Where and when?
Hamnøy in the Lofoten Islands, March 2018.
The background story
The Lofoten Islands is an archipelago off the coast of Norway. It’s far north, not the easiest place to access, very dramatic and prone to hostile weather. Yet, despite all that, the first time I ever saw a photo of these mysterious, gloomy islands I just knew I had to visit them.
Timing is everything when you head this far north and there are inevitable compromises to be made. Choose summer and you get the longer days and better weather; opt for winter and you have the snow and a decent chance of the northern lights.
In my mind I envisaged Lofoten as a picturesque winter wonderland so committed to a March trip.
I put more preparation into this trip than any other. Accommodation is limited. Car rental is essential. And despite not being that far away the journey takes all day: a flight to Oslo, another flight to Bodø and then a three-hour ferry to Reine. We left London in the morning and didn’t arrive at our rorbu (traditional Norwegian cabin) until gone midnight.
How it came together
I can’t remember exactly what photo of the Lofoten Islands inspired me to visit but it was probably one taken from this spot.
It’s a known hotspot for photographs – a bridge leading to the tiny fishing village of Hamnøy with a viewpoint that captures everything magnificent about this place: dramatic mountains, snow, fishing harbours and, of course, little red cabins.
You have to cross this bridge every time you drive north from Reine so it didn’t take long until we inevitably came across it. I would end up stood here on many occasions during our four-day trip in conditions that included a hail, breaking light and a threatening, incoming storm.
This attempt was taken in late morning as the sun was still climbing. There was still a fair amount of cloud in the sky but it had thinned out and the water in the fjord was relatively calm.
I used a 24mm to ensure I captured everything from the top of the mountain to the snow-covered rocks beneath the cabins. A tripod and ND filter helped me slow down the shutter speed to soften things up and after a couple of tries, this was the result.
Why is it a favourite?
For a first visit to an unpredictable place I was delighted to come away with a photograph that captures so much about Norway in a single frame.
Will it win prizes for originality? No. This scene has been shot countless times before and since. There’s probably someone stood in that exact same spot right now as you are reading this.
But with landscape photography, when you get accustomed to disappointment more than success, I think there’s no harm in taking the path well trodden now and again. It’s a beautiful scene and I was fortunate to capture it when the weather was playing ball.
I had an image of the Lofoten Islands in my mind long behalf I stepped foot off the ferry at Reine and this photograph is pretty close to matching it. That doesn’t happen very often – that near perfect recreation of your expectations in a photograph. So, regardless of whether it’s been shot before, it is definitely one of my favourites.
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