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Lofoten, Norway. 6th-14th March, 2020

Updated: Apr 20


Lofoten was a place which I had wanted to visit ever since photography became a part of my life.  Never thinking for one minute that it would happen, my eye caught an advert in a landscape magazine which seemed a perfect opportunity.  The price was one I could justify spending on myself and was extremely reasonable as it included accommodation, travel in the area and basic food, not to mention photography tips and suggestions.  I made contact with Adrian a talented Polish photographer who now lives in Norway.  The date was set and marked on my calendar.  I was going!

6th March, 2020

The first leg of my route was to fly from Malaga to Oslo.  A four hour early morning flight meant I watched the sunrise from the plane.  I also managed to catch the shadow of the plane in a Brocken Spectre effect; quite rare to achieve, apparently.  Mid-morning saw me at my destination and installed in a hotel room near to the airport.  It gave me a chance to wander out into the cold air and look for photo opportunities as well as test out my cold weather gear. 

7th March, 2020

Another early morning flight to Harstad/Narvivk and my meet up with Adrian; the adventure really had begun.  Harstad/Norvick airport lies between the 68th & 69th parallels north of the Arctic Circle in Norway and yet it wasn't cold.  The Gulf Stream current passes along the coast of Norway and means that temperatures are 4-5 degrees higher than would otherwise be expected at such latitudes. 

After a couple of hours wait for Adrian to fly in from his home in Trondheim, we met and then went to find the final member of our group, Maceik, from Poland.  I had referred to this trip as being magical and was delighted to hear that Maceik's name was pronounced as 'magic' in English; magic was coming along with us!  Once introductions were over, we were on the move south towards Reine and our base for the week.  A five hour road trip awaited.

Before I left Spain, I had been in touch with fellow photographers who would be in the area around about the same time of my planned trip.  One of them had already left and another was due to leave the day after I arrived, however was staying at a location midway between the airport and our destination for the week.  Adrian was happy to take a break en route and I was able to meet with Eva-Maria for a quick chat and coffee in Svolvaer.  Eva-Maria is Swiss and lives in Austria.  I hope that we will meet again in the future and for a  longer time; we had so much to say and not enough time to say it!

En route, the only word which kept sounding in my head was "WOW".  The scenery and light were unbelievable.  The first time we stopped I was captivated by the textures and shapes of snow, ice and rock as well as the landscape.  The shutter on my camera just kept clicking!

We eventually reached the village of Reine in the southern tip of the Lofoten Archipeligo after dark.  This iconic location was to be our base for the week. We'd made a stop for food items en route and once rooms had been sorted, we sat down to eat the good old standby of pizza.  This wasn't the end of our day however, the night was so clear it was too good an opportunity to miss.  Leaving our base, we walked up the road to a popular viewpoint overlooking the harbour of Reine.  I hadn't unpacked my tracks and so had to negotiate the ice and snow without them.  I felt decidedly vulnerable, especially as I hadn't really an idea to where we were going!  Following Adrian and Maceik, I set up the tripod, mounted my camera and started to take photos.  It was the sort of night where the Aurora could be expected.  Everything was so clear, the lights sparkled and the mountains provided a perfect background.  I was truly enchanted - this was the first day too!

It was only when I looked at my photos before calling it a night, that I realised my camera settings for the light hadn't been right.  The lights were too bright and not clear.  An early lesson learnt and there would hopefully be a chance to make it right.  Thankfully, the Aurora hadn't appeared and I hadn't messed up with capturing that event!

8th March, 2020

The day began with an early start to capture the sunrise from the same location where we'd been the night before.  This time I had my tracks on and walked without concern.  As the sun rose, so the colours hit the mountains in a reverse sunset.  It didn't last long, however there was time enough to witness the beauty of the location Adrian had chosen as our base.  It was stunning.  I turned around and saw the sun had set with magnificent colours highlighting a range of mountains in the distance; I was in awe of the beauty of this place.

As we returned to our base, the smell of fish wafted in.  I looked and saw a structure holding fish, drying in the open air.  We'd seen these racks in Iceland and the smell was overwhelming.  The fish dry naturally from January until the Spring as the ambient temperature doesn't vary too much either side of zero providing ideal drying conditions. The racks near to us were adjacent to a cemetery which we speculated contained dead fishermen; hunter and hunted laid side by side! 

After breakfast we were off to the beautiful beach at Ramberg.  The water there was emerald green, a result of the white sand reflecting in shallow waters, apparently.  It was extremely windy and at times difficult to think about composition and good angles for photographs.  I was beginning to understand the saying amongst photographers that a good photograph didn't just happen, it had to be worked for.

Then it was on to another windy beach in Skagsanden near Flakstad.  The sand patterns were what we had come to photograph, however not only did the wind cause problems, it started to snow and conditions deteriorated rapidly.  Undaunted we changed direction and headed towards the fishing village of Nusfjord. En route there was a long road leading towards the mountains.  It was obviously one of those "must have" shots as there was a line of people across the road when we arrived.  They soon left and we had the road to ourselves to capture our own version of this photogenic location.

