The idea was to sleep in, and leisurely wake up mid-morning before sunrise. I could have breakfast as the glow of dawn slowly emerged, then go out and shoot some photos during blue hour. While a mere 2hrs of daylight per day might sound awful to most, to me it sounds like a photographer’s paradise.
Sunrise happens around 1115am, and the sun sets at around 1330 in the afternoon. During daylight hours the sun never gets particularly high above the horizon, providing a continuous beautiful sunrise/sunset. Blue hour commences once more and lingers until everything goes completely dark again around 1600. A photographer might be able to spend the entire day shooting continuously in the best possible light, and still have time to spare to have dinner and enjoy some tourist activities (albeit in the dark).
It all looked great on paper, yet in my eagerness to go take pictures in this remote part of the world, I overlooked one huge detail: I was north of the arctic circle in January.
The skies were obscured with clouds the entire time I was there. On day 1, I dealt with 15mps winds (35mph), so strong that it was nearly impossible to take a sharp picture even while using a tripod. Horizontal wind driven rain and sleet stung my face as I waited for small breaks to take my pictures. I thought the weather couldn’t get much worse, but I was proven wrong. On day 2, we had such a massive storm hit that it made national news. It rained all day and the wind never relented. My town’s inhabitants stayed shuttered inside to avoid the weather.
Finally, on day 3 there was a respite. The air was still and the precipitation held off for long enough for me to snap the photos I had wanted to capture. Unfortunately the clouds persisted and I wasn’t able to see any of the dramatic light I had hoped for. So I settled for flat light (which is not always a bad thing) and tried to make the most of it.
I tried to focus on nature and reflected scenes with water. Since the sky was largely dull, I emphasized the vibrant red painted wooden buildings in my shots. I also took many of my photos after the sun set and well into blue hour. This partially made up for the dull sky during daylight. Winter is understandably a slow time in the Lofoten Islands – most of the restaurants and bars were closed for the season and few people were out on the streets. This left little else to do during the daytime other than to take my time setting up each shot, perfecting my framing and taking long exposures at ISO 64 to maximize image quality on my Nikon D810.
While overall I was disappointed with the lack of dramatic light during my short visit to the Lofoten Islands, I wasn’t particularly surprised. I was in awe at the beauty of nature around me, and I was happy with the few photos I ended up with. As my travels continue, I’ve found myself taking fewer photos on each trip, but ending up with a much higher percentage of “keepers”. I also no longer spend much time editing – I only adjust enough sliders to help bring the image back to my memory of the scene itself.