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Yorkshire based Professional Landscape and Wildlife Photographer

A Look Through 4 Winters in the North…

Posted on 23/07/18

For the last four winters, I've been lucky enough to spend my time in Abisko in the far Northen reaches of Sweden. There I work as the senior guide for Lights over Lapland. The majority of the work is guiding people to see and photograph the Aurora Borealis which is in its self an amazing experience but there is a lot more to this fantastic place to experience and photograph too. The reason for this blog was a friend of mine Tim Parkin recently introduced me to the fabulous work of Erlend and Orsolya Haarberg in a book called Laponia Majestic Stillness. The book from my perspective is very inspirational and it got me thinking of pulling together my personal favourite images from my time in Abisko. The images are in chronological order and I'll do a little text for each of the images. There may be a few too many images but my initial list had 36 and it was really hard to pick my favourites...

1. The Green Ghost

This image was taken pointing directly up into a corona (which is basically a fast-moving aurora straight above you). Occasionally when you take an aurora image it can look like something else and this image to me really looks a green ghost coming straight towards me with the face in the centre of the image! Can you see it?

Green Ghost

2. Abstract of Ice and Snow

Completely opposite to the image above this image is pointing straight down! Here I was about 1km out on the frozen lake Torneträsk. I'd spent some time looking for interesting patterns in the ice caused by thin cracks. The ice would have been over a metre thick so even though you hear it rumbling and cracking there's no real risk. The horizontal lines are the cracks within the ice reflecting the light from the sky whilst the diagonal soft lines is snow blowing across the ice.

Ice and Snow

3. Ice Flower

Anybody who follows my photography knows that macro is my specialist subject and most people probably don't think of this area as somewhere to do macro. But there are many different opportunities as the season changes. During late February and March once the sun has come back it causes humidity during the day which then at night time that water can create these unique ice flowers growing from the tips of icicles. This is a handheld stacked image so that I could get all of the ice in focus.

Ice Flower

4. Frozen Tree and Lapporten

Lapporten is a truly iconic mountain view and therefore anybody doing photography in this area will end up with images where Lapporten is in view. This image to me represents how quickly the conditions can change in Abisko I'd picked up a client to take on a landscape workshop and at that point, there was some light drizzle (this does happen at some points even this far North). The client questioned if it was worth cancelling but know how quickly things can change of course we headed out to have a day with fantastic skies. This tree is no longer there, it must be tough being a tree in this environment, so this image could not be repeated.

Tree and Lapporten

5. Ice Waves

This is a fairly unique image and in my 4 winters, it's the only time I've ever seen anything like it. Lake Torneträsk is a huge lake at 330 square kilometres and therefore it takes a sustained period of cold and settled weather for it to finally freeze. In this photograph, the lake had frozen but not totally and then a big storm had blown in and smashed all of the ice to little pieces. The waves had then created a wall of the small ice blocks about two metres high and you could see the waves still had countless small blocks of ice moving around. It sounded like a sea of glass. I used a slightly slower shutter speed to try and create the sense of movement in the water. In the UK you would need a filter to do this but in the polar night, you do not!

Ice Waves

6. Ice on the Shore

One thing I have learnt photographing in this environment is if something looks good you need to get as much as you can out of the situation. This image was the result of a storm in cold temperatures which covered the shore and this tree in textured ice. The following day it snowed and all of this disappeared!

Ice Shore

7. In this area the Sami (the indigenous people of this area) herd reindeer. This reindeer is quite tame and I used a wide angle lens whilst lying in the snow to allow the reindeer to relax and approach me. As I'd used a wide angle it allowed me to get the lavvu in the background.

Reindeer wide angle

8. The Ermine and Lapporten

During this winter I was staying just down the road in the ski village Björkliden. There was a balcony to the cabin which had a view of Lapporten and after some day I noticed footprints in the snow which I believed maybe from an ermine. I then would occasionally put a few meat scraps out on the balcony. Months rolled past and the food would disappear but I never saw what was taking it. This image was taken on the last morning in the cabin where the ermine finally showed it's self in the light (I'd had one brief view in the dark). After photographing it for some time it jumped up on the balcony where I could line it up with Lapporten!

Ermine and Lapporten

9. Reindeer and Lapporten

I took a hike up to Lapporten in awful conditions, the snow had gone deep and soft. As we got towards the mountains we saw this reindeer herd and we stayed distant not to stress them and I got this shot of them on the skyline.

Reindeer and Lapporten

10. Autumn in Vadvetjåkka

Autumn is a fantastic time to be in this region. Vadvetjåkka National Park is a great place to go. It's an effort to get there, a fairly long hike and no real trails but because of that it's unspoiled and your likelihood of seeing another person is remote. Here we had perfect light and beautiful colours which really represented the trip.

Autumn Colours

11. Ice Formation

I'm always on the lookout for macro opportunities and this was one of the most interesting I've found. This formation which was about 8 millimetres high had grown out of a small patch of frozen water on the handrail of a bridge. No idea how! You can see the tiny air bubbles in the structure. If anyone had any ideas how this could be formed I would be really interested? Handheld stacked image to increase the depth of field.

Ice Formation

12. Making Ice

In this image, you see how the crazy ice shapes are made on the shores and the cliffs of Lake Torneträsk. Here we had -10C temperatures and waves. As the water splashes on to the trees above they get covered in thick ice.

Making Ice

13. Ice Monster

As demonstrated in the above image but here the tree has been so covered in ice it resembles some type of crazy ice monster. As mentioned above when you find something that looks interesting you need to get straight on it. So that night I went back to the site and took this shot of the ice monster with a mild aurora. There was some moonlight too so it gave me the perfect opportunity to get this shot.

Ice Monster

Well, those are my favourite shots from the last four seasons. I hope people enjoy them! If anyone has any questions or feedback please feel free to let me know.

This year I'm going to running a different workshop in the same area in conjunction Lights over Lapland at the end of September. This workshop will be focusing on the landscape and nature in the area as well as the Aurora Borealis. The details of that workshop can be found HERE.

Have fun,

  • As usual, STUNNING images Oliver. I do wish you would come to Bath and do a workshop here.

    Zuleika Henry - 23 July, 2018
  • Wow, an amazing set of photographs,  l like them all. 
    If I had to choose a favourite it would probably be 3 th.e Ice flower…
    No, no number 8, the ermine…hold in.  Gosh it’s so hard!

    Anyway, thanks the effort you’ve put in to so you work.

    Keep it up Ol.


    Joe Warner - 23 July, 2018
  • Wow, Oliver!!!

    So impressive!!! I really enjoyed these. I knew them from previous posts, but seeing them all together was spectacular!!!
    Can’t wait to see what you find this coming season!

    Linda - 23 July, 2018
  • Seriously love #1 & #9! Can’t wait to see what you produce this year smile

    Tyler Collins - 24 July, 2018
  • Hi Olliver, A great read and stunning pictures as usual, pictures are impressive on large screen can’t really pick a best image there all spectacular in there own way, absolute stunning and thanks for sharing. Peter

    Peter West - 24 July, 2018
  • stunning set of images, definitley worth all the hard work, when’s the book out smile?

    Mr geraint evans - 26 July, 2018
  • Stunning shots, I really like your aesthetic ones. Nr 2 and 12 are the ones that I would have hanging somewhere. Thanks for sharing them!

    Rait Metsamaa - 27 July, 2018
  • Hi Oliver,
    stunning set here, fantastic that you saw the ermine on your last day. Keep up the great work

    Phil Wrigley - 05 September, 2018
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