Photographing ice

A tiny gull rests on top of a pyramidical iceberg off the shores of Ø fjord, Eastern Greenland.

Greenland was a challenging place to photograph ice – though I recall us being a lot less concerned about white balance and exposure compensation here compared to when we went to Antarctica.

The challenge comes from Greenland’s unusual landscape – the fact that huge hulks of ice are framed by dark snow topped mountains in Scoresby Sund. You therefore need to compete with bright sunshine, huge bulks of white ice, dark mountain backgrounds, reflective blue waters and a cloud patched sky. What’s more, you’re often rolling with the waves as you sail in rubber zodiacs, and are subject to the ebb and flow of the sea. We found it most reliable to work at exposure compensation -1 (knowing that we could always boost the exposure post production if need be), work on the highest ISO possible (without noise) to ensure that you capture the shot opposed to photographing blur and shoot at aperture 8 (to capture depth and detail in the forefront of the shot).

What is possibly most difficult is imparting a sense of scale into your photos. A 200 foot iceberg does not look as vast or substantial when captured in a single shot. Without a ‘sense of perspective’ (such as the ship, a zodiac or a passing bird), you run the risk of minimising your landscapes through the shots you take. It’s a difficult compromise, as many of us try for the pristine wilderness shots – they show nature at its best, unimpeded by human settlement or visitation – but we need the humans in shot to show scale and give a focus to these natural wonders.

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