Norway – Lofoten Islands 2013

Travelogue Lofoten Islands 2013 – Between storm and light

We are pleased that you have found the travelogue from our winter trip to the gorgeous Lofoten Islands in Norway in February 2013.

Gerd and I spent ten very different days in the high north of Norway. The weather was unusual and we were travelling from winter to spring and back to winter again during our trip! We were able to experience the Lofoten Islands in rain and heavy snow storms, marvelled at the magnificent northern lights and enjoyed the winterly landscape after fresh snowfall.

As usual, we managed our own booking for the trip and stayed in the following charming self-catering fisherman cabins that are called rorbuer in Norway:

- Lofoten Rorbuer in Svolvaer

- Henningsvær Rorbuer in Henningsvær

- Solsiden Brygge in Ballstad

Our car, an Opel Astra 1.6 TCDI 5-doors, was rented by Hertz at Leknes airport and was in perfect condition and provided with spike winter tyres.

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We hope you will enjoy reading about our trip that took us on a journey between storm and light. If you came through a search engine and only view this single intro post, then please click this link for the full travelogue: Travelogue Norway – Lofoten Islands 2013

Sandra Schaenzer & Gerhard Schoening
SA*GA Photography ~ Moments in Light ~

Travel day

We actually started our trip the day before when we took the evening train to Zurich airport and checked into the Radisson Blu Airport Hotel. Our flight to Oslo was scheduled for 6:55 am, too early for us, even if we took the first train from Basel.

So we firstly checked into the hotel and went directly upstairs to the check-in area to have our luggage checked-in. This is all automated now and we used the machines for printing our boarding passes and left the two bags at the baggage drop-off afterwards. A quick asian meal, a drink at the hotel bar and we went to the room to grab some sleep.

We got up at 5:30 am, had a quick coffee and went to the security control once we had checked out. This hotel is really very convenient but they charge a lot for this amenity!

Our flight to Oslo left on time and we arrived at the airport roughly two hours later. Same procedure as last year: we had to pick up our bags, clear customs and drop them off again in the departure hall. But it all went quick and smooth this time and was not such a disaster and crowded like last year. The flight to Bodø took 1,5 hours and we landed in a mix of fog and sun. We could even make out the Lofoten Islands in the distance!

Our last flight with Widerøe to Leknes was a bit delayed but the flight with the small Dash-8 100 was really fun! Leknes is a very small airport and we immediately got our luggage and I met Dag from Hertz to fill in the papers for the rental car.

Off we were in a great mixture of light and clouds and the white mountains just looked gorgeous. We stopped along the road on our way to take a photo of the beautiful view but were disappointed later that we did not find a better spot for the wonderful last light near Svolvær. Well, we have been here 13 years ago but I was not familiar anymore with the exact locations.

So we drove to our accommodation at Lofoten Rorbuer, registered in and went shopping for the food for the following days. The mountains were glowing red for a short time in the distance and my photographer’s heart was bleeding…

We had a quick dinner – the infamous Kjøttboller with pasta – and planned the next day. The weather forecast was very bad for the whole week but we wanted to make the best out of it and giving up would not have been a solution.

Highlight of the day: the ONE photo and Kjøttboller…

Rain…

Today’s story is rather quick…

We got up just in time for the blue hour and just drove up the E10 until we found a nice view over Husvågpollen where we were able to park the car. It started raining just when I had my tripod set up – and it won’t stop for the rest of the day!

I still took some shots because the mood was so nice and calm before we returned to our rorbuer to have a hearty breakfast.

The rest of the day was spent on location scouting. The roads were rather icy as the rain was falling on sheer ice but the E10 as well as most of the coastal roads were fine and easy to drive.

We made a trip to Laukvik and Mortfjorden and returned to Svolvær where we suddenly spotted a light leak over the fjord.We stopped at the next possible spot and I quickly set up camera and tripod to grab a few shots. Phew…!

We continued our location scouting and headed to Brenna and Gimsøya where we marked a few possible spots for an aurora shooting on our map. The weather just remained rainy until it got dark and we took some photos of Svolvær harbour before we returned to our cosy home and had dinner. I checked the football results and was very happy to see Bayern Munich won 6:1 against Bremen.

The weather forecast for tomorrow evening looked rather promising and we spent the evening studying the map for possible locations on the fjord side. It was a light at the end of the tunnel, not more – not less…

Highlight of the day: Bayern Munich’s victory…

Rain… rain…

The weather obviously had it in for us, because it was raining heavily when I got up early in the morning and so I went back to bed for another hour.

We had breakfast and started our tour for location scouting around Laukvik on Austvågøya despite the rain. The E10 was easy to drive and there was just little thick ice at the beginning of the small road to Laukvik. The rain has been working hard on the ice and we could almost observe how the snow and ice were melting away. It started to rain even heavier and we returned to the rorbuer after the drive and prepared a light lunch.

We drove off again towards Stamsund when there was a stretch of dry weather and stopped by at the picturesque beach of Skokkelvika. There were some very attractive ice sheets in Rolvsfjorden that I happily photographed while Gerd was after a White-throated dipper. We eventually continued our drive, parked the car at Gimsøy church and waited for the evening to come.
The weather forecast had predicted some clear hours which was hard to believe looking at the thick dark and rainy clouds!

I took some photos along the beach during the blue hour and we played a Swiss quiz in the car to beat the boredom. We gave up at 11:00 pm when there was still no sign of clearing up and the clouds were still very thick. So we drove back to the rorbuer where we raised our glasses to Gerd’s birthday. I was sorry that he did not get his green fireworks for his birthday.

Highlight of the day: the blue hour at the beach of Gimsøy

Rain… even more rain…

I was surprised not to hear the sound of rain when I got up and decided to give it a try this morning. So I just drove over to the area around the airport and took some photos of the fjord in the blue morning light with stormy clouds. It soon after started to rain and I packed my stuff again and drove back.

We enjoyed a hearty birthday breakfast and went back to Morfjorden to see if it would be dry enough to take photos of the ice sheets we had seen there two days ago.

Well, firstly: it was constantly raining and secondly: the ice was almost gone and the remainders just looked ugly. So we left without a photo, returned to the rorbuer for lunch and drove to Brenna after a short nap.

It finally was dry for more than two minutes and I grabbed some photos of the rugged coast with stormy clouds that turned out quite nicely. You can achieve attractive photos in bad conditions and this has been my goal, too – but not ONLY bad weather photos!

The weather looked a bit more friendly on the other side near Skokkelvika and we quickly drove over. In the end it was as dull as everywhere and we called it a day after we tried to capture a few subjects.

Back to Svolvær where we found the bottle store already closed – great. So we did some food shopping, returned to the rorbuer, had dinner and a quiet evening. We surely will celebrate Gerd’s birthday when we are back home!

Highlight of the day: the photo shooting at Brenna beach

Rain break

There was a change this morning! When I got up, I was not only greeted by pouring rain but also by a strong wind that almost blew me into the fjord! So I went inside our cosy home again, had a coffee and read the news.

We had to leave Lofoten Rorbuer today and head on to Henningsvær for the following four days. We were a bit sad to leave this perfect and recommendable accommodation that suited all our needs. The apartment is very modern with all conveniences, a complete kitchen including dishwasher and washing machine and an automated constant supply of filtered fresh air in all rooms.

We had breakfast, packed the car and said goodbye to Ruth, the owner. It was unbelievable but the sun had come out in the meantime and we stopped by where the golden light shined nicely on the foreground. So I took my first photos in good light! Will they be the first and last…?

We went food shopping in the large supermarket before we left Svolvær for Henningsvær. Our home for the next four nights would be Henningsvær Rorbuer that we found very quickly at the seafront of the small fishing village.
We were welcomed by Marianne, paid the rest of the bill and moved into our cabin No. 17. It is a typical renovated Norwegian Rorbuer but not as comfortable as our last accommodation despite being more expensive. It has a small living room with a kitchenette and two bedrooms with one bath room each. The view is nice but the terrace is not overlooking the sea. It is still a very cosy home and we will be fine here.

We left our bags in the room and set off for the afternoon trip. We first paid a visit to the beach of Unstad but it was high tide and the most attractive stones were under water. It seems that the Lofoten Islands have become a very popular destination among photographers in the meantime and there were already a couple of fellow photographers exploring the beach.
We left and continued to Uttakleiv beach, another well-known location. The stones were nice and occasionally washed over by waves and I tried some long exposures. Soon after, another large group of photographers arrived and we left. They were not disturbing us at all but I prefer to be more or less alone in a location; it is just a better experience and more enjoyable. We stopped three kilometers away at Haukland beach where we were all alone and the rocks are even more attractive at one side of the beach.
I happily played with the rocks, the waves and long exposures until it was already late afternoon and we drove back to Henningsvær. Hold on, there was one more stop at Rolvsfjorden where the water was perfectly calm for a reflection of the mountains. That was fun!

