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Guide to Northern Lights Photography In Lofoten

This article is part of the Complete Guide to Photography in Lofoten


The northern lights reflected in the ocean at Skagsanden Beach in Lofoten, Norway

Lofoten is one of the best parts of the world for northern lights photography, and thousands of photographers come to this small set of islands off the coast of Norway hoping to see it.


It's often cloudy, and the aurora can be hard to predict and capture, but a little planning can improve your chances of a successful northern lights image.


This guide explains how to approach aurora photography in Lofoten and the photography locations which will give you the best chance of a great image.


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Photographing the Northern Lights in Lofoten


The northern lights over a mountain at night, taken in Hamnoy, Reine, Lofoten

The aurora isn't more likely to appear over Lofoten than anywhere else at the same latitude, but it has become a famous spot to watch and photograph the display. There are several features of Lofoten which make it great for aurora watching:


  • Ocean currents mean that Lofoten gets unusually mild winters for its latitude, so it's a relatively easy place to spend a long time outside on a winter's night.

  • The landscape is spectacular, so you'll get great photographs even if you don't see the aurora. Seeing the northern lights in Lofoten is just an extra advantage of this amazing landscape.

  • If you see the aurora in Lofoten, you'll likely be able to include it in a great composition. This explains why Lofoten is so famous as a northern lights photography destination, as so many great images are shared online.

  • The Lofoten Islands are remote, so there is very low light pollution outside the main towns. 

  • Many of the photography spots in Lofoten feature large expanses of sky and can be photographed in many directions. This makes it easier to adjust your compositions to include the aurora when it appears in different parts of the sky. 


Northern Lights Photography Spots in Lofoten


An atmospheric sky including the northern lights over a mountain range at Storsandnes Beach in Lofoten Norway

There are some great photography locations in Lofoten, but some are better than others for viewing the aurora. A good aurora location has less light pollution and more flexibility to shoot in different directions, with a wide view of the sky.


If you are new to photographing the aurora, there are several locations where you’ll have a better chance of capturing a great photograph. I recommend starting with spots which are easy to reach, where you can create a simple composition with lots of sky.


With more experience, you can try capturing the northern lights in more complex scenes. These areas might have more light pollution, require nighttime hiking to reach, or where the best compositions only include a portion of the sky.


Best Lofoten Aurora Locations


The aurora is fleeting, and you can feel under some pressure to get the photography right after putting in the effort to see it. If you are new to photographing the night sky, you will already have to deal with finding a composition and setting up your camera in the dark. I recommend starting in a relatively simple location to give yourself the best chance of a successful shoot.


These spots have relatively low light pollution and a very open landscape. They are easy to reach, even in the depths of winter, and you can make compositions in many directions. For your first shoot, start with these locations.


Skagsanden Beach


Skagsanden Beach is a very popular location, just off the main road through Lofoten. There is a parking area next to the road, and the beach is easy to access in winter. On location, this beach faces a large mountain that can be a striking subject for your images.


The beach also has variety in the foreground, with rock formations, patterns in the sand and shapes formed by the waves. This location is ideal for capturing large-scale simple images featuring a lot of sky. 



Storsandnes Beach


Storsandnes Beach is a little harder to reach, as it’s on a gravel road 3km off the main road. However, you can access this spot in a normal vehicle, even in winter. The beach faces north, and a beautiful arrangement of mountains across the water; this range looks great in minimalist images of the sky, so you will have a good chance of capturing the aurora wherever it appears.


It can get very dark on location (although the nearby lights of Leknes sometimes reflect in low cloud), and it’s best to scope during daylight to decide on a composition



Uttakleiv Beach


Uttakleiv Beach has the Dragon’s Eye rock pool, one of the most famous compositions in Lofoten, often surrounded by photographers. This beach is another very open part of the landscape where you’ll be able to see a lot of the sky and hunt for aurora in many directions.


The distinctive cliff at the end of this beach makes a great subject at any time of day, and there are small pools and rock formations all over the beach. The Dragon’s Eye has a complicated composition, and it would be a challenge to focus and capture in the dark, but almost anywhere along this shoreline has rocks and wave patterns to use in an aurora image.



Advanced Lofoten Aurora Locations


The northern lights and streaks of light taken in the Lofoten Islands Norway

The locations above have very open landscapes, which are easy to reach and less challenging to photograph in the dark. However, photography in these places can result in minimalist scenes, and you may get more interesting compositions with the northern lights at other locations in Lofoten.


