Our week together starts with the transfer from the airport Kittilä to hotel Hetan Majatalo in Hetta. After this two-hour drive we will check in and enjoy our first dinner of traditional Finnish and Lappish food. Weather permitting, we grab our camera gear and head into the night to look for the Aurora Borealis.
A dash of adventure will spice up this day. In the morning, we will visit the local husky farm and go on a husky safari. While one person steers the sleigh, the other will be able to take action photos on the go. In the early afternoon we have time to discover the village of Hetta. Afterwards we head into the nature of winter wonderland. Here in the North the sun sets (and rises) very slowly. We will have plenty of time to adjust our camera settings and find good compositions. At our accommodation, the saunas can be used. As every night, we will look for the Northern lights.
In the morning we will have a lecture on basics of photography, camera settings and aurora photography. In the afternoon we will explore the wonderful wilderness around Hetta. Pulled by a snow mobile, we will cross frozen lakes and ride through frosty forests. With some luck, some reindeer might cross our path. Our goal will be a cosy kota (a traditional hut of the Sami people) in midst of snow-covered trees. Not only awaits us the sunset there, we will also light up a fire and have dinner. The warm light shining through the icy windows onto the snow creates a truly magical atmosphere. As darkness sets we have the opportunity to explore the world of mysterious snow giants and hopefully see Northern lights. Late at night, we will head back to our hotel for a good nights sleep.
Around noon we will pack our things and drive 170km to Kilpisjärvi. Here we will spend the remaining days.
During these days we will have a diverse program with a number of possibilities. The Kilpijärvi wilderness area holds arguably the most stunning landscapes in Finland and can be entered by snow mobile only with a local guide. It is a unique and unforgettable experience and we will drive ourselves on snow mobiles! The Norwegian and the Swedish border are just a few kilometres away. We most likely will do a road trip (either day or night time) into Norway and the Lyngen fjord.
After an early breakfast this week will unfortunately come to an end and we will have to pack our things to drive to Kittilä airport.
All program is subject to the weather. As with all nature-related activities, the weather situation dictates when and which spots we visit. The goal is to provide you the best possibilities for great photos throughout the week. The itinerary is a guideline and gives you an idea of what to expect.
Both, Hetta and Kilpisjärvi are located in the municipality Enontekiö in the Northwest corner of Lapland. The population density here is around 0,24 / sqkm. Climate is rather arctic. The average annual temperature in Kilpisjärvi is about -1C (30F) and in February about -12C (10F).
Hetta is located about 220km North of the Arctic circle and 35km South of the Norwegian border. It is a village with 800 people and in normal winter conditions it is here, where frost, snow and wind transform ordinary trees into mysterious snow giants.
Kilpisjärvi is located about 170km Northwest of Hetta and lies at fell Saana. One hundred people live here, right at the borders to Norway and Sweden. Here, near the tundra, no forest grows anymore. Only downy small birches give a hint that under all that snow is some fertile soil. From Kilpisjärvi it is possible to discover the unique Käsivarsi Wilderness area (possible only with a local guide) with mountain peaks above 1,000m. Only 60km into Norway lies the fjord Lyngen with a view to the famous Lyngen Alps.
Here is a list for the camera gear you might want to bring. Some of it is needed, some of it is optional. If you are unsure about anything, you can contact me during and after booking. We can go through your current gear together and figure out if and what you might still need.
Important for night photography and long exposure photos. The tripod will minimize camera shaking. Handheld photos in darkness will not be sharp. To adjust settings comfortably, the tripod should be nearly your height.
Most suitable will be a dSLR camera where you can exchange lenses. Your camera needs to have the option of manual focus and a complete manual mode which allows you to adjust aperture, exposure time and ISO separately. There are also a bunch of suitable mirrorless cameras out there. Pocket cameras with a zoom might be ok in some cases, you can contact me for that when booking.
For night and aurora photography you should bring a fast lens (meaning wide aperture, with a small f-number like f/2.8 or better) to make the most of the available light. Lenses with f/4.0 are doing fine also but you might have to crank up the ISO. Auroras often stretch all across the sky. To capture a big part of it, you want to have a wide-angle lens (24mm or wider).
For daytime photography it is good to have a basic zoom (24-70mm, 24-120mm or the like). The variety helps you to create diverse photo compositions.
Remote control (optional)
Use during night photography or long exposures. The remote allows you to take photos without touching the camera.
If you want to take photos of smooth water or moving clouds, you will need a neutral density filter. A polarizer can be used to create better contrast between white snow and blue sky. A graduaded ND filter will help to balance the light difference of ground and sky.
Head lamp / Flashlight
Will be important during the night. If you can get a head lamp with a red light option, it will be helpful.
In cold weather your batteries will discharge quite fast. It will be important to have at least two extra batteries with you. Using hand warmers, you can revive the batteries to get the last bit of energy out of them.
To read more about aurora photography, check out my aurora guide ‘Fox Fires’, part 4.
Make sure you have the right clothing. With average temperatures of -12C (10F) in February, you need to be prepared. During the night it can be really cold, about -20..-30C (-4…-22F). You will receive an overall and thick shoes but under it it is important to have several layers.
Best is a woolen layer. For example, merino wool is excellent.
Another woolen layer and some fleece layers usually work well.
Top layer (under the overall)
Top your layers off with a winter jacket, best for them will be windproof.
Shoes, socks and gloves
They will be essential as your toes and fingers will be one of the biggest challenges to keep warm. Hand and toe warmers can easily be purchased online. Important: Operating the camera in the cold without gloves can be tough. Get a thin pair with which you are able to press the camera buttons. These thin gloves can be worn under thick ones.
Head, face and ears
Make sure to properly protect your head and ears against the cold. Having windproof, fur type of hat with ear flaps makes a big difference. A balaclava helps to keep your face warm, especially your nose and cheeks.
In case your fingers, toes or other body parts tend to get cold, it is good to bring warmers. There are many different brands, some sell variety packs like this one. Many of them are adhesive and can be put onto one of the layers under the overall.
For hot juice, tea or coffee to keep you warm during our excursions.
In case your fingers, toes or other body parts tend to get cold, it is good to bring warmers. There are many different brands, some sell variety packs like this one.
To backup your photos from the camera and editing. If we are extremely unlucky with the weather, we will do some post processing in Lightroom.
We explore the wilderness three times with snow mobiles, weather permit. Of those, we drive at two times ourselves, once we will be pulled sitting in a sledge.
Usually two people share one snow mobile and take turns in driving. If you want to drive yourself all the time, it is possible to book a snow mobile for yourself for a surcharge.
To be the driver of a snow mobile, you will need to have a valid driving license. If you rather sit on the back and don’t want to drive, no license is needed.
Before we head out for the first time, everyone will get an introduction on safety, how to drive and driving rules. During our excursions, a professional guide is with us all the time.
15% due within 14 days after registration
85% due latest 30 days before tour start
Cancellation and refunds
Up to 60 days before tour start: Full refund minus an administration fee of EUR 100.00
59-30 days before tour start: 85% refund of the entire trip’s cost
29-15 days before tour start: 50% refund of the entire trip’s cost
Less than 15 days before tour start: 5% refund of the entire trip’s cost