Photography by Ian Cameron

Lofoten & Senja Masterclass

 

Course Duration: 12 Nights ------ £3425   (Flights not included)
(single person occupancy of single, twin / double bedrooms - Half Board).

* Maximum group size  FOUR

* All transport at location included.

* Pick up/drop off from Leknes/Tromso airport.

Norway offers some of the finest landscape photography in some of the most sublime naturally occurring light anywhere in the world. It is a wealthy country with a comparatively small population, a world class fishing industry and is oil rich. Alas that makes it a relatively expensive country for over-sea travellers to visit and stay. Whilst Norway has thousands of square kilometres of gorgeous and compelling landscapes, two locations in particular stand head and shoulders above the others.

Ranked as the third most beautiful island on the planet by National Geographic, an organisation that certainly has the authority and funding to know, the Lofoten islands majestically arise from the sea off the west coast of Norway like the mythical citadel of Valhalla. The mountains are impossibly steep, immediate and awe inspiring despite their surprisingly manageable Scottish dimensions. The Lofoten islands are situated just 100 miles inside the Arctic circle and are consequently subject to both eternal darkness and perpetual light during mid-winter and mid-summer.  The Lofoten islands have become justifiably popular for photographers and it can get very busy, too busy for me if I'm honest, many of these photographic excursions target the short days and long nights of February and early March, optimum times of year for Northern Lights and total snow coverage, but believe me after several days of dubious freezing cold weather where you feel confined to quarters and no other hues on show save for white, black and the lurid green of Northern Lights, you will definitely crave that rare commodity of colour and more frequent sunshine.  Too much snow is not always a good thing and anyway you are likely to see a lot more of that at our next destination and still have the a slight possibility of viewing Northern Lights.

The second jewel in Norway’s kingdom of sublime landscapes is the remote and comparatively lesser known and much less visited island of Senja.  It is a few hundred miles further North of the Lofoten islands and I had the pleasure of seeing it for the first time last Spring and I was totally blown away by the majesty of it's wild and spacious scenery.  Senja is entirely different from Lofoten, quieter, quainter, with far fewer people around.  It is a land of enormous untrodden snow fields, the deepest and most majestic fjords imaginable and abruptly rising mountains that literally defy belief.  By some God given bizarre twist of nature, these mountain fjords often have a beautiful smooth unblemished sandy bay bordered by equally untrodden snow lounging at their base, quizzically softening the harsh extremes of this snow bound wilderness.

Senja is astonishingly beautiful, remote and a relatively unknown gem. I believe it is the perfect partner for Lofoten and I am very pleased to be able to offer this wonderful 4 night  extension to my usual 7 night Lofoten workshop.

When To Go:

E
arly Spring is my preferred season to visit. At this time of year you have a real chance of decent weather during your stay.  I don't just mean blue sky and sunshine, I mean opportunities that bring forth wild weather and some prolonged dry spells a lot more practical and a little more comfortable than earlier on in the season.

Will you see snow on the mountains?
  Absolutely.

Will it lie on the roads and get down to ground level? 
Probably, but more so in Senja than in Lofoten you will also be able to travel on cleared roads, park up in defined laybys, explore and not have the constant likelihood of being marooned indoors for the majority of your stay. Spring offers the chance of introducing some colour into the landscape.

So will it be freezing cold and will I see Northern Lights?  Perhaps not as severe as you might think. The temperatures hover around two to 5 degrees Celcius on Lofoten and around zero to three degrees Celcius on Senja, the latter with much more snow around. As the days get longer Northern Lights become increasingly difficult to see but I saw them briefly at Lofoten and they were very bright and well defined on Senja a few days afterwards, no guarantees I’m afraid but it is possible.

During the Spring the hours of daylight stretch out longer and longer with sunrise between 5am to 6am and sunset after 20.30 to 20.45 hours. This has some photographic benefits especially towards the ends of the day as sunrise and sunset can be long drawn out colourful affairs, for that reason you will need some recovery time during the middle of the day when the light is harsher and less favourable to landscape photographer's needs.

If you would like to see a selection of my Lofoten and Senja Island images please head over to the Norwegian Gallery.


