Chasing the light at the Lofoten islands
The Lofoten islands are no longer a secret tip just for the craziest landscape photographers from around the world like it was during my first trips ten years ago- in fact they have developed to one of the absolute hotspots for trigger happy nature lovers and if you´ve ever been there you know the reason.
If you don´t live under a rock you might have noticed that since it opened not too long ago some of the world's best photographers have found their base in beautiful Ballstad, exactly at Hattvika - Here´s why!
Compared to many other popular locations on this planet, the Lofoten archipelago is rather small. But this doesn't mean it's easy to be at the right place at the right time when that gorgeous light paints the peaks and beaches or the elusive Aurora borealis starts her mesmerizing dance on the night sky. The climate bounces as fast as the northern lights with huge regional differences.
While you have clear sky and nice weather in Ballstad you might face naughty conditions with poor visibility only one island down the road. This is one of the reasons why a base on Vestvagoy is a great thing- you can quickly decide where to drive following the best conditions without having to worry about a traverse of over an hour for every single chase and potentially missing the good light.
Here´s a little summary of the driving time to some of my favorite locations when based in Hattvika lodge.
Some of the very best spots are actually just around the corner from Ballstad, we´ll start with these.
Hauklandstranda- the harmonic marble beach
Without any doubt this beach is mesmerizing- featuring a great backdrop and plenty foreground options that change along the tide. As the famous stream that flows into the ocean here changes it´s appearance frequently, it´s possible to return multiple times without ever repeating a composition.
Driving time is not even 30min making it a breeze to spontaneosly head there.
Uttakleiv- the harder and rough brother of Haukland
Just one short tunnel drive brings you to Uttakleiv beach, easily one of Lofotens most popular beaches for photography and i´d be bold enough to call it one of this planets Top3 beaches for dramatic photography. Less harmonic than Haukland, very often pounded by strong waves and harsh winds- gotta love it!
Driving time is just barely 5 minutes longer than Haukland... always an option to simply drive here and check out how it looks to decide where to go shooting on any particular day.
Vik- not only a luxury backup location for Uttakleiv and Haukland
The area just before Vik beach and the beach itself feature many great seascape options and even a piece of cake mountain hike. Always a nice option when the more famous beaches along the road are crowded with people and you are searching for a little solitude.
As you might have expected this is barely a 20min drive from Hattvika.
Vareid- foreground bonanza with the Flakstad mountain range as backdrop
Tell me you get bored of this location because you repeat yourself and i run out of words which is not easy to achieve....
Barely over 20min driving will let you explore this world class conglomeration of amazing spots along the often wild shoreline.
Unstad- where surfers and sheep shake hands
World famous for the nowadays very active surfer community and a landscape location for itself this little (i mean... little) town and beach are always a good idea to check out frequently. Especially when the weather get´s really messy one can always find great options here- looking out for surfers beeing only one of them.
Not even a 40min drive.
Skagsanden- textures, textures, textures (and a backdrop second to none)
I can´t even remember how many times i´ve gone to Skagsanden for photography. And... i have yet to get bored from this majestic beach. There´s just too much to find and even the most classic spots next to the parking lot change their face every day, so it´s hard to repeat yourself.
Little over 35min driving brings you here and let´s you forget everything around you.
Reine- that one town that made Lofoten famous worldwide
I won´t need to tell you about the versatility of the area around Reine. There is a banger to be taken around every corner. It's also a slightly longer drive from Ballstad, but as you cross so many places on the way you will always have an option to stop along the way if the light decides to give you a hard time focussing on the road... But come one, little over an hour driving is still awesome and let´s you stay flexible hunting that image of your dreams with ease.
I think you already got me- Hattvika is a very versatile location to have some of the best places in a very, very short distance. Compare it with driving from Skogarfoss to Jökulsarlon in Iceland chasing a break in the clouds to see the northern lights...
Besides that, Ballstad itself features some amazing locations that don´t have to hide from their famous friends along the islands. But that´s another story to be told on here!
