Arild Heitmann lives in a very special part of the world, and is making the most of it with his beautiful photography, and his adventure tour company, Lofoten Tours. We got a chance to talk to Arild about how to adapt to and get the best results in challenging arctic envrionments, as well as his outlook on photography and creative expression. Here’s Arild Heitmann:
When did you first try out photography, and what made you decide to try it?
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had a deep interest for fishing in the mountains. And since I live in a beautiful part of northern Norway, I get to encounter stunning mountain landscapes. In 2006 I bought an entry level DSLR to try and document these fishing adventures of mine. After using it for a short time, I found that photography was something I found interesting.
And then, what led you to continue working on your photography?
After a while, it became clear that photography was a completely new way to see nature. Suddenly, I became aware of all the small things in nature that make up the whole impressive landscape. Putting all these elements together within a frame, in a way that viewers can relate to and find pleasing, was almost addictive to me. So, I spent the next years working hard on developing my photographic toolbox and my skills in analyzing the scenes in front of me within grand landscapes.
What’s your most memorable experience from doing photography?
Oh, that’s an impossible question for me. I have so many incredible memories that are burnt into my mind. If I were to pick just one, it would have to be a summer night a few years back. I hiked up on a mountain late in the evening to shoot the midnight sun over the fjords below. As I approached the summit ridge a thunderstorm was moving in from the east while the midnight sun was hanging low on the horizon to the west. The result was capturing a lightning storm and the midnight sun in a single frame. I was scared and super excited!
What are some of the most difficult challenges you’ve faced when it comes to photography, and what are the lessons you learned from them?
I find that staying motivated over the long run is a great challenge. Being creative and working on getting better takes a lot of energy. When you’re a full time professional photographer, leading workshops for 15 weeks a year, it’s really hard to find the inner motivation necessary to keep moving forward. I think everyone can agree that the artistic motivation will come and go in cycles, and periods of creative block is part of the game. I learned to live with this and just push myself to continue on the journey I set out on many years ago, but it’s still hard at times.
What is something that you think many people don’t pay adequate attention to when taking night sky photos of stars or auroras?
Through all my workshops I observe a lot of photographers photographing the aurora. In my aurora portfolio almost none of the shots were taken during my workshops. I spend a lot of time and energy on planning my aurora shots as the composition and alignment of the frame is much more important than the characteristics of the aurora itself. I don’t blame people for getting so blown away and impressed by the sheer sight of the lights, that they lose focus on compositional elements. Especially if they are seeing and photographing the aurora for the first time. But it’s a good idea to slow down, breathe calmly and focus on the other elements of the picture. A lot of my shots are 2/3 land and only 1/3 aurora. Of course, I have to be extremely careful with filling that 2/3 with interesting elements, though. I don’t expect everyone else to have the same mindset, but the best advice I can give is to at least give it a little more thought.
Do you have any tips for staying out on cold nights for long hours in order to take night sky photos – for example, how do you stay warm, and how do you pass the time?
The most important thing is having the right clothes. You need warm pants and a thick down jacket. Thick gloves and a hat are also essential. I strongly recommend spending some money on quality winter equipment. Personally, I rely 100% on clothing from Stellar Equipment. Regarding passing time, I’m a great singer when I’m alone in the dark and no one can hear me. If someone did, they would probably call the police.
I’m aware that you do workshops and tours – what led you to start organizing these, and what do you enjoy most about them?
It was a random meeting with Stian Klo that set the grounds for Lofoten Tours. We immediately clicked and the chemistry between us has been special ever since, and I think our clients can notice that during our workshops. We aim to have as much fun as possible and our mix of joking around and being professional is a trademark that we are proud of. The experiences we create together is what I enjoy the most. We have a ton of fun and we get to meet so many different personalities through our workshops. I think everyone who organizes workshops knows that it can be extremely hard work that takes a lot of energy, and its certainly not for everyone. I still manage to have a great time running workshops and I hope to be able to do so for many years.
What are some of your interests outside of photography?
I live an extremely busy life with a wife and 3 kids. So I try to spend as much time with family as possible. Luckily we all share a deep passion for nature, hiking and fishing. So we try to do outdoor activities as often as possible. I’m also still an active football player. It’s one of the few arenas where I can still pretend I’m a little kid running around trying to trick out the opponents. I love it!