Capturing the beauty of the moment
In the spring of 2022, Daniel Ernst, an Instagrammer specialising in polar regions, with his camera slung over his shoulder, boarded Le Commandant Charcot for the ship’s first ever expedition to the coast of Greenland. He has more than 700,000 followers on Instagram who appreciate the purity and beauty of his pictures, but also for the way time seems to stand still in the polar regions he loves so much. We got together with him.
Among the many destinations you’ve visited, most are in cold regions. What attracts you to these locations?
It’s the harshness of these usually remote places. I love going to locations where few people have been. I love to tell stories, and that works best with places we haven’t already seen much of. And of course, I just prefer the cold!
You travelled aboard Le Commandant Charcot, the very first Arctic cruise ship. What were your expectations?
They were actually quite normal as I have never been on such a luxurious ship before – I didn’t really know what to expect. But as soon as I stepped onboard Le Commandant Charcot, I was totally blown away! Entering the reception hall, seeing the lifts and the beautiful artwork almost left me speechless. The upper deck, with amazing views from every angle, was one of the places I spent most of my time. But my favourite place was by far the outer deck on level 5 (the one you can walk all the way around). I spent hours outside just waiting for the right moment.
Did the adventure meet your expectations?
Absolutely! It even surpassed my expectations. The guides, the staff and everyone on board were driven by adventure and exploration. Captain Étienne Garcia especially was great and tried to give us the best adventure possible.
Découvrez en images l’aventure de Daniel Ernst au nord-est du Groenland à bord du Commandant Charcot :
Going to remote, rarely explored destinations seems to provide an additional thrill. What about them is so special to you?
Totally! Just knowing that I am lucky enough to go somewhere where only a few people can go is really exciting and something I value a lot. I think the thrill comes from the feeling of going somewhere untouched, where few people have been: places we don’t see every day on social media or anywhere else, places where you can actually tell a story. I especially like meeting locals that live in such remote places as this is often eye-opening and it’s super interesting hearing their stories about life.
The journey must have been a real treat for the senses. Can you describe it?
Indeed, the journey offered delights for every sense. Everything was far better than I could have imagined. The sounds and noises weren’t noises that disturb you, they were more a gentle background sound that made you feel alive, like the vibrations when the ship breaks through the sea ice. The light especially was one of the most wonderful sights I have ever seen. When the sun was just below the horizon, just minutes before sunrise, the warm glow of orange created a strong contrast to the deep blue of the Arctic Ocean and the sea ice. It’s very hard to put this experience into words: I think only photos and videos can really show how I felt in this moment.
How did you feel about seeing local wildlife? Is it something will you never forget?
When we spotted the first polar bear, it was so exciting and the adrenaline really kicked in. We actually saw three of them! It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life. Seeing my first iceberg in the middle of the ocean on our way to Greenland was also amazing. It was a massive one and really stood out, we could see it from miles away.
You also met people living there. Did you learn anything about their mindset and their way of living?
We met some young children in Tasiilaq. They were the happiest I’ve ever seen and super interested in our journey and our lives. They asked us many questions. I also met an older couple in the small town in Kuummiitt, they were also super friendly and interested. They told us about their house and how they’d lived in the town for over 50 years. All in all, the locals were super open and friendly, and really curious about our lives.
Your Instagram account has more than 700k followers. What makes your vision of travel so unique?
I think it’s the human touch that I try to include in my photos and videos. It’s not just clean, epic landscapes, I always try to be personal in my content by sharing how I feel, how I’m experiencing the situation and so on. In my videos especially, I try to be even more personal with voice overs and also show life behind the camera. People always say that we (my wife and I) have built our own microcosm with our dog and our van: it’s like a bubble that really intrigues lots of people. I’m a fan of letting go and getting lost in the moment, travelling slow and intense. So far this is my recipe, which works well, I guess 🙂
What do you aim to share with your followers?
I want to inspire people with my photography and stories, to evoke a desire, a motivation to leave behind the hustle and bustle, escape routine, go outdoors, explore and experience nature. We are fortunate to have so many opportunities in this world, we just have to make them a reality. When it comes down to it, I think my storytelling is a tool to allow people to live vicariously through my images and videos, and that’s the most powerful element of my work.
Photos credits : ©PONANT-Daniel Ernst
Let PONANT take you there
Discover the magical Far North on a polar expedition