The Most Beautiful Place On Earth

‘Stag Hut’, Lofoten, Norway
Fujifilm X-Pro1, XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS @ 32mm, 1/80 sec @ f/3.2, ISO 200
LEE Seven5 2-stop ND Grad filter.
Adobe Lightroom (Fuji Astia Profile) > Adobe Photoshop texture layer blend.

“Lofoten is a magical place; cold, wet, inhospitable and foreboding, but breathtakingly beautiful.”

The Most Beautiful Place On Earth

I travelled to Lofoten on the recommendation of Outdoor Photography editor Steve Watkins, after a conversation in a café. Before becoming editor of OP, Steve travelled to virtually every part of the planet making photographs, so I asked him where he thought the most beautiful place on earth for landscape photography was? He thought for a few moments and then proclaimed, “Lofoten”. I wasn’t disappointed, Lofoten is a magical place; cold, wet, inhospitable and foreboding, but breathtakingly beautiful. In favourable conditions, it seems that around every corner there are heavenly scenes, bathed in enchanting soulful textural light; a landscape photographer’s paradise.

My own visit was plagued day after day by incessant wet, blustery, miserable, drab overcast weather; the worst conditions possible for outdoor photography. Over the years, I have learnt that contrary to expectations, such conditions can result in some of the most compelling images, so I was determined not to let the elements mar my intentions. I decided to shoot handheld using my lightweight compact system rather than my heavy SLR pro-bodies; a camera, three lenses, Lee Seven5 filter system and accessories all fit into a small waist-pack. With a little dextrous shuffling, it becomes relatively easy to change lenses and attach filters while holding an umbrella above you to shelter from the wind and rain: a pragmatic solution.

Of course, a tripod is still useful when shooting with an umbrella, because it acts like a spare pair of hands, supporting the camera during setup; it slows us down, which is usually a bonus, but it can also feel like an encumbrance when shooting in pouring rain. For someone like me, dedicated to the traditional tripod based approach, photographing handheld requires a leap of faith; shooting becomes more reactive, compositional decisions become more instinctive, less considered. Shooting handheld demands a different mindset, but creatively, it was liberating.

I decided to perpetuate this newfound aesthetic freedom in the way I processed the image. Once finalised in Adobe Lightroom, I exported the image to Photoshop CC and applied multiple texture layers using ‘overlay’ and ‘multiply’ blending modes. I adjusted the opacity of the layers for effect, before adding a heavy vignette, aiming for the visual impact of an old oil painting.

This article first appeared in Outdoor Photography Magazine. Reproduced with kind permission.