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Faroe Islands Q & A

Majestic natural scenery with waves crashing on coastal cliffs, Gasadalur, Faroe Islands
Majestic natural scenery with waves crashing on coastal cliffs, Gasadalur, Faroe Islands. Photo by Paul Zizka
The Faroe Islands, a group of rocky, volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, are gaining increasing popularity among photographers and adventure travel enthusiasts, due to their rugged hiking terrain, spectacular bird watching and interesting cuisine. We sat down (virtually) with 5 of Aurora's photographers - Paolo Sartori, Paul Zizka, Brandon Huttenlocher, Sergio Villalba and Jose Azel - to find out what it's like traveling to this outdoor playground. Aurora Photos: What first drew you to explore the Faroes? Paul Zizka: First and foremost, a sense of curiosity and a passion for isolation. The green, the ruggedness and the wild weather keep me going back. Brandon Huttenlocher: The remoteness and my curiosity, wondering what else is there after seeing a few other photographers' images. Paolo Sartori: I traveled there before the big boom of the Faroes on Instagram. I’m always fascinated about remote and diverse places so when I saw a photo of the Mulafossur waterfall, I said, “Ok, let’s go!”. Sergio Villalba: I have now been to the Faroes 3 times...once for windsurfing and twice for surfing. My first time was 2008. Jose Azel: I was lucky to have visited the Faroe Islands in 1990 when I was given a magazine assignment. Since I was into mountain biking at the time, I suggested I take my bike. The editor agreed. It was the first time I flew with a bike and while it was a bit of a hassle, in the end it was worth it.
Professional Windsurfer On The Freezing Water Of The Faroe Islands
Professional Windsurfer On The Freezing Water Of The Faroe Islands. Photo by Sergio Villalba
AU: What was your favorite island or area to shoot, and what was your favorite geologic feature?
Paul: I am big on ruggedness, and in the Faroes, the further north you get, the more rugged the landscape gets. The northern halves of Eysturoy, Kalsoy and Vidoy are particularly dear to me. The sea cliffs and sea stacks in the far north are incredible! Brandon: I really liked Kalsoy and Mykines! The sheer cliffs that jet straight out of the ocean are ridiculously impressive. Paolo: In the Faroes every village is something unique and beautiful…if I have to pick a single place, it's probably Saksun. The small house above the beach is totally insane. Sergio: All of them have this amazing, remote feeling. Streymoy and Vagar, though not the most isolated, have the most stunning places.
Scenery of Mulafossur waterfall on coastal cliff at sunset, Faroe Islands
Scenery of Mulafossur waterfall on coastal cliff at sunset, Faroe Islands. Photo by Brandon Huttenlocher
AU: One of the most iconic areas on the island is Mulafossur waterfall; how long did you spend waiting for the perfect shot? How many other photographers were standing next to you? Paul: I've made perhaps 5 or 6 visits to that location over the years, and I've shot it on my own as well as surrounded by several fellow photographers (in the context of workshops). I've probably spent 10 hours gazing at and shooting the falls in total. Brandon: I think I ended going there a total of 4 times throughout my time in the Faroes at all times of the day/night. As soon as I got my rental car I drove straight there, and I finished my trip there just before heading back to the airport. My first time, there was a photography workshop group; however, when I was there in the middle of the night, I was alone. Paolo: The day we went there, it was raining like hell and there was nobody around. I waited almost an hour and when I realized that the rain wasn’t going to stop…well, now I know my camera can still work under a storm! Sergio: I’ve been to this place several times, all of them on exploration trips. It’s one of those corners that are so perfect that seem to be designed on purpose by someone else. Anytime of the day (or the night) is ideal to get a nice shot. Since it was waves that we were in the search for, I always visited the Faroes in the middle of winter, so I had most of the spots to myself.