Anywhere you have captured a good daytime image featuring a portion of the sky can also work for the northern lights at night. However, you might have to deal with light pollution, or compositions with a limited view of the sky.


In these situations, a strong aurora positioned in the right place of the sky will produce a good image, but a weak aurora in the wrong place could mean you miss out on capturing a photograph completely.


Reine


Reine is the photography highlight of Lofoten, an incredible town set on small islands in a bay surrounded by mountains. You can find plenty of beautiful northern lights images set in Reine, but it can be a challenging location to shoot at night. The two main obstacles are 


  • Light pollution from shooting in a town. To deal with this, you’ll need a strong aurora to overcome the bright location. It’s also important to shield your lens from nearby streetlights when shooting and carefully adjust your white balance in processing to allow for artificial lighting. 


  • Limited view of the sky. Many of the compositions from Reine feature only a small portion of the sky. You may need to be patient and hope that the area of the sky in your image is clear and contains aurora during your shoot. 


Most of the best aurora photography spots in Reine are the same as those which work during the day, but a few highlights are:


  • Horn. This view of houses and a pointed mountain looks incredible with snow and aurora. The footbridge makes a great leading line in this composition. 

  • Hamnøy. The famous location of red huts near Reine looks great with aurora overhead, and there are other great views of the bay all around the island of Hamnøy.


  • Playa del Troll. This spot on the edge of town has minimal light pollution and a great view of the bay. It is rare to get a clear sky, but you may be lucky and see the aurora reflected in the water. 


Haukland and Vik


Haukland and Vik beaches are just south of Uttakleiv beach and can be beautiful photography locations in many different conditions. The foregrounds at these beaches are different to Uttakleiv, with more stretches of sand and small collections of rocks, and they look out on a long bay surrounded by cliffs. 


Haukland and Vik are connected at the end of a wide bay, so there is a huge amount of landscape to explore. However, they can be more difficult northern lights locations because the long bay limits your view of the sky to a narrow strip, so you’ll need the aurora to appear in just the right place for your image to work. 


It can be very dark at these locations, with few artificial lights to help navigate the scene. While this will help you to capture the night sky, it also makes finding foregrounds and focusing more tricky. The potential for a unique image here is worth the additional challenge and effort, and you can improve your chances by scoping potential compositions during the daytime.


Lofoten Aurora Locations: Not Recommended


Most photography locations in Lofoten can work during the day or at night, but there are some where capturing a successful aurora image will be more difficult. These are some popular locations that might prove more of a challenge for northern lights photography.


A close up view of the Northern Lights with detail in the aurora

Nusfjord


Nusfjord is a postcard Lofoten fishing village and a favourite spot among visitors in this part of the islands. It can be a rewarding photography location during the day, where you can capture scenes of the small harbour and colourful buildings around the centre of the village. However, it is situated in a narrow fjord between two high cliffs that block your view of the horizon. Compositions in Nusfjord often have a very limited view of the sky. I don’t recommend this spot for aurora hunting.



Henningsvaer


Henningsvaer is another Lofoten town with spectacular geography. Like Reine, Henningsvaer is arranged on low islands, this time a little off the coast near some beautiful mountains. However, Henningsvaer is best photographed with a drone because its usual location makes it difficult to find a good perspective on the town and the islands that make it so striking. To capture the northern lights here, you would need special permission to fly a drone at night and still have to overcome the incredible technical difficulties of photographing the aurora from the air.



Fredvang and surroundings


The area around Fredvang can be incredible, and some of the highlights include a set of bridges across the bay, Kvalvika Beach and the Ryten lookout. However, this area is a real challenge for aurora shooting. The bridges to Fredvang look best from the air, so you will face the same drone photography challenges as in Henningsvaer (above). The Ryten lookout and Kvalvika beach are both very difficult to access in winter, and you will need snow shoes or skis to reach them during the seasons when aurora is most visible. Even if you can get there, there are only a small number of interesting angles from which to photograph, so your composition options will be limited to a narrow portion of the sky.



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Northern Lights Photography Advice


The northern lights over a fjord with snow-capped mountains in Lofoten Norway

Although these locations are great places to start in Lofoten, there are ways to approach finding your own photography locations that work well for photographing the northern lights.


For more information about exploring on your own, and the technical detail you need to photograph the aurora, I have a full northern lights photography guide here.


A link to a guide to photographing the northern lights

The cover of the complete guide to photography in the Lofoten Islands





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