Someone once asked me why I go to the arctic at this time of the year. Well, apart from the obvious incredible winter conditions it’s the light that draws me there. At this time of the year the sun remains low on the horizon all day so the quality of light is like having a golden hour all day long. Granted the days are much shorter, but it does make shooting sunrise very manageable.
The weather can be challenging though and the start of my Senja workshop in Tromso was no exception. We had heavy snow for the first 3 days, but we were still able to capture some brilliant blue hour images of the city covered in snow. Once we were at our base on the island, the weather settled down so much so that we had perfectly calm conditions for reflections of the mountains in the fjords. We were fortunate to see some of the local wildlife other than having it on the menu, a mother and calf reindeer walked across the road one morning.
One of my favourite and most dramatic locations is called the Devil’s Jaw. It’s a jagged mountain range with a rocky coastline for an interesting foreground. We were fortunate to capture reflections of the mountains in the large tide-pool before the temperatures dropped so much that the water iced over. As I mentioned in previous newsletters, Senja is starting to become more and more popular especially when I post photos like this on social media, luckily it’s still not as overcrowded like the Lofoten Islands, but I will give it a few more years. Saying that, I’m reserving apartments at our base for next year so if you would like to join me, book your place now.
I continued my arctic exploration with a trip to Finland right after the Norway workshop. I’ve always wanted to photograph the snow encrusted pine trees on top of the fells in Lapland. The locals refer to them as tykky, which is the snow and rime that builds up on the pine trees making them bend over in various shapes. But in order to capture the best images possible, you need good quality light and unfortunately, I had five days of overcast snowy conditions. So I made the most of the conditions that were given photographing locations like this old mill along the River Kitka. This was somewhat of a challenge as I carefully pulled the legs of my tripod in on the narrow swing bridge suspended over the icy, fast flowing river. One slip and my camera would be history or possibly even myself.
At the end of the week the weather broke with clear skies in the forecast. I would have preferred a few clouds, but at this point I was just happy to see the sun! I hiked up to the top of the fell in the dark in order to capture the predawn pink light. As the warm sunlight came through the snow encrusted trees I thought what an incredible experience, this is what I came for. There was a well packed path through the trees, but at one point I ventured off the path into virgin snow to capture a different composition and ended up thigh deep in snow. Next time I’ll definitely hire snow shoes. I spent the day hiking over the top of the fell until the sun started to sink lower through the unusual shaped trees. Throughout the day I experienced all types of lighting, but the most dramatic was back-lighting where the shapes were rim lit. I used my 70-200mm lens to isolate the shapes and underexposed the image by one stop to pronounce the rim light effect. A small aperture of f/32 produced brilliant sunbursts.
As I was walking past a tree that reminded me of a hunched over goblin, the sun split through a branch giving the goblin a pair of dazzling eyes. The tree to the left looked like a woman in a gown perhaps Royalty and the goblin is bowing to her. What do you see? Not sure if it was being out all day in -20 C weather, but my mind started seeing all sort of things like this angry angel. When the sun dipped below the horizon, the opposing sky turned pink just as the day began. After all the grey weather during the week, this was a great way to end my trip. All you need is that little window of light.
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