View of Klaksvik town from tent and feet of relaxing tourist, Faroe Islands, Denmark
View of Klaksvik town from tent and feet of relaxing tourist, Faroe Islands, Denmark. Photo by Paolo Sartori
AU: The Faroes are sparsely populated, though that population is very diverse. Due to the small size, and the isolation of island life in general, what was the locals attitude to you? What was their attitude to you as a photographer? Are they tired of you over-running their country? Paul: As with many Scandinavian people, they are reserved at first. Eventually though, they open up and have been extremely friendly and helpful to me. Having said that, they are currently experiencing an unprecedented boom in tourism. Time will tell whether the Faroese government can manage that new growth in a way that the locals do not get disgruntled with it all. Paolo: There wasn’t that much instagram-based tourism just a few years back. I didn’t meet many people in the villages, but those few ones were really friendly. Sergio: As in most other cold places, people tend to be a bit cold in the beginning, but I don't think it has to do with me being a tourist or a photographer. Since I always visited the Faroes in winter, I never bumped into another tourist. The Faroese rely on their oceans to make a living; the soil is waterlogged all year long, so too tough to grow crops. They’ve been making big efforts to promote tourism. However, their tourist infrastructure is pretty small compared to other popular destinations; I don’t think they could welcome big crowds of people.
Salmon farm rings floating on calm water, Faroe Islands
Salmon farm rings floating on calm water, Faroe Islands. Photo by David Henderson / Caia Images
AU: The Faroe Islands are one of the 10 biggest salmon producers in the world, and many an image of the islands contains the tell-tale rings of salmon farming. There was also a long history and culture of whaling there. It seems many gourmet restaurants have opened recently. What was your favorite food? Paul: The fish is excellent. I've particularly enjoyed the halibut and haddock! Paolo: The best food was salmon, of course. There are a number of good restaurants, especially in Torshavn, but in general they are really expensive. Sergio: You can get some crazy good food there but you have to pay the price. Fresh salmon, dried whale or even sushi is mental, but most of the time you find yourself eating gas station hotdogs since there’s no restaurants or shops in most towns.
4x4 car driving along road on seashore, Faroe Islands, Denmark
4x4 car driving along road on seashore, Faroe Islands, Denmark. Photo by Paolo Sartori
AU: You've managed to capture the islands ruggedness, yet also add a sense of allure and invitation. How did you travel around? Bike? Hike? 4 x 4? Climb? Ferry? Sail? Strap a saddle to the largest sheep and hope for the best?
Paul: I first experienced the Faroes through extensive hiking, which was incredible. Since then, I've explored more thoroughly and further afield via ferries and the incredible road network. Brandon: My main mode of transportation was this tiny little rental car that felt more like a go-cart. Most islands are connected via underwater tunnels or bridges. I did take a ferry over to Kalsoy. They do some boat trips which are pretty awesone getting you out on the water and able to look back at the island and the sheer cliffs straight out of the ocean. But the best and most fun transportation in the Faroes is the helicopter! Its extremely cheap and scenic. I flew from the airport to Mykines island for about $30USD (round trip). Just do your research about it, as you can only do a 1 way trip each day. Paolo: I was moving around in a Land