THE ARCTIC CIRCLE & NORTHERN LIGHTS
7 DAY / 6 NIGHT LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY EXPEDITION
3 - 9 FEBRUARY 2019
I'm joining Vagabond Expeditions to run a photography expedition by dog sleds, snowmobiles and snowshoes to explore Lapland in the far North of Sweden, deep inside the Arctic Circle. The expedition will take you through snow-covered landscapes, experience the Northern Lights, meet local semi-nomadic reindeer herding Sámi communities and witness unforgettable sunrises and sunsets on this custom-made photography expedition.
This expedition has a focus on the vibrant Sámi culture. The Sámi people have inhabited Sápmi, which includes large parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and the Murmansk Oblast of Russia, for at least 5,000 years which makes them the oldest settled people in these regions. The Sámi people were traditionally involved in reindeer herding, hunting, fishing and trading, but with people encroaching on the southern parts of Sápmi, the Sámi were driven north or assimilated into the settling civilisations. Around the 17th century, many Sámi were forced off their traditional land since they could not pay the crown’s taxes. The Swedish state enforced non-Sámi settlements on the area, which fostered strong opposition among Sámi groups. In 1989 the Sámi Nation was recognised by Sweden and in 1998 Sweden formally apologised for the wrongs committed against the Sámi.
This expedition only allows for a small number of participants who are joined by common interests for nature, photography and videography to make sure we can travel as friends, rather than just travellers!
ENVIRONMENTAL AND LOCAL ETHOS
The entire expedition is delivered with a strong ethos for the protection of the environment where we will endeavour to leave as small a footprint as possible. We only use local suppliers for the expedition in an effort to contribute to local communities and economy.
The lodge is situated in an area with very little light pollution, so the opportunity to capture stunning images of the Aurora Borealis – or the Northern Lights – will be excellent. We will also have the benefit of astrophotography on site. The lodge is a big modern mountain lodge with plenty of space for all of us, WiFi, Swedish sauna, and great space for meals and talks. We will prepare breakfast and packed lunch together in the mornings but we will have a local chef in the evenings making local specialties.
This expeditions involves snowshoeing around 3-6 hours per day, some days has over 400m of ascent. To participate comfortably in the tour, you will require a certain level of fitness. To make a self assessment wether or not this is for you, you should consider yourself to be in good fitness, be accustomed to hiking, and be able to hike comfortably for at least 4 hours in a day. Please consult a doctor if you feel that this might be a challenge before booking.
All images courtesy of Jonas Paurell at Vagabond Expeditions
Beginner, amateur, enthusiast and semi-pro photographers.
Medium physical effort with some 3 - 6 hour hikes in snowshoes
Landscape photography and shooting in unforgettable winter locations
Guided photography sessions
All transport during the tour, including by dog sled and snowmobile
Post-processing sessions in Lightroom and Photoshop
All accommodation in shared rooms in a lodge used exclusively by our workshop.
All main meals during the tour
Cultural visit to Sámi settlement
Snowshoe and poles rental
Airport Pick up/drop off at Kiruna Airport
Insurance. All participants are required to have their own insurance appropriate for hiking in mountains, such as health, accident, mountain rescue, repatriation, cancellation, personal liability, etc.
Alcoholic beverages at the restaurants and huts
The weather in the arctic circle can either be stable for weeks or can change rapidly one hour to the next, so even though we have a planned agenda, this will be open to revision on the day. Each day we will study the synoptic charts and the local maps over breakfast to plan our day. For fair weather days we will head into the mountains and for poor weather days we will stay low and pursue the bad weather fronts as these often provide great opportunity for stunning photography.
The winter in the arctic circle is dark and provides long colourful sunrises and sunsets, with dramatic light in between as the sun is low on the horizon. In February, the sunrise is approximately at 9AM, but the photography opportunities generally start an hour before this with the soft morning glow. Sunset is at around 3PM and allows for photography for a while thereafter. Aurora Borealis can happen at any time after sunset but generally it is seen on clear nights when the night is at its darkest between 9PM and 3AM
DAY 1 (FEB 3)
The team from Vagabond Expeditions will pick you up at 1pm at Kiruna airport. We will get into our vehicles and head to our lodge for the expedition. We will spend the nights at Riksgränsen, a small village situated far from civilisation, with easy access to the seemingly endless alpine environment, including frozen lakes and rivers, alpine forests and mountains. Once we have reached the lodge and settled in our rooms (twins and triples), we will head out to find our legs on snowshoes to make sure everyone is comfortable moving on varied terrain. The evening will be spent enjoying a sauna, a good dinner and having a chat about photography in the cold and the adventures that await us. Should the opportunity present itself, we will head out in the late evening to photograph the Aurora Borealis.
DAY 2 (FEB 4)
Sámi Culture Visit and Photography - This day is a special day as we will visit a Sámi reindeer camp to talk about and photograph the rich Sámi culture, and to photograph the stunning reindeers in their natural habitat. It is an important day as we will gain better understanding of the history of the place and people that have had it as their home for over 5,000 years. Gaining an understanding of the Sámi culture may influence our storytelling and photography for the rest of the trip. In the afternoon we will head out on snowshoes to photograph the sunset. We will also keep a watchful eye on the sky to hopefully spot the Aurora Borealis.
DAY 3 (FEB 5)
Snowshoeing – Stornabben - Our sunrise photography session will be at Stornabben which is an easy warm-up peak that offers amazing sunrise views of lake Torneträsk and the surrounding mountains. It will take us approximately 1h30m to scale the peak and depending on how we feel, we might make a detour on the way back down to explore the alpine forest. In the afternoon we will explore sunset views in the forested areas of Abisko. For the evening, the sauna will be hot and ready, and we will enjoy a relaxing time, and for dinner we will be joined by a local to talk about life in the harsh north. Should the opportunity present itself we will head out to photograph the Aurora Borealis.
DAY 4 (FEB 6)
Dog Sledding - After good hearty breakfast we will get ready for a day out dog sledding. At sunrise we will be steering our dogsleds into the mountains to visit some stunning locations, such as the the Lapponian Gate - or Tjuonavagge which is the real name - considered to be the gate into the mountains for many skiers and hikers. At the half-way mark we will stop for a picnic with home made delicious food and mountain photography, and then make our way back to the lodge. The dog sledding outing will be approx. 4 hours / 25 km and we will be two people per dog team, allowing us to both explore some action photography and experience the fun driving! After the dog sledding we will be exploring the areas close to the lodge for sunset photography followed by some well-earned relaxation in the sauna and a delicious dinner.
DAY 5 (FEB 7)
Snowshoeing and Mountain Photography - Our day will be on snowshoes heading into the mountains, the actual route we will take will be decided on the day depending on weather conditions - with great conditions we might scale one of the nearby mountains. For dinner we will be joined by a local mountain guide who will come and talk about the mountaineering in the area. In the evening we will continue our lookout for the aurora borealis and enjoy some relaxing sauna.
DAY 6 (FEB 8)
Waterway Photography and Sunset Snowmobile - The day will start on snowshoes exploring frozen waterways in the valley and in the early afternoon we will enjoy the thrill of snowmobiling. We will set off just before sunset and reach a summit for sunset having gained a fantastic vantage point. This evening will offer a unique experience to photograph the wild environment.
DAY 7 (FEB 9)
Departure Day - After a relaxed breakfast and final sunrise photography session we will make our way back to the airport to say our ‘see you laters’ and depart with memories and friends for life!
SOME OF THE PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES COVERED IN THIS WORKSHOP
IN THE FIELD:
- Understanding the light and choosing the best exposure
- Composition. Balance and harmony, leading lines and creating depth.
- Lens choice. From the wide-angle vista to shooting landscape abstracts with a telephoto lens
- Shooting the night sky and the aurora
- Shooting multiple image panoramas
- Controlling light in scenes with a wide dynamic range using graduated filters and/or multiple exposures
- Photographing snow
- Shooting in the blue hour and overcast weather
- Using Lightroom to apply contrast
- Using Photoshop layers to build up image adjustments
- Photoshop masks for local adjustments
- Using luminosity masks in Photoshop
- Different techniques for blending multiple exposures of the same image
- Using Nik Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex and Adobe Camera RAW on Photoshop layers
- Sharpening images
WHAT TO BRING
A dSLR or mirrorless camera
The criteria for the kind of work we’ll be doing is a camera that can be operated completely manually to ensure we get the best exposure with interchangeable lenses allowing us to cover a range of focal lengths
A wide angle lens
For many of the locations a wide angle lens really is essential if you want to get those epic landscapes that have snowy foreground leading to the cloud capped mountains in the background. 16mm or 17mm on a full frame camera (10mm or 12mm on an APS-C sensor camera) is ideal, but anything below 24mm (16mm on a crop frame sensor) should be OK.
A mid-range zoom lens
In some of the locations we’ll visit a wide angle zoom will make the mountains appear smaller, so a mid-range zoom will be great for maintaining the scale of the peaks while still including foreground. They’re also great for panoramas. Something in the range of 24-70mm (18-55mm on a crop sensor) is perfect.
A telephoto lens
We’ll often find ourselves shooting distant peaks or abstracts, which a telephoto is ideal for. A telephoto also compresses the landscape and is great for mountains when shooting from elevation. A range that covers 70-200mm (55-135mm on a crop sensor) is ideal.
We’ll often be shooting in low light and it can also get pretty windy, so a good tripod is an absolutely essential piece of equipment.
A cable release
This allows us to trip the camera shutter without touching the camera, which can cause movement blur during longer exposures.
Comfortable waterproof walking boots and thick warm socks
We'll be doing quite a bit of walking and snowshoeing, and we’ll often find ourselves standing in the snow while we shoot. It’s very easy for cold feet to completely ruin your day, so good boots with thick warm socks are vital.
Insulated jacket, water and windproof shell and warm clothes
We'll be in the Arctic Circle and with the strong winds blowing you should be prepared for temperatures down to almost -20. Layers are the way to go with a base layer and mid layer and then a fleece on top. An insulated jacket on top of that and also a waterproof or windproof shell as a final layer to keep the worst of the weather out. Insulated long-johns/leggings below windproof hiking trousers, preferably lined, to keep your bottom half warmer.
Hat, gloves, chute and gaiters
It’s essential to keep your head and neck warm, so a good wooly hat below your hood really makes a difference, and a chute or neck-gaiter will protect your neck and the lower half of your face. It’s also easy for your hands to get cold so thick gloves with a pair of glove liners underneath for when you have to remove your gloves to operate your camera. If you’ve got them, mittens that open at the top so you don’t need to remove them are excellent. Finally, gaiters for the bottom of your trousers will keep the snow out and of your boots if you find yourself in deep snow.
When moving your camera gear for any length of time a backpack can really save your back. A good backpack, one with sturdy hip straps, can safely distribute the weight of your gear and really save you from aches, pains and potential injury. Bear in mind that you’ll often be putting it down in the snow as well so it should be water resistant.
Laptop with Adobe Lightroom or Camera RAW and Photoshop
We’ll be shooting RAW, and as part of each day will be dedicated to post processing images a good RAW converter like Adobe Lightroom or Camera RAW is essential. Other converters like Capture One are also fine. Adobe Photoshop is great for more advanced processing as it allows us to be much more subtle and creative in it’s use of layers.
If you have any questions about what to bring, don’t hesitate to contact us.
For more information, including an overview of the weather, tips on how to get to Kiruna, as well as all the terms, conditions and payment information please download the workshop PDF.
For any other enquiries or bookings, please fill out the form below.
Here’s one of Jonas’ videos from the area where we’ll be based for this workshop. He was ski-trekking but our workshop will be using vehicles to get us to our accommodation and short hikes (and on one occasion snow-mobiles) to get us to shooting locations.