East Greenland and Iceland´s Westfjords

Greenland and Iceland in one workshop - a unique combination of landscapes

It was always my dream to combine the landscapes of Greenland´s ice filled fjords with the green scenery of Iceland in one trip and in two consecutive workshops. In 2022 it finally happened. It was my first workshop with clients after Covid and it was quite an experience for all of us.

The dividing element fo the two parts of the trips was the Denmark Strait, therefore the workshop(s) had been called accordingly "Photography east and west of the Denmark Strait". It was already late in the year and the beginning of the winter and storm season in East Greenland. In Iceland our destination had been the Westfjords, a still little visited part of iceland. In Greenlands Tasiilaq area, it was already freezing and we had the first new ice on the fjords. It is a tricky season for both destinations. It can be cold and beautiful, but also stormy and wet with rain and snow. On both sides of the Denmark Strait! But there are many reasons to pick these weeks, as the colors of the vegetation are awesome and the northern lights are already very good to watch.

We had our share of everything: Burning sun, frosty nights full of aurora, rain and snow, and lots of wind. But we managed to see all places which I planned, but we were lucky. East Greenland opposite of Iceland is already deep into the arctic region, infrastructure is nearly zero and a storm may pin you down for a day or two. Check the term Piteraq! Two times this wind was forecasted, but it missed our fjord...... And do not forget, there are no roads only small boats!
Icelands Westfjords are remote and a northerly wind brings in September already snow and ice. No way to cross the many mountain passes during bad conditions!

But as I said, we have been lucky..... I guess luckier than most participants would have thought.

Greenland - first things first.....

In September a small group of photographers met in Keflavik airport to start the adventure to travel to a small camp in the middle of nowhere in the nearly uninhabited east coast of Greenland. After some introductionary talks (geography of Greenland, safety basics for zodiac cruises in the arctic, aurora photography etc) we boarded our flight from Reykjavik to Kulusuk airport. The weather was fine and after a short flight we landed in the Arctic. Reykjavik is a green city, Kulusuk is barren.

We stayed the first night in Greenland in the only hotel in Tasiilaq,the capital of east greenland, and we saw the first of the many icebergs of our trip. But we also experienced how difficult the infrustructure can be. The jetty of Kullusuk was distroyed by ice and we had to scramble down over wet and kelp covered rocks to the shore, not an easy task with our luggage and a tidel range of about 5m!

Greenland treated us nicely with sunny weather and the first of our northern lights during the trip. As we had a self catering night at the end of the trip I had to buy food for the group, but for the rest of our first afternoon we could explore the town of Tasiilaq and get the first taste of the local culture.

The itinerary for the trip was easy. Tomorrow we will visit a glacier before heading to our ice camp, all of course by boat. The next days we will stay in the huts of the ice camp before haeding back to Kulusuk with a stop over night in a village called Kumit, again by boat only. In the ice camp we would use zodiacs to venture into the icebergs of the Sermilik Fjord, for the longer stretches between the villages we could use a larger, covered boat. Everything weather permitting - of course.

Most of the time we had gorgeous weather, which is not a given in Greenland. The Piteraqs stayed away from our fjord, most of the time it was sunny, sometimes a bit foggy. The rain and a bit later a storm hit us only during the last day and the last night. But the flight out of Kulusuk was VERY bumpy, I would say we had been very, very lucky that the plane from Iceland came to pick us up.

In terms of photography the main topic was landscape photography of icebergs in the fjords, the gigantic icecap and the villages we passed on the way back to Kulusuk. Only whales did not show up as often as often as we would have liked, basically we saw only one..... and it was on the first full day. You cannot have everything!

Our life in the icecamp was easy. Get up, check the weather, decide what to do, board the zodiacs, stay between the icebergs and glaciers as long as possible, return to the camp, have a simple dinner, wait for the aurora and go to sleep in our huts. We had water for a hot shower, as long as the frost did not clog the pipes and a kerosine heater in the huts, which we could use from time to time. As the weather was never really bad, I had only shorter lectures in the camp and sometimes on the water.

In charge of everything and skipper of one of the two zodiacs was Sven. He decided what was save to do. His and the camps main business is "diving with icebergs" for experienced scuba divers. We had been the last group of the year and everything was closed down after we have left for the winter business, which means no water in any pipe, no bottels with fluids, everything which might perish had to go..... During winter sometimes mushers use the camp as a base.

The photography I had in mind for the participants was as following:

  • landscapes of the fjords
  • floating icebergs in all possible forms and sizes
  • icecap with the outlet glaciers tumbling down into the sea
  • stranded icebergs on nice beaches or rocks
  • local villages to complement the all the landscape oriented work
  • of course everything in all kinds of light

As talks are difficult when the group is divided in two zodiacs, I tried to give lots of samples and tips and tricks upfront.

Most of the time, the zodiacs did not sail together. The waves created by a boat, even such a small boat like a zodiac, destroys all reflections for many minutes. As soon as we had reflections in the water (like above) the boats had to be far away from each other. Only when we covered large distance like while crossing the big sermilik fjord, we stayed close together.


We had plenty of icebergs. The local name for the fjord is Sermilik, which means something like icefjord. We did not have to venture far, to find them in all sizes and forms.

No, we cannot complain about all the options we had. Following collection gives just a few examples of the iceberg experience we had! It really was amazing.

Icebergs on the shore

This topic was a bit more difficult. You need a low tide and the right wind direction while the tide was going out. But we managed and found some spots, even on a beautiful sandy beach. A bit like caribean waters on the rocks..... Only the deck chair rental  was missing!

Towns and villages

Greenland is not just about ice and icebergs! However if you want to understand the local way of life, which is still rooted in the hunting and fishing traditions of the Inuit, you have to take the landscape into account. The way of life has to follow the rules of the environment!

Even if the main focus of the photography was in the icy landscapes, I wanted to make sure, that all participants had more than one opportunity to try to understand how the locals live. Therfore had the one day in Tasiilaq, a short visit in a small village called Tinit and a night in a larger village called Kumit.

None of the villages has a hotel or guesthouse, this type of accomodation is only available in Tasiilaq. The options you have in the smaller villages are basic or very basic and self catering. We had been a bit lucky, as we could stay in a bigger house than planned. But the fun and the experience of East Greenland is its undeveloped remoteness, but you have to be a bit "flexible".... But the experience is well worth the effort!

But we also experienced the downsides of the Greenlandic society like alcoholism. As we stayed in Tasiilaq during the weekend, there was lots of partying going on. And we met many locals, who had much more than one glass to much, already during the early afternoon. This aspect of the greenlandic society is unfortunately common, but I have never seen it as extreme as this time. I understand better now, that some communities decide to restrict access to alcohol.

The icecap and its outlet glaciers

We managed to visit three outlet glaciers not counting the the two glaciers on our last day, as they do not flow down from the icecap, but from a smaller ice shield. Two times we managed to have a shore leave. The sheer endless icecap itself was well visible from a litte viewpoint at our ice camp. The view right across the Sermilik Fjord was an awesome highlight.

The zodiac trip into the Johann-Pedersen-Fjord to Hahn and Brueckner Glacier will never be forgotten. First we had to cross Sermilik Fjord, which is quite a stretch of open water and can be done only under good and stable conditions. Second Johann-Pederson-Fjord must be not blocked by ice. Again we had the luck on our side, we even managed to get close to Brueckner glacier, experienced a calving and listened to the noises of the glacier and the ice melting in the water. The way back however, was a bit more rough. The wind had picked up only a bit and after crossing Sermilik everybody was happy to be back after being exposed to the wind for quite a long time. It was not yet really rough and we stayed dry, but a bit more wind and it would have been a wet experience.....

Northern Lights

Right during the first night in Tasiilaq we had our first aurora! In the ice camp aurora photography got a bit more difficult as we had a full moon rising right at the time when the northern lights could appear. Therefore we needed quite a strong display for good photo opportunities.

Again we cannot complain. Without moon it would have been awesome northern lights, with moon however the images got a very special look, as the hills where illuminated by the moon. It is no overprocessing from my side. The downside was, that this aurora did not last very long. You cannot have all!

Karale and Knud Rasmussen Glaciers - the way back to Kulusuk

The last day we visited on the way back to Kulusuk Airport the Karale and Knud Rasmussen Glaciers (with a covered boat). The landscape in this area is very different, a bit like the Alps 25.000 years ago. Rugged peaks betweeen 2000 and 3000m and alpine galciers flowing down into the fjords. The glaciers are not fed by the ice cap, but by different "smaller" ice fields. It is a very different geomorphology compared to the flat, polished mountains created by the ice cap. The weather started to go from fair to hazy to cloudy to rainy and windy. Even without knowing the forecast I would have seen the possible trouble ahead.

We had planned for plenty of time at the glaciers, but I decided to leave earlier than planned to avoid any trouble with rain and wind on the long way back to Kulusuk. It was a wise decision. The wind picked up and the more open stretches in the fjords started to get choppy. We arrived in light rain in Kulusuk and just made it into the hotel before a moderate storm started. It was no Piteraq, but a more northeasterly wind......

Our stay in East Greenland came to a windy and rainy end. It rained and blowed throughout the night. It did not look so good for our flight back to Iceland, the locals did not dare to predict, whether the plane would pick us up...... Mid morning the news was distributed, that the plane wants to try it and had started in Reykjavik. 2 hours flight time. The wind dropped a bit and again we have been lucky. It arrived and we made it to Iceland, but it was the bumpiest start and climb I ever had.

The airport was full of kids and the plane was fully booked - by kids. The nearest swimming pool to learn swimming is Reykjavik. During the Covid years the schools did not want or could not offer the compulsory course. It was the first course after Covid and several years took the course simultaneously. Greenland is different!

It was an amazing workshop!

Will we offer that destination as a workshop again? Yes we will certainly do! We will offer this destination again in September 2025. Why not earlier? The ice camp was already fully booked and 2025 was the first slot we could get. We will not change the itinerary, it was good as it was. I will only change the baggage "restrictions". Definitly no hard cases and if it is more than 15kg, the participant has to carry it and haul it alone into the boats!

Drop us a line if you are interested, the number of participants is restricted.....

Iceland's Westfjords - the second part of this workshop

Iceland`s Westfjords are, at least during September, a little visited area of Iceland. Especially if you compare it to the traffic on the ring road, it is nearly nothing. You drive for hours and you probably meet  just a couple of cars. Most of the roads are dirt roads but easy to navigate and more and more roads are now tarmac. The tunnel network to avoid the cumbersome mountain passes got longer and longer over the years as well. The Westfjords are just opposite the area in Greenland where the icecamp is located, but the lower areas of the Westfjords are lush and green or yellow and red during fall. Quite a change after the barren and icy landscape in Greenland.

In the Westfjords the trip was a real round trip. We started our trip in Isafjördur after a short flight from Reykjavik and circled the Westfjords counterclockwise. The first days of the workshop were not as smooth as I would have liked it. One car was not ready, the agency has forgotten to inform the local branch office, the ignition key of our little bus broke after one day, the sliding door made more and more strange noisses and an accomodation was not exactly as I expected it. The mending of the ignition key was an interesting experience. I was sent to the local blacksmith and "I can do everything with cars" workshop and after a long chat he agreed to fix it by welding a big shim to the key. Interesting..... but it worked.

The weather was not good nor bad, we had rain, sun and one or two stormy days. That is not bad for the Westfjords during autumn. During this time of the year you can get already lots of snow, which can block the mountain passes for hours. At least this did not happen...  I cannot complain, we could stick to the itinerary and had not been forced to change our hotel bookings, which is quite difficult in an area, where you have one hotel every 200km (no kidding....).

The Westside

The western side of the Westfjords is boasting of the maybe best known icons of this area, the waterfall Dynjandi and the cliffs of Latrabjarg. But there are much more interesting places like the remote Haukadalur (F-Road, 4WD only) or the sandy beaches in the south.

As you see we had lots of clouds, some spots of sun creating very atmospheric opportunities, but also long stretches of rain. Especially on the beaches and on the mountain passes it was a bit of a pity, that we had poor weather. But that is part of the experience and you should take it as a challenge for photography. But a bit more sun, would have been appreciated.....

The next time I will change this part of the itinerary a bit and add another night, before heading into the Strandir. This should make this part a bit more robust against weather and unplannable things like a broken ignition key! This area has so many photogenic spots, which deserve more time!

The Strandir

After a long sunny drive we entered the area with the most remote settlements and farms in Iceland, the Strandir. Even for the westfjords the area is remote, the track into the Strandir is not a F-Road, but prone to storm and rockslides after rain. There are no shops, only one hotel, one guesthouse, three self catering cabins and two campsites, thats it. If you go there, plan ahead and check the weather for the next days, as the road is impassable quite often. But the area is well worth the hussle, in fact it is my favourite place in the Westfjords. When we approached the Strandir, the weatherforecast predicted a very severe storm in the eastfjords, but the westfjords should get just  heavy rain and a moderate storm. As we stayed two nights in Djupavik, this seemed to be ok. We arrived with sunshine, we outweathered the storm and we left the Strandir on a sunny afternoon again. Quite an experience, even if it was "only" a moderate storm.


We stayed in Djupavik, which came into existence only after a herring factory was build in the first quarter of the last century. all buildings date back to this area and the factory is one of the most famous lost places in Iceland. The wonderful hotel is located in the former lodgings for female workers. Very unique. The factory is open by request and the fees go into the upkeeping of the buidling and the machinery. During the strom we got access and could try a bit lost place photography. A good change and a perfect option during the morning we could not use the car due to heavy wind.

During the afternoon the wind dropped a bit. As there was a weatherstation just opposite at the mouth of our fjord, I could check the windspeeds online and as soon as it dropped well below 20 m/s (70km/h), we headed towards the end of the road. The area down there is an awesome foto location and the small public swimming pool at Krosness is an attraction on its own. We had a nice afteroon in this area, had a good soak, but it would have deserved more time and better weather. On the way back the wind was blowing hard again and we tried some locations, but it was nearly impossible to face the wind or to stand upright. Impressive as it was it was a pity....

We made it back to Djupavik. As the forecast promised better and finally sunny weather from tomorrow noon onwards, we decided to have a lazy morning and start the drive about noon. We had northern lights during the stormy night and just for fun some participants joined me for a stormy shoot in the slipstream of the factory. The aurora was week, the wind was howling, but we had lots of fun. Normally the rule for northern light photography is to avoid shutter speeds longer than 2-5 sec as one looses the details of the display. This night about 30 sec was necessary, something I never tried before, especially not during a stormy night. The result was astonishing, a proof that working against the rules is always worth a try!

The clouds are blurred, the stars have already very visible star trails, there is no detail at all, but is avery special, atmospheric and otherworldly picture. Most of the files are wiggly, but one sharp file was enough. And more important we had lots of fun!

The next mornig we had our lunch in the hotel, I checked the weather data and waited until the first cars from the east passed the hotel, to make sure that the road is not blocked, we loaded the cars and off we went. The next time we do this workshop, we will add another night in Djupavik!
On the way back lots of big rocks where on the road, but they could be passed on the left or right of the track. Strandir was very memorable for everybody!

When we left the Strandir all clouds have been gone and we drove the rest of the leg in sunshine. It was a pity, that most of the parts we crossed belonged to the more boring ones of our trip. That was a bit of a bummer, especially as the awesome Strandir was a cloudy experience for the group. At least we could stop once or twice before arriving at the one of two hotels between Holmavik/Strandir and Isafjördur a distance of roughly 250km.

The farmstaylike hotel in Heydalur was a pleasant surprise. The last time I was there, we left more or less at once. But lots of refurbishing was done and is now a really good and very welcoming place. During the night we had a faint aurora and the next morning some pictures of icelandic horses could be made. The last leg was quite short and the closer we came to Isafjördur the more interesting the landscape became. The stop a seal colony however was dissapointing. I did not expect much as it never was really good, but this time is was just dissapointing. The best view of the fjords, maybe the best of such a kind of the trip, was close to Isafjördur and this stop was not dissapointing, everything was right.....

The wind was gone completely and perfect reflections accompanied us on the way to our last planned stop. Such days are rare....

The last stop was, at least for me, a highlight of the trip, a visit of the Arctic Fox wildlife center and museum. I love this creatures and normally it takes lots of time to watch them and even more time to take pictures. In farmland areas, they still can be hunted in Iceland as soon as they kill lambs. Only in the Hornstrandir area they are left to themselves (no farming over there) and get quite tame around the campsites.

The small enclosure of the museum, is fenced with wire-mesh and taking pictures is quite difficult and a challenge. But it is possible and it is fun to watch the foxes. A very nice stop for lunch, visiting the museum and trying a bit of animal photography! From the museum it is just a couple of km until Isafjördur, where our loop of the Westfjords was completed.

We stayed in the Isafjördur area for the remaining late afternoon and the next morning until our plane left for Reykjavik. It was a very productive loop through Icelands Westfjords.
Will we offer the workshop through Icelands Westfjords again? Yes we will, but as I already mentioned with some tweaking: Two more nights (Djupavik and at the southern coast), less nights in Isafjördur, but the same loop.

And we try to add an optional part for pure Arctic Fox  wildlife photography in Hornstrandir. But this is not yet decided and I have to check this new option first. This would be a very exciting new opportunity for photographers, who are also interested in wildlife. We would stay some nights in a remote hut in Hornstrandir together with a local arctic fox population, which is a bit accustomed to people. As Hornstrandir is a Nature Reserve, hunting is prohibited and access for people is tightly managed. Drop us a line, if you are interested.....

After the guiding for three weeks, I was happy to be home again, to rest and to take care of my projects. During a short vacation in Hungary and later during late fall in Switzerland, I managed to do some photography again. I share some pics, as I probably will not do any blogging about these trips, which had been more vacation than work. But I got some really nice shots.....

Whats on in 2023? Towards the end of the year 23 we will have our four weeks long Falkland, South Georgia and Antarctica workshop. Very exciting and due to covid postponed for two times! Late January I will be in Antarctica, during March in Northern Finland and Sweden. Everything else is undecided. As we do an energy-oriented renovation of our childhood home(s), I first have to have these plans, before the final planning of any further production excursions. There are already lots of ideas.

The final word in german, next workshops

Wir haben das Angebot unserer Foto Workshops und Fotoreisen für die nächsten Jahre komplett überarbeitet. In den nächsten Wochen werden wir die Details fertig haben. Hier die vorläufige Zusammenfassung, noch ohne links, da die entsprechenden Seiten erst gemacht werden müssen.

  • Falkland Islands, Tierfotografie - Januar 2024
  • Grönlands Westen, Landschaftsfotografie, Reisefotografie - Juli 2024
  • NEU: Islands Norden und das zentrale Hochland auf 4x4 F-Roads, Landschaftsfotografie - September 2024
  • Senja und Spitzbergen im Winter, Landschaftsfotografie und Tierfotografie - März 2025
  • Ostgrönland und Westfjorde (wie in diesem Blog, leicht veränderter Verlauf) - September 2025
  • Falkland Islands, Tierfotografie - Januar 2026

Take care, all the best and happy new year to all of you!

München December 2022

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