Focus on...Lofoten, Norway
Updated: Nov 7, 2018
Finally The Northern Lights
Lofoten, February 2017.
My first real winter photography tour was last year in Iceland, and I had a taste for more. I am not a winter person at all – I love the warmth and sun and will always choose the pool over a ski slope, but I do love winter scenery, so once a year I go against my preference and take a photography holiday to the Arctic. I chose the Lofoten Islands, for this year’s edition. I had seen some stunning photos of the Reine area, and there’s also great potential for shooting the Northern Lights in Lofoten, so it was an easy choice.
After some research I picked a photography workshop run by Lofoten Tours. I prefer to go with a locally based company because they often know the best hidden and off-the-beaten-path locations. They also know the local culture, the local food, and speak the language, all of which adds to the experience.
The Emirates flight to Oslo was uneventful, and despite a four-hour delay, so was the connecting flight by Scandinavian Airlines to the Harstadt-Narvik airport. I arrived around 6pm and it was a short drive to the hotel, where the rest of the group had already arrived. The forecast for the Northern Lights was good and the skies were clear, so I had a quick bit to eat, grabbed the gear I needed, and off we went.
Shine Like a Diamond
There was no wind at all, and the full moon was setting already when we stopped at our first location of this photography holiday. It was a short walk through the fresh, knee-deep snow. After passing some snow-covered trees, a magnificent frozen lake opened up to us. The moon was still behind us, illuminating the lake and the mountains further down. With the moon reflecting on the fresh snow, it looked like thousands of diamonds were shining around us.
Another Valuable Lesson Learnt
It was minus 17 centigrade when I last looked at the car thermometer, but my new kit kept me warm during the wait. I didn’t feel the wind, since there was no wind, and I didn’t wear my gloves whilst shooting. I did, however, burn my fingers; I was clever enough to grab the aluminium tripod with my bare hand, which instantly clung to the metal due to cold. The next day I had blisters on five fingers, a great lesson learnt.
Yes, Yes and Yes…
For about an hour and half we were hanging around on the lake, stamping our feet to keep them warm, in anticipation of things to come. Then a tiny green haze started to appear on the horizon. Soon it became stronger and suddenly the sky in front of us was lit by the dancing waves of the Aurora Borealis. This was the first time I had experienced it in person. The waves became arcs, coming and going, flaring up on the left, then on the right. We were constantly moving our tripods to capture nature’s greatest show, which lasted for about an hour.
The next day I asked Arild, our photography guide, what he thought of last night’s Aurora, and he gave it a four… He lives on Lofoten and has seen the Northern Lights at their best more than a few times. But for all of us, it was a magical start to the photo holiday.
Our accommodation during this stay ranged from Scandinavian-style self-catered houses to four-star hotels. All were warm, there was Wi-Fi everywhere, and the meals varied from simple buffet style to basic meals we prepared ourselves after stocking up at one of the local supermarkets.
The Grand Tour
During the next couple of days, we toured the Lofoten area. The seascapes are, as expected, phenomenal. The snow-covered mountains as a backdrop add to the stunning beauty of the place at this time of the year. The typical dark red wooden houses in and around Reine are incredibly photogenic, and the fantastic but moody clouds add to their charm.
We looked for another showing of the Northern Lights. On some nights there was 100% cloud coverage and no hope at all. On other nights we were on aurora duty, each of us taking a shift for a couple of hours during the night to regularly check outside. The Kp index, which forecasts aurora activity, didn’t give us high hopes, but you never know. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the Northern Lights again.
During our time in Lofoten we had all kinds of weather, which often changed from sleet one minute to a couple of rays of sun the next, with stormy winds combined with rain in between. However, except for the first night, the temperatures were in general quite mild, hovering around zero degrees centigrade during the day, dipping just below freezing at night.
Lofoten stole my heart – the landscapes and seascapes are breathtaking, and I hope to return one day to explore more of this region.
All images © 2018 Marco Duyves