The Faroe Islands are an archipelago of 18 windswept and starkly beautiful islands that sit between Iceland and Scotland. Lakes balance atop huge cliffs that plunge straight into the ocean, puffins circle around giant waterfalls and vividly green fields slope straight down into gigantic fjords. To say the weather is dramatic would be an understatement.
It rains or snows over 200 days a year and sunny days are rare. The islands lie in an area of depressions moving northeast and so it’s almost always windy. This does however, create some amazing conditions for photos. One thing we found during our week there was that even though we didn’t see a lot of sun, when it occasionally broke through the clouds, we ended up with some incredibly dramatic light.
My advice for photographing dramatic light
It’s always tricky to photograph light like this, as it mostly involves being outside in bad weather for long periods. In the below shot we sat in the car in heavy rain for over an hour near the Gasadalur Waterfalls. The sun broke through for just five minutes whilst it was still raining; I ran to the view point and I got absolutely drenched but it was well worth it.
Capturing dramatic light isn’t just about patience and luck. There are some tricks and tips for getting shots like this. Generally it works better to face towards the sun and light, that way you capturing the beams of light coming towards you. Make sure you are set up and ready for the shot. I would recommend under-exposing your shots as generally it’s easily to recover details from shadows than it is from bleached out highlights. When that sun breaks through the clouds you are going to get some very bright highlights. Make sure you are on multi shot mode on your camera too and take as many shots as possible. Moments like the shot above are fleeting and the scene changes quickly, and you don’t want to miss out.
Plan to be out and about for a couple of hours around sunrise and sunset. What often happens on islands (and the Faroes are no exception) is that clouds form as the air hits the island and is forced upwards over mountains. This means it’s often cloudy over land but not over the ocean in the distance. When the sun gets low on the horizon near sunrise and sunset the sun will dip under the cloud layer and then light up the underneath of the cloud. This is when you get the best conditions for photography. So it’s always good to be right on the coast (and on the Faroes you are almost always next to the coast because the islands are so small).
A great app to use is SunSeeker. This shows you exactly where the sun will be throughout the day. Try and find locations where the sun will be right on the edge of a cliff or mountain. This way you can capture the sunflare like I have below.
I also find that it’s helpful to find things to silhouette against the light. Birds in flight work great and they add some dynamics to your image. They are easy to find pretty much everywhere on the Faroes too!
The important thing is to make sure you are prepared. The weather can get dangerous, especially if you are on an exposed mountain next to the coast. Wrap up warm and take waterproof layers and make sure your gear is protected. Whatever the weather, the Faroe Islands are an incredibly beautiful place and you will find it hard to not take great shots.
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