Tips for photographing the Arctic

In so many ways The Arctic is overwhelming.  It is simply huge in scale, and in many cases travellers into the region can be made feel like they are little ants in a world of snow, ice, and water. It is also such a foreign place to most, as very few people live in a world anything close to resembling the Arctic.

Photographers, both professional and amateur, struggle shooting images in the Arctic for the same reason, it is just such a foreign environment. However, taking photos in this great world doesn't have to be frustrating. I've outlined some simple tricks to tking great photos of the Arctic. Whether you shoot with a DSLR or a 'point and shoot' these tips should be helpful.

Exposure, quite simply, is the length of time the camera's shutter is open. A camera has a meter that reads the light and decides what that exposure should be. However, in conditions where there is lots of snow the camera's exposure meter can be easily confused. The bright snow can throw the meter into thinking it is brighter outside than it actually is. The camera will compensate by under-exposing the photo giving the snow a grey look and the image as a whole looking darker than it should. 

You can stop that from happening by setting your exposure override to about +0.5 to +1 forcing your camera to expose longer and thus fixing the problem. On some point and shoot cameras there is an option for snow and ice, which in that case you can simply switch to that mode.

I'm sure it's happened to all of us. We take a picture of something huge to go home and look at the pictures and feel like it looks smaller than it should. This happens with the massive icebergs and mountains of the Arctic. To fix this problem you can simply show it with some sort of scale. The best way to do that is to find a recognizable object to put in front of it. Get a boat in your shot, or a person, or an animal, anything to show how big it really is.

Shooting wildlife is tricky and it takes a lot of patience to get it right. However, many people make massive mistakes when taking pictures of wildlife, things that could be corrected simply. For one, you should try to get eye level to an animal you're taking a picture of. If you photograph down on an animal you're going to get flat looking images. The second is to let the wildlife come to you. So often people race around trying to get shots of wildlife which actually usually just keeps animals from coming towards you. Often times, if you just stay still somewhere the wildlife will come to you.

It sounds simple, but know your equipment. Going out to photograph with a camera that you know nothing about is like going to a job as a welder without knowing how to use the welder; how could you seriously expect to make a good weld if you don't know how to use the machine? The same thing goes with photography. Read the manual of your camera, practice with all your equipment before you go, and make sure you understand how to use it. If you don't really know how to use it you'll likely end up either frustrated in the field or afterwards looking at your photos.

It's amazing how much a little editing can do for a photo, and I'm not talking about Photoshopping.  Basically, every computer has a free photo editing software, or you can use a free online version like picasa, which allows you to add some pop to your images. It's not cheating to add a little saturation or contrast, it's good photography practice. Simple edits go along way to bringing your photos to a whole new level.

Have fun
If you stress too much about the photos you risk losing the moment. Remind yourself constantly that "you are in the Arctic", take a deep breath and look around you. Everything is better experienced than photographed so be sure to take the experience all the way in.

Got any other tips to add? Or a question for Brendan? Head to the comments section below. Or upload your own photos and tips to twitter and Facebook.

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