One more factor: Just 5 minutes walking or not even one by car from Hattvika you find the local Joker grocery store. Great thing to stock up some energy drinks, fruits or whatever you might need.
Problems you might find along the road
The islands were never expected to attract as many people as they actually do nowadays- you can notice it on the roads, especially in summer and winter. In the summer phase many people in campervans are driving to Lofoten. You could easily need more driving time than expected because overtaking them is not an easy thing- and we don´t want to risk live for a shot right...
In winter depending on the weather a drive might take longer than during the rest of the year. But that´s quite obvious- more problematic can be finding a place to park your car. When you drive around make sure to remember open parking bays for later. Many of the normal parking bays are covered with snow by the snow plowers so you might run into trouble to get to some of the great places that are just next to the roads. Also let´s remind that there are some great people living on the islands- the locals are just awesome. But the influx of tourists and photographers has been causing some trouble. Respect their homes and properties and don´t simply park in their entrance. You can always knock and just ask, but everyone should understand that it´s not cool to not beeing abled to enter your home just because someone is unallowedly parking there.
If you are not used to drive under arctic winter conditions- take it easy! Every year there are more accidents and problems with rental cars. While driving on spiked winter tires is safe, don´t rush like you are used to do at home- or you might be the next one needing assistance. I heard from locals that the breakdown service has making increasing numbers every year lately, but you might have to wait quite a while until help arrives nowadays...
Afer having spent time in many accomodations on Lofoten my résumé is that Hattvika simply has all that it takes to be the perfect photography base on the islands. It starts at the cabins itself- the combination of traditional norwegian buildings with top shelf modern functional interior is awesome. I really felt at home in like... seconds after i arrived.
My latest stays have been quite different to my former trips as i have two kids now. My wife Maria has been as Lofoten addict as myself and of course we agreed that having the two lads would not stop us from travelling like we have always done. It´s one life we have and just because one now is parenting it doesn't mean that all the stuff we love suddenly has no place in life anymore. Even more- with the kids i will give my best to show them as much as i can of this beautiful planet.
Naturally we had the doubt how we would manage to combine our family life with very small kids (6 months and 2 years old) with beeing at a place where you normally don´t have everything set up like at home. Needless to say it worked out perfectly! The great people at Hattvika are prepared for young families and have everything from chairs to car seats for you to borrow- that is not something obvious and of course made things much easier.
After a long day of photography one can need some nice food and wellness- again Hattvika has you covered. Book your seats in advance and get some delicious local and international dishes of the day at the restaurant (of course also breakfast). The level of cuisine is the highest you can find at Lofoten.
Recently their was a huge upgrade at the lodge- besides the traditional wooden heated hot-tub pool and sauna located at the center square they now have a big sauna right ON the pier. I mean I have personally seen something like this on this planet :D You can sit there with a nice view over the harbour and islands and sweat after a long day of hiking/skiing/photography.
As a photographer i always appreciate having nice wifi- the speed and reach of Hattvikas system is very strong and allows you to work in every single cabin (oh and in the sauna too if you so wish).
Then last not least you have the great Hattvika staff- you can feel that the lodge is their passion!
Guri and Kristian have made a great job at choosing their team- each of them is working together and whenever you need something there will be someone that reacts quickly.
You just feel welcome by friends from the first time you visit- a wonderful feeling that makes you look forward to your next stay while you are still there!
Each one of the team i also a passionate outdoors person and will look forward to show you around in the mountains when there is time. The locals hit the trails whenever they can actually and when they do they´ll ask you to come along. Roland Hummer aka ITCHY-FEET is a very experienced mountaineer and currently setting up a Trail Running center at Hattvika too- if you don't feel safe in the high mountains, he can always be your guide and cover you in the risky passages.
Trail Running, Ski, Snowboard, Fishing, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Speed boat cruises and kayaking excursions are only some of the things you can have set up for you when based in Hattvika and well... only writing this has made me miss the place so much that i´ll have to check for flights to Lofoten as soon as possible!
Please take the opportunity to explore Felix work globally here