For the avid photographer and amateur alike, the breathtaking wilds of the Arctic Circle present an exhilarating subject matter, from dramatic glaciers, to glimpses of the local wildlife. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Aurora Expeditions’ Arctic voyages present camera-toting travellers the chance to practise their skills in some of the most challenging, yet rewarding locations on Earth.
If you are planning on booking your place on board the Greg Mortimer or Sylvia Earle, here are a range of Arctic trips to choose from. Here is a taste of what you can look forward to when it comes to Arctic photography.
The mighty polar bear makes its home in the area around the Arctic Circle, near Greenland and the Svalbard archipelago of Norway. Their thick, insulating coat of fur helps to protect them from the harsh elements, but did you know it isn’t white? It is transparent, and reflects visible light, which helps to camouflage them in the ice and snow.
They typically feed on seals, nosing around breathing holes and more vulnerable ice to catch their prey. According to National Geographic, these sizeable creatures can weigh in anywhere from 410-720 kilograms and have no natural predators.
If you’re keen to capture polar bear in action, make sure you bring a good size zoom lens, preferably with optical stabilisation, so that you’re always prepared to grab that shot!
You might think that the Arctic landscape will be dominated by whites, greys and the blue of the sea, but you’ll also find surprising bursts of colour in the form of the tundra’s plant life. To make it in this rugged, unforgiving landscape, plants tend to have a shallow root system to account for the permafrost – according to the NASA Classroom of the Future, the active layer of soil only gets 50-90 ice-free days each year!
Keep your eyes peeled for Purple Saxifrage, a small cushion plant with star-shaped flowers that grows on rocky ground, as well as the Arctic Poppy, a single stem flower that can grow to 15 centimetres tall with a yellow, cup-shaped blossom that follows the sun.
Expect to redefine ‘ice’ as you know it, when the ship draws closer to Greenland and its icebergs. These gigantic ice structures can be found floating along the coastline, or anchored in the Ilulissat Icefjord.
The icebergs in this area originate from the Greenlandic ice cap, which itself consists of compacted snow dating back as long as 15,000 years ago, according to Visit Greenland. The site explains that while the smaller variety of iceberg appears to be no larger than a hut, the tallest rise up to a mind-boggling 15 storeys above sea level.
Due to the the bright and often highly reflective nature of photographing snow and ice, it might be a good idea to bring along a polarising filter to reduce glare when shooting with a DSLR. An ND (neutral density) filter can also be of use, helping to add some much-needed contrast to the scene.
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Don’t let the polar bears steal all the limelight – the Arctic is home to some incredible animals, great and small. For example, the small Arctic fox, is built to survive the brutal cold that can sink to around -50 degrees Celsius.
Like the polar bear, the Arctic fox uses its white colouring to blend into the snow. However, when the season changes, so does its coat, transforming into a brownish-grey hue to provide it with better camouflage.
In addition, there is always the furry Svalbard reindeer to encounter on the Norwegian archipelago, as well as the bearded seal, a solitary creature that can be found taking a break on an ice floe. You’ll notice these seals tend to lie on the edge of the ice, and always keep their heads facing down to the water in case they need to make a quick escape from predators!