition vessels in wider polar regions, including Greenland, North West Passage, South Georgia and Antarctica.

“The main reason I prefer not to work on big ships in Svalbard is because it doesn’t feel ethical to put a large number of zodiacs in front of a polar bear. We all have an impact on the environment, but as guides, we try to sensitize people to the importance of minimizing disruption to wildlife. That’s why I love working on small ships with limited group sizes.”

Personal Note

In May 2011, I left France with a backpack, seeking adventure and new experiences. After studying marketing and management, I felt stuck and decided to reorient myself. With a loan, I embarked on a Franco-American Business Management program. However, my passion for travel and meeting diverse people grew stronger, leading me to leave my studies behind.

With the support of my parents, I sold my car, worked as a door-to-door seller, and saved enough money to travel to Australia. There, I met some Italian and Belgian travelers and joined them on a van journey covering over 22,000 kilometers.

In the Daintree Rainforest, I fell in love with the challenges of the jungle and its wildlife. My knowledge impressed a local named Rail, who suggested I become a guide. After continuing my travels through Southeast Asia and New Zealand, I kept in touch with Rail, paving the way for future opportunities.

Virgil Reglioni Photo Guide & Expedition Leader
seal in Svalbard Virgil Reglioni

After returning to Europe, I stayed in France for a while but knew I wanted to move on. I found a customer service job at KLM in the Czech Republic through an unemployment website. It was dull work, but the team was fantastic, and we had a blast partying together.

Originally, I planned to stay in Prague for a year or so, but my wanderlust persisted. Using Prague’s central location, I explored Europe while working. This experience sparked the idea of combining work and travel.

During my time in Prague, I saw my friend frustrated with routine and lack of progress. I felt stuck too, but I knew I could break free anytime. So, I decided to show them how it’s done. My friend found a guiding job in Greece, and I applied too, thanks to a reference from Rail, whom I met years ago.

Tanya from Greece called, and Rail spoke highly of me. I got the job offer and decided to start in May.

I handed in my resignation letter to my boss at KLM and set off for Greece. It felt like starting life anew with everything being fresh and unfamiliar – a new place, new friends, and a new job. The company I worked for in Greece had its challenges, but it helped me grow as a guide, teaching me to handle group dynamics and responsibilities efficiently.

After the guiding season in Greece came to an end, I felt the need to continue my pursuit of thrilling experiences. I wanted something akin to the excitement and challenges I faced in the Daintree Rainforest and Lapland. That’s when I decided to become a snowmobile guide in Lapland, Finland, during the winter season.

Lapland mesmerized me with its polar region beauty, especially the enchanting Northern Lights. The extreme weather conditions, which would be daunting to many, only fueled my passion for adventure. As I guided snowmobiles and led winter hikes, I realized I could blend my love for photography with my guiding work.

Recognizing that I was entering a seasonal rhythm in my life, I pondered my plans for the upcoming summer. My boss in Lapland saw an opportunity for me and suggested obtaining a rafting certificate. He believed my guiding skills and ability to handle people would make me an excellent rafting guide. Intrigued, I agreed to pursue the certification process.

To my surprise, the certification process took place not in Finland, but on the Han River in Morocco. Successfully completing the certification, my boss even upgraded my qualification, granting me the opportunity to work as a rafting guide in Norway the following summer. With a job secured in Norway, I spent the winter months in Lapland, where my passion for photography flourished, especially in capturing breathtaking images of the Northern Lights. As the seasons passed, I continued my guiding work, splitting my time between Iceland and the south of Norway during summers.

Over time, I met Nora, another guide, and we became a couple. We worked hard on our careers and resumes, and Nora’s dream of working in Svalbard came true. When I visited her, her boss noticed my rafting and kayaking experience, offering me a job as a kayaking guide in Svalbard.

Luck seemed to be on my side as I embraced new opportunities. I worked with Better Moments, guiding sea kayaking and other activities until Covid disrupted my plans. Nonetheless, I spent the next two summers in Svalbard, steadily progressing toward my dream of working on an expedition ship as an expedition guide and photographer.

Living in Longyearbyen allowed me to immerse myself in polar knowledge. My passion for photography grew, leading me to teach and manage photography-focused tours in Tromsø. I received photography awards, further enhancing my skills.

Balancing winters between photography in Tromsø and Iceland, I pursued more expedition opportunities. My ultimate goal is to work in every desired polar region, and by the end of 2023, I aim to achieve it.

