Winter in the Lofoten Islands, Norway

The Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway are a string of islands full of some of Norway’s famous fjords that form a little branch off of the country’s west coast.  The closest airport is Harstad/Narvik (EVE) and it is still quite a drive to the tip of the archipelago – over 280 km, which can take a lot longer than one would expect with winter driving conditions.  In our case, it took about 5 1/2 hours to get to our accommodations the first night.

Many photographers, both amateur and professional, flock to this part of the world in the winter months to not only photograph colorful fishing villages with beautiful snow covered mountain backdrops but to, obviously, capture the aurora borealis at night.  I’ve had this trip planned for over a year because I wanted to go with a photographer friend, Justin Reznick, who was running a workshop with his friend Antony Spencer, who has been coming to shoot Lofoten landscape for many years. I’ve been out with Justin two other times before this trip and have had the best time and learned a lot of skills both in the field and in processing that have, I think, really helped to improve my photography.

Unfortunately, the weather gods were not on our sides during our time in Norway.  While the east coast of the U.S. was dipping into record cold temperatures and dumping tons of snow, ironically the weather above the Arctic Circle was staying above freezing and brought in some insane storms that included, what felt like, hurricane force winds and small stinging hail that pelted our faces.  It was cloudy, raining, and/or windy most of the other time.  To give you an example, we went to the picturesque town of Reine several times to try to capture it in better conditions.  On our last day, we finally got the wind to be calm enough for some mountain reflections and the sky to be partly sunny. Compare that to the other photo below that shows the wind whipping around on the water and the mountains covered in moisture-heavy clouds.

We were really lucky to have Antony Spencer with us because he had a portfolio of landscape options to choose from that didn’t require perfect weather, and actually produced some good compositions despite the grey skies, uncooperative water, and snow that had been stripped off the mountains from the strong winds.  Here are some of my favorite shots from this complicated weather week.  I’ll share the story of the aurora borealis in a follow up post…spoiler alert:  it has a happy ending!

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