You may travel the world in pursuit of beautiful photographs, and never find anything that rivals the visual splendour of Nunavut. While snow and ice do proliferate, this land is far from the desolate, frozen plain you might have imagined. Here, you’ll find a surprising diversity of landscapes, colours, wildlife, plant life, and culture.
The festive feathers of mating birds, the glistening surface of icebergs, the glowing colours of the aurora borealis, and the variety of cultural performances, artifacts, and attire are just a start; you’ll never lack for fascinating photography subjects in the Arctic. The breadth of this land covers most of the arctic landscape, providing a vast diversity of scenery: from close to the treeline in the west, to the glaciers and high mountains of the east and extreme north.
“I was immediately captivated by the Arctic and the Inuit on my first visit! Until the moment I stood on the floe-edge, I had thought of the Arctic as flat, white and cold. And yet there are majestic mountains, deep glorious fjords, flowers, and animals you see nowhere else in the world.”- Michelle Valberg, Photographer
Few places on earth are as wild and untouched as Nunavut, with a low human population and relatively little development. Here, the wildlife is rich and active, providing ample opportunity for photographers to capture natural rites such as the nesting of the eider duck, migrating caribou, or an arctic fox playing with its young. Large, charismatic animals such as musk-ox, caribou, and whales are abundant. The legendary polar bear is a popular goal for aspiring wildlife photographers, and many outfitters and travel companies offer trips designed to locate these noble beasts. Bird photographers will rejoice, as this region is host to a veritable rainbow of breeding birds in the warmer months: ptarmigan, geese, pipits, cranes, ducks, larks, loons, gyrfalcons, and more.
The Beauty of the Land
The Arctic wildlife alone could provide enough subject matter for two lifetimes, but the land itself is a thing of stunning natural beauty. Open, endless horizons unmarred by buildings create the perfect canvas for swirling cloud formations, and springtime sundogs that stretch their brilliant arms across the sky. Days culminate in some of the most intense, colourful sunsets you’ll ever witness. In the summer, visitors are often surprised at the vibrant flowers that dot the tundra. Long summer days are a photographer’s dream, with some regions providing up to 20 hours of ideal lighting. As temperatures grow colder, both the sky and the ground ignite with photogenic wonder. Fall brings the fiery colours of a deciduous forest to the tundra floor, while nighttime provides the spectacular light-show known as the aurora borealis. When snow finally blankets the landscape, visitors get a chance to capture the iconic Northern winter, just as they’ve always imagined it.
The Human Experience
Anthropology plays a large part in the fascinating visual identity of Nunavut. The nuances of Inuit culture in the North – in communities scattered across two million square kilometres of land – are in themselves a delight to behold, learn from, and photograph. Visitors who partake in a community tour or are treated to a cultural demonstration may, with respect and reverence, be allowed to capture traditional garment-making, throat singing, or hunting. In any cultural situation (especially those in a more intimate or familial setting) it’s essential to pay deference to your Inuit hosts, and always ask for permission before taking photos. Should a situation not allow for unobtrusive photography, let a vivid memory of the special moment be your keepsake instead.
“There’s a special connection between the animals and the people that you don’t see elsewhere. You might come in close proximity of a large animal like a wolf or a musk-ox, and you’ll lock eyes… and then they will continue about their business as if you’re not there. It’s one of these magical things that’s happened a few times to me in Nunavut.”- Mathieu Dumond, Photographer, Umingmak Productions