We spend time scouting, planning and selecting locations to photograph based on other photographs we have previously seen. We set out with a pre-visualization of the destination and picture perfect images of it in our minds. However, the conditions will rarely be the same and it’s important to stay positive with an open mind.
We had seen an image on Facebook from a friend of what looked like a ship wreck and after finding it using Google Maps, it really did look like 3 or 4 ships that crashed ashore north of Ilulissat. At least, that was the conclusion that I made for myself. It was only partially true.
Not seeing it in daylight, Paul Zizka and I decided to photograph the ships at night. Starlight. Northern Lights. It all sounded like a good idea.
While waiting for a taxi in the hotel lobby, we sold Lee Nordbye on the location too and the 3 of us climbed into the car. I first asked the driver to take us to the shipwreck. I received a blank stare. The broken english was difficult as I tried to point it out on a map on my phone. I pointed out the route and after a few minutes, the taxi driver nodded and said he knows where it is.
So off we went, 10pm at night, out of the city and down an unpaved road. It quickly became clear that we were just dropped off at the city dump – in pure darkness. Climbing through the piles of garbage was far from expected. Standing in garbage with our tripods while light painting ships was also far from expected. It’s now a funny story but not overly pleasant at the time.
It was very dark and we were lighting the boats with our headlamps – quickly brushing the light across the scene is broad sweeping motions. The amount of light, the shutter speed, iso is all trial and error. It took me many tries and cooperation with Lee and Paul to not mess each others frames up but after a couple hours, I had a few frames that looked pretty good.
We were there until after midnight and of course we had no way of getting the taxi back. A clear sky night kept us more than occupied on the walk back into town. A very impressive show of the northern lights.
The unexpected made it easily one of the most memorable nights of our Greenland visit.
This article was first published for the community at OFFBEAT.