Scoresby Sund: Q&A with photographer Ragnar TH Sigurdsson
Professional photographer Ragnar TH Sigurdsson shares with us his experiences from a memorable small ship expedition cruise through Scoresby Sund in Greenland.
Long-time friend of Discover the World, Ragnar hails from Iceland and specialises in capturing landscapes, wildlife and northern lights, as well as teaching photographic workshops.
Was this your first visit to Greenland?
No, I’ve been to Greenland quite a few times over the years, from Qaanaaq/Thule in the northwest to Qaaqoortooq in the south. In fact, I spent almost a month in Greenland last year! My favourite regions are the Scoresby Sund area and South Greenland, and they are a world apart in terms of experience.
With so many Arctic voyages on offer what made you choose this particular one?
Scoresby Sund offers the most diverse range of subjects for photography in Greenland. And with no road networks or public transport, an expedition voyage is not only the best way but also the only way to travel around! Scoresby Sund is the biggest fjord on earth and offers 3000 metre high mountains, deep fjords, spectacular light and thousands of gigantic icebergs, which provide an endless source of creative subject matter for photographers and artists alike.
How did it feel to cruise at the edge of the habitable world?
I actually loved it, so much peace and quiet, no phones, no internet connection, no Facebook nor Instagram… I am a new person after a couple of weeks at sea and my camera is full of imagery that is not possible to capture anywhere else on this earth. I know I could take this trip again and again and never take the same images, there is always so much diversity of light and landscape.
Were there any surprising wildlife encounters along the way?
Whilst it is possible to encounter polar bears and whales in this area, the appeal of Scoresby Sund is more about its light and landscapes. That said we did spot birds, musk ox and foxes along the way.
Did you have the opportunity to engage with the local people?
There is only one town in Scoresby Sund where people live year round, plus a couple of settlements mostly inhabited by hunters. The town is ‘Ittoqqortoormiit’ which means ‘Big-House Dwellers’ in the Eastern Greenlandic dialect. It is home to around 500 people and is a beautiful town with very colourful houses – on the last day we had time to walk around and explore as well as chat to the locals (much easier when you are conversant in Danish or Inuit!).
From a photographer’s perspective what made this trip particularly rewarding?
A photographer goes through many phases in his life, and in every trip. At the start of every trip everything is new and the ‘wow’ factor is almost overwhelming, then you start to see better, study the light and begin to shoot in more controlled and artistic way. Weather conditions, light, the mood of the photographer and travel companions and the landscape in front of you all have a great effect on the results.
All the passengers on a voyage like this are nature lovers, and therefore tend to take pictures. People look at each other’s images, find inspiration from one another and before they know it they are taking better pictures than they ever thought possible. That is very rewarding to witness and to be a part of.
And aside from the photography, what else stood out for you?
In the evenings the expedition team on board ran lectures and shared their own images. Their in-depth knowledge about the geography and the Sagas of Greenland was spectacular.
What does Greenland have to offer in terms of photography that you can’t find at home in Iceland?
Travelling by boat offered the chance to spend as much time as I liked out on deck; enjoying, exploring, learning and photographing. Whereas travelling by car or bus back home I can only shoot when the vehicle stops, and there are usually other tourists already there. On this voyage I could shoot 24/7 as we were in the land of the midnight sun; the most beautiful light was at night and there was no-one else in sight.’
Can you offer any top tips for taking photographs in this environment?
Bring your best camera and not too much gear. Learn how to use it before you go – the team on board may be able to help and teach you, but you will get so much more out of it if you are already familiar with how to use it before you travel. Pay attention on how to get the best exposure for ice, as Greenland’s glaciers and icebergs will be very different to most landscapes. Shoot raw images and bring enough memory cards or a laptop with external SSD disks to backup all your images. Learn from others and get inspired, but keep it original and don’t just copy what others are shooting.
Do you have one favourite photo from the voyage that really captures the essence of your overall experience in Greenland?
No, I love most of them for a while and then before I know it I’ve taken better ones that I like even more… Hopefully the small selection here offers a taste of all that I experienced!
If you’ve been inspired by Ragnar’s adventures then join our Scoresby Sund Explorer voyage and capture your own amazing images of Greenland’s icy fjords!