Photographing landscapes (and emotions) in a storm

When the skies are clear, and the sun shines on the mountains and the fjords, it feels easy to head out, camera in hand, to get lost in moments behind my lens. But living here in the Arctic, snowy days and freezing nights also offer respite from the everyday, and so I will often slip into the quiet of the night, or the silence of the land under falling snow, and go wherever my camera takes me.

When the storm blows in, though, everything changes.

As winds blow snow off the mountains, and white horses gallop across arctic waters, I knew the landscape here would come to life. The winds sing, the snow dances around and vistas change before your eyes.

And it was on a day like this that I went out to chase a stormy image.

I had a friend visit me recently, and as truly wonderful as it was showing her my world here, and discovering new places in Tromso together, I was still dealing with some things in my life that caused me a lot of upset.

So heading out in stormy winds and immersing myself in unsettled weather came with a feeling that I could hit pause, clear my mind, and breath. Even though I was hurting, and nature blew unhindered all around me, I felt calm in her presence, protected and comforted. And I believe that my emotions, mirrored by nature and calmed by her too, helped compose these images.

The wind whipped around as I made my way to Folkeparken and the water’s edge. I knew exactly where I wanted to photograph from, though getting there and getting my gear out proved difficult. I have never been in winds strong enough to make me loose my balance or change my path because I was being blown in another direction.

As I reached the beach, there was so much energy and activity in the landscape. The beauty of arctic mountains, covered in the winter’s snowy blanket, jutted out of dark, turquoise waters across which the waves raced. A few other people wandered around, hunched over, leaning into the winds and fighting to keep cameras and phones steady as they snapped a shot of the landscape before them.

I made my way to the waters edge, and placed my tripod into the spot where the waves end their journey on the pebbly, snow covered beach. And so I spent a long time here, feet moving between being slightly submerged and standing on larger rocks to keep me dry, finger on my remote trigger, and beady eyes on the waves to capture compositions I liked.

As is often the case with photography, this was a learning curve for me. I was so immersed in my camera settings, composition, and keeping my feet dry that I didn’t, for a long time, feel the spray falling on my face – or on my lens.

At one point, I squatted down behind a picnic bench on the beach to steady myself and to catch a break from being blown around, and photographed some scenes from this lower angle, before heading back out onto some rocks to gain a bit of height (this was short-lived though, as I couldn’t keep my balance long enough to feel safe in this spot).

When a storm rages around you, either in real life or internally, there can still be calm and beauty in those moments, and I hope that these images capture some of that. Whilst everything may appear frantic or agitated, confusing or angry even, colour and calm can still be found.

I hope you enjoy this mini-series of images as much as I do.

Please note that whilst I was acting safely and not taking any risks, the dangers are very real here. When we have weather warnings here they are not to be ignored. Please always check weather warnings and follow advice, particularly when it comes to strong winds and the avalanche risks they bring with them here.

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