Night Sky, Ilulissat Icefjord, Ilulissat, Greenland

Black and white photo of a huge iceberg on the Ilulissat Icefjord, Western Greenland

And what a night it was, a midnight cruise into the Ilulissat Icefjord in Western Greenland. Like so many photography events it was challenging. The boat was moving quicker than I'd prefer and, of course, it wasn't the brightest time of the day.

The Approach

But by upping the ISO, braving the cold and anticipating the moment I was able to make photos with which I'm really happy.

The fact was most folks on the cruise sat inside, where it was warm and comfortable, occasionally looking out of the window or braving the evening chill for a few minutes at a time. "Not this little black duck." I was exploring every part of the ship's outer decks to get the best photos I possible could. And I only came inside to check on my traveling companion.

You Want a Tip?

I was generally excited to be on the ship and to have the opportunity to make great photos. Wouldn't you be? Then why on earth would you want to stay inside. The opportunity to photograph this amazing natural scenery was likely to be a once in a life time opportunity. And it was that excitement that kept the cold away. Of course I dressed appropriately, but it was that attitude that made the chill an inconvenience, and part of the overall experience, rather than an obstacle to hold me back.


As the ship was moving quite quickly I had to concentrate particularly hard on exposure and composition. The trick was getting the camera's focus, ISO, shutter speed and aperture sorted so all I had to do was anticipate when an ideal moment was about to occur. It was then simply a matter of releasing my camera's shutter just before I moved into the best place possible to make the image. It's interesting photographing from a moving platform in so much as you're actually moving into the composition.

With the above photo as a case in point I wanted to release the camera's shutter at just the right time to ensure that little clump of ice in the foreground would be centered, left to right, in the frame. That tiny little detail is really important in this photo. It links the ice fragments in the foreground with the significantly larger iceberg in the background.

And what about scale? Its those little fragments of ice that give us all an idea of just how massive the iceberg actually is.

Simplicity in Opposites

Black and near white tones dominate the image. I often write about the power of duality and this photo is a case in point. Did the sheer starkness of the black and near white elements, together with the contrast between the smoothness of the sky and the rough texture of the iceberg, grab your attention? If so, then I'd say the composition underpinning this photo is successful. It's interesting how, in this case, these normally disparate areas come together, in equal measure, in the water.

Greenland is a long way from almost everywhere. And from my home, in south eastern Australia, it's a heck of a long way. As I had already committed to travel to Iceland, one of the best decisions I've ever made, it really wasn't all that much farther to fly to Greenland. However, it's an expensive destination with a relatively minimal tourist infrastructure. But it is spectacular, particularly if you like ice and snow. There's no doubt that you're very much on the edge of absolute wilderness with all the beauty and danger that represents. And that's a pretty amazing feeling, don't you think?

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru