Lofoten Island Winter Workshop Report 2018

In March 2018 I led my second winter landscape workshop to the Lofoten Islands in Norway with long time good friend and fellow landscape photographer Martyn Lucas (I was last in Lofoten back in Winter 2016). As I have written previously,  the landscape of these islands are really quite something to behold. Precipitous and ominous peaks that rise straight out of the ocean loom over small fishing villages that comprise of bright red houses lining the shorelines. With a dusting of fresh snow and arctic winter light the entire scene is akin to a fairy tail location and subsequently the photographic opportunities can be truly superb. It is just this magical landscape that attracts so many photographers to this spectacular part of Norway. This workshop was a for a small group of just six experienced landscape and nature photographers. We based ourselves primarily in the small town of Reine and made daily excursions to various locations around the Island for photography.Lofoten-4779-EditLofoten has been discovered on mass by photographers in recent times and many of the iconic locations are now close to saturated with photographers. I will have more to say on this later, but I personally find it quite uninspiring to watch large groups of photographers all lined up waiting their turn to make the same photograph. I am not sure what it is about the human psyche (and it may be particular to photographers) that compels people to want to take exactly the same photograph as thousands before them. Be that as it may, there are some photographs that can be considered ‘money-shots’ in Lofoten and no trip to these islands would be complete without at least one visit to these locations.  Generally though we made an effort to get off the beaten track and visit some of the more hidden gems.Like much of the Arctic, photography in Lofoten in winter is heavily weather dependant. It is entirely possible to be socked in for days with heavy cloud and bad weather in this part of the world (a risk you have to be prepared to accept when you venture so far north in winter). Its common on this sort of trip to loose at least one or two days to bad weather – its par for the course. Fortunately, we had very good weather and light for most of our trip with perhaps a few more blue sky days than I would have preferred. Lofoten-4536-EditBeing surrounded by water Lofoten offers  great opportunities for seascape photography at just about every turn and we took advantage of this by visiting and photographing many different beaches and areas of coastline. Much of the coastline is rocky or dotted with large boulders which provides limitless opportunities for foreground interest. Many of the beaches are also very accessible and only a short walk from car parks or pull off areas. We spent quite a lot time exploring and photographing various areas of coastline and some really interesting photographs resulted. In the right conditions, Lofoten in winter also has the added benefit of snow down to sea level for even more interest.On our last day we mixed things up and took a private charter boat out to photograph White-Tailed Sea Eagles fishing off the coastline. As we discovered in 2016, this proved a worthwhile exercise with a couple of hours of really wonderful eagle photography in mostly soft overcast light. Photographing fishing sea eagles from boat in winter in the Arctic is a lot of fun. We were able to get quite close to some of the eagles (so close my 400mm F2.8L IS MKII was occasionally too much lens and I had to switch out to the 70-200mm F2.8L IS MKII).Visiting Lofoten in Winter also provides an opportunity for cultural photography. At this time of year the cod are being fished around the Islands; they are then processed and hung to dry on the many cod racks dotted around the Islands (yes, you can smell them long before you see them). Every part of the cod is used and even the heads are hung to dry. I am personally not a street or cultural photographer but the process is nevertheless interesting to watch and photograph.

To those of you who have already expressed interest in a future workshop to Lofoten in 2019 or 2020:  At this stage I will not be running a future trip to Lofoten (due mostly in part to it being overly saturated with photographers). I would however, like to thank Martyn for his assistance in guiding the group to some fantastic locations and to all who participated and contributed to this workshop. We were blessed with some great conditions for photography and some really strong images resulted from our experience and time in Lofoten. Small, intimate groups for this sort of landscape photography workshop are the ideal way to ensure you capture the best possible photographs.

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