We finally arrived in the village of Nusfjord.  It was one of those places which was dead in the winter yet would be heaving in the summer.  The harbour was small and pretty and it was possible to walk up and above it to get a better view.  Along the way, a traditional Norweigan cat decided to investigate us.  It looked suitably equipped for cold weather with its long hair.  A stop in the only local cafe open, saw us warm up with hot drinks before we finally made our way back to base.  A long and enjoyable day with hundreds of photos to have a look through when time allowed.

9th March, 2020

This day was one I will always remember and not necessarily for the right reasons!  We reached our shooting location at Sakrisøy.  The wind was blowing strongly in gusts and the intention was to capture long exposure images.  It was impossible to keep the tripod sufficiently still and so we moved further along, starting a climb up to the highest point on the opposite side of the village  I had my camera bag on my back as usual, tracks firmly on my boots and tripod opened acting as a stick on the steep haul up.  I'd said to Adrian to go on and do what it was he wanted and that I'd catch up.  Maceik passed me as I was about to step over what I thought was a narrow path.  Suddenly my foot went down a long way and water rushed into my boot.  I'd only gone and found a snow covered stream running downhill.  The water was cold, however I felt I just wanted to carry on.  Adrian indicated another way up which was longer.  I pondered for a minute; if I didn't go, all I could do was stand there like a lemon and I didn't want to be left out of things, so up I went, prodding gently in front hoping to avert another dipping!  I squelched to the top and saw Adrian and Maceik down the hill a bit on the other side.  Asking which way we'd go back down, Adrian indicated a route below where he was standing.  I slowly crept down the hill and couldn't believe it when I found another wet area below the snow; this time I didn't sink so far!  I decided I hadn't spent all this energy and wet shoes/clothing not to take some photos.  I set up my tripod for its proper use and focussed.  Although the water was a lovely emerald green, I found it  difficult to get a perspective I liked.  What did register however, was just how quickly the weather changed.  The wind was blowing clouds and snow showers through quickly, creating spectacular cloud backdrops, especially when the sun peeked through.

After popping back to our base which was nearby, I was able to change my sock and was much more comfortable. We then travelled on to the Bridge in Hamnøy, an iconic location where we didn't expect to be alone; we weren't!  Adrian and Maceik scrambled down a hill to get a different perspective, however after my earlier exertions, I chose to stay on the bridge itself.  It was difficult setting up long exposure images because of the strong winds, however I managed a few.  It wasn't really possible to get different perspectives from those which are plastered all over the internet; the only real difference with images will be accounted for by the weather. 

After negotiating people, traffic and wind gusts, we moved on to Fredvang to view some bridges and mountains.  The road was narrow and we parked a short distance away and walked along the road to gain access to the highest point around.  The sun kept breaking through and reflecting on the water.  It was simply stunning to see such views with the light on the mountains in the distance.  From the top of the hill, we were able to see both bridges snaking around and joining the islands together.  The vegetation was soft and springy and covered with snow which hid deeper holes.  It was hard work and of course I managed to find one or two of the deeper holes!  At the top, the other two went off looking for their own foreground perspectives.  I found that it was the bigger picture which drew my eyes and that I wanted to capture.  As we started our way back to the car, yet more snow showers came in and we called it a day.

10th March, 2020

The forecast for today was much better than the previous day.  It was decided to make the most of it and be out in the field as long as possible.  Our first stop was at by the shore of Flakstadpollen bay near Vareid.  We had hoped to experience the sunrise at this location, however it wasn't to be.  What I did experience however, was the vivid blueness in clouds; it truly was the 'blue hour' for photography.  This was my first encounter with the black rocks which provide interesting foregrounds.  The limitations of my lens became evident here as did the lack of a polarising filter.  Without the filter, the light reflected on the surface of any puddles I came across with interesting details below.  I had to get inventive and take several shots to be merged later when processing my images.  We then moved on to  another spot also by the Flakstadpollen but in a different location.  Here the reflections in the wet sand were beautiful. We spent a lot of time looking around and taking many photos of reflections, from mountains, pools, grasses and rocks.  I again stepped into a pool of water and another change of socks was needed!

Then it was on to a church in Flakstad.  The church seems to be in the middle of nowhere yet serves the whole of the Flakstad community.  After taking a few photos, what caught my eye was a flock of long haired cows.  They reminded me much of Highland cattle, however I didn't get too near to see if they were as friendly.

Our evening session on this long photography day was at Utakleiv beach.  Here we clambered over boulders and watched the rough seas creating waves which smashed ashore.  Within these boulders is the Eye of Utakleiv which is made up of a round stone in a hollow covered with water.  It can only be accessed at low tide.  It was a question of waiting in line to attempt to capture the image and again, my lack of a polarising filter meant my efforts weren't very good with light reflections.  I did however, enjoy time spent catching the crashing waves with spray rising high.  We watched the sun go down from the beach.  It turned into a reasonable sunset with colours reflecting on the sand.  There were also surfers out taking advantage of the huge waves rolling in.

We were a tired group returning to base, however there was one more stop by the shore of Flakstadpollen where we captured lovely long exposure reflections in the sand at blue hour.

11th March, 2020

We left early in the hope of a sunrise at the famous bridge in Hamnøy.  We didn't have luck although the cloud formations and light over the mountains provided a glorious backdrop to the red houses.  After taking our fill of photos from the bridge, we went to take a look at the harbour and houses around.         

From there we had a climb to look at an old boat house and around the fish racks where workers continued to hang fish up to dry whatever the weather in Reine. 

With the thought that the forecast may be wrong and the snow would stop, we went back to base for some lunch.  The last village on the Lofoten Archipeligo, called Å, wasn't too far from us and it was decided we'd go and have a look in the afternoon.  Snow showers continued as we walked around the deserted village.  I guess it's a novelty because of it's location, however there didn't appear there was much to see, even during the warmer months.

We walked to the furthest point on some high cliffs at the end of the archipeligo and looked out to sea from a bay called Andstabbvika.  The snow was getting heavier and it was more and more difficult to takes photos.  The day's photography session was over!

12th March, 2020

Our last full day in Reine had a slow start as there had been snow falls during the night which continued throughout the morning.  It made a pretty picture looking out from the window of our base.  Eventually, we left and headed out.  Stopping to take photos on a small bridge just outside of Reine, we were able to capture conditions and images not normally available!  High mountains had disappeared in the blizzard leaving eerie ghost-like forms appearing briefly.  Houses almost disappeared in the blizzard.

We stopped briefly at Sakrisøya beach where we'd visited previously before carrying on to Skagsanden beach near Flakstad.  There were quite a few other photographers at this spot and all seeming to want the same space.  I looked around for a spot of my own and set the camera to capture slower water movements.  All of a sudden, a much larger wave came through.  I grabbed my tripod and ran backwards, however not fast enough to avoid another deluge of water in my boots!  When I looked at the image I'd captured, I was quite pleased with the result; it was worth the discomfort!

Moving on to our next stop we were treated to some dramatic light displays on the shore near Vareid.  We'd been here a couple of days earlier during daylight hours.  Now we were here to capture the light and high tide causing waves to crash into the rocks.  I preferred to have the experience from a distance and was able to capture Adrian as he braved the waves and spray.  As the sun began to set, it lit up a small settlement on the opposite shore in a dramatic way.

I'd had my fill of boulders and crashing waves and turned my attention towards Vitken village, a little way in the distance.  It was fascinating to watch the light changing the vista.  As the sun went down it was less dramatic than earlier displays yet just as beautiful.  I took some long exposures as colours formed above the mountains.  I decided to walk towards the village whilst the others were still taking photos on the boulders.  Along the road I suddenly felt I was slipping more than normal.  Looking down I realised I had lost one of the tracks from my boot.  Retracing my footsteps, I was able to see the path I'd taken by my unusual footprints!  Eventually I arrived back at the beach, looked towards the boulders and spotted my track waiting for me in a patch of snow.  I retrieved it and put it in place again then decided to wait in the car and look at my phone.  It was then I learnt of the drastic measures being considered with regard to Norweigan airports and flights.

Making our way back to base and discussing the unfolding events, Adrian suddenly pulled off the road into a parking slot and said that he thought the Aurora was likely to make an appearance.  Grabbing camera and tripod I set up and focussed where the Aurora was just starting to play.  I couldn't believe that I had been treated to this experience again.  I hadn't come to Lofoten to see the Aurora, however the fact that it showed, simply added the icing on the cake of the whole experience.

13th March, 2020

The forecast was for more snow overnight.  We'd agreed a 7-7.30am start as it was felt prudent to add another hour and a half to the normal 5 hour journey.  When we saw the depth of the snow, we made sure we weren't late.  The snow was deep, however Adrian and the car he'd hired had no trouble getting us on our way.  Driving conditions were atrocious however, driving snow and sleet, icy roads, heavy vehicles and snow ploughs coming in the opposite direction and throwing up clouds of blinding snow as they passed then the sun would suddenly appear!  Just as it seemed possible the worst was over, so it came full on again.  Such changeable weather and in all of this there was still time to look around and admire the scenery as well as make a few stops to take yet more photos.

I reached the airport at Harstad with plenty of time to spare, said goodby to my companions and went to make sure I could check in and start the first leg of my journey home.  Air travel is so easy in Norway.  Automatic check in machines and drop off points for luggage means few queues and less hassle.  I was able to watch the airfield being kept clear as well as troop movements in some interesting planes.

My flight left on time and I was back in Oslo installed in my hotel before the sun set again.  One more push and I'd be home.

14th March, 2020 Arriving at the airport I watched with trepidation to see if my flight had been cancelled, so far, so good. I wandered around an almost empty airport taking in all the warning posters displayed about wearing masks and keeping safe distances. Covid had not yet become much of a topic of conversation in Lofoten, however it was clear something different was going on here in the capital of Norway. My flight home to Malaga left on time, however there were more cabin staff than passengers. It was eerie. One day after I returned home, lockdown went into effect. I was lucky to have made it safely home!

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