Time / Date:
17:40 / September 12, 2008
Camera Body: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 AF-S
Shutter Speed: 1/640
Focal Length: 44mm
I made this shot while on a trip to Norway to visit my friend Thomas, a fellow photographer. At the time, Thomas and his wife were living in the city of Kristiansand in Southern Norway. Thomas and I decided to take a trip up the area of Lofoten in Northern Norway, which is probably one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.
Lofoten is an archipelago of very mountainous islands, which are interconnected by stretches of bridges. Even though we only had two days to drive around, it was still a fantastic experience. It’s great going on a roadtrip with a fellow photographer, because you basically know that whenever you want to stop to shoot, you know that the other person is probably just as eager.
We were driving at the very tip of Lofoten, just past the town of Sørvågen, and it was getting pretty late in the afternoon. This was mid September above the Arctic circle, so the sun was beginning to set pretty early. Add in mountainous peaks from all the islands in the archipelago, and you can get an idea of how quickly the light can go late in the day.
The golden hour was well under way, so we were hunting for a great location to spend a little time before the light died. The thing about all the mountains (and not having been to Lofoten before or done any scouting) was that it was really hard to know when we would stop or find a great scene. Between mountain peaks, the Norwegian sea and fjords, Lofoten features a hugely dramatic landscape that seems to change around every turn.
I recall we came around this bend and on our right we saw this great light spilling over this lake. Late afternoon light was streaming into the valley and casting this really warm, dramatic light. There were these rowboats anchored to the shore that just seemed perfect. So much of life in Lofoten seemed to be about the sea and water, so we thought that this scene with the boats and this beautiful golden light was a photo worth stopping for.
Since I was was trying to travel “light,” I was using the Nikon D700 on this trip instead of my D3. I packed my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR for this trip. With these three lenses you could shoot just about anything, so they’re my go-to choice.
Making the Shot:
The biggest challenge for this shot was probably the huge dynamic range displayed between the valley, which was mostly in open shade, and the parts of the mountains that were being hit with bright afternoon sunlight. I basically tried to choose my exposure erring slightly on overexposure, knowing that I could bring back some of the sky in post, so that I’d have as much detail in the shadows as possible. The light seemed to be changing by the minute, so I was also bracketing my exposure in 1EV increments.
For this scene, the midrange of the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 just seemed right to capture the boats and the mountains. At 44mm, the boats and mountains maintained a natural perspective without any one element being highlighted or pushed back. At f/5.6, there was enough depth of field to capture the boats and the more distant elements of the background all in crisp detail.
Editing & Processing:
Even as I was shooting, I knew that I’d have to do some post-processing to really bring out what I saw in this scene. Given the dynamic range of the scene, the D700’s sensor was really being maxed out in terms of latitude. Since I hadn’t shot with a tripod and couldn’t do proper high dynamic range compositing work on this shot, most of the processing just involved selective exposure adjustments to the scene.
In Adobe Lightroom, I brought down the exposure to the sky and then brought up the exposure in the foreground. Aside from that, one dramatic change was adjusting the white balance to bring back the warmth of the late afternoon light that I remembered.
In editing, I was really looking for a RAW file that had enough detail sky highlights while still leaving enough meat in the shadows. When I was shooting, I had bracketed this scene, and the middle exposure served me best.
Personally, this shot just brings back memories of a great trip with a good friend. Some of my first memories of using a camera came from taking snapshots as a kid while on vacation with my family, so I always associate photography with travel and vice versa. For me, this image serves as a reminder that I’ll need to return to Lofoten one day. It’s easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. We were only in Lofoten for two days, and I’d love go back one day for an extended trip.
If I could do this shot over again, I probably would have dropped the ISO from 400 to 200 and used a slower shutter speed as necessary. In a perfect world, a tripod and graduated neutral density filter wouldn’t have hurt, either!
When in doubt, it’s hard to go wrong shooting in the golden hour when the low angle of the sun is casting a beautiful, warm quality of light. That, and being in such a photogenic location like Lofoten. It’s like fishing with dynamite.
About the Photographer
Todd Owyoung is an internationally published photographer specializing in live music, lifestyle and portrait photography. He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis magna cum laude with a BFA in Visual Communications. Throughout the year, on average, Owyoung photographs four to six bands a week. He drinks tea everyday.
Owyoung’s work has appeared in publications such as Rolling Stone, the New York Times, SPIN, Billboard, The Wallstreet Journal, and Harper’s Bazaar.
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