We arrived in Henningsvær just in time for the blue hour and took photos of the picturesque harbour. The fisher boats were getting ready for the night fishing and the lights of the boats and houses illuminated the harbour nicely.

We drove back to the rorbuer, prepared a nice Chicken Tikka Masala and spent the evening by a glass of wine, reading and writing this travelogue. There was no hope for Northern lights tonight again.

Highlight of the day: Hauklund beach

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Rain again!

Today is a short story again. It was still dry when I got up and I drove along the Henningsvær road until I found a parking lot in an interesting area. The storm clouds looked interesting and I took some photos with the nice rocks in the foreground. Well, actually I’d preferred if the rocks were snow covered but in the meantime all snow had been gone, washed away by the rain:(

The rain started falling again after I grabbed a few shots and I went back to the rorbuer.

We wanted to give Uttakleiv and Haukland another try but it was raining heavily the whole time we were waiting there and so we eventually gave up and paid a visit to the Viking museum in Borg instead. It is an interesting museum with a large viking house with a display of the tools the vikings were using, their clothing and even with an open fireplace.

We drove back to Henningsvær afterwards, took some photos in the blue hour of the harbour from the other side and had dinner.

No hope for clear skies again and so I had a couple of glasses of Chardonnay while watching Bayern winning against Dortmund in the German cup quarter final – good to have live streaming via internet, at least…

Highlight of the day: Bayern beating Dortmund!

A dull day with a green end

Most surprisingly, it was raining when I got up and so I read the news and sipped my morning coffee.

We did not bother to go out in the morning as it was pouring and only packed our stuff when it cleared early afternoon. We went to Svolvær to fill up the car but we did not pay attention and filled in the cheaper diesel which is tax free and private people are not allowed to use it! We asked the cashier if this diesel is any different from the regular one and if it could damage the engine but to our great relief, she said no. Well, we got away with it and we really did not fill in this diesel on purpose!

We drove to Brenna once more as I wanted to play with the rocks there again. It was still raining when we arrived but cleared up shortly afterwards for about one hour. I grabbed a couple of shots and we drove back to Henningsvær when it started pouring again.

The weather forecast for the night looked promising and we had an early dinner before we went to bed at around 8:00 pm while it was snowing. I set the alarm clock for midnight and checked the sky. Damn it! There was a small hole in the clouds and the hole was green…!! I woke up Gerd, filled the flusk with hot coffee and we went outside. We were greeted by a strong gale and snow showers but we could make out some Northern light between the clouds! So we parked the car near a suitable location and waited for the snow storm to stop.
A polar fox paid a visit and was looking at us as curious as we were looking at him – cute! The snow fall was soon gone but the strong wind remained and it was quite hard to keep the tripod steady. We managed to grab a couple of decent aurora shots until 4:30 am and were quite happy that we at least saw the Northern light once… So the holiday would not be a complete disaster and disappointment! We were very cold from the strong wind and were happy to reach our cosy beds at 5:00 am to grab some sleep before sunrise.

Highlight of the day: the auroras!

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Sun!

I was simply stunned when the alarm clock rang just two hours later and I looked out of the window: I caught a glimpse at a perfectly clear sky! So I quickly put on my trousers and sweater and headed back out into the storm that was still blustering heavily.

I just drove outside of Henningsvær until I found a rock with a nice view over to the other side of Vestvågøy. The wind was incredibly strong and I hardly could handle the tripod and a ND graduated filter. I had to work very carefully so that the tripod would not fall over. When the blue hour was gone, I went back to the car to warm up a few minutes before the beautiful morning light enlightened the mountains of Vestvågøy.

What a treat for the eyes!!! After a couple of shots, I was curious how the little lake would look like. I was very surprised to find ice sheets on the shore – within just three hours!
The tide and the wind were obviously a good team. I happily snapped away and went back to the rorbuer to have breakfast with Gerd and greeted him with a big smile on my face.

