By: Liz Carino
The raw, untouched beauty of the Canadian Arctic provides incredible photography opportunities in every season. For much of the year, photographers can look forward to dramatic scenery, vast expanses covered in snow and ice, and the chance to capture wildlife shots, including polar bears and Arctic fox on a snowy backdrop.
The Arctic is a destination like no other, and for many, a once in a lifetime experience to capture unique photography. Before heading above the tree line, there are a few things for photographers to keep in mind:
Be prepared for cold weather
While it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Arctic experiences cold weather throughout much of the year. Depending on the season, conditions can get extreme with temperatures dropping below -30°C in March! That said, with the right equipment and clothing, photographing in the Arctic can be comfortable and exhilarating – offering unsurpassed beauty, wildlife and photo opportunities found no where else on the planet.
1. Stay warm in Arctic-worthy clothing
The right clothing is important for any visitors to the Arctic, but for photographers expecting a less-active experience, it’s even more crucial.
We recommend dressing in insulating layers, and ensure you have warm mitts and water-resistant boots, to keep warm and dry. For experiences that have periods of little movement (like waiting for the perfect polar bear shot!), ski jackets and pants designed for sports and high activity just won’t cut it in the changing Arctic climate. Based on years of experience on the land, Arctic Kingdom has developed polar clothing packages available for rent. It is what our Expedition Leaders wear, too!
It’s a good idea to keep a thinner pair of gloves in your pockets for setting up your gear and changing camera settings. This can be tricky in thick mitts!
2. Protect your equipment
Your cameras shouldn’t have issues functioning in the Arctic, but because conditions can be unpredictable, we suggest bringing snow covers and heavy duty plastic bags to wrap your gear in.
3. Pack extra batteries.
While most lithium camera batteries can handle the cold, you may notice they have a shorter life span. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries and remember to charge them. It’s a good idea to keep one battery in your camera, a spare keeping warm tucked in an inner pocket, and a third charging in camp.
4. Adjust for snow
One of the challenges of shooting in the Arctic is the amount of white. Often, cameras will underexpose the vast, harsh whiteness of snow and white animals, turning it grey in the photo. There are a few ways to adjust your camera to avoid this including adjusting the Exposure Value by +1/3 to +1 1/3, compensating the exposure by slowing the shutter speed, using a gray card, or bracketing.
Falling snow can add drama and interest to photography, but can also draw focus instead of your subject. Remember to manually focus to keep your subject the star.
5. Be ready to snap wildlife… from a safe distance!
The Arctic is home to unique wildlife. Popular animals to photograph include polar bears and Arctic fox.
Don’t forget to pack a long lens! Wildlife is unpredictable and won’t always pose for a shot. Respecting safety and the Nunavut Wildlife Policy, you may be shooting from a distance. We recommend bringing a telephoto lens (minimum of 300mm), a mid-range zoom (70-200mm,) and many photographers find bringing a full-sized tripod or monopod beneficial.
Anticipate their movement and have patience. Read more of our tips for Arctic wildlife photography here.
6. Don’t forget the stunning and unique landscapes!
The Arctic boasts some of the most spectacular, vast landscapes. Frozen tundra, majestic icebergs, glaciers and mountains make for dramatic photography with or without wildlife. For capturing the impressive vast landscapes of the Arctic, we recommend packing a wide-angle lens (24mm or less).
When visiting the Arctic there are amazing photography opportunities at every turn. Following these tips and the advice of your guides will help you capture incredible and unique shots to be proud of!
Ready to grab your camera?
Here are some of the ways to capture remarkable photography in the Arctic by season:
An exclusive opportunity to photograph polar bears at a close proximity in October and November. Stay in our rustic and remote Polar Bear Cabins, surrounded by an unobtrusive electric fence, to safely capture close-up polar bear photography from ground level. Polar bears are known to wander right up to the fence! Learn more.
Photograph polar bear cubs and their mothers as they emerge from their dens for the first time. Located in the world’s largest polar bear denning area in Wapusk National Park, Manitoba, this lodge-based expedition runs in March. Learn more.
Photograph dramatic landscapes, and polar bears and possibly cubs, as they venture on to the sea ice and climb majestic icebergs. This expedition takes you into the heart of the high eastern Arctic, where travellers and photographers seldom go, in March and April. Learn more.
Spring – Floe Edge
Experience the classic spring floe edge on the northern reaches of Baffin Island when the sea ice begins to melt. Photograph dramatic landscapes and narwhal, polar bears and other Arctic wildlife under the midnight sun in May and June. Learn more.
In June, photograph narwhal and beluga in the region world-renowned as one of the most prolific wildlife areas in the Arctic at the floe edge of Lancaster Sound. Bordering the Northwest Passage, this is one of the few places where are Arctic marine animals co-mingle. Learn more.
Explore by boat the spectacular environment of Foxe Basin to photograph polar bears, walrus and whales under the midnight sun in July. Learn more.
Photograph polar bears swimming amongst icebergs, bowhead whales, and the exceptional beauty of the glacier-capped coasting of Baffin Island. Enjoy long, mild days and extraordinary sunsets on this expedition in August. Learn more.
Want to photograph in the Arctic but not sure which trip is for you?
Click here to get in touch with one of our Travel Advisors – they are happy to help!
Want to create your own photography adventure?
Contact us to ask about custom trips.