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Arctic photography

a large body of water with a mountain in the snow

For many visitors to the Arctic, photography is one of the most important purposes of their trip. From the spectacular light shows of the Northern Lights, spectacular glaciers to unique wildlife such as polar bears, the Arctic Circle is home to a myriad of natural wonders found nowhere else. First-time visitors to the Arctic Circle will want to take as many photos as possible to create memories of their trip and show their friends and family what it was like.

Many of the basic principles of photography apply to Arctic photography, but there are many things to consider before packing. Here are some tips to help you get the best photos you can from your Arctic trip.

Arctic photography

a polar bear in the snow

Some amateur explorers may find a smartphone, tablet, or other electronic device sufficient for photographing the Arctic. You can take good pictures with these devices, but there are some considerations regardless of the type of device. It’s the weather. Especially in winter, it is not uncommon for the temperature to drop to -18°C, and some electronic devices may not function properly.

Many smartphones will automatically shut down when the temperature drops below a certain temperature, otherwise they may not work properly. Rural areas with the best views often don’t have internet. Even if you are lucky enough to be connected, the speed may be slow, and the image and sound quality may be poor. Don’t message your friends with photos from your trip until you get to your hotel room.

I think I will pack well so that I can cope with the cold of the Arctic Circle. Wear thick layers of clothing to keep warm and dry in all weather conditions. Wear waterproof boots and gloves to protect your hands and feet. Prepare a pair of thick mittens and a pair of thin gloves. Use gloves when preparing equipment and mittens otherwise.

Bring a heavy-duty bag and snow cover to protect your equipment, and protect your camera and other belongings from splashes and snow. Also, prepare a spare lithium battery. Lithium batteries drain faster than normal in cold weather. Make sure all batteries are fully charged before heading out for a photo shoot. Have three batteries ready. Keep one in your device, a second in your pocket to keep warm, and a third to charge in your hotel room or campsite.

A big problem with photography in the Arctic is that glaciers, icebergs, snow, etc. can make your shots look too white. If you shoot with the default settings, the photo will be underexposed and dark. There are ways to improve this: using a bracketing function, a gray card, a slow shutter speed, or adjusting the exposure value from +1/3 to +1 1/3. Also, watch out for the pouring snow. It will look beautiful, but it can ruin your focus. Use manual focus to avoid this.

You may want to use longer lenses. For safety and legal reasons, it is often not allowed to get close to and photograph wildlife. Use at least a 300mm telephoto lens and a 70-200mm medium telephoto zoom lens. To stabilize your photos, use a tripod or monopod to get clear, focused shots. Most of the shoots also require patience. This is because the movements of wild animals are unpredictable, and it is not uncommon for them to enter or deviate from the subject.

Finally, don’t forget to enjoy the scenery. The Arctic Circle is packed with some of the most breathtaking natural attractions in the world and is a sight to behold, whether you include wildlife in your photos or not. For the best shots, use a wide-angle lens with a focal length of 24mm or less.

While the chances of seeing certain sights in the Arctic are seasonal, there are countless photo opportunities year-round. Snowfall and northern lights in the winter, grizzly bears, bald eagles and other wildlife that hibernate or go south for the winter in the summer. Always keep your distance (many Arctic animals, especially bears, are known to attack humans) and follow local and U.S. laws.


a dog standing on top of a snow covered field

The Arctic Circle is a photographer’s dream to see countless wildlife and scenery. Taking really great photos requires the right equipment, appropriate protective clothing and consideration for wildlife. As you plan your trip to the Arctic Circle, plan ahead to capture the most memorable photos of your lifetime. The local experience will be remembered for a long time afterwards.

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