Arctic Noir Print


Click on image to enlarge.

The Arctic is a spectacular place to make photographs and I have been privileged to spend a cumulative total of several years there, over the last 20. And I have been fortunate to make many photographs that I treasure of the place and the people.

But in my quest to not only portray what I saw, but also communicate what I felt, I have been constantly frustrated by my failure to make a photograph that really conveys what the Arctic feels like to me on its dark days.

Days when the sun is hidden behind foreboding clouds. Days when wisps of ethereal fog drape the dark mountains. Days when the Arctic reminds me forcefully that I’m a guest and I had better be careful and respectful of this fundamentally hostile environment. These are also the days that the Arctic is, in many ways, at its most beautiful.

Then, in 2011, while on our science based voyage to Greenland, while we were crossing the Upernavik Ice Fjord, I made several photographs that I really believed would fill this void.

But when it came to print the images, I was repeatedly disappointed and frustrated. Over the months I tried and tried to bend the images to my memory and my vision…and failed. Sure, I made some spectacular prints, how could I not with that scene to work with, but none conveyed my feeling of awe as we wove between the bergs in that incredible and ever changing light.

The great landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, once said:

The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance.

Well, I was hitting a lot of wrong notes in trying to make my “music”.

And then one day last spring, I was looking at some of Matt Marsh’s very fine photographs that he had processed in black and white, and it struck me: The Arctic on its dark days is not about colour, it’s about light and differences in brightness…luminosity. It’s about the hard edges of ice and the soft reflections on water. It’s about cloud and fog in a thousand shades of gray.

Over the next six months I worked on printing three different images in black and white. And slowly they got better. Each time I made a print, I tacked it up on the wall and Phyllis and I lived with it for a week or so and then I tried again.

Over time, two of the images fell by the wayside. Not quite good enough. But one got better and better and closer and closer to what I saw and felt that day.

And then suddenly, a few weeks ago, it was there. Just like that. One test print not quite but the next print, yes, yes, yes!

That’s the photograph at the top of the post. On the screen you can see a bit of why I love the image (click on it to enlarge)…maybe 10%. But printed big on fine art luster paper there are textures and luminosity graduations that simply glow…the 90% that you can’t see on a computer screen.

I set out on this journey to make a print that Phyllis and I will frame, hang on the wall, and enjoy for years, and that was really it. But then it struck me that you, our readers, might like one too. So here’s the deal:

The Deal

We print the photograph on 13 x 19” (33×48 cm) Epson fine art Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster using archival Epson K3 inks. This is a technology that produces prints that are as good as it gets in fine art black and white printing—our printer is a later model and is even better than those discussed in this link.

The image area is 18-1/2 x 11-1/2” (47×29 cm) and under that is printed my signature and the location where the image was taken. You can either expose the later, or cover it with a mat.

We will take orders for the print for one week only, starting now. Since we can set up and make them all at once, we can sell them for Canadian$99 each.

Three For the Price of Two

If you order three prints to the same address we will give you 33% off; effectively three for the price of two or just $66.33 each. (Christmas is coming, and if you’re anything like me, you are probably wracking your brains for suitable gifts.) Use the discount code THREE.

Free eBook

Wait, there’s a sweetener. When you order and pay for the print you will be able to immediately download a copy of our 104-page Voyage North in Morgan’s Cloud eBook (preview here) that tells the story of the voyage that the image was made on, normally priced at $9.99 but free to you.

A Special Price For Members

If you are a member of the AAC Bookclub, make sure you are logged on and use the special member purchase button below and you will receive a further $10.00 off however many prints you buy. For one print that comes out at $89.00 and for three prints just $59.63 each.

That discount will be equal to what you paid for your first year’s membership, per print! That reflects our tremendous appreciation to all of you who have joined and are making AAC viable at last.

And, sure, you can join now to enjoy the special member price.

Money Back Guarantee

How can you know that the print is as lovely as I say it is? Simple. We guarantee it. If you are not happy with your print(s), just ship them back to us undamaged and in the original packing and we will refund your money. You will end up paying the shipping, both ways, but you get to keep the eBook—fair enough?

The Details

Phyllis and I will make these prints with our own fair hands and will ship them by Canada Post Small Air Parcel, on or before November 20th.

Packing (loosely rolled in a strong cardboard tube) and shipping will be at a flat rate (no matter how many prints you order to one address) for Can$15.00 to the US and Canada and $25.00 to the rest of the world. Canadians will be charged Nova Scotia HST at 15%, but there is no tax for the rest of you.

If your print gets damaged in shipment, tell us in an email and attach a photo of the damaged print and packing (cell phone will do) and we will ship you a new one. If your print has not turned up after 5 weeks—should take 10-20 days—email us and we will send you a new one—yes, we trust you.

Orders Are Now Closed

If you would like a print if we publish another edition please contact us.



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Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

5 comments… add one
  • richard e. stanard (s/v lakota) Oct 28, 2013, 9:38 am

    interesting…i have had the same subliminal message (“you’re visiting here so mind what you say and do”) down here in the tropics where i believe the environment is the spectacular equal to the arctic…even now the lakota’s rigging is singing the 2o-knot trade wind’s hum that forms part of this message…my questions are: what would be the depth in a place like this captured by your emotionally pregnant photo ? and, are there charts for places like this ?

    richard s., s/v lakota now at anchor at deadman bay, peter island, b v i, temp 85 degrees, full sun at 8:30 a.m.

    • John Oct 28, 2013, 9:50 am

      Hi Richard,

      I can’t remember the depth, but it was pretty deep, since we were in a fjord that was carved out by a glacier. And, no, no chart. We where completely in white space. Rather nerve wracking in that yours truly had knocked our last spare forward scan sensor off on a growler two days before.

      The good thing is that with experience you can often guess from the surrounding topography what the risk of grounding is. Generally, although not always, being well up into a fjord is pretty safe. The danger area, with pinnacles of rock that suddenly come up from very deep, is generally at the mouth of the fjord where the old terminal moraine was, or where side arms join the main fjord.

  • Erik de Jong Oct 28, 2013, 2:03 pm

    What an incredible picture John!
    Too bad I don’t have walls to hang a copy on (really).

  • Fred Olivier Oct 30, 2013, 10:22 pm

    That’s a special image, captureing the essence.
    I work in antarctica a lot, and hope to have a chance to visit the Arctic


    • John Oct 31, 2013, 8:15 am

      Hi Fred,

      Thanks for the kind comment. I just looked at your site, you have had quite a decade!

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