After breakfast, we drove to Haukland beach. Unfortunately, the mountains on this side did not get as much snow as the mountains on our side but there was still a touch of winter visible. The contrasts were quite high but I still enjoyed an hour of exploring the rocks and the structures. We continued to Uttakleiv where the tide was coming in and nicely washed over the round rocks. I looked for nice compositions and was quite happy with the final results. Persistence sometimes pays off…


We had lunch overlooking the sandy bay of Haukland and drove over to Rolvsfjord which seems to be my favourite fjord of the northern Lofoten Islands.
It is a very calm and attractive fjord and I always find something new. The sunlight sadly faded away slowly and we took the last photos of the day near the Gimsøystraumen bridge with the sun setting behind the mountains of Vestvågøy.

We returned to the rorbuer as the colours just remained dull, had dinner and enjoyed a relaxed evening. No chances again for Northern lights – the forecast was bad and it was snowing.

Highlight of the day: the sunrise

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Winter day!

This morning started just as any other mornings but yet a little different: there was a heavy gale blowing outside and once again, I did not bother to go out. But, fresh snow has fallen and the landscape was wearing its winter dress again – good news!

We left Henningsvær today and moved to our last destination of this trip: Solsiden Brygge Rorbuer in Ballstad. We were ready to leave by nine o’clock and left the key in the mail box as nobody was around. We did like the accommodation at Henningsvær Rorbuer but the value for money was not really satisfying. With 1800 NOK a night it was the most expensive accommodation with the least comfort, i.e. there was no water boiler, no oven, only two hotplates and the rooms were tiny. The location is great, people are friendly but our opinion is that it is highly overpriced.

We passed Haukland on our way to Ballstad which was a treat for the eye with the fresh snow and the gale has disappeared completely on this side of the island. I dedicated a few more shots to the nice rocks with the sea and the mountains while Gerd took close-ups of sea weed on the beach with the small Canon G1X.

We enjoyed our time very much and continued to Leknes after two hours to fill up the car before we headed to Solsiden Brygge Rorbuer. The reception was locked and so we had to call the Lady who arrived 20 minutes later. We checked in, payed the bill and she showed us the rorbuer after a quick chat. This is the accommodation with the lowest price but definitely beats the rorbuer in Henningsvær: the living room with a well equipped kitchen is large as well as a spacious bathroom and a comfortable sleeping room. Good value for money and recommendable.

We just dropped our luggage and went off for the day trip as it has cleared up in the meantime. We found some ice sheets on the beaches of Flakstadpollen fjord and spent some time there to capture the magnificent winter scenery. Flakstad beach looked great, too, with the fresh snow and we had a lot of fun to explore the rocks and the beach. It was already time to return as the weather looked very promising for tonight and we wanted to have dinner in the rorbuer before we would go out again to chase the Northern light.

We made a last stop at a viewpoint near Napp that offers a breathtaking view over the Storvatnet lake that was nicely covered with ice sheets while the sun set in the distance. Simply stunning – I just love the Norwegian scenery!

We returned to the rorbuer, had a quick dinner and set off again. There was still twilight but when we reached the area of Myrland, we already spotted the first Northern lights – yaaay!!! There was a real fireworks going on in the sky for over three hours and we were overwhelmed and excited about it. It is just so special to see this green light dancing across the sky and for some minutes, we even had a giant bow across the whole fjord – breathtaking!!
We changed locations to Flakstadpollen fjord and Flakstad beach and were just over the moon:)Way too soon, clouds came in again and the weather changed. It was already snowing when we arrived back at the rorbuer in Ballstad and it would not stop until the next morning.

We went to bed – tired but very, very happy.

Highlight of the day: the fireworks in the sky

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A sunny snow storm…

It was still overcast when I got up but I nevertheless went outside for a stroll around the area of the rorbuer.
I went up to the lighthouse and found some nice tranquil compositions of the mountains with the offshore rocks. It slowly cleared up as predicted by the weather forecast service: a nice dry day with clouds and sun was about to start…

I returned to the rorbuer, we had breakfast and started our day trip. We were looking forward to visiting Reine as we both like this spectacular area very much and we wanted to see how it has changed after our last visit eight years ago. We made our first stop at Hella along Torsfjorden where the winter scenery was at its best with a frozen lake and snow covered mountains.

