Photographing Lofoten: Capturing the Beauty

Lofoten has become one of the most sought after destinations for landscape photographers. More than a million tourists visit the small islands each year and there’s no doubt that many of these have an interest in photography.

Photographing Lofoten
The popular Uttakleiv Beach in winter

I’m pretty sure that Lofoten is high on your bucket list as well, am I right?

While it definitely is an incredible area to photograph, it’s not without dangers and I’ve heard way too many horror stories of cameras breaking down (mine included).

So, before you plan your trip to the Lofoten Islands familiarize yourself with the following tips to make sure that you go home with the best possible images (and not a broken camera).

Choose the season wisely

Surprisingly, I’ve often seen photographers come unprepared for the season. I want to believe that most people with an interest in landscape photography know that the scenery can change drastically during the seasons, regardless of where you are.

Photographing Lofoten
Heavy snow and thick clouds concealed the peaks of Reine

Photographing in Lofoten is quite different in summer as opposed to winter, perhaps more different than in most other places. During the months of December and January, the sun doesn’t rise. This means that you’ve got a very limited time of photographing (except for night photography that is). It’s therefore crucial to plan your travels knowing where to be during the few hours it’s slightly brighter.

During summer, on the other hand, the scenario is the opposite and Lofoten has the midnight sun. This means that you’ve got plenty of time to photograph in daylight but there won’t be a night sky and you’re not going to see any northern lights.

Also, conditions change quite drastically from season to season. In winter you’re not able to reach as many peaks (unless you’re an experienced hiker) as in summer. The roads are also tougher/slower to drive on when there’s snow and ice so include that into your calculation when you’re planning a shoot.

Weather changes quickly

It’s not only seasonal conditions that change a lot; even in summer, the weather can change in only a matter of minutes.

While the weather forecast is often a good indicator, it’s not always right. When planning a hike, it’s always a good idea to pack an extra layer of clothing in case the weather changes and temperatures drop.

Hiking in Lofoten
Be aware that the weather can change quickly when hiking in Lofoten

Another thing that’s important to know when photographing Lofoten is that dark clouds don’t necessarily mean you won’t see any northern lights. During my recent winter trip to Lofoten, a snowstorm hit us while chasing the Aurora Borealis. Minutes before the storm hit, we photographed the northern lights with more or less clear skies!

After switching location and waiting for roughly 15 minutes, the skies cleared up and we could see the stars again (though the northern light didn’t reappear). This kept on going throughout the night and after reviewing it later, I can conclude that we had about 20 minutes of great conditions, 20 minutes of storm and then 20 minutes of great conditions again.

So, just because the weather is bad it doesn’t mean you won’t get an opening in the sky.

Stay central

Staying central is one of the keys to photographing Lofoten. Even though the distances aren’t that far, the roads are narrow and not particularly quick.

Hattvika Lodge Lofoten
Even the accommodations on Lofoten are photogenic. This is parts of Hattvika Lodge

During my recent visit, I stayed at the beautiful Hattvika Lodge (which I can wholeheartedly recommend!) that was within 1 – 1.5 hours of mostly everything I wanted to photograph. In fact, most of the locations we visited were less than a 30-minute drive away.

I also want to point out that spending an hour in Hattvika’s sauna felt great after a long day exploring!

Staying central is going to save you a lot of time driving and is especially crucial during months with limited light. Write down all the locations you want to visit, plot them onto the map and see what area would be good to stay in.

Bring a backup camera

It hurts me to write about this but don’t go without a backup camera (or at least have a method of getting an extra camera within short notice).

Lofoten is brutal in many ways and it’s not uncommon for cameras to end up in the ocean, smashed against the rocks or to simply die. I was unlucky enough to drop mine in the ocean, as have many before me, and I did not have a backup camera.

Broken Nikon D800
My Nikon D800 after falling into the ocean

Luckily, my friend Mikko Lagerstedt was also staying at Hattvika Lodge and was able to lend me his backup camera until my new gear arrived a day and a half later.

Even if you’re not a professional photographer I do recommend bringing a second camera if your main reason for visiting is photography. While you most likely won’t drop your camera into the ocean, it’s always good to have a backup just in case something happens.

Bring microfiber cloths

Photographing Lofoten means photographing in challenging conditions. Most of the popular locations are along the coast so when you combine the ocean with strong winds, you’re going to have a lot of sea spray on your lens.

A microfiber cloth is going to be your best friend in Arctic Norway and could be what potentially saves an image. This is an inexpensive tool that doesn’t require much space so there’s really no excuse not to own at least one microfiber cloth (even though I recommend bringing a minimum of three).

Bring cleaning equipment

When photographing Lofoten, you will be cleaning your camera gear each night. Because of the sea spray, wind, rain or changing conditions, it doesn’t take long before the lens is dirty and you’ve got visible spots on your images.

So, bring some basic cleaning equipment such as a lens cloth and lens cleaner. Again, this is not expensive equipment and is easy to place in your luggage. I also recommend keeping at least 5 pre-moisturized wipes in your camera bag in case you need to clean the lens quickly.

Have spare batteries

My most important tip when photographing Lofoten is to bring spare batteries!

First of all, you’re going to be taking a lot of pictures. The landscape is mindblowing around every corner so don’t expect your camera to be laying quietly beside you.

Also, if you’re like me and use Live View, you know that the battery life is considerably shorter. When being on the road all day, you don’t always have the time to charge the batteries; if you’re lucky and get some northern lights or starry nights you’ll see the batteries empty even quicker.

Photographing Lofoten Northern Lights
Batteries go fast when photographing the Aurora Borealis during winter in Lofoten

When the temperatures drop the battery life drops as well.

A quick tip when photographing Lofoten in the winter is to keep one battery in your inner pocket at all times to keep it warm. This will ensure that the battery life is slightly longer.

Visit most popular places early in the morning

The popularity of Lofoten is rapidly increasing and with more than a million tourists throughout the year, it will get crowded at times. Avoid visiting the most popular locations during the daytime and rather plan to go there early in the morning or late in the evening if you aim to photograph them.

Recommended Reading: How to Avoid Crowds at Tourist Traps

However, Lofoten is more than just the popular destinations and there are less-visited places to explore that are equally beautiful.

Are you planning a trip to Lofoten or have you already been there? Let us know in the comments and feel free to share your Lofoten images if you’ve already been! 

Photographing Lofoten