I have a diverse work history, including collaborations with big ship tour operators for special trips like the upcoming northwest passage expedition. However, in Svalbard, I prefer working on small ships due to ethical considerations. Putting a large number of zodiacs in front of polar bears feels disruptive to their environment, and as guides, we strive to sensitize people about minimizing wildlife disturbance.

Being an expedition guide is my dream job, as it allows me to blend my passion for photography with work. I cherish the opportunity to share knowledge and stories about the places we visit with others, while also building up my portfolio. Teaching people about these remarkable locations is a truly fulfilling experience for me.

In my career as an expedition guide, I’ve had the privilege of experiencing several unforgettable moments, but there are two that stand out above the rest. One that stands out is when we were on an expedition with the Polarfront and encountered a big male polar bear eating a whale carcass near a fjord. The bear looked powerful and imposing as it glanced at us while dipping its mouth into the saltwater. It was an awe-inspiring experience, and the bear’s presence felt overwhelming.

The second unforgettable moment took place during a four-day camp. We came across a dead walrus on the beach while on a hike. Both I and my colleague knew that a polar bear would soon be attracted to the site. Our tents were 1.8 kilometers away from the walrus carcass. Within half an hour, a polar bear arrived and began to feast on the walrus.

On one side, the bear was devouring the walrus, while on the other side, there was a mother with two cubs on an island. It was an intense night, with the bear showing us exactly what I had only known on paper – how a bear behaves and eats. The bear had a specific rhythm of eating, sleeping, and returning to the food. This went on throughout the night, with the bear coming close to our camp at 4:00 AM.

We had to evacuate the camp, shoot flares to scare the bear away, and ensure everyone’s safety. This moment was incredible because it taught me so much about myself in a situation where I wasn’t in control. You have to switch on your instincts and be prepared for the unexpected. It’s a moment that makes you realize your reactions and how crucial it is to be well-prepared and anticipate everything.

In such situations, preparation is not only about having the right gear and knowing what to do, but also about communication with other guides and guests. Everyone needs to be on the same page, ensuring everything is well-coordinated and anticipated. This experience was one of my favorites as it truly showed me how I react in challenging circumstances and the importance of being ready for anything. It was a possibility, but the situation was being closely monitored. When the bear first approached our camp, we started moving to assess the situation and be prepared for any necessary action.

Virgil Reglioni Expedition Leader Secret Atlas

As for my career, I plan to continue working as an expedition guide for quite some time. However, my girlfriend, who is a singer, has some exciting projects lined up, and we have considered the possibility of working together. Although it’s tempting, I want to maintain a balance between my guiding life and photography work. I envision a future where I choose to work with select companies like Secret Atlas, focusing on specific trips, while dedicating the rest of my time to photography, particularly working with my girlfriend. Finding this balance is essential for me, as I seek structure and direction amidst the adventures and unpredictability of life as a guide and photographer. While I embrace a life of travel and movement, having a stable framework will bring clarity and purpose to my journey. Having structure and knowing what I’m doing is what I seek now. I don’t want the stress of arriving somewhere without knowing what to expect. I’m not looking for stability, but rather a structured life. All my past experiences have led me to the point where I can now choose what I want and have a balanced life.

Don’t come with short and flip flops guys. My top tip is simple: wear merino wool. The Arctic can be cold, so it’s essential to come prepared with proper clothing to stay warm and comfortable.

Meet Virgil

For a more personal connection and to stay updated with Giancarlo’s latest adventures, conservation efforts, and photographic endeavors, we encourage you to connect with him on Instagram, FacebookLinkedIn or via his website. Discover more about Virgil in our interview with him, Meet Our Experts l Virgil Reglioni – Photographer & Expedition Leader

Photography Awards

The Guts

2022 World Nature Photography Awards

Awarded GOLD MEDAL in category People & Nature

Northern Lights by Virgil Reglioni

Higher Prediction

2021 & 2022 Northern Lights, Photographer of the Year

Selected in 2022 Northern lights photographer of the year collection

God’s plan

2021 Chromatic Photo Awards

Awarded Landscape FIRST PRIZE

Awarded Honorable Mention – in Landscape Professional with  “Autumnal Sea Bed”

On Edge

2022 International Montfoto Festival Photography Competition

Awarded FIRST PLACE in Mountain Activity Category

The Rewinder

2021 Neil Dankoff Photography Competition

Awarded Landscape FIRST PRIZE

The Expedition

2021 World’s Top 10 Black & White Photo Contest

Winner of the TOP 10 ranking #1 in FRANCE

Awarded Bronze Medal in Category Fine Art & Action

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