It was overcast with a bit of sunshine when we arrived in Reine and I happily took some photos of Reinefjorden. This is one – if not THE one – place of the Lofoten Islands that I like the most. Lots of drama, steep mountains, deep fjords and dramatic light – it is all on the plate for you:)We had lunch in the car when we first noticed a black wall of clouds approaching the southern tip of the island. Hmmm….

Soon after we had finished our sandwiches, the snow storm started and won’t stop anymore! Dry weather? What a joke again!!! When we drove back towards Leknes, it was snowing heavily and I was almost driving in a complete white-out for twenty minutes!

When we drove over the pass near Napp, I noticed a single light spot and was dead sure it was at Uttakleiv.

I quickly changed the route to pass by and yep – when we left the tunnel, we were greeted by the most beautiful light and… three mini buses with fellow photographers. There were about a dozen people with tripods hanging around on the beach and I was quietly trying to find my place between them. Not very pleasant and I was a bit disappointed with this situation on my last day and the only real sunset I have had here:(Well, I tried to make the best out of it and did achieve some nice long exposure shots.

The light faded quickly and we returned to the car to warm up. I thought I could take some more photos during the blue hour on Haukland beach but when we came out of the tunnel, we already saw the snow storm approaching that has caught us again.

So we went back to Ballstad, had our last Kjøtboller dinner and waited if it would clear up again. It did not take very long and we saw the first stars – yay, rushing to the car and off we were. We checked Myrland first and were greeted by a huge northern light already. The same large bow over the whole fjord as yesterday – fantastic!!

We spent some time there before we went over to Flakstad beach. To our big surprise, there was no other photographer! We could not believe our luck and I headed to the beach – just in time for an incredible sky fireworks. The aurora was large and very strong and I especially liked the green reflections in the wet sand of the beach. The aurora was shining continuously without a single break and suddenly the whole beach and the mountains were illuminated by a giant corona. Yikes…!!!
We were looking breathlessly up into the sky that seemed to explode upon us like a giant star in green and purple. It was an incredible, marvelous, majestic moment that I will never ever forget in my life. Gigantic, fantastic – simply marvelous! The fireworks did not stop and went on for another few hours. Waw…!

We changed to Haukland beach at 1:00 am and enjoyed another hour of a great aurora display. A fantastic location for the auroras with lots of foreground interest that made me happily smiling. And again, no other photographers! We both did not understand their absence – perhaps they were all put off by the bad weather after sunset. I did not feel wind nor the cold while I was watching the aurora dance in the sky.

The aurora got weaker at 2:30 am and we called it a day/night and headed back to the rorbuer – completely overwhelmed by what we have been able to observe this night.

Highlight of the day: the magnificent corona

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Leaving on a sunny day

I just slept a bit more than three hours and got up for the one and only real sunrise during this holiday! The mountains of the mainland were clearly visible and I took photos with the large rocks in the foreground. Soon the sun rose perfectly between two layers of clouds and bathed Ballstad harbour in a wonderful pink warm morning light. Here it was – the beautiful Lofoten light that I have missed so badly during our trip!!

I enjoyed the sight, snapped some photos and went back to the rorbuer to have a last breakfast with Gerd before we got our stuff ready for the airport. The Lady came, we had a nice chat about the auroras and she was amazed about the photos that we had taken last night.

One last stop at the petrol station to refill the car, a last visit to the supermarket and we drove to the airport. Check-in and security control were quick and easy. It was sunny with a clear blue sky – I was sure that there would be cool northern lights visible in the night; what a pity that we had to leave!!!

The first flight over to Bodø was very nice and we looked back at the sunny Lofoten Islands with a sad smile on our face. The flights to Oslo and eventually to Zurich were smooth and on time and we caught an early train to Basel where we arrived shortly before midnight.

It has been a good holiday despite the rainy weather. Well, it can always be better but it can also be worse. Reflecting on our experiences and photos, we are quite happy with the results. We went through lots of rain and snow and eventually were blessed with one of the best aurora sights of our life.

Not too bad… right…?

Highlight of the day: the magnificent soft light of the Lofoten Islands

We hope you liked reading our travelogue and we thank you for your interest – Sandra & Gerhard.

Please visit our photoblog for current photos and information about our work: SA*GA Photography – Photoblog of Sandra Schaenzer

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