#143. Lapland in Colour

By pascaljappy | Travel Photography

Mar 23

In my previous post, Lapland in Monochrome, I argued that photography in the repetitive landscape of Lapland was best captured in monochrome, particular under the very flat light that an overcast sky can produce. But that’s a bit of an over simplification.

A stick in the snow marks a path on a Lapland frozen laike. Nikon D800e & Leica-R 50 Summicron

The Stick

First, as the picture above reveal, the sun can, and often does, shine, producing beautiful contrast between the deep blue sky and white snow.

Secondly, polar regions a nature photographer’s wonderland, producing all manners of atmospheric phenomena such as halos, noctilucent clouds, fata morgana mirages, mist, raibows …

Mist settles at sunset on a frozen lake in Lapland. Nikon D800e and Lecia Summicron-R 50

The Mist

Every evening, this mist set on the frozen like in front of our little cabin (in Hossa, for those wanting to visit the area). Dog sled and snowmobile expeditions would come in just after sunset (around 4PM at that time of year), their headlights and lanterns visible in the fog long before individual silhouettes could be detected.

A lapland farm in colour (Nikon D800e and Leica-R Summicron 35)

The farm

Then, there are the buildings. Wooden cottages, hangars and cabins seem more numerous in tan inhabitants in this sparsely occupied area (less than 1 person / square Km). As in Philippe’s tremendous pictures of the Lofoten Islands made at the same period, dark red is a very popular colour for houses. But grey blue, green and natural wood are also to be found making hamlets a vibrant sight in any light.

Kaamos and Revontulet

But two colours you’ll remember more vividly than the dark red, if you visit Lapland in winter are blue and green 🙂

Blue twilight in Lapland in winter. Leica Summicron-R 50mm f/2 on a Nikon D800e

The Twilight

Blue because of Kaamos, the polar night. Although it is completely dark at the poles during the polar night, in more Southern areas such as Lapland (and Northern Canada, Northern Siberia …) it is more like a very long twilight during which the whole scenery takes on this very intense blue hue for hours on end. As we were visiting towards the end of February, the day was much longer that at the winter solstice, but twighlight still lasted for at least 90 minutes. No rushing for the 2 minute sunset as in the tropics 😉

Green thanks to Revontulet, the mythological Arctic Fox said to run far in the north and touching the mountains with its fur, so that sparks fly off into the sky as the northern light (quote and other myths related to aurora).

A bright green aurora flashes in the lapland night. Nikon D800e and Leica-R summicron 35

The Neon

Open to interpretation

My contention in Lapland in Monochrome was that making pictures of a very constant landscape in very flat light forced the photographer to think in terms of shape and tone rather than hue. And that interpretation was key to a successful image because, unlike a great beach shot in Australia, you are unlikely to be satisfied with a literal rendition of the scene. And for me, that’s what is so wonderful in Lapland : plenty of opportunity for wonderful pictures, but the absolute need to work hard at bringing your vision to life through post processing.

A frosted tree at sunset in Lapland. Leica R Summicron 35 ans Nikon D800e

The Tree

Compare the picture above with the one below. Both were taken seconds apart. Same trees, same lens, same light. Different vision.

A pair of frosted trees at sunset in Lapland. Nikon D800e with Leica Summicron-R 35

The Couple

So, colour or B&W ?

For me, it’s hard to say. While it would undoubtedly be a shame to capture some of these in black and white, others just beg for the monochrome treatment.

A monochrome picture of a lapland farm using a nikon D800e and Leica-R summicron 50/2

The Farm lost its colour


A dark river in the snow in Lapland. Nikon D800e Leica SUmmicron-R 50

The Brook


The Old Woman

The Old Woman

For others, it isn’t so clear cut and one gets the feeling both solutions would work

Backlit Lapland trees in colour. Elmarit-R 90mm on Nikon D800e

The Barcode

The Twigs

The Twigs






And I think the right answer is no answer. The greatness of Lapland for photographers is that whatever the weather, whatever the conditions, there’s always an opportunity to produce something nice. Even if you have to help mother nature a little …

A smiling face drawn in the snow in Lapland. Nikon D800e and Leica-R 35 Summicron

The End