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Aurora facing a white church

Norway Diary: Arriving in Lofoten

The arctic circle is a place on Earth that I’ve always wanted to visit, especially because I wanted to witness the mystical Aurora Borealis, which I’ve been obsessed with for a very long time. It truly is one of those things which everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

So with this objective we’ve set off toward the Lofoten Islands in Norway. We got there with high hopes of seeing the Northern Lights, and got through some nice adventures in this quest.

We got to Oslo after a long flight and after visiting the city for a couple hours we caught another flight to Narvik. There, we rented cars and got to our first overnight stay, only to leave the next morning for Ramberg. But we got a bit distracted with the first opportunity to catch the Northern Lights…

Quick Oslo Visit

Our first stop in Norway was in Oslo, but only for a little bit as the flight towards Evenes was right around the corner. There is not much to say about Oslo, as we’ve only spent very little time in there. We only managed to walk around for a bit and climb on the Opera House. It’s a very modern city and the public transport is great, as one would expect from Northern countries.

There was a floating sauna close to the Opera House and people would jump out of and into the freezing water for a couple seconds, only to get back in and enjoy a Heineken. I’ve heard this can have some health benefits, but it might as well kill you if you don’t have Viking blood, I don’t know. I like to believe I would’ve done it as well if I didn’t have a flight in one hour. Or maybe that’s just my excuse.

The other amazing thing about Oslo is the sheer amount of electric vehicles in the city. In any given intersection you could see a Tesla Model S and two Model Xs when I was there. This was in 2018, before Model 3 launched, so there are probably more now. And most of the other cars were also electric or at least hybrid. Impressive indeed, good job Oslo!

The First Night In Evenes & The First Photo from Lofoten

It was already getting dark in Evenes by the time we rent the cars, and getting off the airplane brought a bit of a shock. It was a small airport and everything around was frozen. It really felt like we were on an adventure at the edge of the world, and we were about to go even further.

Evenes Airport in Lofoten
Only a handful of people got off the plane in Evenes

We got to our stay at a cozy and welcoming cabin, Evenes Camping, pretty close to the airport. After we settled in we noticed that the sky’s clear and there was a positiv forecast for Northern Lights that night.

So, no time to lose! We’ve been traveling all day but when this opportunity shows itself you just can’t miss it. Grab your gear, get in the car, find a spot and a good composition to get the shot. The location we had in mind was a church about 30 minutes away from Evenes Camping. It was a white church and it would look really good with the snow and the Northern Lights. So we got there and…that’s where the problems started.

First of, it was really cold, and the church was surrounded by knee deep snow in some areas. Of course we navigated it swiftly trying to get a good angle. Some snow and ice isn’t gonna stop us.

Then, the Aurora was actually pretty weak, sometimes not being visible at all with the naked eye, because of the artificial lights from the church and the nearby road. This wouldn’t be so bad, we thought, as the camera can catch the Lights much better than our eyes can with the right exposure. The first big problem we had was that the Aurora wouldn’t appear in the same spot, so we had to keep circling the church through deep snow, trying to predict where it’s gonna appear next, as it would only be there for a minute or two and then disappear again.

Get in the back of the church to catch the Aurora in front of it, find the angle, set up the tripod, level the horizon, make sure you’re in focus, be ready to click the shutter when it pops up and….NOPE! It’s behind you! Take the tripod, run through the deep snow to the back of the church, set the tripod up, level the horizon, check focus, click the shutter, wait for the exposure to finish and…you got a first picture of the Northern Lights!

But…what’s this? Oh, the entire church is burned and has no details. Remember I mentioned some lights? There were some projectors lighting up the church, which together with the long exposure required to catch the Northern Lights burned the church to the point that there were no details visible on it.

This first image is the photo that I would’ve loved to be perfect. The Aurora was strong, facing the church, and with a bit of edit it would’ve been amazing. In the second image you can see how strong those lights were, as there’s no detail on the front of the church.

So, what did we do? We didn’t have time to take multiple exposures because the Aurora was moving too fast. One minute here, the next in another place. In fact, we never caught it again as strong as in the above photo. So we had the great idea of using our jackets to cover the strongest projector and try to reduce the lighting on the church. Which worked, to some degree, but now we were freezing. So that didn’t last long. But, we spent around 2 hours in there trying to get a good shot, and finally got a decent one from behind the church.

Aurora Church Metal Print
Aurora Church

It’s not perfect, but we were absolutely exhausted and it was a good start to the adventure. The above image is only available as a metal print, since the way it was framed does not permit printing on canvas.

But we had no idea about what was to follow the next days, the snow storms we were about to face and that the beautiful Northern Lights wouldn’t show themselves almost at all.

Sat, Mar. 17, 2018
It was a cold morning in Evenes, and after a good night’s sleep we got in our rented cars and departed towards Lofoten.

The trip proved to be a little treacherous, as the entire archipelago was engulfed in snow storms and driving conditions were pretty difficult. At times we couldn’t even see the road because of all the snow. There were red reflective poles sticking out on both sides of the road, and it didn’t take us long to realize that if they wouldn’t have been there you couldn’t see where to go at all in some road portions.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_20180317_122836-edited-1.jpg
Lofoten Snowy Roads

The studded tires that were equipped on the cars really made sense now. The trip should’ve been a little under 4h, but with stops and slow driving it turned into an 8h trip.

We did stop for a photo op but neither the scenery nor the weather were on our side, so it was nothing exciting. We were freezing and had to get back on the road.

Norway Diary: Arriving in Lofoten 3
Trying to frame the big rock

After 8 hours on the road we’ve managed to reach our stay in the little town of Ramberg, but not before stopping by the Ramberg Gjestegård restaurant to try the much acclaimed cod fish tongue.

Cod fish tongue
Cod tongues – the culinary reasons to visit Lofoten

Of course, they’re not actual tongues, but a small muscle from the back of the fish’s neck. Tradition dictates that it’s the children that extract them, turning this into an afterschool activity that can bring in some spare cash.

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