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Top 10 Tips on How to Take Outstanding Arctic Shots

30 June 2020

You have your camera and are ready to shoot the breathtaking nature of the Arctic kingdom. But what do you need to know about this icy region to take great photos? The Arctic Circle isn’t only one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but it is also one the most difficult places to get a decent photo.

So, prepare for a challenge on your Arctic expedition! To polish your skills in Arctic photography, read our 10 photo tips for shooting Arctic nature. 

Shooting Arctic nature | Ragnar

Tip #1: Think of the Theme

Photography does not exist without an idea. Working on a clearly defined theme or subject makes the photo much more interesting. Hunting for the perfect photos requires a certain mood and a desire to create unique photos of Arctic nature

Knowing everything about the location and its inhabitants is one of the main tasks of the photographer. Explore the area where you plan to shoot; read about the basic habits of the animals that live there, including their behavior at certain times of the day; and be sure to check weather conditions before your Arctic adventure!

Location of animals for shooting by photographer

Tip #2: Choose the Right Equipment

Being informed about the Arctic region only provides half of your success in Arctic photography. Having the right photo equipment is also necessary. Remember that you’ll be shooting gorgeous Arctic landscapes covered with glistening ice and snow during your expedition. Having the right equipment and camera settings for snowy photography are a must. 

So, what camera should you take on your Arctic journey? 

The basic setup most photographers take with them to the far north is a good DSLR body with a standard 50mm lens and a 200–400mm zoom. This device will help you capture the Arctic landscape and wildlife both from afar and up close.

Arctic landscape and wildlife

Tip #3: Take Extra Memory Cards and Batteries

As soon as you get to the Arctic, you’ll start clicking away to capture beautiful scenery and animals. You may be surprised by how many shots you end up taking when you see a mighty iceberg, a polar bear, or even a whale. Keep in mind that extra memory cards and batteries will come in handy. Bring at least one spare memory card and batteries as they die much faster in the arctic cold than in warm countries. 

Shots of a polar bears

Tip #4: Protect Your Gear

During your Arctic expedition, you need to protect yourself and your gear from harsh elements. Here are some short instructions on how you can do it:

  • Don’t forget UV filters for your lenses and silica absorption pads to avoid condensation. 
  • Pack each camera piece in its own padded bag and then put it into your backpack.
  • Open your bag only when a specific piece of equipment is required. 
Catchy shots during Arctic expedition

Tip #5: Try to Show Scale

The Arctic is one of the few places on Earth where you’ll encounter incredibly amazing animals in vast landscapes. Because of this, be ready to take photos of polar bears, walruses, whales, icebergs, and waterfalls. But sometimes it’s difficult to capture them in a way that fully appreciates their magnitude. 

One of the easiest ways to do this is to add something to the shot to demonstrate scale. It could be a boat, a kayak, or even a person. 

Take photos of walruses | Ragnar

Tip #6: Frame Landscapes

Framing a shot is probably one of the most difficult things in photography. You should do this to capture great photos of Arctic animals and scenery. Imagine a cute arctic fox that is nicely framed within the snowy landscape. It looks wonderful, right? 

How can you take a shot of a polar bear? You don’t want a white-on-white result that makes it difficult to see your subject matter. That is why landscape is important. You need to move yourself in a way that places the animal in a non-white background, or take a close up of your intended subject.

Great photos of Arctic animals

Tip #7: Practice Handheld Photography

Unless you plan to take many long exposure shots, there is no need to use a tripod and restrict your movements. Practice your handheld photography instead. It will be helpful when you take shots from the ship’s deck. You will have to get used to shooting handheld, even for landscape shots. Besides, not taking a tripod everywhere gives you flexibility to move into unusual positions and find new, interesting angles.

New and interesting angles of Arctic animals

Tip #8: Find Unusual Angles

The unbelievably wonderful landscapes and beautiful wildlife of the Arctic are among the must-capture shots you should take during your Arctic journey. And when you find interesting angles to shoot these subjects, that’s what will make your photos unique.

Our tip to create these unique photos is to get as low as you can, lying flat on the ground, and wait for the right angle to come up. The trick is to think outside the box and try taking photos from unusual places to make them stand out.

Unique photos of Arctic wildlife

Tip #9: Find the Optimal Exposure

Another important part of taking a good shot in the Arctic region is getting the right exposure, which is not easy when it comes to bright snow or the Northern Lights.

If you don’t want grey snow to ruin your picture, you’ll need to work on your exposure. Try a setting of 3 or 5 brackets at 1 to 2 intervals to create snowy-white photos.

If you want to capture the Northern Lights, here is what you need to do: try setting your ISO to 1600 and leave the exposure for 10–15 seconds. The trick is that the shorter the exposure, the more chance you have to reduce star blur.

The right exposure - important part of a good shot in the Arctic region

Tip #10: Be Patient

When we want to photograph arctic foxes, polar bears, or whales, this process takes much time. It is vital to remember that Arctic nature doesn’t show you everything at once. It reveals its secrets gradually. 

But you should keep in mind that it is impossible to know in advance exactly how long it will take to shoot Arctic wildlife. You will need to spend a lot of time among the wild animals because spending just a few minutes observing them will not give you the opportunity to catch the interesting moments that happen at random. If you want that special shot, be prepared to wait for it.

The main point in all of this is to enjoy the process of taking your pictures during your Arctic journey with Ragnar. Remember that mastery will come with time and practice. Good luck!

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