How to get there:


During this Transient Light workshop you will be staying 7 nights in Reine on Lofoten, immediately followed by 4 nights in Hamn on Senja Island and a further 1 night in Tromso prior to our return home the following day.

Below is a rough breakdown of my own travel itinerary and it would make sense to try and match it as closely as possible.  A full list with dates and times will be added as and when I book my own flights.  DO NOT BOOK your flights at this stage.  In the unlikely event that there is insufficient interest, I cannot re-imburse you for any flights should the workshop be cancelled, though you would of course have your full deposit returned. I will email all interested parties to clear booking of flights.

I will be flying out from Aberdeen to Oslo airport possibly via Stavanger and then from Oslo to Bodo airport and finally a short 30 minute hop to Leknes airport on the Lofoten Islands where I will pick up a suitable hire vehicle before driving to our accommodation in Reine (Approx. 1 Hour).  At the end of our stay on Lofoten we will return to Leknes airport, drop off the hire car and then board a return flight to Bodo airport where we will continue on to Tromso, (a short flight of 70 miinutes). I will pick up our hire car and drive through to Hamn on Senja island. (Approx 3.5 hours).

After breakfast on our last day on Senja Island we will have a leisurely drive back stopping en route to take pictures returning to Tromso airport around 6pm before taking an airport bus to our hotel for our final night prior to departure from Tromso airport. From Tromso you can fly directly back to Oslo and thence home in my case to Aberdeen airport.

Flying from England presents many more flight opportunities, whatever your starting location will be, I recommend looking at Norwegian.com for the best flight prices and SAS airlines (usually costing a little more), for the peace of mind that this company brings on the rare occasions that flights are cancelled or missed at Bodo. (hotel accommodation and rearranged flights are covered).  The approximate cost of all the flights necessary to cover this trip assuming a UK start location is around £580 (UKP). Look at flights from Norwegian.com and SAS airlines. The latter has advantages in terms of not having to recover baggage after every flight and in some cases offers cover should your connecting flight be cancelled. Wideroe (Bodo/Leknes hop) and SAS airlines being sister companies in relation to connecting flights.

My responsibility for you begins at the Lofoten islands and ends at our chosen hotel in Tromso a short bus ride from the airport. All you have to do is get there preferably on the commencement date. Things do occasionally go wrong but I will rectify them as best I can when/if it happens.

Accommodation:

This is a two centre accommodation at Lofoten and then Senja Island plus an overnight stay in Tromso.

Reine, Lofoten:

F
or the first part of your trip you will be staying 7 nights in the stunning village of Reine which is surely the photographic heart of the Lofoten Islands. Reine is a gorgeous little fishing village sheltered on three sides by impossibly steep and precipitous mountains.  It has surely got to be one of the most beautiful places to stay anywher in the world.  The Det Gamle Hotellet run by our lovely host Lilian is normally run on a bed and breakfast basis but Lilian has kindly agreed to supply evening meals which is a huge bonus as very few places are open, she is an excellent cook and she doesn't limit herself to catering exclusively to Norwegian tastes, so you can expect a few Moroccan and European style dishes too.  There is also the option to buy a packed lunch if you require it. The Det Gamle Hotellet is fairly basic and simply furnished but warm and comfortable. You will be staying single occupancy in clean and warm single or double / twin bedrooms. Though the beds are equipped with thin mattresses I found them inexplicably comfortable despite the apparent lack of support.  None of the bedrooms have ensuite facilities but by this time next year there will be two bathrooms with decent showers.  There is seemingly an endless supply of hot water and sensible use of a rota system seems to mitigate most of the potential usage problems especially as we will have exclusive use of the premises.

The two single bed rooms are on the second floor in what would be considered the buildings loft, they are definitely small, but they are warm and cosy and I have never once had any problem sleeping in them.   There is also plenty of room for storage of bags and gear immediately outside the room in the loft space should it be needed.   Access to both single rooms is via a steep angled step ladder style wooden staircase which might prove difficult for some.  I usually take one of these single rooms and one other person will need to take the other loft room.  

I can offer a discount of £100 (UKP) to the occupier of one or more of the single rooms on a first come first served basis.  Please indicate to me in an email your preferences and if the loft rooms are still available I will ensure your option is reserved.


