Tips for photographing the midnight sun
When the sun never sets
There is a term in the photography world known as “the golden hour.” This is the period of time right after sunrise and just before sunset where the light has a warm hue, ideal for photographing landscapes and portraits. The sun is located low on the horizon, creating long, soft shadows.
In most parts of the world, golden hours last for about 60 minutes. However, during the midnight sun, the golden hour lasts much longer. Here are some tips for photographing the midnight sun and taking full advantage of the amazing light it produces.
Scout your locations
While Lofoten offers many stunning backdrops for photographing the midnight sun, it’s a good idea to visit them before you shoot, especially if it’s a remote or isolated location. This will allow you to map out your shots, test your lenses and pack the right gear.
While the golden hour lasts from around 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. in Lofoten, the sun hits its lowest point around 1 a.m. To ensure you’re in the right place at the right time, plan your compositions ahead of time.
Chase the sun
By planning your photography locations prior to reaching your destination, you can also make the most of the extended golden hours by visiting several sites.
Plan your route based on the direction the sun travels so you’ll experience the best light at each spot.
Camera settings and tricks
Golden hour lighting is a photographer’s dream, but it’s also perfect for the amateur photographer because it’s the most flattering light. This directional light softens, diffuses and illuminates the subject while avoiding harsh shadows and highlights.
Using these manual camera settings is a good starting point for getting the perfect shot of that magical light:
Golden hour settings
Aperture: f/7 to f/11
Shutter: play around until you find an exposure where you are able to see the foreground and the sun is not totally burned out.
For portrait photography in the midnight sun, wide apertures increase the effect of the warmer-colour light temperature. It’s also important to consider where to place the lighting source in portrait photography, as this dramatically affects the outcome.
Silhouette— this is created when the subject is black against a bright background. You can achieve this near the end of the golden hour by placing your subject directly against the light.
Rim/edge— you’ll know you’ve created rim lighting when you see a halo around your subject. You may have to try a few angles and perspectives to achieve this shot. Try shooting from a lower point and make sure the background is dark.
Front lit— because the sun is low on the horizon, your subject can face the sun and won’t have to squint. Front lighting is soft and flattering when it comes from a low source like the midnight sun.
Back lit— to produce a hazy, romantic feel in your photos, make sure the sun is behind your subject. With the light source out of direct sight, it will create backlighting and generate a glowing effect.
Sun flare— this is a fun effect that happens when the light hits your lens. The midnight sun’s position along the horizon is at the perfect height to create a sun flare, also called a lens flare. You’ll know you’ve done it when you see spots of light in your viewfinder. Try a few positions until you find it while you’re shooting.
The midnight sun also appears in Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and the northernmost parts of Canada and Alaska. During the summer months, sun chasers can experience up to 24 hours of sunlight above the Arctic Circle, giving them more time to enjoy and explore the remote north.
While the north is an unforgettable experience at any time of year, it’s all the more spectacular in the midnight sun.