I’ve recently returned from a week in the Lofoten islands in the north of Norway; the Arctic in fact. I shall write an article in the not too distant future about my impressions of the place; this is just a quick post now that I’ve finished processing my captures.
I was on Bruce Percy’s first ‘photo safari’ to Lofoten, named as such since it wasn’t a traditional workshop, more an opportunity to spend time photographing with Bruce, who’s great company and has now visited the islands several times, so has excellent local knowledge.
All I want to say at this stage is that, as I’m sure many people reading this will already know, either through having been there or from reading about it, Lofoten is a fabulous place. Irrespective of whether the primary objective is to photograph it, just being there was a wonderful experience. This was helped by the fact that we were fortunate in having near-perfect weather, with storm fronts rolling in daily and bringing fresh snow, but nothing too severe fortunately (that came a day after I left and it closed the roads and airports…).
Just a couple of points on logistics…
Lofoten in winter is off-putting to a lot of people. Fair enough: it’s not unreasonable to imagine that the southern fringes of the Arctic are potentially somewhat inhospitable in mid-February. My concerns on that front were ill-founded, however. Yes, it was cold, but temperatures were only a little below zero in general and, whilst the wind-chill did make this subjectively cooler, that’s something you can compensate for by making sure all your clothes are wind-proof. I did, and I was fine and perfectly able to capture photographs every day. Critically, Lofoten, like north-west Scotland, benefits from the gulf stream (though there is a notable absence of the palm trees found in places like Poolewe!), so it was 20C warmer than a couple of hundred miles inland, in Sweden, at the same time!
Another thing is access. There is a risk of the occasional flight not making it out; usually due to said flight not making it in: the planes can’t land unless the pilot can see the runway, and snow flurries tend to have an obscuring effect! The infrastructure in place for clearing roads and runways is superb, however, and, whilst there was a lot of snow each day, we never had a problem getting to even the more remote beaches. Of course, Bruce was driving, so transport was arguably not my immediate problem, but with studded winter tyres and ploughed roads, all went very nicely. Yes, there is the possibility of a delay arriving or leaving, but usually a later attempt will be successful, and the pilots are very used to the weather conditions there.
So, yes, do go in winter if you like stark drama! My impression is that the place would be utterly different in summer since the black rock of the omnipresent mountains was superbly picked out by the snow cover. Obviously, that’s absent in summer and the textures and shapes of the mountains could be more difficult to work with.
The final thing I’d like to say in this first, short post, is that our accommodation at Det gamle Hotellet Guesthouse in Reine was excellent; perfect for our needs. I can unequivocally recommend Lilian’s guest house as a good base if you’re thinking of visiting Lofoten.
Once I’ve worked out what my thoughts on Lofoten as a photographic location are, I’ll write more. For the moment suffice it to say very positive!
Oh – one last thing: we did see a spectacular display of the Aurora Borealis on 14th February, but we were surrounded by houses at the time so my images are… ‘colourful but uninspiring’ is probably fair. I was debating whether to publish any when I saw Joe Rainbow’s most recent northern lights image on Flickr, ‘Green tsunami’, which is excellent and convinced me not to! http://www.flickr.com/photos/24562498@N03/