Tossing Tea on the Tundra

    Text and photos by Michael H. Davies

    Seen by millions of people, this photo went viral in December 2015. It captures tea being thrown into the air and turning to vapour immediately after it leaves a thermos.

    Imagine sitting in the middle of the Arctic aurora deafening silence and all you have is your camera and some warm tea. Subzero temperatures would not be the norm for the average photographer, but it takes an extra ordinary and dedicated artist to brave these elements. Michael Davies recently got a lot of attention due to his “Tundra Tea Toss” photo, seen by millions of people across the globe, where he captured hot tea being thrown into the air at minus 35°c in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. this photo was a spectacular capture of the Arctic’s beauty, but Michael has an extensive background in art and a passion that has driven him to endless opportunities.

    His formal training as a visual artist was carried out at Sir Sanford Fleming School of Fine Arts: focusing on studio work in pen and ink illustrations, painting in various media, glassblowing, artistic blacksmithing, stone carving, sculpture and photography. He has since enjoyed working professionally in different artistic mediums for the past 15 years. His work can be found in many private collections around the world, including an image in a book of Canadian photographs from Canada Post that was later presented to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in celebration of their marriage. Various heads of states and celebrities, foreign dignitaries and Canadian politicians all also own pieces of Michael’s work.

    While out seal hunting at the floe edge, the light turned to allow me to capture a truly magical moment.
    While out seal hunting at the floe edge, the light turned to allow me to capture a truly magical moment.


    In 2006, Michael and his newlywed wife Nicole decided they wanted a new adventure, while staying in Canada. Nicole applied as a teacher in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, and Michael purchased a simple DSLR camera to capture shots from which he would then paint beautiful Arctic landscapes. He soon decided that photography was the best medium to truly exhibit the breathtaking views of the Arctic.

    This was not an easy task for him, 10 years ago he had to use dial up Internet to put his photos on the web. Sluggish bandwidth speeds aside, Michael got his photos online, and to this day he has over 10 terabytes of photos; everything he shoots he keeps. Michael is a Nikon-only user and shoots with a D800 full frame body DSLR. Living within minutes of the Arctic Circle, daily life in Nunavut provides much of his artistic inspiration: from going fishing for Arctic char, to setting out to shoot the aurora and even coming across a piece of history such as an abandoned Inuit settlement. Michael tends to set out after school hours to remote locations to take shots of the Northern Lights, and frozen vistas. While living up North he says patience is a virtue; you usually have to wait for everything in the Arctic but his pictures prove that it’s worth it. Michael also offers photography workshops. They consist of one-week adventures to a location of his choice where he teaches beginner to advanced photography techniques, in a variety of weather conditions and photographic situations. In the future, he hopes to have online courses available. His images are available for purchase from his website at