Winter on the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway - February 2017

During the last years I tried to be at least in one or two true winter destinations, with snow, ice, pretty landscapes and with a chance to see the aurora borealis. I focused on Iceland, the alps and bavaria (the latter two without northern lights, of course).

As I was on the Falklands this year I decided to do only one winter destination and to head to the Lofoten Islands north of the polar circle in Norway. These islands are famous for their mountain landscape and they deserve their reputation. I did never regret my choice this winter!

Going to these remote islands is quite easy, as there are regular flights from Oslo to Bodo and further on to Leknes on the Lofoten Islands. It just takes some time, but it is really easy. On the Lofoten Islands you have to hire a car (do not forget to make sure the car is equipped with studded tyres) and you are ready to go and have fun. This time I travelled with Thomas, one of the participants of my Iceland Workshop last year. I was very gratefull that Thomas helped a lot to organize everything and made a great collection of good locations as I returned from the Falklands a bit knackered.

Thomas it was fun to shot with you....

My shooting list for the Lofoten Islands was quite simple:

  • pretty winter landscape with mountains
  • pretty winter landscape with the famous Lofoten beaches
  • traditional fishing villages with the iconic colorful wooden buildings (nowadays often hotels or self catering cottages)
  • fishing boats
  • typical infrastructure shots of roads, bridges and harbours
  • fish drying on the racks
  • some shots of the "modern" side of the villages
  • and of course as much Northern Lights as possible

Most of it worked quite well and we had been really lucky with Northern Lights, we got plenty of it and at very different locations.

We had been very lucky weatherwise as well. Before we arrived the Lofoten received new snow and during the first two days we had lots of wind and some more snow. This resulted in beautiful snowy landscapes and even the nearly vertical walls of the mountains had some snow in the crags, very pretty.
The rest of our stay was sun with some clouds and temperatures around freezing. Over the time the snow got a bit dirty, but all was still quite nice to look at.

Aurora Borealis - the Northern Lights

To make it short, we had plenty of northern lights! Moreover we picked the right locations and somehow decided nearly always to go the the right spots at the right time of the night!

The downside was a constant lack of sleep. But I was happy to live with that and I am sure Thomas felt the same. Especially the varied locations made this part of the trip so interesting. We got everything from remote mountains to bolder beaches, from bridges to villages, we got intense yellow-green northern lights with shades of red to the very faint cloudlike greenish skys.

There is tourism up there during winter, but during the days you do not see many people (Reine is the exception to the rule). This changes during a night with northern lights. Right now some beaches seem to be very popular with the northern light folks, they are nearly as crowded as the ice lagoon on Iceland. We did not like these places, the coming and going, all the headlamps and camera displays created an atmosphere which was neither good for pictures nor for our "feeling the northern lights".

After a while we got a feeling which places where popular and we looked for and found different interesting places during our shooting expeditions during the day. This concept worked quite well!

You are definitly getting addicted to Northern Lights, be aware of that. If you see them once you want to have more and more and more......... Next year I will have my Iceland Workshop again and I hope that we will be lucky again!


The first things I remember when talking about fish was our first dinner. The weather was lousy and I bought some nice frozen salmon in the village. As I did all the cooking it was up to me to create something with a very limited amount of spices and even less cooking utensils (we liked our self catering accomodation, but kitchenware was not its strongest side....). I was pleased with the result and Thomas as well, very tasty! I was very sure that I will cook some more salmon or cod and we already made plans to buy fresh fish as soon as possible.

It never happened, the Northern Lights distroyed this plan, but I still like the idea to buy and cook local produce. It is giving you a better idea how places work and it is big fun, if weather will allow.
Back to Fish, this time in terms of photography. The Lofoten are famous for its dry fish and fishing is still one of the main sources of income. Small trawlers are coming and going all the time bringing in their catch of cod. The photogenic drying racks had been high on my list and we spent lots of time under and around the racks.

During one of the more cloudy mornings we took pictures of the racks at a small village a bit off the beaten track. A huge power shovel passed, passed again and came back again. The driver beckoned us to him asking us who we are and what we are doing. A short chat started and it ended in an invitation to his fish processing factory in this village. Lucky us.
We spent the whole afternoon watching fresh cod being unloaded from small long line fishing boats and we could watch all the steps until the fish was ready for hanging.

The Beaches

As islands the Lofoten are basically mountains with coastline around the peaks. You find small beaches, big beaches, sandy beaches, pebble beaches and so on! During our research I found some very good landscape pictures, very often made by Pros offering photography workshops on the Lofoten Islands. Therefore my expectations had been very high.
You should know that I know many magnificent beaches in the higher latitudes from the Falklands to Iceland, from Portugal to the Hebrides.

I was a bit dissapointed in the beginning and I have to admit, that the beaches are nice, but really good or outstanding pictures do not come easy! Maybe I was not in the mood for that type of photography or I was still in wildlife and guiding mode or whatever. My results are nice and the beaches are nice, but I think I could have been more creative.

To make things a bit more difficult, the more famous beaches are not lonely places, neither during the day nor in the night. After a while I got used to it and photography improved, but all the same I think the results could be better....

Villages, buildings and so on

Reine and the little villages around are postcard pretty and a unique sight. They are THE touristic hotspot and they deserve it. Very atmospheric and very awesome. It does not matter at what time of the day you visit this part of the Lofoten, it is always worth while!

The other villages get less tourists, the location is not as spectecular, but life is more "normal". In Reine the village center with the red wooden hut is more or less just one big Hotel and Self Catering, the locals moved to the outer parts of the villages. If you want to enjoy normal life do not forget to stay in the "normal" villages, the village deserve it and you will encounter some locals not employed in the tourist industry!

I love bridges and roads and they make good photo opps (and are commercially of interest as well). Therefore I always take my time to cover these objects as well. A we had just around 10 days on the islands, I did not invest to much time....

What else is to say?

I had lots of fun and I am pleased with the results, the Lofoten Islands are a great place and they deserve to be visited more than once. Will I return? Probably, but I would extend my visit to other islands in the Lofoten archipelago.

This year is already crammed with lots of long projects, Portugal, Greenland, Iceland, Northern Argentina and smaller locations in Germany. Add my "From Patagonia to South Georgia" workshop (and the Iceland workshop in Feb 2018) to this list and you will understand that right now I do not plan further ahead..... I will be busy, thats for sure!
Stay tuned.....

Whats next?

I will leave for Portugal tomorrow, nothing is packed yet, I guess have to shift my focus now....

Munich, March 2017

My "From Patagonia to South Georgia and back again" workshop is still open for bookings. It is a unique opportunity to see the highlights of Subantarctica with Penguins, Elephant Seal, Whale watching and much more. Please forward this workshop to anybody (german speaking only) who might be intersted! Departure is garuanteed and we have already a very interesting bunch of participants.... I am very excited to be able to guide this tour!

Our Iceland Workshop is also filling up, even if it is scheduled in Feb 2018.

Check out the workshop pages !