Outside the 1st floor bedrooms is a small upstairs lounge facility with tea, coffee and cookies available whenever required, on a help yourself basis.  Reine has a decent sized Co-op for stocking up with treats / fruit and a few restaurants mainly selling fish dishes based around the ubiquitous cod, but the most striking feature of the village is the many bright red Rorbrua that adorn the waterfront. The rorbrua were originally the fisherman's huts but most have been adapted and let out for accommodation purposes during the summer months when the population of Reine quintuples.

The Det Gamle Hotellet has wooden floors which don't appreciate getting wet and all external shoes should be removed at the entrance vestibule and stored there. Please bring internal slippers or soft shoes as the floorboards on the stairs can get a little too slippery for socks.

Hamn i Senja, Senja Island:

A
ccommodation on Senja is considerably more costly but it is a very good standard, situated right by the water’s edge with an outstanding view of Northern Lights should we be treated to any, the accommodation takes the form of a two and a three bed room apartment with single occupancy of twin bedded en-suite rooms.  We will be staying at Hamn i Senja for 4 nights.  Each apartment is equipped with a small kitchen/dining area containing oven, cutlery, plates, kettle and a small number of white goods. A pleasant  lounge with a huge picture window frontage looking out over Hamn’s tiny harbour completes the very comfortable and relaxing accommodation.

Due to the time of year there is sometimes insufficient guests to make it worthwhile opening the restaurant facility for evening meals.  If that proves to be the case the Hamn I Senja Hotel prepares the two course meals in advance and they are taken to our apartments in our absence and placed on the dining room table for heating in the oven. This worked incredibly well and in the end suited us entirely, the meals were very good but best of all it allowed us complete flexibility as to when we returned back with no risk of compromising decent light for our photography. The plates/dishes supplied were cleared the following morning by staff and we just piled the kitchen cutlery and baking dish in the dishwasher.  Breakfast is usually provided at the restaurant block on a buffet basis and were of a decent quality though on one day a week it appears that it is provided at the accommodation.  It should be noted that the nearest stores of any sort are at least a twenty minute drive from Hamn but it is worth stocking up with a few nibbles when the opportunity arises.


General Information:

Not included in your trip are any air fares, neither is there provision for an evening meal on the last day prior to our flight back the following morning.


The booking of any flights will be entirely your own responsibility. Please do NOT book any flights until I have confirmed that there are sufficient numbers to make the workshop viable. I will forward an email advising you of my own booking times and dates so that you can arrange similar flights.   Bearing in mind the above caveat relatively early booking of flights is advisable as Lofoten flights from Bodo to Leknes fill surprisingly quickly.

Any deposit paid will be refunded should there be insufficient interest, but the cost of any booked flights will not.

Finally I don't anticipate that you will have much need of additional currency which of course is Norwegian Krona, as there is not too many shops open to spend it on. However, Reine does have a Co-op, a tea room/coffee house and cake shop, I usually buy some fruit and goodies at these and if you require packed lunch (I usually don't), then you would need to pay Lilian in the local currency.  You will likely need a little currency or a debit card to pay for an evening meal on the very last day prior to our flight back from Tromso.


Grade: EASY. Short level walks all easy and quick return to the vehicle. Please note temperatures in late March can hover around 0 degrees celcius or below and on Senja the possibility of deep snow can make walking hard work away from the roads.  There is the possibility of hiring snow shoes on Senja at around £20 (UKP) per day if you wish but in all honesty we managed just fine without them most of the time.

A £500.00 deposit is required to reserve a place on the course.


Caveats:

1. Drying Cod hanging upside down on racks smell overpoweringly of fish. I got used to it fairly quickly the Norwegians refer to it as the smell of money.

2. Food and drink in Norway is very expensive the former tends to be based around Cod, it may not be to everyones tastes.

3. You will not see or photograph any Northern Lights after the end of March with just a slight possibility in Senja as the sky simply does not get dark enough.

4. The weather is generally even more unpredictable than that of Scotland. I can't control the weather.

5. Key to photographing Lofoten and Senja is being out for sunrise and sunset.  The hours can seem very long, sleep deprivation is likely.


Pros:

1. The scenery is utterly mindblowingly spectacular and is seemingly limitless. It completely offsets all of the above.

2. No Language barrier, English is easily spoken by everybody I met on the island.