This winter I spent three full months living and guiding in Arctic Norway. While I’ve spent a lot of time there previously, staying there for this extended period of time led to me getting a more intimate understanding of the surroundings.
Photography in the Arctic is quite different than what many are used to as it brings quite a few extra factors that need to be taken into consideration (and taken seriously).
I’ve witnessed more than one camera (or other equipment) and many potentially good images be missed due to being unprepared of the harsh conditions.
These are some tips on how you can make the most out of your visit to the Arctic Norway and capture the best possible images.
Bring an Extra Layer
Make it a habit to always bring an extra layer, regardless if you’re going hiking or photographing near the car. The weather is unpredictable and it’s not unlikely that you’ll experience 4 seasons in only a few hours.
This is especially important if you’re going hiking. I’ve been on several hikes in the Lofoten Mountains where the weather has changed from sunny to full-on snowstorm and whiteout in relatively short time. Being prepared and bringing an extra layer (as well as knowing the route) is crucial in those moments.
Even nice and warm summer days you should have a rain jacket easily accessible.
Winter is essential, but even in spring or autumn I always bring a pair of gloves, more precisely my Vallerret Markhof gloves, in case the temperatures suddenly drops. And trust me that have happened more than a couple times!
Take Advantage of the Good Light
As I mentioned above, the weather changes quickly in Arctic Norway. That means that it can often be far between the perfect photographic lights.
Most likely you’re not going to have perfect conditions every single day. In fact, one day with really good light can be a pretty good turnout. Personally, this is parts of what I find so charming about Arctic Norway; you’ve got to work with the conditions you’re given and make the most out of them.
So, don’t make the mistake to stay at the hotel when there’s good light outside; it might not last much longer.
This goes for photographing the Northern Lights as well.
Even though it tends to last for a while when it first starts “dancing”, you never know. I always recommend my clients to have everything ready when we leave so that they can quickly exit the car and set up to take pictures.
I even recommend taking a few quick shots first so that they get some pictures before they start searching for a better composition and shot.
Bad Weather isn’t Necessarily Bad
Following up on the previous tip, I think it’s important to remember that what typically characterizes as “bad”, weather isn’t necessarily bad in Arctic Norway. Most of my personal favorite images from this region was taken during rough, challenging and what many would consider less than ideal conditions.
Snowstorms, dark clouds, wind, waves… all can result in beautiful and interesting pictures. This is an extreme region, so why not show that through your photography?
Take a look at the image below, as an example. This is one of my favorite iconic shots that I’ve captured from the Lofoten Islands. The conditions, however, were quite challenging. With winds over 20m/s, snow and at times zero visibility, we spent most the time facing away from the cabins in order to protect the camera gear. Every now and then, I’d quickly turn around to grab a couple shots before turning back.
Bring Spare Batteries
The biggest mistake I see beginning photographers make when visiting Arctic Norway is not to bring spare batteries. This is guaranteed to result in you missing out on a good shot.
Due to the cold temperatures (especially during winter), batteries have a tendency to drain quicker than what most are used to. Don’t be surprised if you need more than one battery for only one Aurora session.
I’ve made it a habit to always bring a couple batteries more than what I expect to use, plus I leave another couple in the suitcase back at the hotel.
When in the field I highly recommend to have one spare battery in the inner pocket of your jacket. This keeps it slightly warmer and will increase the battery life a little.
All images by Christian Hoiberg
Christian Hoiberg is a full-time landscape photographer who helps aspiring photographers develop the skills needed to capture beautiful and impactful images. Download his free guide 30 Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography and open the doors to your dream life. Visit his website or Instagram to view more of his photography.