Photograph ice caves in the arctic Svalbard, Norway
Getting to the ice cave is half the fun; taking control of a dog sled to venture into the great white wilderness part of the adventure. Kicking things off in the dog yard, you are introduced to 300 eager huskies waiting for their next tour. While you’re equipped with an exposure suit, your guide will harness and prepare the dogs for an epic adventure across frozen river beds, glaciers and on to an ice cave at the Scott Turner Glacier.
Cave access is via a small opening where you unceremoniously reverse through an inconspicuous entry before the caverns of silky-smooth ice layers become illuminated only by your headlamp. With the headlamp off, the immersion in darkness is so absolute it feels heavy.
Hand-holding your camera to snap off a shot just won’t do justice to this magical fissure in an ice mass that is hundreds of meters deep and more than a thousand years old. Using the widest possible lens and a sturdy tripod, frame a shot that shows the scale, diversity and magnitude of the cavern. Set your focus to a point at the back of the cave and shoot on full manual settings. Set your aperture to f/7.1 to f/11 and use a cable release or shutter timer to ensure a shake-free result. The most important element os a shutter speed of 10 to 20 seconds. Be ready for the shot and, as soon as the camera commences the exposure, use your headlamp to ‘paint’ the walls of the cavern with light as quickly and evenly as possible. Don’t stop until the exposure is complete. That’s it!
For extra points, have a fellow explorer positioned in the photo as far from the camera as possible to provide a sense of scale and to provide contrast with a familiar, living element in this otherworldly scene.
- The first cavernous opening is breathtaking and feels like being inside an alien world
- The dogs, who are affectionate and live to run in this frozen environment
- Photographing spectacular thousand-year-old ice caves, fjords and glaciers
- Trips are weather dependent and can be cancelled at a moment’s notice
- If you have issues with claustrophobia and confined spaces you may want to reconsider
The seven-hour excursion, offered between January and May, costs about US$300 a person.
There is a level of claustrophobia entering the ice cave, combined with potentially very cold conditions. Technically, taking successful photographs in this environment can be a challenge, but if the principles are followed amazing shots are possible.