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. That may be a surprise, but it’s the reality you’ll discover when visiting popular Greenland tourist destinations, like Ilulissat, on the edge of the wilderness.

This image looks like a pretty straightforward documentary photo of a settlement on the edge of the sea 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 a panoramic format.

It seems to add extra energy and, in this case, connects similar colors in the foreground and background of the image.

We can further explore the color in this image by separating it into two components, as follows:

  • The color of the subject

  • The color of the light

The Color of the Subject 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.

No doubt this is why I find the colors in India to be so visually arresting.

How To Explore The Amazing Color Of Light

The actual color of the light we photograph under can have a significant impact on the communicative power on our photographs.

The main factors that impact the color of light in our photos are as follows:

  • The time of day

  • The type of weather

  • The light source in question (e.g., sunlight, skylight)

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 nearby water.

You’ll notice how other areas of the water are reflecting the aqua, green and red/orange colored buildings.

When rendered unsharp by the movement of the boat, from which I was photographing, the colors reflected in the water took on a more impressionistic result. I like that.

Light and Color in Greenland 

While the subject matter of housing by the shores of a tourist town in Greenland is interesting, I think you’ll agree that the success of this image is 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, sunlit objects within the frame (i.e., rock and buildings).

That’s what this photo is, ultimately, about. That’s why it works.

A simple yellow dwelling, under a clear blue sky in Ilulissat, Greenland.

Documentary Photography and Art

Light and color are also key to this image of a dwelling in Ilulissat. The house has an amazing view down onto massive icebergs floating across the waters of the spectacular Ilulissat Icefjord.

During the long days of summer, when I visited Ilulissat, I could see this place making for a fantastic weekender.

The image has been composed around complimentary colors, in this case yellow and blue. They vibrate against each other in a way that makes the yellow seem warmer and more inviting, while the blue seems even more cool and calming than you might normally expect.

I like the fact that, through careful composition, I was able to highlight the blue skylight reflecting off the windows on the right hand side of the image.

It’s as though the windows have disappeared and become sky, which I think adds an interesting, abstract element to the image.

Both of these pictures from the tourist town of Ilulissat in Greenland are interesting documentary images that explore how people live on the edge of the wilderness, without actually showing any people.

They’re also examples of how to turn a scene into a photo that’s not dependent upon the objects depicted.

This is achieved by moving beyond the obvious and into the realm of beauty.

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.

I frequently create new blog posts on exotic travel photography destinations from all around the world, including Greenland.

My posts are based around the notion of how to live a creative, meaning rich and purpose driven life through the art of photography.

Please feel free to come back to this website regularly. I do my very best to make it a sanctuary from the trials and tribulations of daily life and a place of inspiration that celebrates the beauty of the world around us.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru