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Photography: Capturing winter sun

Lola Akinmade Åkerström, the photographer for our Greenland In Pictures feature, explains how she captured this image of Ilulissat, the town of icebergs

Photography: Capturing winter sun
Image: Lola Akinmade Åkerström

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Looks can be deceiving. While this image depicts a sunset with a cloudless sky, this was actually shot early afternoon at the tail end of April when winter still lingered and the sun barely rose above the horizon.

Often called the ‘iceberg capital of the world’, Ilulissat (which means ‘iceberg’ in Greenlandic Inuit) is a small town located at the mouth of Disko Bay, 300 miles inside the Arctic Circle.

Our flight to Ilulissat had been delayed for several hours due to a winter blizzard with gusting winds that rattled signposts and literally swept people off their feet on icy ground. A short flight through thick clouds and we broke through to see white spots of ice dotting dark waters of the bay like a beautifully patterned fabric.

This image was taken within minutes of arriving at the iconic Hotel Arctic. I wandered out onto a wooden podium that gave an unparalleled view of the bay. I captured the image with my Nikon D750 FX camera and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

I used a tripod so I could get as sharp an image as I could with a slow shutter speed of 1/25 — I wanted the sensor to use enough natural light without overcompensating. I always shoot in manual mode, so my aperture was set to f/22 for a much deeper depth of field, which added detail to the icebergs in the distance. A shallower aperture would have created a blurrier background, but the beauty of seeing these icebergs floating in the bay is in their details.

I used the widest angle on the lens (24mm) to capture as much of the surroundings as possible and an ISO of 360 meant a cleaner image with very little noise to capture the golden light washing over the landscape.

With snow falling minutes before and after I took this shot, I had a very short window of calm to capture the scenery — even the best plans can be rendered futile within seconds in Greenland’s extreme Arctic conditions.

Published in the October 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)