We just returned from Utsjoki in the far north of Finnish Lapland, where we held a very successful Northern Lights photography workshop. Together with Australian photographer Lisa Michele Burns and local company Aurora Holidays, we guided a group of 7 enthusiastic photographers from all over the world through the wonderful landscapes of Finnish Lapland during the so-called Polar Night.
First things first: northern lights photography workshop
The Aurora (aka the Northern Lights) did not have us wait very long. Luckily I learned the lesson from the previous year’s workshop. This time I started my first presentation immediately with camera settings and tips to photograph the Northern Lights. Just after dinner, we went to the warm and cosy gazebo on the shore of the Teno River, and in no time, the Aurora started dancing in the sky.
On our second night, I was at first planning to take the group chasing the Aurora. We would drive towards the village of Karigasniemi. However, after dinner and looking at the weather patterns one more time, it became clear that any gap in the clouds that we would chase would eventually end up above our cottages in Utsjoki. This, plus knowing that there are no real nice places to stop on that road, I decided to make it another gazebo night. And oh how right was I! We would never have had such a clear view to the horizon had we taken the road.
Snowmobiling in Nuorgam
Similarly to the previous year, we hired Hannu from 70North to guide us through the fells of Nuorgam and the Kaldoaivi Wilderness Area. I love this area because so far north. With the (small) altitude of the fells, there is barely any vegetation. This allows me to teach the group about a minimalistic approach to photography. And knowing Lisa’s style of photography, I knew this would also be a good match for her to teach a thing or two to our group.
Spending time with Sami reindeer herder
Anyone who comes with me to Lapland must experience this: a trip to the wilderness to observe the reindeer with a Sami reindeer herder. So of course we drove to Petri Mattus’ house in Menesjärvi, some two hours from Utsjoki, but it was absolutely worth it.
Petri was as welcoming as always. Our workshop participants learnt a great deal about the life of a Sami reindeer herder. That, and also a couple hundred reindeer came all around us.
Detour through the Norwegian coast
While running a northern lights photography workshop in Utsjoki, we are blessed by a wide variety of landscapes to photograph. The shore of the Arctic Ocean in Norway is just a short drive away from the Aurora Holidays cottages. So off we went to the small village of Nesseby to visit its cute church, harbour and fish drying rack.
Sadly, the weather was not on our side, with wind, snow and low visibility. But a good photographer has to make the best out of any situation. I think we nailed it, right?
A trip to the North is not complete without a husky ride. So we also included this in the programme for our guests. I think that they enjoyed it very much! I stayed behind to take a few images of them riding.
Village tour of Utsjoki
Emilia, one of Aurora Holidays’ guides, came to pick us up to give us a guided tour of the Utsjoki village. Did you know that from Utsjoki, you can actually walk into Norway, and stand with one foot in each country?
Wrapping up our northern lights photography workshop
This wouldn’t be a full story if I didn’t show some additional northern lights photos. After all, we did see the aurora almost every night!
We had such a wonderful time in the northernmost part of Finnish Lapland thanks to all our participants. They formed all together a tight and fantastic group. Also, we wouldn’t have been able to have such a succesful northern lights photography workshop without the help of Tiina of Aurora Holidays and the rest of her crew. A special mention to Antti, the chef who cooked for us delicious meals every day! And big thanks too to Lisa for accepting to guide this adventure with me.
We will repeat the adventure of this northern lights photography workshop in January 2021. Will we see you there?