Each year, for the last 6 years, I have taken groups to Finnish and Norwegian Lapland. It’s a time of the year that I particularly enjoy with trees and understory bursting into autumnal colour. And, with the prospect of witnessing the northern lights, it makes for a very enjoyable tour with anticipation aplenty! My plan this year was upon conclusion of the trip, rather than go home with everyone else, I was to stay on a further 9 days and explore Norway’s second largest island, Senja. I have long wanted to go here and upon hearing how quiet it is and how relatively unexplored (photographically, anyway) compared to its more famous neighbour, Lofoten, it made the place all the more appealing. This post will be devoted, however, to the week-long Lapland in Autumn tour I held with Senja being ‘dealt with’ within the next week or two.
Our week in Lapland, weather-wise, was mixed. This is to be expected and we had one ‘wash-out’ day which, as it happened, went in our favour. It was towards the end of the trip and with everyone having taken lots of photographs it gave us all the opportunity to look through one another’s images and for me to cast my eye and appraise a number from each. The night previous was a very late return and everyone was still buzzing with excitement having seen a most incredible display of the aurora borealis.
Here’s a selection taken from those seven days.
The group’s first impression of Finnish Lapland
As with any place, once you’ve been there often you are more selective. Lapland in autumn is a wonderful place for those seeking out details, of which there are many strewn upon the forest floor.
I took one zoom lens with me, the others were all primes. As you will have read in the previous post I use primes far more than I do zooms. I like how they ‘restrict’ what you can photograph (fewer decisions to make), their wide maximum aperture and their close-focusing capabilities. They are significantly lighter and In general, much sharper too.
I took the following which are all Nikkors – of varying ages – except for the 14mm which is produced by Samyang.
- 14mm f/2.8
- 20mm f/2.8
- 28mm f/2.8
- 50mm f/1.4
- 70-200mm f/2.8
- 1.4x tele-converter
- Canon 500D supplementary close-up lens
Of all these, it was the 50mm that I used more than any other.
On separate days the group were taken to two of my favourite locations where at each we spent close on an entire day. With few vistas, the forest itself provided more than enough subject matter. I guarantee you will learn more about composition in such an environment than you ever will shooting sweeping views. Images don’t at first leap out and it takes a while to get your eye in. My way of working has always been to concentrate on small areas for a long period as opposed to walking from one spot to the next.
We stay at 2 locations, 3 nights apiece to give the group a real flavour of the region. The first is situated in the lowlands of Lapland where tall spruces dominate while at the second, being that we are at a higher altitude, the landscape is more rocky with stunted, twisted birch being the only species. To me, the latter is true Lapland.
The first 4 nights were cloudy, not just in the immediate vicinity of where we were staying but the entire region. There’s not an awful lot you can do when it’s thick cloud for hundreds of kilometers around! However, on our fourth night and with clear skies forecast to the west, we drove an hour into Norway. No sooner had we parked up at a sufficiently ‘dark’ place and with the merest hint of twilight in the sky, one of nature’s greatest spectacles began.
For the most part I would employ the services of the 14mm but would, on occasion, use the 70-200mm.
The spectacle lasted a full 2 hours and I have to say, hand on heart, it was one of the finest I have ever witnessed.
It’s always nice when they last more than just a few minutes. The first 20 minutes or so is always a frantic affair with any group. Wonky horizons, incorrect exposures, slightly out of focus….. But, with time to spare, one can relax, think more about the shot and more importantly, stand away from the camera and enjoy it with your own eyes.
As I said at the beginning, we did have a wet day (it was continuous, actually) and this was spent looking over our own images and peeking at each others. The following day (our last full), on the other hand, was much brighter and so we took the group to a canyon with amazing views of Norway’s towering peaks.
And later in the day to an ancient Norwegian birch forest. I absolutely love it here! Too rocky and in places too boggy for man to ‘interfere’ with. With visible footprints of elk one can imagine that this is how its always been.
As with the other locations, I’ve been here many times before and so simply took the time to wander and record the colourful vegetation and lichen-encrusted birch with my mobile phone camera.
We stayed close-by until darkness fell and under partially clear skies while cooking sausages and marshmallows over an open fire, we were treated to one last display.
And, if that wasn’t enough, as we drove back to our cabins in Finland, an elk posed for our mobile-phone cameras! A delightful way to finish the tour.
A huge thanks to the group for making the tour what it was and an absolute pleasure to lead. There is a ‘pull’ to this region that I am sure everyone felt at one time or another while on this trip. Finns speak of the “Lapland fever” because of the many that have lost their heart to this land.
If some of these images appealed to you and you’d like to learn more about photographing the northern lights, then you might be interested in my ebook: Ruska – Revontulet. Autumn in Finnish Lapland
, northern lights
, photographing northern lights