Workshops: Greenland Summer 2019

Dates: 24-30 August 2019 (7 days, 6 nights)

Price: 3,600 USD or € or DKK equivalent (all-inclusive in-country)

Availability: spaces available

Greenland is one of those iconic destinations for any world traveler and is rapidly becoming well-known among photographers for its out-of-this-world arctic summer light and giant icebergs. I'm pleased to kick off this year's photo workshop to West Greenland in summer 2019! If you want to photograph clear jewel-like ice chunks on black sand beaches that glitter like diamonds, travel by comfortable van, and photograph a variety of landscapes, then Iceland is for you, and I invite you to check out one of my Icelandic photography workshops. But if you want to be blown away by the sheer gigantic size of icebergs hundreds of feet tall, floating in the Arctic ocean and cast in warm pink arctic sunset light at midnight as we sail around them on small charter boats, and cruise between remote Inuit settlements, then Greenland is the place for you!

Ilulissat is the logical starting point for any West Greenlandic photography workshop, situated at the outlet of the iceberg-choked Kangia Icefjord, which deposits huge icebergs into Disko Bay where they drift around for years before melting. There is spectacular sunset and sunrise light that shines through the short summer nights, and to best capture this on the icebergs, we'll do a combination of shore-based traditional photography, and private chartered boats just for our group as we cruise around Disco Bay during the evening and sunset hours. Another highlight is photographing the humpback whales lingering in front of these massive icebergs as a backdrop! This workshop is so much more than just a base at Ilulissat, the largest town in the region. We'll also travel to three different outlying small village settlements and camps around the furthest parts of Disko Bay, for a comprehensive exploration of the large Disko Bay area, and an authentic view of Inuit culture and way of living in smaller Inuit villages. Small colorful slightly-forlorn-looking wooden houses are built on the barren rocky headlands next to the ocean, so are naturally very interesting photographically and great to see by foot with your camera in hand. We'll stay one night in Qasigiannguit at the marvelously situated Hotel Diskobay, and one night in another small town idyllically located on the opposing south side of the Kangia Icefjords named Ilimanaq, a picturesque tiny settlement that's a brand new destination for our ferry company. During this trip we will cruise 90km up to the northern reaches of Disko Bay, to photograph and explore Eqi glacier, which is famous for its regular occurrence of calving ice into the sea. We can relax while overlooking the glacier, and also hike up to it for a much closer view. After Eqi, we'll return once more to Ilulissat for a final evening and night photographing from land over the Kangia Icefjord UNESCO World Heritage Area.

These are ideal dates as we will still do late evening sunset cruises to the icebergs, yet still have the chance to see the first auroras of the new season during our short 4-hour nights. Midday light can be quite harsh, so we will utilize midday for travel between settlements, rest/sleep time at our hotels, and an occasional indoor editing session. Weather is usually clear and ideal during this time of year, so we will likely be out every sunset taking advantage of this fair weather, late into the midnight hours (or beyond if the aurora borealis makes a showing), and out again from 3-6am daily photographing the sunrise and morning hours.

Day 1 - Arrival to Ilulissat, West Greenland

24 August 2019


Fly into Ilulissat, Greenland from either Iceland or Denmark on any flight you choose in the late morning or afternoon. Included transfer from airport to bed and breakfast centrally located in Ilulissat. Afternoon until dinner time is utilized for resting up for our short nights ahead, or you may spend the afternoon as free time exploring and photographing the large town of Ilulissat. We'll have dinner as a group at one of the town's few independent restaurants. Then we walk down to the village boat docks and cruise around the massive icebergs of Disko Bay on our private charter boat through the sunset hour, capturing the magical orange and then pink light of the arctic sunset side-lighting the massive icebergs of Disco Bay. It is very likely we'll also see humpback whales feeding around the icebergs - no where else in the world can you so regularly see whales and icebergs up close like this! After sunset in the twilight hours we'll return to Ilulissat. Possible night/Aurora Borealis shooting over Kangia Icefjord. Overnight in Ilulissat.

Day 2 - Eqi Glacier journey from Ilulissat

25 August 2019


Early morning sunrise shoot again over the Kangia Icefjord, from land. Adjacent to the town of Ilulissat, there's a boardwalk that leads us to the UNESCO World Heritage Area of the Kangia Icefjord, which is a massive fjord choked with gigantic icebergs as far as the eye can see. And there we'll hike along the icefjord, and take telephoto and wide angle panoramas over the icebergs through the sunrise and morning hours, with the icebergs bathed in pink arctic light. This is also an ideal time to fly a drone over the icebergs, for expansive aerial perspectives. At this early hour, we'll likely be all to ourselves with this grand vista of icebergs as far as the eye can see, which for some is quite a spiritual experience. Then we'll have a large chunk of time off throughout the late morning and through midday, for you to rest and sleep up, or explore the town of Ilulissat more on your own, and photograph more icebergs floating past our hotel right from the hotel's deck! Then in the later afternoon, we board our private charter boat for an 80km journey via boat across iceberg-choked waters northward to the famous Eqi calving glacier. Just the experience of sitting in the prow of the boat and skimming around glassy waters speckled with ice is surreal, like flying through a galaxy. Eqi glacier regularly calves huge ice blocks into the water, and this is a must for any photographer to capture these forces of nature. Ideally, we'll have early evening sun side-lighting the calving glacier, making for some stunning telephoto images. Then our journey will return us to Ilulissat and along the way, we'll stop and sail around various interesting-shaped icebergs, and continue exploring many of these giant ships of ice through the sunset hour. After sunset in the twilight hours, we'll return to Ilulissat. Again, we are always on alert of any aurora activity, every night.

Day 3 - Travel to Qeqertarsuaq

26 August 2019


Start out first with an early morning sunrise shoot again over the Kangia Icefjord, from land. Often there are huge icebergs that drift close to town and you can photograph right there from the shoreline with the town behind you, or perhaps we'll return to the nearby overlook over the Kangia Icefjord. Then we'll have a chunk of time off till late morning for rest, or explore the town of Ilulissat more on your own, and photograph more icebergs floating past our hotel right from the hotel's deck! In the afternoon we'll catch a small ferry boat to Qeqertarsuaq, a quaint Inuit village on the large Disko Island, staying in the only hotel in this tiny settlement. We will go for some short hikes along the shoreline to spot for humpback whales and viewpoints out over the bay and icebergs. It's also nice to capture the late afternoon light and walk among the colorful houses on the hills around town, as this settlement is more scenic and typical of rural Inuit communities. The houses' details typically look a little dilapidated and worn, but their brightly painted plywood sides and small size make the overall scene look quite cozy and representative of Greenland. Dinner will be enjoyed at the hotel, and after that, we will walk down to the shoreline to photograph the sunset, or wherever the icebergs have floated to along the shoreline this season. Part of our time here on this island we want to enjoy the quieter way of life here in Qeqertarsuaq. There are some hiking options to a nearby secluded and peaceful bay, into which a few icebergs always drift in to stay for the season. This hike may be about 1.5 hours one-way, but we'll take our time and enjoy hiking in the Greenland wilderness. There are no polar bears in the region so it's safe to hike about, even on your own. On the higher hills and in this clean arctic air you'll have spectacular panoramic views over the immense Disko Bay region, where you can see tiny white dots (which are actually building-sized icebergs) out as far as the eye can see, giving an unparalleled sense of scale to Greenland. On a clear day, you can see as far east as the Kangia Icefjord, and inland towards the Greenlandic ice cap.Chance for aurora borealis photography from a sandy, safe beach with icebergs in the bay beyond.

Greenland summer photography travel tours
Greenland photography workshop July 2017

Day 4 - Travel from Qeqertarsuaq to Iliminaq village on Disko Bay

27 August 2019


Sunrise from the shores of Disko Island, with a sea full of icebergs offshore, and likely all to ourselves here in the High Arctic. The village of Qeaertarsuag is still asleep behind you, and the sunrise rises over giant icebergs as large as ships - a once in a lifetime mement to enjoy. Then it's our last chances to photography this small Inuit settlement and so some 'street' photography. In the morning our private charter boat will arrive and pick us up for some water-based morning photography around the icebergs in calm, reflecting waters. Then we'll journey across Disko Bay, stopping at interesting ice forms as we spot them, and arriving to the tiny historic settlement of Iliminaq. Iliminaq is situated on the opposite, southern entrance to the Kangia Icefjord. Ilimanaq is a traditional Greenlandic village where the main industries are still hunting and fishing. Ilimanaq is one of the smallest settlements in the entire Disko Bay region of Greenland with only about 50 residents, but the village is rich in history with the hunting culture still a big part of the rural Greenlandic way of life. We may get a chance to photograph a hunter with his catch of fish or a seal. Also, some local inhabitants might invite tourists into their own homes for Kaffemik, a traditional Greenlandic get-together with coffee and cake, and should this opportunity come, don't hesitate to accept, and talk to them about their way of life. The afternoon through sunset is spent exploring this settlement on foot, and we'll hike up a small hill where the cemetery is located looking out across the vast iceberg-choked bay. Evening and sunset will be spent in the village surroundings or depending on where the icebergs have floated to, perhaps even photographed from the deck of the idyllically located Ilimanaq Lodge. Overnight in Iliminaq Lodge seaside luxury cabins.

Day 5 - Iliminaq to Ilulissat

28 August 2019


A peaceful morning of whale watching, relaxing, and photography from the decks of our luxury villa cabins overlooking the ocean. Later in the morning, we'll embark on a small ferry boat and cruise around the iceberg chocked outlet of the Kangia Icefjord, on our return journey across the ice to Ilulissat. The afternoon will be spent resting and exploring around Ilulissat or photographing more icebergs floating past our hotel. Then we'll do an evening town walk as a group making revisiting and photographing the town harbor and colonial church that you might have already visited or walked past on your first days here in Greenland. Sunset shoot is planned from a secret hilltop on the north side of town that overlooks the vastness of the Disko Bay region. This is perfect for contemplating one's own smallness, and perhaps also for doing some telephoto panoramas! 

Day 6 - Ilulissat full day

29 August 2019


A full day spent in Ilulissat. Often there are huge icebergs that drift close to town and you can photograph right there from the shoreline with the town behind you. Or perhaps we'll return to the nearby overlook over the Kangia Icefjord World Heritage Area. It is wonderful to spend hours just sitting on the rocks overlooking the icebergs in the warm morning sun, scouting for whales, and just breathing in nature. Then we'll have a large chunk of time off throughout the late morning and through midday, for you to rest and sleep up in the, or explore the town of Ilulissat more on your own, and photograph more icebergs. Then in the evening, after dinner, we'll go out for one last sunset and evening boat cruise to revisit the giant floating ice castles around the outlet of the Kangia Icefjord as it enters Disko Bay. This will give us one more cruise filled with amazing opportunities to photograph alpenglow on the lit-up icebergs, with a very high chance of photographing humpback whales in front of the icebergs! The icebergs don't move that much day-to-day, but there are always more angles to shoot, more icebergs to sail around, and more whales to search for and attempt to line up with icebergs in the background of your shots. We may actually cruise to a little hidden bay on this evening which none of the other boat cruises visit, which traps many icebergs and which last year featured three icebergs with massive ice-arches that I flew my drone through! After sunset in the twilight hours, we'll return to Ilulissat. Our last night in Greenland; as usual we are always on alert of any aurora activity.

Aerial view of Ilulissat Icefjord shot with a drone

Day 7 - Fly out of Ilulissat

30 August 2019


The morning time will be up to you, to rest or for those hardcore photographers that just can't get enough, to walk down once more to the shoreline to catch some last shots of spectacular icebergs. Then, the hotel will provide shuttle service for us to the airport, and we will depart Ilulissat. Your times of departure may vary, based on whether you're flying to Iceland, Copenhagen, or other parts of Greenland for continued adventures.

General Trip Information

Group Size: Maximum size of 6

Start/End: The tour starts on 24 August 2019 with transfer to our hotel in Ilulissat. You'll need to provide us your incoming flight information ahead of time. Our workshop ends on 30 August, with your departure flight out of Ilulissat to either Reykjavik, Copenhagen, or other towns in Greenland.  Plan to budget around $1,200 for your flight from Europe to Greenland. So while here, consider staying longer in Greenland and exploring another Greenlandic town such as Kulusuk, Kangerlusuag, etc.

Included: 

  • A dedicated, highly experienced photography guide with you the entire time, ensuring logistics go smoothly and offering photography instruction and in the field coaching.
  • Accommodation for 6 nights in the best hotels and cabins remote Greenland has to offer, including Hotel Icefiord while in Ilulissat, as well as other idyllically located settlement lodges and hotels.  Cost is based on double occupancy per room (twin rooms). No single supplement is available - all rooms must be shared by two people.  All rooms have in-room bathrooms, but bathroom standards may vary. 
  • All boat transfers between all 3 settlement locations around the far reaches of Disko Bay.
  • All transfers between harbors and ports and airports, to our places of accommodation. 
  • All 3 meals per day and food featuring a variety of western-standard foods as well as locally caught meats and sea products (breakfasts provided by our hotels; prepacked bagged lunches or picked up from the local grocery store, and 2-course dinners at the hotel or village restaurants. 
  • 3 evening and sunset sailing trip among the giant icebergs, with a possible mix between small group tour boats and privately chartered boats. May substitute one boat trip for ATV trip up to glacial icecap at Ilimanaq.
  • Eqi Glacier boat excursion 80km to the north to witness mightly calving glaciers in evening light

Not Included: 

  • Flights to and from Ilulissat, Greenland (budget $1,200 RT).
  • Any extra time you spend in Greenland before/after the trip.
  • Trip insurance.
  • Extra optional boat trips, helicopter sightseeing flights, etc.
  • All drinks at sit-down meals, alcoholic and non, except water which will always be provided
  • Room service or extra amenities.
  • Extra optional taxi services when walking through town is a reasonable option. 
  • No single room upgrade is possible - all rooms are twin share.
  • Anything else not listed as being included.

Experience and fitness level of trip participants:

  • This tour is open to digital photographers of all skill levels from beginner to expert.
  • Everyone must come with a good, positive travel attitude and enthusiasm for getting serious about photography and putting some tiring hours in.
  • A basic decent level of physical ability and fitness is required, for all trip participants. However, to get the most out of the trip, a very good physical condition is recommended. This is so everyone can enjoy and take part in all of the walking around town and hiking we plan to do. This is not a vehicle-based tour, we are boat and foot-based. However, all serious hikes are optional, and you may opt to stay in your hotel and rest, or stay closer around town and not go on difficult hikes or around-town excursions. 
  • A trip packing list will be provided to help you maximize your photo opportunities and comfortable in the cool weather.  Everyone should pack smart enough to be able to handle their own luggage into and out of boats and similar scenarios.
  • If you have additional questions, the trip leader will be happy to answer them over the phone or by email.

Photography Instruction:

This photo workshop is all about in-the-field photography and situational instruction, working alongside your trip leader, there will be no formally scheduled classroom workshops or presentations, although on trips we usually do an indoor session or two covering photography concepts, editing skills, and image critiquing, weather and time permitting. Our main emphasis is evening and sunset photography every day, on land and on the sea, capturing the special arctic light as it hits the enormous icebergs. Our main photographic subjects are icebergs and more icebergs! We also will photograph whales (with icebergs!), Inuit village culture and townscapes, and more shoreline seascapes (with icebergs in the background). We will always be prepared to go out to photograph the Aurora Borealis should it occur in the middle of the night. Aurora Borealis viewing depends on two main factors: solar activity and clear weather. The chances of us photographing this phenomenon are very high, given that we're out for so many nights in remote locations.

Photographic topics that will be covered while shooting include night and aurora borealis photography, classic landscape photography composition and technique, HDR (High Dynamic Range) imagery, panoramic photography, adventure and travel photography, wildlife photography, and drone photography. Our 7 days and 6 nights of photography potential, allow us to comprehensively really get to intimately know this region of western Greenland, leading to stronger images and enabling each participant to get the most out this once-in-a-lifetime trip. August days can sometimes be long and tiring, and our sleep schedule will have to fit around our photography schedule. A maximum group size of 6 photographers balances the cost-savings of a group while ensuring you will receive ample personal photographic coaching in the field from a full time working pro, maximizing the group's flexibility and ability to shoot more places, more spontaneously based on light and weather, and provide an intimate small group adventure experience.

Johnathan Esper of Wildernesscapes Photography LLC, based in the USA, will be leading the trip. Johnathan is a full-time photographer and experienced international photo trip leader, having guided nearly one hundred photography tours and workshops around the world since 2011. Johnathan combines his passion for photography, travel, and the outdoors to give every group he guides the best combination of comprehensive itineraries that thoroughly explore an area all at a simply unbeatable value and price. Johnathan has a unique background from having spent years traveling the world for personal travel's sake and is enjoying all the new photo destinations opening up in Greenland. Wildernesscapes Photography offers adventurous small group photo tour experiences in the Adirondack Mountains (USA), Iceland, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Cuba, and Norway. Johnathan's Iceland/Greenland photography workshop website is IcelandPhotography.com, and his personal general business website is WildernessPhotographs.com, which features his Adirondack Park portfolio. In addition to leading photography workshops, Johnathan Esper sells hundreds of large-format prints yearly around the United States, works with Aurora Photos stock agency and owns a vacation rental log home in the Adirondacks.

Trip Terms:

Deposit: A $1,000 deposit is due at the time of registration, and the remaining balance is due 4 weeks prior to trip start. Until payment is sent, your place is not guaranteed. You may conveniently pay your deposit here (near the bottom of the page) securely with your credit card, processed by PayPal payment processor. The deposit portion may also be paid via personal or bank check for USA and Canadian clients. Please contact me if you need any assistance in signing up!

Final Payment: The final payment for the balance due on the trip (after your paid deposit), is due 30 days prior to the trip start. Payment options include bank transfer to my Icelandic bank account (details on request), cash in person at the trip start (with prior arrangement), personal or bank checks (preferred for USA and Canada clients), and credit cards (a 3% credit card fee will be added for final payments with card).

Cancellation Policy: In the unfortunate event you need to cancel, the cancellation policy is: deposit payments are refundable as 75% future scheduled trip credit up to 120 days before trip start, 50% future scheduled trip credit if cancellation is 120-60 days before trip start, and non-refundable less than 60 days before start. Final payments for the full trip balance are 100% refundable as cash until the trip start, and non-refundable after the trip start. If I am able to fill your empty spot on the trip, half of what you'd lose will additionally be returned to you, for all the above situations. If I cancel the trip for some major reason, such as overwhelming volcanic activity, trip leader health crisis, 3rd party service provider failure, etc, then I fully refund everything in cash or PayPal, or a pro-rated amount if the trip must end early for the same reasons. I am not responsible for reimbursing you for travel or other ancillary expenses you incur in prep for the trip. This is why travel insurance, and travel medical insurance, is required for all participants.

No refunds or credits are given for included group activities, excursions, or boat trips, that are opted out of. 

For more information, contact:

Johnathan A. Esper
Wildernesscapes Photography LLC
PO Box 326, Long Lake, NY
United States
johnathanesper@gmail.com
phone: 001 518 241 3363 (USA) or +354 626 0292 (Iceland)
www.IcelandPhotography.com