Updated: Sep 26, 2022
Why a Wonder: The largest and longest fjord system in the world. This remote area of East Greenland offers some of the Arctic’s most impressive scenery – including magnificent icebergs and towering ice-covered mountains, some of which rise to 2,000 meters above the sea. The Northern Lights are the icing on the white cake, so to speak.
Where: East Greenland, located about halfway between the northernmost and southernmost points of the island - the largest island in the world.
When: June to September, when it is relatively warm. I wore a light jacket most of the days, but I did wear my heavy parka during our Zodiac rides because the wind adds a chilling effect.
Photography: This area of Greenland is a landscape photographer’s paradise. Big time!
Wildlife in the barren land is scarce – although you might see muskox, as well as several species of sea birds. Humpback whales may be seen from a ship, but most likely at a great distance.
You can get wonderful photographs from the deck of an expedition ship as it cruises through the calm fjords. But you’ll have more control over creative composition when photographing from a Zodiac (an inflatable boat that carries up to 10 people).
When photographing from a Zodiac, be sure to have a plastic camera cover handy to protect your camera and lens from splashes, as well as from possible rain and snow.
Also be sure to set your lens to image stabilization or vibration reduction to help ensure a steady shot from the moving boat.
All the photographs in this post were taken with my Canon RF24-105mm lens or Canon RF15-35mm lens. I had my Canon RF100-500mm lens with me, but only used it for a few snapshots of birds that were flying around our ship, Poseidon’s M/V Sea Spirit.
To reduce glare on the water and ice, I used my Breakthrough Photography polarizing filters. These filters also help to darken a blue sky, so clouds are more prominent in a scene.
When photographing the awesome icebergs, I kept an eye on the background. Sometimes, I wanted to isolate the icebergs against a blue sky. Other times I wanted to picture them against the backgrounds offered by dramatic mountains, as pictured above.
Remember: the background can make or break a shot, even of a wonderful subject.
When possible, l tried to make a picture, rather than just take a picture. The picture above (one of my favorites from the trip) is the result of making a picture. It’s the same iceberg pictured below, which is the result of just taking a picture. It’s a boring snapshot. And yes, it is one iceberg.
I made the more creative picture by directing the Zodiac driver to get the boat into what I thought was the best possible position for the shot. So, half the credit for the photo goes to the skilled Zodiac driver!
For most of my shots, I wanted to get the entire scene in focus. To achieve that goal, I used a wide-angle lens, small aperture, and focused one-third into the scene.
Also, for each photograph I checked my camera’s highlight alert and histogram to make sure the highlights were not overexposed and blown out. If they were, I reduced my exposure accordingly. All of my photographs were taken in the aperture-priority mode.
The Norther Lights photographs in this post were taken from the deck of our ship, which was anchored in dead-calm water.
My settings on my Canon EOS R6 with Canon RF15-35mm lens: ISO 3200, F/4, at two seconds. My camera was mounted on my Colorado Tripods ball head and tripod. These photographs were the highlight of the expedition for me.
Here’s a quick Northern Lights and night sky photo tip: compose a scene with an interesting foreground. An interesting foreground (lighted by moonlight in these photos) adds a sense of place and scale to your images.
If you like adventure and landscape photography, East Greenland is surely a Photo Wonder. But again, if you are looking for wildlife photos in the snow, you’ll like Svalbard and Antarctica much better.
A final thought: I took the photograph above what the ship’s crew calls, "The Iceberg Graveyard" – an inlet into which huge icebergs have drifted and have become grounded . . . and stuck to melt. It’s a dramatic sign of climate change. Nowhere else on the planet is the weather warming faster than it is in the Arctic.
Do you have your own photos of this Photo Wonder? Feel free to share them in the comments below!
© Rick Sammon
This post sponsored by Breakthrough Filters.