This past October I had the opportunity to travel to the Faroe Islands on a photo tour with Offbeat Photography. The Faroes are an 18 island archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, located between Ireland and Iceland. Rugged, isolated and relatively undiscovered, the Faroes are a landscape photographer’s dream location.
My first glimpses of the Islands came through a shroud of fog on my flight from Copenhagen. Vast, open ocean was suddenly interrupted with a harsh, rocky island, tall cliffs falling straight into the sea below. My heart rate immediately increased with the anticipation that one can only feel when about to explore places unknown.
Day 1: Sorvagur
After checking into my hotel, I sauntered down the hill into the quaint harbor village of Sorvagur. Big smiles kept creeping across my face as it felt so good to be finally out in the world again. The wind was powerful coming off the sea, the gusts caught me off guard a couple of times and I had to clutch my camera tightly.
After wandering the streets for a couple of hours, an incoming storm and the darkness of evening had me scuttling back up the hill to my hotel. I stopped only to say hi to a few Faroese sheep along the way, the first of hundreds that I would see in my stay on the Islands. I’d only had a small taste of what the Faroes had to offer, and already I was hooked.
Day 2: Gasadalur
The next afternoon our photo tour officially began, led by renowned Canadian photographers Paul Zizka and Dave Brosha. Our first stop was Gasadalur to see Mulafossur, an iconic waterfall flowing off the edge of a cliff into the ocean. The narrow, winding road took us through a tunnel bored right through the mountainside.
It had been built to connect this tiny village with 12 inhabitants to the rest of the Islands. This was my first real taste of the epic Faroese landscapes, and I’m not afraid to admit that I teared up a little, overcome with gratitude and a sense of freedom that I hadn’t felt since pre-pandemic times.
The weather was stormy, the wind was howling, the rain moved in and out in waves. And it was perfect. Our small group worked our way along the cliffside, watching an insane patch of light hit Mykines, an island just offshore. My brain was exploding, overstimulated with how much there was to take in and photograph. I was frantic. I knew it, but couldn’t help it, I was so electrified with all senses on high alert. All too soon, daylight started to fade and we made our way back to the hotel.
Day 3: Bour and Miovagur
Day three started with us driving to a location where we photographed alongside a cascading river that led down into the ocean in a little valley. I was determined to slow down and shoot with intention, but ended up getting overwhelmed again with possibilities. Every composition I tried to work didn’t seem to capture the majesty in front of me. But it didn’t really matter. The experience must always come first for me. And it was a beautiful place to wander around.
In the end, my favorite composition was a wide-angle shot that incorporated the human element in the distance to help communicate the grandeur of the landscape. This is a technique that I ended up using frequently on this trip. Adding the human element can really help provide scale to the viewer when in a place like the Faroe Islands.
Next, we stopped in the tiny village of Bour for a quick wander. It was incredibly picturesque and I found myself wanting longer there, a theme that would become common over the next few days. Thatch-roofed houses overlooked a stunning ocean view, and as everywhere in the Faroes, a waterfall ran right through the middle of the town.
In the afternoon we did a short drive to Miovagur and parked to hike into Traelanipa. The walking was fairly easy and scenic. We only saw a couple of other visitors the whole time, despite the epic landscapes. Approaching the end of the island, all of a sudden we were greeted with one of the most insane views I’d ever seen in my life. Sørvágsvatn Lake sits atop massive cliffs that drop straight down into the churning ocean far below. It’s a scene that causes your brain to overload in every sense.
We made our way down the back of the cliff toward the ocean where the Bosdalafossur waterfall cascades from the lake into the ocean. Dave went down to the waterfall to provide some scale for the enormity of the place and I think that’s where I created my favorite image of the trip. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of being on what feels like the edge of the Earth, surrounded by rugged beauty on all sides. I took a few fast shutter shots, but ended up gravitating toward the ones where I used my Lee Filters Big Stopper, which allowed me to get a longer shutter speed despite it being midday.
