Greenland – A Nature Paradise for Photo Enthusiasts

By Verified Expert

Anyone who has ever visited Greenland seems to agree on one thing, the nature is spectacular! I was first fascinated by the natural scene of the Arctic during my studies and it inspired me to purchase my first interchangeble lens camera system. Since then I’ve lost count of how many photos I have captured in Greenland, and only feel certain that I will take many more.

Per Bossen taking pictures of the icefjord

The landscapes in Greenland invites you to photograph them and one almost feels naked if the camera is left at home during a hike. The scenery in the Arctic are most often so vast and grand that it seems challenging to fit everything into your composition and do justice to the scene. But be carefull reaching for a very wide lens, as this will push landscapes back and shrink them. Often times one will be better of by shooting a longer and less wide focal lenght, with the option to stitch photos and maintaining good proportion between foreground and background.

During the day in the Arctic summer there is usually plenty of light, and good landscape photos are manageble handheld. However, shooting in the winter or at sunrise and sunset, a tripod comes in handy to achieve a desired field of depth without a shaky result. If you have a tripod, it can be fun to experiment with ND filters as well, and these can also be usefull in the harsh summer sun to allow for longer exposure times. The most beautifull light for photographing landscapes are in the so called “golden hours” at dawn and dusk, as the midday sun cast very rough shadows which often doesn’t result in flattering images. However, it really is hard to do wrong when photographing nature in Greenland, as it is very generous to photo enthusiasts, and you’re almost sure to come back with some good results and hopefully some fun experiences along the way.   

Man looking towards Sermitsiaq mountain in Nuuk

The wildlife in Greenland is fascinating, with the species surviving in these conditions being hard and resilient. However the beauty of the wildlife here is also hard to deny, and whenever a local species is spotted, it is usually with great excitement.

Capturing wildlife in photos can be challenging due to the immense size of the country and the vast open spaces combined with shyness of many local animals. This makes it even more gratifying when a good photo is taken, and the effort has been rewarded. Capturing good photos of local wildlife requires knowledge of the species, some planning, lots of patience and of course a little bit of luck is always nice.

Personally I like shooting wildlife in aperture priority mode, as this allows for the camera to choose the optimal shutter speed, but lets me control the field of depth. In the case of aperture priority, I will then use the ISO to manipulate the camera for the desired shutter speed. Depending on the animal in question and its activity, a shutter speed anywhere from 1/500s to 1/4000s will do just fine to freeze the action. Wildlife photography in Greenland can be especially challenging during the winter, with very few hours of ambient light, and therefore a relatively short daily time span of good photography conditions. Capturing pictures of wildlife during the winter therefore puts a restriction on how fast a shutter speed you can operate with compared to the summertime, unless you really crank up your ISO. That being said, opportunities can be far and in between, and you don’t want to miss one when it occurs, so be ready to press that shutter button, and find out what you get.

Cute puppy standing on a rock
Eagle flying over the water
Birds flying over the water and a large iceberg in the background

Not only wildlife and landscapes makes for great photo opportunities in Greenland, but also the great cultural heritage of the Inuits. Especially the traditional Greenlandic life style with sled dogs is not only subject to amazing pictures, but the history of the people and their dogs is fascinating and adds a wonderful story to the experience.

Qimmeq – the greenlandic sled dog is an awesome photo subject, both when resting and especially while working, as these dogs are truly in their right element when pulling a sled. I usually apply the same camera settings as when photographing wildlife, but often don’t need quite as much focal lenght. Also I feel that sled dogs make for great photo subjects when the weather doesn’t seem ideal. Therefore it can be a good idea to get out and shoot when it’s snowing and even in windy conditions, as this can create great atmospheric pictures. 

Puppy taking a rest on the sea ice
Angry looking sled dog looking hungrily at the photographer
Greenlandic sled dogs howling

If you’re only experiencing Greenland during day, then you are missing out on fantastic experiences and some of the best photo opportunities to be had. When the weather is clear and the darkness settles in, there is often a good chance that aurora borealis will show up and bring light to the night.

The night scene can therefore be spectacular in Greenland with stars and northern lights as long as you can withstand the cold. When photographing aurora and stars it is essential to use a tripod, as longer exposures are necesarry to truly capture this natural phenomenon. There is no perfect settings for photograhing aurora, as the conditions can be very different from time to time. The northen lights differ in intensity, variation and even color scheme. Add to this, that dependent on where you are shooting, there will be different amounts of light pollution. However, a good starting point is to shoot in manuel with settings of f/2.8, ISO 800 and a shutter speed of 10 seconds. This will generally give you good results, but you might need to adjust the settings to give you the best result for the specific situation.

Northern lights over Sermitsiaq mountain
Guys next to a green tent looking at the northern lights

Always remember to bring a camera when visting and exploring Greenland. In my opinion this adds to the experience and of course allows you to enjoy it again later on. First and foremost have fun with it and appreciate the nature here, then great photos seems to follow. You can se many more pictures on my website where it is also possible to buy my photos.

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