Posted in Behind the News

‘Fishing for photos’ in Northwest Passage

, by Lauren Easton

Aboard an icebreaker sailing through the Arctic Circle’s Northwest Passage, AP photographer David Goldman captured striking images of the jagged icescape left behind.

Goldman, video journalist David Keyton and environment reporter Frank Jordans will complete their weeks-long expedition on Finnish vessel MSV Nordica in Nuuk, Greenland, at the end of the month. They are reporting across all formats as they travel with a team of international researchers, documenting changes in the environment.

Broken blocks of sea ice emerge from under the hull of Finnish icebreaker MSV Nordica as it sails through the Victoria Strait while traversing the Arctic's Northwest Passage, Friday, July 21, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

“Sea ice being crushed by an icebreaker is an amazing sight,” said AP photographer David Goldman. “It’s pushed down by the bow of the boat, submerged underwater, and pops up alongside the hull as these jagged ice sculptures.”

He explained how he had to get creative to capture such images:

How did you get these photos?

I wanted to see what it would look like at water level and perhaps even underwater if possible. So I put a camera in a watertight housing bag connected to a remote receiver inside the bag. I then attached the bag to a rope which I lowered some 30 feet from the deck. I would hold it right above the water line and fire the transmitter when I saw these sculptures emerge in the frame. When there was a break in the ice and the water was clear, free of the churn and wash of the commotion of the ship’s wake and moving ice, I dropped the camera into the water and let it sink underneath.

Broken sea ice emerges from under the hull of the MSV Nordica as it sails through the Victoria Strait, July 21, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Letting out the rope so it had slack, it could stay in place even though the ship never stopped moving. I would fire the remote then quickly yank the rope and pull the camera out of the water before it got too dangerously close to being trapped by moving ice or risk the rope getting cut by a sharp piece. At times I would swing the camera back and forth to catapult it ahead of the passing ice when I saw an upcoming opening to drop the camera underwater. This allowed it stay underwater longer as the ship passed allowing me a second or two more to fire off frames under the water. Then I would I pull the rope up again as the camera passed by in the wake. It was literally like fishing for photos.

What kind of equipment do you have with you on the icebreaker?

The AP team's photography and video equipment is laid out on the deck of the ship, July 8, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

For photos, I brought: wide angle, fixed focal length, zoom and telephoto lenses; Canon DSLR camera bodies, underwater housing, Glidecam, GoPros, mounts, brackets, tripod, monopod, a flash, drones, 360 cameras, microphones, PocketWizards, rain covers, a satellite transmitter and of course batteries.

What are some of the ongoing challenges?

One of the challenges was to find different ways of shooting the ice and landscape that didn’t become redundant after a while. It’s easy to become fixated on the beauty of the place. With a sun that never fully sets, there are 24 hours to work in during the day and you have to force yourself to make different pictures. So it was not just a question of around-the-clock photo opportunities but also figuring out when to sleep. It wasn’t uncommon to find yourself up through the night and then worry about going to sleep because you’d miss the only sighting of a polar bear.

Anything to highlight about the New Arctic series?

I think it was important to give the reader a sense of the adventure of the trip and also to paint a personal picture of the people aboard. Especially considering it wasn’t all ice and polar bears all the time from the moment we left Vancouver until we arrived in Greenland. To understand people’s fascination with the Arctic and their reason for being on this journey helps to understand the issues surrounding the Arctic and how it may be affected in the years to come.

The New Arctic stories, photos and video are available here.

Watch Goldman "fishing for photos" in this video: