Lofoten Islands photography vacations

Here in the Arctic Circle, in one of the world’s northernmost communities, it is the light that beguiles you. In the summer the Lofoten Islands, a remote mountainous archipelago off Norway’s northwest coast, is a land of midnight sun. In the depths of winter, the islands fall into perpetual darkness, but the night skies are illuminated by that most beautiful of natural phenomena, the Northern Lights. On a professionally crafted photography itinerary in the Lofoten Islands, you’ll not only be captivated by the beauty of these fragile Arctic landscapes. You’ll be able to really take your time and capture them at leisure.

Geraldine Westrupp from our specialist operator Wild Photography Vacations emphasises, “The Lofoten Islands are fab for photographers that enjoy lots of time to get to know a place properly. In winter we stay in one place the whole time, and in summer just two. We’ve got a large house that we use for editing and tuition, and most of our locations are bunched together within 10 and 30 minutes from our base.” There’s very little driving around needed, so you can really immerse yourself in each place and soak up the scenery. This, with the incredible diversity in light between summer and winter, makes the Lofoten Islands an ideal photography destination for beginners.
These remote Arctic landscapes are as fragile as they are beautiful, thankfully safe from oil drilling for the time being but vulnerable to the pressures of overtourism. Many people come here to get away from it all – ironically they’ll be joined by thousands of others with the same idea. The population of the islands is just 25,000, but almost a million tourists are thought to visit every year, many aboard cruise ships. To make sure your trip makes the right impact, choose a photography tour that is led by experienced professionals familiar with the islands, their communities and key locations. A great tour leader can make good use of personal connections developed over years, and offer financial benefits to local suppliers and hosts that cruise operators simply don’t come close to matching. For the traveler, that means warm welcomes throughout the trip, and a fantastic breadth of local knowledge to draw upon when it comes to scouting locations.

The Lofoten Islands combine the epic with the intimate. Martyn Sharples visited in winter 2017 and found “The whole vacation was memorable, from the stormy maritime weather to the dramatic scenery of the snow covered mountains and beaches, and the cosy cabins we retreated to at the end of the day.” The archipelago is an absolutely wonderful place for photography: idyllic, inspirational, invigorating (especially on a windy day), and informative too. You’ll be led by an expert photography tutor, with long days in the field and then evenings reviewing your progress in a supportive and positive atmosphere. Whether you’re entirely new to photography, or want to polish your existing skills, there will be ample opportunity for one-on-one instruction.

Summer photography

The Lofoten Islands in the summer are all about the vibrant colours in the landscapes, and their astonishing biodiversity. In June the mountain tops will still be crowned with snow, while the lower slopes will be carpeted in Arctic wildflowers and swathes of purple heather. Bright red rorbruer (wooden fishermen’s huts) are set back from deep blue fjords, bays and inlets, while pristine white sand beaches are framed by dramatic mountains.

Relaxed wanders around pretty traditional fishing villages are followed by Zodiac boat trips out to photograph birdlife such as eagles, gannets and cormorants up close. You might sail through the famous ‘maelstrom’, a whirling tidal system where the currents draw sperm whales and seals in search of food. Orcas can occasionally be seen in summer.

In summer the Lofoten Islands bask in the ‘Midnight Sun’ – for almost two months the sun does not sink below the horizon. Long days with lots of brilliant light are combined with itineraries kept as flexible as possible. Any given day might find you on Trollfjorden, a two-kilometre seam of water enclosed by steep rock walls, on a mountain summit or in a fishing village watching the little boats head out to sea.

Winter photography

Vivien Zheng photographed the Lofoten Islands in February 2018: “The location of the stay was particularly chosen for the best view of the landscape and aurora. I feel blessed to be able to experience the fine weather and lighting which is crucial to outdoor photography. The most exciting part was my cabin was facing the beach and I was able to see the aurora almost every night.”

The fjords are icy now, the mountains and rocks cloaked in white, and the low light just above the Arctic Circle gives everything an extra veneer of drama. The moody skies at this time of year can yield some excellent ambient photography. In the winter you might stay in a north-facing coastal village, ideal for capturing the entrancing Aurora Borealis should it choose to make an appearance. With expert tutors at your side you can be confident of getting superb results.

Winter is promising for landscape photography, but there is less in the way of wildlife, as Geraldine Westrupp explains: “In summer we can see whales and fantastic birdlife, otters and orca. In the winter it’s much more limited, birds tend to be elsewhere. But we’ve used our winter cottages for a long time, they’re semi circled around the beach so you’re straight onto the sand. It’s a lovely spot for the aurora.”

Our top Lofoten Islands travel guide Vacation

Lofoten Islands summer photography vacation, Norway

Lofoten Islands summer photography vacation, Norway

Midnight Sun Photography in Norway's lovely Lofoten Islands

From £3350 to £3500 9 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 9 Jun
2024: 7 Jun
Travel Team
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These are small group trips, limited to between 10 and 12 participants. While still allowing for a very sociable atmosphere, it means that there is less of an effect on local communities and also that everyone can enjoy plenty of one-on-one tuition across a week or so on the islands.

Accommodation varies depending on whether you travel in summer or winter. In summer you might stay in family run guesthouses or converted rorbruer. In winter, it might a collection of cabins looking out to the Arctic Ocean, with a communal house for workshops and tutorials. There’s a big advantage to staying in just one or two places for the duration of a tour, in that you have ample opportunities to tackle a location again after reviewing the previous day’s images with the group. It’s an excellent way to sharpen your technical and compositional skills. The fact that most locations are situated close to each other is another key benefit, with only short transfers required. In winter, for instance, you will be able to head out easily at sunrise and sunset, or embark on exciting midnight road trips.

Every effort is made to source local food for meals, and luckily that’s not difficult in this part of the world. Seafood, especially, doesn’t get much fresher. Local suppliers are also used for boat trips and transfers – when communities directly benefit from tours such as this, they extend a warm welcome to photographers, so you shouldn’t have any trouble asking people to strike a pose.

You’ll definitely need thermals, wet weather gear and a good hat, as well as sunglasses. But your operator will provide a detailed list of what to bring in terms of clothing and equipment before departure. A laptop with editing software installed will be vital though, so that you can edit your images on the go.

When to go on a photography vacation in the Lofoten islands

In winter the weather will usually be cold and wet, in summer it will be brisk but typically dry. That’s a simplification, naturally – expect the unexpected and pack accordingly. Just as the weather dictates your wardrobe every morning, so it also influences your itinerary. Your tour leader will adapt to sun, snow, wind or rain. “We do have a few indoor locations that we can use when it’s chucking down,” says Geraldine Westrupp, “such as a traditional local blacksmith, where we can photograph him at work at his forge. But we go out in all weathers. Storms and wild weather, snow and blizzards can often make for the best images of all.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Wild Photography Vacations] [Intro: © Wild Photography Vacations] [Community: © Wild Photography Vacations] [Summer photography: © Wild Photography Vacations] [Winter photography: © Wild Photography Vacations] [When to go: © Wild Photography Vacations]