Well, the Lofoten are a mix of civilised country with good infrastructure, and very sparse support points. On the one hand, roads are very good despite the weather. Wi-fi was easy to find, including some spots in Reine with free wi-fi because the rightful owner didn’t lock it up with a password. Boarding is also very easy, with lots of villas, called “rorbuer”, or “rorbu” in the singular, which can be rented. Those cabins and B&Bs abound all over the island, although not many of them are open off-season. The cabin above is not a “rorbu” for tourists; I just thought it looked nice!
Now the not-so-good side. First, Norway is a very expensive country, rich in oil reserves, and spending its income wisely. Do not think that, because you are staying off-season in a very sparsely populated fishing area, you can do it cheaply. Boris and I paid around 150€ a night for a large cabin, with 8 beds, but which would be OK, say, for 4 people. And high-season rates are double that. Lofoten prices Shtunk! And, clearly, if it is 4 Seasons-type hotels and culinary delights you are after, the Lofoten are not your favorite destination. The house below is also not a “rorbu”. A fisherman’s home rather…:-), but an opportunity for a nice picture, don’t you think? Maybe I should have called this post “un-rorbu”…
Then you need to think your logistics ahead. Even though we stayed very close to Reine, there was only one restaurant, litterally one, with roughly one hour’s drive, in Hamnoÿ. They were open essentially because of the business that workers broadening the coastal road brought them. And the menu boiled down to whale steak, or cod. On rare days (we had dinner there every day, because there was no alternative, since Boris didn’t fancy himself as a cook in the rorbu, nor did he trust me to do so), there was a choice of cod tongues, fish soup, or even halibut. I am being unfair, I did have the option of steak a couple of times. For cafes, the situation is hardly better, with only two options within an hour’s drive, neither of them open early or full-day. And so it goes as well with supermarkets and petrol stations. Planning ahead is definitely a good idea. Of course, for Boris, a veteran of Patagonia and a planner emeritus, that was never really an issue.
Equipment for the Lofoten must include a tripod. There is a strong likelihood of wind, plus that of snow, and framing a landscape is of paramount importance. Plus you will want to shoot long exposures to get that wonderful early or late light. And even more so when shooting aurora borealis, when you will need both the longest exposure you can handle, and the sort of high ISO that Pascal loves to hate. So a good tripod is very important. Not only rigid, but also quite tall. I had a Gitzo 3542XLS, more than 2m tall, after having one that was too short inPatagonia. Well, I used its full height more than once.
On the other hand, you won’t really need tele lenses, and autofocus is not an issue, unless you want to do birds in flight, or the orca-seeking “safari” (not off-season). Neither will you require a macro lens, because vegetation is not that remarkable. Most shots are with a 28mm to 50mm range, on an equivalent 35mm (FF) camera.
This of course, leaves open the question of the camera. Interestingly, Boris shot Leica M9, a very-highly regarded 35mm FF camera, while I “only” shot NEX 7 and 5N. We posted jointly on a forum where picky members abound (Fred Miranda), and not one comment was made as to the difference in gear. Not one. That says something about how far mirrorless APS-C cameras have progressed for landscape when fitted with great primes (I had 2 Leica, and 2 Zeiss ZM).
One requirement, though, is common to the Lofoten and any other location where you combine snow and early-or-late light cum sun. You need to watch your white balance carefully, and decide where you want to go with it. Which means shooting RAW of course. Here is one set of the same location, but not the same picture, treated quite differently to show you what I mean:
Similarly, the Lofoten, much more that other places I shot, is a real test of composition. You can really “play” with composition and collect many shots to find out which one works best. Even Boris, who has a very Bismarckian approach to composition (meaning, he composes with a steel resolve, and no weakness, ever!) posted many shots to see which ones resonated with forum members more than others. Here are some examples
I mentioned the importance of good planning earlier on, so that one knows where to go, how long it takes to get there, and when to leave to be there at the right time. But that doens’t mean that this sort of “destination shooting” is the only attraction in the Lofoten, far from it. Because, going from one spot to the next gives one many chances for “opportunistic shooting”. It is an individual matter to see what mix of these two style works best for you. Basically, I like opportunistic shooting best, and Boris is a destination shooter. But, interestingly, his shots that I like best were opportunistic ones (the famous barrel, and a water hole in the middle of ice and snow), because the conditions for these shots to happen required pure luck in timing. I, on the other hand, bring back my favorite shot from a destination session. Though, to be honest, it was chance. I hadn’t seen the shot, but, when handling my camera, I inadvertently pressed the release and took a picture. Unthinkingly, I looked at the totally haphazard result, and only then noticed how good the colours of the landscape were. I promptly deployed my tripod and lined up a properly composed picture I really like. Needless to say, Boris roundly disapproves of any situation where luck compensates for lack of concentration!
Another factor you need to keep in mind in the Lofoten is that the sky is going to be really important, more so that in other places. Even with my not-so-wide lens range, from 27mm to 75mm, I got lots of skies, and many times, they contributed to the beauty of the shot. It is, once again, Boris, who taught me how important this aspect is. You can see some examples above and below this paragraph.
Lastly, shooting with a partner, or partners. It is so much fun that I don’t understand why more people aren’t doing it. Frankly, I would never go alone to the Lofoten in February. How totally boring to have no-one to talk to for 8 days, except waitresses and petrol station attendants? And, for me, the best part of the photo trip is comparing my work with my partner’s. When we did the same thing, and when we didn’t. How to learn, and get better. How to congratulate him for fine images. Good partner Un-Shtunk!
I have lots more pictures to show, but my usual quota of a bit over a dozen per post is up with these last four quite different ones, so is it time for me to conclude, and say, thank you, Boris! And hope you will agree with me for a resounding Lofoten Un-Shtunk!
And, for those who want to see Boris’ pictures: www.wild-places.com
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