The Lofoten Islands are a mountainous archipelago off the coast of Norway at the Arctic Circle. They look like the tops of Grand Tetons sticking up out of the water, perhaps the most striking land- and seascape I have ever encountered.
I first visited the Lofoten Islands in 1980, when I was invited to teach a photography workshop to an invited group of working professional Norwegian photographers. Prior to the workshop, I traveled to parts of Norway—a startlingly beautiful country—finding the Lofoten Islands to be even more magnificent than the rest of the country . . . and that’s saying a lot.
I’ve been there several times since then. My most recent visit was in 2000, when I presented a workshop exclusively on the islands. It was a marvelous 10 days of exploration and photography of a land that is utterly spectacular and wild, yet gentle and civilized at the same time.
Prior to the start of the workshop, I did some of my own scouting, exploration, and photography, driving from island to island over bridges or through underwater tunnels (in the recent past ferry boats took you from island to island). It’s now easy—perhaps too easy—to get from place to place, from island to island on the Lofotens.
On one of those scouting trips, I drove a long road hugging the shore of one of the islands, with spectacular views across the channel to the rugged mountains of the adjacent island. Eventually the road curved sharply and narrowed to a single paved lane, and then became a dirt road. I had no idea where it was taking me, but the exploration was wonderful. Everything I had seen along the road ranged from beautiful to spectacular (a narrow range to be sure, but offering little in the way of complaints), so I assumed it would have to be wonderful wherever the road ended. Eventually it ended . . . or at least petered out to something that barely resembled a road any- more, so I decided to go no farther.
I was just a few yards from the coastal waters between islands, and the scene across the channel was almost dreamlike. I was now looking at a set of completely different islands from the ones across the channel on my drive down to this point. These were not as high, but they were equally magnificent.