Housing in Ilulissat, Greenland

Public housing on the shores of the Ilulissat Icefjord, Ilulissat, Greenland.

Welcome to Ilulissat, Greenland. Located 200 kilometers above the arctic circle in western Greenland the town's population of around 4,500 makes it the third largest town in Greenland.

Situated on the shores of the Ilulissat Icefjord, a world heritage listed site, and in close proximity to Disko Bay Ilulissat is also the country's most popular tourist destination.

The fantastic Ice Camp Eqi, where I stayed for two nights, is 80 kilometers north of Ilulissat by boat.

How To Make Sharp Photos When It’s Windy

I made the image at the top of this post, around midnight, during an exploratory walk around town. The fact that it stays light 24 hours a day during the high summer in Greenland is fantastic for the enthusiastic photographer.

I climbed a hill on the edge of town and headed for the radio tower for a view over the city. It was incredibly windy and, on a few occasions, I had to duck right down to prevent being blown off the rock face.

Under such conditions it's a good idea to get your body, which in this case meant my guts, close to the ground as quickly as possible.

As well as helping to prevent you from being blown away you’ll be able to shield your camera from the wind and make sharper photos by planting your elbows onto the ground and using them to support your camera.

A late evening view of the cemetery and town outskirts at Ilulissat, Greenland

Beware Of Using Your Tripod On Rocks On A Windy Day

The use of a tripod, which I didn't have with me at the time, would have been problematic.

A tripod positioned on rock. picks up considerable vibration when it’s windy, thereby negating the stability normally associated with its use.

Just put your hand onto one of your tripod's legs, the next time you’re making photos on a windy day, to confirm this fact for yourself.

Graves, adorned with flowers, under the midnight sun in Ilulissat, Greenland.

Lens Flare And How To Make Photos Into The Light

I also had the problem of photographing directly into the sun which, at this time of year, was positioned just above the horizon.

To reduce lens flare, resulting from direct light hitting the front of the lens, I employed the appropriate lens shade/hood. But with bright sunlight coming directly into the lens I was experiencing lens flare.

While holding the camera with my right hand, I held a hat in front and just out of frame to help keep the lens's front glass element in shadow.

Not an ideal solution, but a real life situation where I was able to achieve an acceptable result.

Even low level lens flare is problematic and can adversely affect the quality of your photos.

It causes a loss of sharpness and saturation and produces flat images with reduced dynamic range resulting in weak blacks, insufficient shadow detail and veiled highlights.

This is why I use a lens shade/hood every single time I make pictures. I recommend you do as well. Just make sure it’s the right lens shade/hood for the specific lens you’re using.

I employed Adobe Photoshop to locally burn (i.e., darken) any areas still adversely affected by flare. I also added quite a bit of extra saturation to add some punch into this predominantly backlit scene.

Is the result realistic? Gosh no! But it's an improvement, and isn’t that the point?

The Strange Beauty of Public Housing in Ilulissat

While not a portfolio image I'm still happy I made this photo. It was a bit of fun and is helpful to describe the conditions under which many local folk live in this most remote location.

The image helps tell a story, and surely there's value in that.

From a distance the various houses and apartment buildings look a little like a lego town with the structures organized into nice neat rows of freshly painted dwellings.

In reality, down at ground level, things are a little more gritty. I only saw one house with a garden or anything resembling a lawn.

But then Greenland is a country of ice and rock and about as far removed from classic English countryside as you could imagine.

Photography Course in Melbourne
220.00 330.00
Add To Cart

In any case the fact that these folk are surrounded by spectacular wilderness may well make a nice lawn somewhat redundant.

Though, from a westerners point of view, there might well be a psychological need for spaces offering more controlled, predictable and safer reminders of the natural world.   

A sweeping view of housing in the city of Ilulissat, Greenland

Photos That Document Inuit Integration

Greenland is basically a huge rock, most of which is covered in ice. There's very little that's actually green which would have a lot to do with the fact that the population of this enormous country is only 55,000 people.

Historically the indigenous Greenlanders, the Inuit, are a hunter and gatherer society.

The housing in this picture is a result of the Danish occupation of the land and the inevitable difficulties involved in assimilating, at least in part, Inuit people into the modern world.

I was glad to witness numerous business in Ilulissat being run, very well, by Inuit Greenlanders. Let’s hope that they continue to build on their success and that ecotourism will provide indigenous Greenlanders with a happy and prosperous future.

Greenland is an independent country, although Danes form a significant part of the population and the Danish government still provides substantial financial support.

I had a week in and around Ilulissat which gave me loads of time to explore the town and the region. I enjoyed my visit to Greenland very much.

In particular the hikes I undertook both in Ilulissat and at the Ice Camp Eqi, which I reached after a boat cruise of several hours through the wonderful Disko Bay, were hard but memorable experiences.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru