Photographing the Ice Caves

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Here is how you can come prepared.


The most important thing is the experience of being inside an ice cave and taking it all in. But of course, it is also nice to come home with some great shots. A lot of the same techniques and equipment from shooting the northern lights can be used here. Ice caves are quite dark, but it is usually possible to get a 30-second exposure. Bring a tripod, a wide angle, fast lens or macro lens. Try to use manual focus as there may not be enough light for the camera to auto-focus.

Equipment

  • Tripod – As the cave can be quite dark this is essential for creating a unique, sharp photograph. Bring a good sturdy tripod that can stand on ice.
  • Remote Shutter Release – If you want to go all the way to capture the perfect image a remote trigger is the best option. Alternatively, the self-timer function on your camera can be used.  
  • Several charged batteries – It’s going to be cold and it will drain your battery life in no time. So make sure you bring enough batteries.
  • Safety Gear – Ice crampons and helmets are required for ice cave expeditions as an ice cave can hold many dangers. Plan your trip with a professional guide!!

Camera

  • Full Frame / 35mm Camera with Manual Mode Functionality and high ISO capability. Cameras that handle ISO up to 3000-5000 without producing much noise are recommended.
  • Wide angle lens with a fast aperture. A minimum speed aperture of f/2.8 – f/4 is recommended. For full-frame cameras, it’s preferred to have lenses in the range of 14-24mm to capture a wide angle.

Shooting

Shoot wide angle and look for interesting shapes in the ice to compose a balanced shot. And don’t worry about other guests being in your shot, they will give your picture scale and perspective – without people, your ice cave shots will be abstract. In fact, almost all successful ice cave photographs have a human figure in the shot to use him/her as a size comparison. If you google ‘ice cave image’ you will see that many use the entrance to the cave or entrances to interior caves to show the depth and broadness of the cave. And a lot of them have a person in the photograph too.

We recommend using manual focus as light can be scarce in the cave and with smooth surfaces it may be very difficult to use auto focus. As there are areas with low light in the cave shots with longer exposure are going to be needed so play around with the exposure time depending on the lighting in your situation.


Remember to stay alert even though you are with an experienced ice cave guide. Listen to the cave and don’t hang around in the entrance of the ice cave as this is often its weakest point.

Travel Photography with Shawn Talbot