Lofoten Islands · Norway
Every once in a great while all the elements of a scene seem to come together like a celestial decree, and as a photographer you just hope you can do it some measure of justice in capturing and conveying it to your audience. And while I wished that I could conjure up such conditions at the snap of my fingers every time out, it’s the extreme rarity of these authentic moments that make nature photography so wondrous and endlessly awe-inspiring to me.
On this particular night, intrepid Lofoten workshop co-leader Stian Klo assured us conditions were looking ripe for the Northern Lights to make an encore appearance, and Skangsanden would be a prime location in which to see it all unfold. Having bumbled my way with the technical aspects of capturing the light show on camera the night before at Solbjørnvatnet when I was first introduced to the phenomenon (the aurora, not Stian...although he's not half bad), I was determined to do much better this time around.
We arrived at the beach just as the sun succumbed to a dense marine layer to the west. After taking some rather hasty and uninspired shots, I proceeded northward along the shore to do some exploring. Eventually the sun sunk below the horizon, and the sky took on the ever-cooling hues of twilight. As the first faint wisps of green began to dance in the deepening blue, I looked around and found myself filled with doubt again: None of the seven other workshop participants were anywhere near me, and I wondered if in my overzealous stupor I'd ventured out too far into some photographic no-man’s-land.
I decided to bite the bullet and wander out even farther in the fading light, drawn as a I was to a rocky outcrop in the middle of the beach that hadn't yet been swallowed up by the incoming tide. I found a reflecting pool that initially looked brimming with promise, but the proximity of the rocks forming its seaward boundary visually overpowered majestic Flagstandtinden in the distance. I scanned the area again, my eyes frantically looking to gain purchase on something...anything...that might be serviceable. And all the while the light show to the north was gaining momentum...
By that point I was pretty well convinced my gamble was proving to be a belly flop of epic proportions, so I doubled back towards the others, figuring I could still perhaps find some worthwhile shot that wasn't a total carbon copy of their own. But just a few paces back I discovered a nice stretch of partially submerged sand ripples that I fortunately hadn't trampled over on my way to the more distant pool. I splayed out the legs of my tripod and set it down as low as it would go, fiddling hastily with the camera settings and taking advantage of residual light from the sunken sun to the left and the town of Leknes to the right to help me nail down the focus. But was it all too late? I wondered. Had I wasted too much time already?
I really couldn’t bear the thought of striking out two days in a row on account of my incompetence with conditions that the winds of fortune may never blow my way again. With no one around me to hear a single word, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and whispered something into the twilight air.
It was right about then that I looked up to see a plasma-green ribbon materialize over the mountain like a genie liberated from its lamp, and I roused from my reverie just in time to trip the shutter.