sea ice

Breaking through the sea ice


Svalbard, Norwegian Arctic, Ship: Akademik Sergey Vavilov Navigating open water is a great experience, but winding through big pans of sea ice, pushing them out of the way and slicing through other chunks is a past time I will never get tired of. Some chunks bounce off the hull making way for us with a thud, while others split right before our eyes with a very satisfying crunch and scraping sound. Thumps and bonks echo throughout the ship while mild tremors wiggle their way through the hull, making me smile as I watch my green tea on the table tremor with excitement. Having no worries about danger with the adept crew in the bridge and the ice strengthened hull I enjoy a day that is full of these little events as this landscape of little icy continents drift past.

Photographic details: Standing up along the wing bridge, I can get a grand view of the ship and the ice below. With an ultra wide 16-35mm lens I can capture a lot in just one view at 16mm. Positioning the bow of the ship as it pokes into the middle of the photo gives it a sense of motion as it travels towards the centre of the image. Having the ship take up less than a quarter of the image helps express the grand view presented in a scene like this. I love seeing the passengers looking out at the ice, they add a human element and help express that travelling in such a desolate looking place doesn’t have to be a lonely affair. I’m not some lone photographer who disappears to the edge of the earth while taking photos in complete isolation to magically appear with great images, I’m a social person and believe me I can’t do what I do completely on my own; everything I do in some part is a team effort.

1/160s f/8.0 ISO100 16mm

Glowing sea ice


Ellesmere island, Canadian ArcticFrom the photo of the day at

The sea ice in the arctic is usually quite featureless, but after a while it piles up on top of itself into large conglomerates. The tides are still prevalent in the arctic and can ground the sea ice by the shore, revealing interesting features that would normally be underwater. I waited until the kittiwake that was flapping around above me was in the patch of sky exposed, just to give the photo an extra element.

Photographic details: Back lighting situations are usually thought of as a disadvantage by photographic enthusiasts, but I have found that more difficult situations provide unique opportunities. Instead of just lighting the surface of the ice, now the light is travelling through it, making it glow! Walking through this little cavern of abandoned sea ice felt like having my own personal fantasy land, as I knew in a short time the tide would come and take it all away, never to be seen exactly like this again.

1/50s f/4.5 ISO50 16mm

Fata Morgana by moonlight


Outside Iqaluit, Canadian Arctic

If you look at the horizon you will see what looks like a band of cliffs or land, made of the same texture the sea ice is made of. This is actually the flat ocean but something is distorting it. This is a photograph of the most mysterious optical illusions most commonly observed in the Arctic. Named after the sorceress Morgan Le Fay of merlin lore this phenomenon has been attributed to the flying Dutchman, UFOs, faeries and other unusual things. It’s no surprised, land seems to rise out of the ocean from nothing only to start jiggling and dancing to and fro like a mushroom made of jelly, it’s very entertaining to watch newcomers to the arctic try and process what they are seeing.

This is simply an optical effect created by an inverse mirage. With a layer of cool air by the sea surrounded by a warmer atmosphere, this threshold between cool and warm air bends the light in such a way that even things beyond the curvature of the earth can be seen, causing the seascape to bend into the sky

Photographic Details: This was taken on a ship with a telephoto lens, therefore a tripod was out of the question given that we were moving. I shot this hand held holding my breath at at 1/80 sec, f5.6 ISO 1600 Canon EOS 5D at 400mm, a feat not easily done but slowly mastered with practice. I always surprise myself when I manage “illegally” shooting such slow shutter speeds with long lenses, practice makes perfect! If at first you get a few blurry photos, keep trying, all it takes is one good one and your work will be worth it!

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Put people in your landscapes


Put people in your landscapes Too often photographers go to great lengths to ensure there are no people in their photographs. This is often something difficult to do especially when on holidays and in touristy places.

Why not get the people to work with the landscape? How can adding a person or two improve a photograph? One of the most helpful things a human figure can do in a photograph is create a sense of scale

I was trudging along the shoreline in Antarctica, scattered with beached pieces of ice berg left by the waves and tides when I came upon this lovely scene. It was missing something, and I was alone, so I decided this was a good job for the 10 second timer on my camera. I stuffed my tripod into the snow, ran into the landscape as far as I could, and did my best to “look into the scene” in time for the shutter to release. Running back and forth was actually pretty good exercise, and pretty fun! I encourage you to try this environmental self portrait in your next sunset or interesting landscape shot, I’d love to see them if you do!

Technical facts: It’s important to note, on my particular lens (Canon 16-35 f2.8 L) and many other lenses, that when I stop down to f/16 I get a beautiful star shape out of bright objects like the sun. The number of aperture blades employed in the lens determines how many points you see in the star, even more reason to go with the “sunny f/16 “ rule!

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This is a blog post originally posted on, if you like this be sure to check out the Antarctic Worlds Gallery here!