Photographing Light, Color And Life In Ilulissat, Greenland

A family and a fisherman by the shores of Ilulissat, Greenland under the midnight sun.

I made this photo from the deck of a tourist boat at the beginning of a wonderful midnight sun cruise into the Ilulissat Icefjord in Western Greenland. It was great fun and, while most of the passengers seemed to be happy sitting inside drinking tea from polystyrene cups, I made the most of the fantastic photography opportunities available to me.

Photography Is Life

I like this photo as it describes the zest for life that one experiences in this part of the world during the long days of summer. As you can see it's a great time for fun, for adventure and for family. I'm sure there's something on the TV after 11pm at night. But, seriously, given the long, dark winters experienced in this part of the world, you'd really want to make the most of those long summer days. And on a beautiful summer's evening it was so great to see this particular family doing just that.

Striking colors and bold light on display during a midnight cruise on the Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland.

It wasn't long before our tour's experienced captain brought us out into the Ilulissat Icefjord where the Icebergs range in size from tiny to gigantic. I can tell you that what lay before me was a wondrous landscape and the moment I laid eyes upon it was very special indeed.

The intensity of the light dropped as we made our way amongst the icebergs and I found myself photographing under extremely soft and delicate light with colors ranging from vivid to surreal.

What I can say is that the scene was beautiful to behold, but challenging to photograph. While drawn to the colors within the scene I had to try and make an interesting composition out of a large mass of ice and a weird colored sky.

An experienced captain knows not to move too close to larger icebergs as the wake from large areas of calving ice can be extreme. The massive iceberg that runs across the centre of this image was quite some distance away, out in the bay, and required being photographed with a mild telephoto focal length of 73 mm.

Remaining Objective About Your Photography

While the appreciation of photographs is a highly subjective process it's important to remain objective about the relative success of your own images. It's essential to weed out and, to my mind, remove or delete poor images and concentrate your attention on what you do well.

By focusing your attention on your better images you'll be training your brain to understand what it is you do well. That should ensure that, overtime, you make more photos of an acceptably high standard, more often. 

While displaying definite foreground, mid ground and background elements I feel the image is somewhat cluttered. The contrast in scale between the iceberg in the foreground and middle of the image is strong, but weakened by all those tiny bits of ice floating on the surface of the water and by the purple colored iceberg in the background. As it is the scale and range and contrast of colors is enough to make it an interesting image.

Personally I feel this image is of a publishable standard, though I wouldn't call it a portfolio standard image. If, like me, you prefer simplicity then this image might be more to your taste. It deals with the same kind of subject matter, in the same environment on the same evening. It's just a more simple image. And that might be what elevates it slightly from the image of the icebergs above. But then, like love, the appreciation of photography is a highly subjective process.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru