Landscape photographer Isabelle Bacher tells of her time on an Arctic roll

Isabelle Bacher
For this image, the reflections in the water add a pleasing sense of symmetry. Olstind, Lofoten, Norway. (Image credit: Isabelle Bacher )

My heart beats north of the Arctic Circle, and this series is about the immensity of the lonely fjords, the aesthetic of the glaciers, the majestic mountains, and the light of the far north. 

As an Austrian with Norwegian roots, I decided in 2013 to settle in Northern Norway for five years. The intent of this project is to show the amazing, beautiful and powerful forces that have created the magnificent nature of the Arctic. Light is the main subject.

The barren landscape north of the Arctic Circle, with the magic of the Northern Lights, the midnight sun and the winter darkness, are locations that have enchanted me. The main actors are, above all, the rugged rock formations and striking mountain ranges of Svalbard, Nordland and Finnmark. If I like a place, then I analyse it, go around many times to find the right spot. Then wait until suddenly the light comes.

 Here, Isabelle captures the magical blue hour in Norway. (Image credit: Isabelle Bacher )

I love the process of taking landscape photos... staying in the area of a spectacular landscape, seascape or mountain. I only take photos when I have the feeling that the picture could finally become the way I have it in my head. Despite the progress of digital, I rely on deceleration, preferring to observe than to pull the trigger in order to bring the calm into my picture that I experience myself in these places.

I am enchanted by untouched natural landscapes and seascapes in different light qualities (daylight, moonlight, Northern Lights, blue hour…), but shooting in the Arctic is not without its challenges. The weather is cold all year round. Snowstorms with whiteouts, heavy wind and storms, darkness most of the day and night-time, frozen roads and much more can make photography in these lands quite difficult.

The famous Northern Lights, Lofoten, Norway.  (Image credit: Isabelle Bacher )

Cold as ice

Venturing into the Arctic to photograph landscapes really requires some thought and preparation. In winter, temperatures can drop well below -30ºC, which can quickly become life-threatening. It’s important to be dressed appropriately and to be prepared for bad weather. You really need the right equipment and clothing to photograph in the Arctic – but it offers unsurpassed beauty in return.

There are technical challenges too. Camera batteries empty within a very short time. I always have a power bank and a USB charger attached to my body with sports tape and I continuously charge the batteries next to my skin. I only put them into the camera while taking the picture.

Being properly prepared is the key to being able to make great photographs in extreme conditions and, for me, photo opportunities like in the Arctic are found nowhere else on our planet.

In this shot Isabelle shows the bare beauty of Hiorthfjellet, Spitsbergen, Norway. (Image credit: Isabelle Bacher )

I grew up with Nikon. I started taking analogue photos through my father, with a Nikon EM camera at the age of 12. I loved – and still love – image development in the darkroom (and earlier, the bathroom). 

I use Nikon because it feels good in my hand and I’m super-satisfied with the resulting photographs. At the beginning of my time in the Arctic I used the D750, and nowadays I take my photos with a Nikon D850. It is very resistant to the conditions, even if I have it on the tripod for hours. 

I work exclusively with Nikon prime lenses. The image quality is amazing, the bokeh is perfect and the depth of field and three-dimensionality are really great. 

As a photographer, the quality of the end product is one of the most important factors for me. Pictures in exhibitions and for customers must match perfectly in terms of colour, and the printed material or fine-art paper must harmonize with the character of the picture. The photo laboratory WhiteWall meets all my requirements. The pictures are just as I expect and the products are of high quality.

Isabelle Bacher is an Austrian landscape, architecture, product and portrait photographer who has won multiple awards and whose pictures have been exhibited worldwide. In 2019, she authored an illustrated book Im Norden – Eine Reise zum Polarkreis und Darüber Hinaus (Up North – A Trip to the Arctic Circle and Beyond). Isabelle is also an ambassador for wall art specialist WhiteWall.

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Adam has been the editor of N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine for almost 12 years, and as such is one of Digital Camera World's leading experts when it comes to all things Nikon-related. 

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