Welcome to winter wonder land
Lately i have been getting several emails and messages from people who want to travel to the beautyful Lofoten archipelago, also known as the Lofoten islands in northern Norway.
The questions have been many, but most people want to get informations about how it is to spend time there photographing during winter time. Not without a reason i have been returning every year since a long time... with the right gear and mind set paired with a little bit of luck with the weather, you are in for a treat in a majestic, pristine winter wonderland.
A view above the majestic Reinefjord
Laying several hundred kilometers above the arctic circle, the Lofoten archipelago could be an incredible cold place.
In fact i thought so myself, when i was dreaming about hitting up this place even before i started photographing.
A googling session then made me realize, that even if several places of similar latitudes are in deed extremely cold, the Lofoten islands are not. This is mostly due to the gulf stream passing nearby the islands and influencing the climate.
Don´t get me wrong- it´s a cold place. But between the lowest temperatures of around -15°C on Lofoten and the temperatures even below -35°C that you can find on the norwegian mainland... it´s a really big difference.
Big difference for you, your camera gear and the needed clothing.
Arctic fire- the famous arctic winter light
What does this mean practically?
Well it means that on Lofoten islands you can expect the temperatures to stay above -5°C during most of the days and a cold winternight won´t be much colder than -20°C all winter long. Sounds cold, yes and it can feel very cold if you stand at one of those beaches chasing the northern lights for hours, specially when strong wind kicks in. But move only 200km north into Troms or even Finnmark and you will be harassed by temperatures around -25°C down to -40°C...
This microclimate brings high humidity as well and it rains much more than on the mainland, which can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. On one hand it brings us great dramatic light on many days of the year- on the other hand you can be rained out for some days in a row. In winter this means that all those gorgeous snowscapes can vanish in just few hours of rain...
But doesn´t this make every image of these pristine frozen fjords and snow covered peaks even more special?
Just one day before, this was only a muddy puddle...
The weather is very hard to predict- ask the locals for the weather forecast and they will laugh and tell you to look out the window, go figure.
You might know this phenomen from places like Iceland or Patagonia, but after many travels and photography trips to Lofoten i believe that the weather changes faster then everywhere else.
So don´t get frustrated- go have a look at one of the many cultural offerings, check out one of the great museums (some whole villages are actually museums on Lofoten) and soon enough you will see great conditions again.
Winter storms are fun- grab your warmest jacket though
Besides frozen fjords, dynamic arctic seascapes, snowcovered mountains and roads, there is one wonderful phenomenon that may be the main reason for many to go shooting at Lofoten in winter- the elusive Aurora borealis also known as the northern lights.
Not a single human does not react to this wonderful celestial phenomenon, when he sees the green lights for the first time dancing at the night sky. Sometimes they shine strong enough to light up all the surroundings reflecting on any surface, specially water, ice and snow.
You will need some basic equipment to enjoy these surroundings and the most important thing is your clothing. Prepare for strong winds during cold temperatures, making these feel even colder.
Some tips to keep your gear in full swing:
Don´t cough near your lens when it´s cold- sounds obvious, but...
Let your gear acclimatize. Instead of taking it out of the warm cabin into the coldness and vice versa, better leave it inside of your bag.
I always recommend keeping the batteries in your pockets, so the energy level stays constant way longer. And then remove the sd cards directly after shooting, before you put the camera in the bag. You will want to see what you got, huh...
If you have a cabin with a little unheated room for the shoes, that´s the perfect place for your camera stuff- the difference in temperatures won´t be that high and so the risk of everything fogging up is smaller.
Most of the time i will leave my camera bag in the cold car or just outside of the cabin- that way you can start shooting as soon as you go outside!
The elusive Aurora borealis reflecting in wet sand
Be assured- you will get wet at some point, so good rain gear will help you from freezing over . You won´t need as tough clothing as you need in Greenland or Alaska, but the better your clothing, the more fun you will have.
Even fairly easy temperatures like -5°C can burn your energy quickly when you are exposed to strong wind for hours and hours without moving much, and that´s what we come here for, right?
Not only your energy level should you keep in mind- take as much camera batteries as you can and keep them close to your body to assure they don´t loose charge too quickly.
A rain cover for your camera is a great thing as well as a sturdy tripod, which i assume you will be taking anyways.
A balaclava or buff to cover your face in the wind comes handy...
The islands also offer many interesting mandmade subjects
You can get accomodations near most of the interesting places and as these bigger islands are inhabited all year long you will find super markets and restaurants to fill up your reserves.
Make sure to check the opening schedules though- during winter some places close earlier and you don´t want to be grabbing some raw drying stoccafisso from the racks for breakfast...
Some of the great cabins that you can rent on Lofoten
The most original and stylish way of staying at Lofoten is renting a Rorbu. Rorbuer are traditional fishermen cabins.
Once the brave fishermen of Lofoten came here to seek shelter from the brave sea and the winds, but nowadays these cabins were renovated to cozy homes for rent.
You can find them in most of the bigger towns and even at some more remote places. Booking.com and other webpages can help you find and book one, but even with some googling you will easily find a place.
Better book in advanced though- even in winter it can be quite packed at Lofoten, because of the big Lofotefisk (Lofoten fishing) that traditionally makes hundreds of fishermen go to the archipelago to work during february until the end of April.
This is also the time where you find the best packed stoccafisso drying racks full of cod.
Seascapes and mountains around every corner...
I really hope i could tease you with this little article, that you were abled to draw some useful information from it and that you start planning your own trip inspired by the imagery.
By the way, the best way of enjoying the Lofoten islands as a photographer under the dedicated guidance of world reknowned landscape photographers, staying exactly at these cabins is booking one of the unique phototours at Lofotentours
Stian Klo and Arild Heitmann run this succesful business based at Lofoten since years, working together with cool international guides like Ryan Dyar, Max Rive, Iurie Iurie Belegurschi and even yours truly Felix Inden...
I would really appreciate it if you use the share buttons below to let your friends read this blog post- stay tuned for more essays about photography in general, image processing with Adobe Photoshop and more...