As we started to make our way back to the parking lot after an afternoon exploring, we were suddenly greeted with a beautiful rainbow that guided us all the way back. I did a quick run down the beach to try and line it up with one little hut near the shoreline.
As we arrived back at the vehicles, tired but exhilarated, we were greeted with a stunning sunset to end the day. A couple of Faroese sheep, oblivious to the spectacular light, grazed in front of our vans while we snapped a final few photos for the day. Even the parking lot views in the Faroe Islands are photo worthy.
Day 4: Saksun and Gjogv
We packed up the vans and hit the road after breakfast, Saksun bound. Even driving in the Faroe Islands feels invigorating. Around every bend are beautiful waterfalls, sheep grazing with their spray painted wool, dramatic coastline and ever-changing weather. It quickly got to the point where we’d see amazing waterfalls roadside and no one would even comment, they became routine that quickly. A group of cows, however, the first and only we saw there, drew excitement!
My friend Brian and I made our way up the path behind the village, climbing up to overlook the town and be able to see the ocean behind the mountains. It was wet and muddy, slippery and fun. I stopped at one point when the sun made a brief appearance, laid down on the rain cover for my backpack in the wet grass, and almost fell asleep. It was the most peaceful half-hour of my trip.
I tried to make a point everywhere we went to take time to take it in. To put the camera down and just enjoy. This was one of those times and I was almost asleep when the Faroese wind came back, clouding the sun and instantly sending me into shivers.
We continued on our way along the switchback-filled roads to Gjogv, the most picturesque village tucked into a small bay by the ocean. This was to be our home for the remainder of the trip. Gjogv is located at the bottom of a small hill, nestled in behind a bay in the ocean. At first glance, I knew it would be my favorite place of the trip. The hotel we were in looked like a little ski chalet from somewhere in the Swiss Alps. Colorful houses dotted alongside the river that ran through town, flowing into the ocean below.
Day 5: Vioareioi
The next morning was pretty stormy, which gave us the time to do some editing and have a slower morning. Multiple coffees consumed, we eventually made our way to Vioareioi, yet another quaint seaside village. I took some time to explore the town alone, walking slowly, taking it in.
Day 6: Torchavan and Eidi
The next morning saw us driving to the capital city of Torchavan to get our pre-departure COVID tests. En route, we drove through the world’s only underwater roundabout as we navigated from island to island via underwater tunnels. A local artist had created an art installation in the roundabout, with silhouettes of people and different colored lights making for a unique experience while traveling under the ocean.
When we got back, we met up to start a hike up behind town. The first stop gave us a view back at the village through the gorge which was beautiful. We continued upward until we hit a long set of stairs, battling through the gusts of wind that tried to knock us down. With each step the views got better and the wind got stronger, the mountains dark and ominous behind it.
I don’t think I’ve ever swiveled 360 degrees so much, the weather constantly changing our compositions. To one side dramatic cliffs dropping to the ocean, to the other the view of town and the mountains behind. Beauty everywhere, with light changing constantly.
After summiting the small mountain shrouded in fog and drizzle, we happily made our way back down into the village, attempting to navigate the endless sheep dung and slippery slopes.
With a quick turnaround we jumped in the vans and took off for Eidi, another village not far away. Here, we walked the shore briefly to find another waterfall cascading into the ocean. After taking some photos, we took advantage of the abandoned seaside soccer pitch and had some fun displaying our less than spectacular footwork.
Day 7: Taking it all in
Waking up and knowing it was time to leave the Faroes was a tough pill to swallow. I ate a quick breakfast and made sure I had enough time to run down to the seaside to spend a few more moments taking it all in. We made our way back to the airport and the group dispersed, each making their way to different parts of the world. Although we were parting ways, we knew we would always be joined by the shared experience of this magical place.
Despite its short length, my trip to the Faroes will forever be one of my fondest memories. Traveling with like-minded people in an untamed landscape after hunkering down during the pandemic created a deep sense of gratitude. For a landscape photographer, the Faroes provide a plethora of visual stimuli, sometimes too much to take in! I hope my travels will one day take me back there.