The little red fishing huts at Hamnoy on the Lofoten Islands, Norway, are iconic and they form part of what is probably the most shared and recognisable landscape composition from this amazing place. When I first saw images of Hamnoy, I knew that I had to make the photographer's pilgrimage and capture this image for myself. The composition has been taken a million times, but I hazard a guess that if you ever visit the area, you will head for the bridge, where you take the image, frame up your composition and snap away. Even if you just want to take unique images, you will be drawn to area.
It doesn't matter if you shoot the image in portrait or landscape orientation, if you visit anytime of the day, if it's cloudy, snowing, raining, blowing a gale or your are blessed with amazing light, you should still be able to create a great image. You see, everything just lines up, the bridge is in exactly the right place to create a balanced image. You can't really go wrong. All you need to be careful of, is that you don't step back of the pavement into the road, there is a lot of traffic that passes. You also need to make a choice about getting your tripod high enough to be clear of the railings or get it close enough to them so you can get your lens through the gap. If you do the later and you are using clip on filters then be careful, one false move and your expensive Lee, Kase or Nisi polariser, nd or grads will be going for a swim, never to be seen again!
When I visited in March, there had been a huge amount of snow in recent days, which made for picture postage card conditions. It really was stunningly beautiful and the early morning light and clouds, brought everything to life. Earlier on the year, when the sun doesn't get very high above the horizon, you can experience golden hour light all through the day. When you visit a location for the first time, you don't really expect to get amazing conditions right off the bat. Yet my first morning, lived it to everything that I had imagined. It is certainly a location that I will be returning to over the coming years.
The majority of photographers who visit Hamnoy will take the iconic image that I have just described. Once they have photographed from the bridge, they may pick their way down through the rocks and shoot the image from close to the Fjord. This wasn't an option when I was there this time. There was just too much snow. I am sure with care it might have been possible to carefully walk through the boulders, but one slip could have seen me either in the Fjord or falling between gaps in the rocks. The risk was just too great. No matter how tempting it may seem, to get that perfect photo, no image is worth risking injury or worse for. Leave it well alone and come back when conditions allow.
There is quite a lot of parking near the bridge in Hamnoy, although to get the best spots then it is always advisable to get into position well ahead of the best light appearing. You don't want to be rushing around trying to find a parking place and then framing up your composition with only minutes to spare. You also need to keep an eye on where the best light is. You can clearly see the bridge where you take the first composition from in the image above. But just look at the light, which is catching the mountains in the distance. When I took this image, the bridge must have had 15 photographers on it, yet the clouds that you can see to the right hand side, were covering the mountains behind the red huts. One of my clients, David and I, literally walked 50 meters from where we had been standing to capture this image. 5 minutes later even these mountains were covered in clouds and the image was lost for the day.
The time when you take your images varies greatly in the Lofoten Island. Mid winter and it is nearly always dark, middle of the summer and it never gets dark. So you are going to need to plan ahead. It is always a good idea to use some of the apps which show you where the sun will rise and set and when. By understanding this data, it makes being in the right place at the right time so much easier. The Photographers Ephemeris is great for this and their 3D app even shows you the terrain and where the light will hit the peaks first as the run rises and the last light will be as it falls. I am constantly checking this when I am out and about as it really helps with planning for subsequent days.
This image really emphasis the point. Hamnoy is about 8km from this location. It is pretty much over the mountains in the background. The road that takes you there, twists along the shore, clinging to the cliff face, through a couple of tunnels and under avalanche protection barriers, which are very much needed after heavy snow. This image wasn't the easiest to take. The previous day, I had seen the sea ice from the road as we drove past. Parking was about 200 meters away from it, but to get into position where you could really make use of the ice in the foreground, involved a bit of a hike down a bank which was covered in 3ft of fresh snow. There is nothing better than making fresh tracks and being able to make some sort of an image. I knew before even arriving here that if it was a clear morning, the mountains would get directly sunlight as the sun rose and they should get the amazing pink alpine glow. This is probably one of my favourite images that I took all week. Granted it could be been slightly stronger compositionally, in an ideal world the little rocky island in the mid ground would not be there but you can't have everything. It is a unique image that can't be taken again, by now the ice will all be gone and when it forms again next year, the patterns in it will never be the same.
Back to Hamnoy though to finish this blog off. If you are serious about your landscape photography then it is one of "the classics" that you need to take. Sure, like I said, it's been captured a million times before, it's not going to be a unique image, you are not going to win any awards with an image from Hamnoy. But for the sheer beauty of the place, you need to make the effort to go, even if just once. Yes it really is that amazing.