Photographing Greenland: Light and Color

Colorful accommodation overlooking the waters of the Ilulissat Icefjord in Ilulissat, Greenland.

Greenland Is A Spectacular World Of Light And Color

This image looks like a pretty straightforward documentary photo of a town on the edge of water in the arctic. You probably won't be too surprised if I told you it was made in Greenland.

So, for folks unused to this kind of scene, what makes it interesting?

This Photo Is Actually A Study In Color

From my point of view, once you get past the objects in the photo (i.e., water, rock, sky and houses) you get to what the image is actually about. In this case that’s rich, luminous colors. Still, I felt the image needed a little more impact, which is why I opted for the panoramic format. It seems to add extra energy and connects similar colors found in the foreground and background of the image.

We can further explore the color in this image by separating it into two components: the color of the subject and the color of the light.

The Value Of Subject Color In Photography

The brightly painted wooden houses and the relationships between the colors of the houses really draws the eye for someone, like me, who grew up in a world with more conservative color schemes.

How To Explore The Amazing Color Of Light

The time of day and the type of weather we photograph under can have a significant impact on our photographs. You can see how the color of the sun and sky have reflected into various areas of this photo (i.e., ice and water).

The sun is relatively low in the sky so it's adding warmth to the image. This is most noticeable in the rocks and their reflection in the water nearby. But other areas of the water are reflecting the aqua, green and red/orange colored buildings which, when rendered unsharp by the movement of the boat I was photographing from, provide a more impressionistic result. 

The success of this image is, therefore, largely reliant upon light and color. There's the quality and color of light, from the sun and from the sky, and there's the variety of colors reflected into the water from colorful subjects within the frame (i.e., rock and buildings).

It's an interesting documentary photo, exploring how folks live on the edge of the wilderness, and also an example of how to turn an interesting scene into a photo that moves us beyond the obvious and into the realm of beauty that is not dependent upon the object itself.

It's this area, between the known and the unknown, that most interests me. This is where I'm happiest. This is where I wish to exist.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru