West Greenland 2018 - my workshop

Greenland - icebergs, glaciers and sled dogs. Colorfull houses, mosquitos, vast stretches of tundra. And the ice cap.

We have got it all - but unusual cold, cloudy and rainy weather as well!

This summer was very unusual in Greenland (and Iceland). For the heat and drought we got in central europe the North got clouds and rain. Taking that poor summer into accout we have been lucky, at least in Eqi and Uummannaq. And we had to take the weather anyway, we cannot change it!

The workshop took place at three very different locations:

  • Ilulissat for the icefjord and the icebergs in the Disko Bay
  • Eqi for arctic tundra and a glacier tumbling down from the ice sheet into the sea
  • Uummannaq for icebergs in the fjords and typical settlements

The weather was not the only challenge we had to master. If you stay for just a few days in Ilulissat or any other central hub, probably in perferct weather, or if you arrive and stay on cruise, it is easy to forget how far away and remote these places are. Flights in Greenland are easy to book, even to more remote destinations like Uummannaq. But if foul weather meets bad luck it starts to resemble a little expedition.

It was a stormy day all over western greenland down to Nuuk when we headed from Ilulissat to Uummannaq, a small town much further in the north than Ilulissat. The flight, a regular connection by Air Greenland, was scheduled for 16:00. In the morning I got the news, that we have to fly at noon. I changed the activities for the day. Half an hour before leaving to the airport I got the news, that flight was rescheduled again, back to 16:00!

We made it finally to Uummannaq during early evening and we had breathtaking days in the fjordland. As far as I learned from the locals all the rescheduling was due too bad weather and one broken plane. That was to much for air greenlands small fleet.... But eventually they manage and you will arrive as we did.....

Our boat excursions in Ilulissat and our sightseeing flights where constantly moved back and forth due to fog, rain or wind. Not easy for a group!

I learn always the same lessons in these remote places. Always have some spare days as weather and the difficult logistics will overrule your plan! You might be lucky, but you never know! But now back to the workshop and what we have seen and photographed!

Ilulissat - the touristic hot spot in the north west

Ilulissat was the location where we really suffered from the bad summer. We have seen the sun only once, on the day we left! And that was pretty normal for the summer 2018!

All the same the icefjord is a spectacular place. This year Ilulissat was rather quiet, not as many tourists as I expected, not as many boats on the Disko Bay but really good icebergs!

The key for the best experience and the best pictures is a private boat charter and a good Captain (many thanks to Claus!!!! - info@nbc.gl). The ice was magical and sea was peaceful, both important ingredients. We spent many hours at the mouth of the icefjord in front of the huge icebergs, often drifting in slush ice. Perfect! Only the sun was missing especially during our late afternoon and late evening tours.

But we have got something else for compensation - whales! It is not uncommon to find whales close to the icebergs, but we have got them always and nearly always in really good locations for pictures! You cannot do much composition with a fluke of a whale, but if the background is a massive iceberg, the pictures look just gorgeous, even if the light was dull!

Ilulissat as a town is still worth a visit and some pictures. I always like the contrast of the more traditional quarters to the older appartment blocks and the new living quarters. Ilulissat is growing and you will find construction happening all over the town, from the center where new supermarkets are being buildt to new living quarters on the edges.

It will be interesting to see how this growth will change the atmosphere of this busy to bustling town.

As I already mentioned we found Ilulissat to be rather "empty" of tourists. I do not think that the hotels have been fully booked and last year, during late season, I saw much more excursion boats sailing to the icebergs. Strange.

Due to the poor weather and all the rescheduling of flights and boat excursions we could not spend as much time as planned on the walking trails along the icefjord. That was a bit sad, as the ice was quite interesting in the fjord itself as well and sitting on top of the little peaks overlooking the huge icefjord is something very special. You cannot change the weather.


Eqi is glacier and tundra.

If you want to stay with a group in Eqi Lodge you have to book more than one year ahead. Even if you are flexible as a solo traveller one year is recommended. And it is a unique place! The Lodge, which is just a handfull of huts of different standards, is facing the glacier, you always see it and you will always hear it. There is no village, no road, no airfield, no harbour just you and the glacier and the tundra around you!

This year the glacier was very noisy, which is a very unique experience. Even if you do not see the glacier, you will always hear it. I know many galciers, but all are mute compared to the Eqi glacier. It is constantly calfing or seracs are collapsing, day and night. And it is photogenic as well!

The hiking is easy to moderate and well worth the effort. It always was and still is a special place!

We arrived and it drizzeled again, but it started to clear and the next day we had splendid weather, the sun was shining, the glacier was noisy and, yes, the famous tundra mosquitos where buzzing around our heads. Every rose has its thorns and the tundra has its mosquitos!

One of the must haves for this trip was a small mosquito net for the head and all participants carried one. With the net the mossies where an experience but did not spoil the day! I do not care much about mosquitos, but they have been everywhere. Photography with lots of mosquitos around is a bit more challenging, as you nearly always will have mossie-spots in your files. Even changing lenses is tricky as they are attracted by everything which is black.

Anyway, we had super days in Eqi and even our transfer back to Ilulissat was great. Lots of ice and Claus again as skipper!

Uummannaq and its fjords

Uummannaq is a busy greenlandic small town of about 1300 inhabitants in an awesome location - and without much touristic infrastructure. There is no hotel and only a fast food restaurant. But Uummannaq is full of normal greenlandic life. Ummannaq is an island and you need a helicopter flight (which can be booked through Air Greenland) to go there. For me it is the highlight of this travel.

This year the fjords around Uummannaq have been full of huge icebergs. It was an amazing view from Uummannaq and we had breathtakingly beautiful boat excursions and yes we had sun!

We even managed to get close to Store Gletscher, which is a rather rare event, as it is normally enclosed by lots of ice. Sailing through the Uummannaq fjords accompanied by hundreds of icebergs of all sizes is truly unique! I am sure none of the participants will forget the days in Uummannaq and on the boat of Paaluk (many thanks to you....!).

Back to Uummannaq. Sitting in the ice cream parlour (which is also the fast food restaurant, amusement arcade, cake delivery...) right at the harbour is always fun. You watch the fishermen coming and going, the supply vessel is unloading cargo (do not forget, there are no roads in Greenland and Uummannaq is an island), locals come in for a burger and an icecream, its a glimps of normal greenlandic life.

Greenlanders love icecream as many other people in world do as well, but it was the first time that I saw somebody to eat a burger with icecream as a sidedish. In one hand the burger in the other the icecream wafer, very unique combination.

What else is to say?

Greenland is a faszinating destination for travelling photographers and it is well worth the effort to go there. If you like ice, glaciers and tundra, go there! It is unique and I am sure the the whole group will feel like that!

We are right now working on the workshops for 2019 to 2021. Greenland will be on our aganda again and we have a new exciting island destination! stay tuned!

Check out my workshop pages for my next workshops (right now, 09.2018, it is still the old program)

 Szentendre, September 2018