Traveling into the midnight sun

Traveling into the midnight sun

It’s a special privilege for a photographer to get the chance to work in the soft light of a sun that never sets.

Just when you think you have squeezed every last drop out of the light, it changes. Shadows look different. Reflections become more vibrant. And you can’t leave. You lose all sense of time and sleep easily slips away.

Up in the Arctic this time of year, it’s called the midnight sun. Its warm light is comparable to what occurs in photography’s “golden hour” — just after sunrise or just before sunset. Instead of lasting an hour, in this case, it lasts all night long. And it’s captivating.

Traveling on an icebreaker with two Associated Press colleagues through the Arctic to document climate change’s impact, I knew immediately that if I chose to make photos in this light, I’d end up with too many beautiful skies and golden suns suspended over endless seas.

I wanted to capture that, but also combine it with scenes of life aboard the icebreaker.

In photojournalism, we are always working with time constraints: events are short, deadlines are tight, and we rush to deliver news in time. I had always been interested in shooting under a different kind of time constraint. One where candid moments had to be found at an exact moment, a specific time for a specific reason.

I chose midnight; not one minute before, not one minute after. It was important to show in the photos that it was still light out so I knew it had to be taken either outdoors or near a window. Otherwise it would be too easy to follow someone around waiting for the clock to strike twelve to take a picture wherever they are.

I soon found despite the light in the sky that aside from the two officers on the bridge overnight, most of the ship was asleep at midnight. Many nights, I returned to my cabin without a picture. The elements just didn’t come together.

But on occasion I’d find someone doing something, admiring the beauty of the scenery we were passing or taking a moment for themselves, to read, write or have a cup of coffee.

A quiet moment at a quiet time, under a midnight sun.


Follow the AP reporting team as they sail through the Arctic Circle’s fabled Northwest Passage on an icebreaker to document the changes global warming  has wrought in one of the world’s most fragile environments: New Arctic on AP News 

Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Scenes beneath the midnight sun in the Arctic, by David Goldman.