Rover Defender, sleeping in a roof mounted tent. It was perfect because it allowed me to stay on location by night. Sergio: Car, lots of hiking and occasionally a chopper. The weather’s so rough you need to make sure to check the forecast properly every morning before you hit the road. Jose: The bus system is extensive and goes throughout the island. There are no official bus stops, at least not at the time, and I all I had to do was flag on down if I wanted a ride. To satiate my thirst for adventure, nothing beat biking on their narrow roads. They have many tunnels under their steep mountain terrain; speeding into these somewhat dark, narrow tubes on a fast downhill provided me with an adrenaline rush! Fortunately, the sparseness of automobiles kept encounters to a minimum.
AU: Is it EVER sunny there? Seriously. Epic photos guys, but the sun has to shine sometimes right? Paul: In my experience, never for very long. I've been to the Faroes at different times of year and fickle weather seems to be the norm. That's fine by me. I find the ever-changing, moody weather fits the landscape perfectly. Brandon:  If it is sunny, you’d better not blink, because it’ll be gone before your eyes open again! Oh, and the wind. If you enjoy the wind, this place is for you. I watched the water from the Mulafossur waterfall blow back up and not even touch the ocean one afternoon is was so windy. Paolo: I’ve been there for a week, and I got a couple hours of sun in total. On the last day I was talking with a local, and when I complained about weather, he said “oh, you are lucky, we had good weather this past week!" Sergio: Absolutely! Even in winter, I believe they enjoy more sunny days than UK or Belgium. The sun doesn't rise high enough to reach the deep valleys though.
The Town Of Tjornuvik In Streymoy, The Faroe Islands
The Town Of Tjornuvik In Streymoy, The Faroe Islands. Photo by Sergio Villalba
AU: What was the most interesting thing you learned about the Faroe Islands / your favorite experience / experiential wisdom you'd like to pass along to future travelers? Paul: The Faroes are truly a place like no other. I highly recommend you get there before the crowds do. It's really only a matter of time. And get out on foot. Even when the place starts getting the visitors it deserves, there will be many pristine stretches of shoreline to explore for those willing to put in the work. Brandon: Take the helicopter. Watch out for sheep while driving. Embrace the excessive amount of wind and gloomy weather.  You're not supposed to camp in cars like most people do in Iceland (we wont tell anyone I did this). Its an incredibly safe country. Oh, did I mention the wind? Paolo: For me the most interesting part was the people living there. For most of us that are living on the mainland would be really hard to stay there for more than a couple weeks. We are used to have relatively easy access to almost anything; driving a couple hours from home I can be on a 4000m peak in the Alps or on a sunny beach in the Mediterranean. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to live on a remote island with only 10 other people, hours away from the nearest hospital... Jose: Several impressions have stayed with me ever since my visit there. First and foremost was the stark beauty of the landscape: treeless and bright green, often with a clear blue sky and expansive views of the ocean. Perhaps I got lucky and had a fair number of good weather days. The other lasting mark was the quaintness of the buildings. So many seemed too perfect to be real. Almost none needed paint and the villages that lined the shores of the many coves and bays were incredibly picturesque.
Majestic natural scenery with coastal cliffs under dramatic sky, Kalsoy, Faroe Islands
Majestic natural scenery with coastal cliffs under dramatic sky, Kalsoy, Faroe Islands. Photo by Paul Zizka
To see more images of the Faroes, click here.
Or, check out more from their personal sites below:

Instagram Tips

Instagram continues to grow as a marketing tool and a way to tell your brand's story. It's much easier to keep an up to date Instagram account than it is to update your website with new work, whether you're a photographer or a brand. We asked some of our photographers who either have large followings or are being recognized as Instagrammers to watch for some tips:

Rachid Dahnoun, @rachidphoto

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 10.49.51 PM Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 10.50.22 PM Be Engaged. Most people who don't do well on social networks forget that it isn't all about you; you need to interact with other people on the network by liking, commenting and following other accounts.  Building relationships with other users will really help boost your own account's engagement.

Be Consistent. Posting once a week isn't going to cut it.  Nor is posting a beautiful landscape one day and a furry kitten the next.  Consistency across the board is key.  You want to be posting at least 5 days a week (7 is ideal).  That said, you don't want to over-post either.  If you overload your followers with 4 posts in an hour they are likely to dump you.  For content, you want to stay true to yourself and your brand.  When someone looks at your feed the work should look and feel cohesive, just like a portfolio.

Jess McGlothin, @jess_mcglothlin_media 

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 10.53.22 PMScreen Shot 2017-08-13 at 10.58.00 PM Look Outside Your Immediate Target Audience. I specialize in fly-fishing and outdoor adventure travel, but I’ve seen an increase in fitness and general travel followers when I tailor a post to less-technical viewers. A fun one-liner with a post about my favorite sandals for airplane rides? That’s guaranteed to land a few new followers outside my normal “dude with a beard and a fly rod” genre. Tell Stories. An image is worth a thousand words, as they say. When someone is flipping through their feed, I want the image to make them stop and look deeper. It’s a tenet of strong photography, and it’s important here too. Instagram is a great tool of escapism… enable that a bit; let people into the story. They'll respond. Let People in to Your World. Adding a ten-second video into your feed once in a while allows viewers to feel like they’re behind the scenes. In the past few months I shot iPhone videos of helicopters landing on rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, people passing through the Lima airport at 1AM and a team bumping along a backcountry road in the Amazon jungle while dodging bamboo overgrowth. Video is a fantastic tool to relate to your audience… show that it’s not all fun and glory and good times! Sometimes the job is sleeping on airport floors, dealing with infected wounds and burning time on long car rides. Let’s not be afraid to talk about that!

Andrew Peacock, @footloosefotography

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Be True to Yourself. It's important that I am excited about posting and it helps if I keep things fresh and post very recent work rather than spend time 'mining' my archive looking for something to post just because I feel pressure to do so! I think of my Instagram feed as a portfolio for my adventure travel photography, so I only post high quality images and I keep it 'real' in terms of any post processing, to ensure my feed is an accurate reflection of the style of work I deliver to clients.

Find Partners. I'm very lucky to be able to travel widely, so I make sure to post images across a range of subjects and locations to appeal to those looking for adventure travel inspiration on Instagram. Occasionally  I'll also share my work on a feed with a larger audience. By establishing personal connections with relevant people at companies with huge Instagram followings - Lonely Planet, for instance - I've gained an avenue to share my work with a broader audience.

Paul Zizka, @paulzizkaphoto

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#Trending! Posting images relevant to current natural events seems to give my post an extra boost in interaction. Whether it's season specific, ie. snowy scene during the Winter months, or an Aurora post during or after a solar storm, finding images that people can relate to as something they're experiencing or thinking about is a strategy that pays off for me.

Sean Davey, @sean_davey

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Ask Questions. I post a a mix of images as they happen, along with classic surf images from my days as a magazine photographer, to keep the content interesting and different as much as I can. I try to engage my audience as much as possible. Ask them a question about the picture, or in my case, I ask them to name the photo and reward the winner with a few 8x10’s.  I see that as part of my advertising budget, so to speak.

David Hanson, @davidhanson3

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Share Personal Work. For over a dozen years I've collected portraits and interviews of people I meet, most complete strangers. With over 400, I turned to Instagram to post one per day for 2017. It's a fun way to stay both consistent and unpredictable. I was a writer before I was a photographer so I like digging beyond the pic. And part of me hopes to learn some secret to life from the people.

Kay Vilchis Zapata, @kayuvilchis

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Join the Celebration. I like to upload photos on days that are celebrating something, like for example National Dolphin Day. I think that by celebrating something everyone talks about that topic and in the same way you can make your audience aware of conserving those important elements and taking more care of the planet.

Photographer Q&A – Geert Weggen Communes With Squirrels

red squirrels sitting in a camping bus

We recently sat down with Geert Weggen, nature photographer based in Sweden, to discuss his "naturally staged" tableaux of wildlife, usually focused on red squirrels. You can see more of his  fantastical, yet real, work here!

red squirrel on a chair holding an umbrella with nut in mouth

Aurora Photos: You have been featured on the internet a number of times (here, here, here...you get the picture) for your wonderful captures of, "squirrel lifestyle," let's call it. We have to ask. Why squirrels?

Geert Weggen: The amazing thing about squirrels is that they can do many things similar to humans. Their front legs are like hands and they can stand on two legs, like us. Besides all that, they can do even more...they're very acrobatic! With those talents, I can capture photos where people can imagine themselves in the scenes: Driving, riding horses, cleaning, opening doors, holding umbrellas etc.

I live in nature, with the forest literally next to my house. I built an outside studio where animals can come and go. With all the wild squirrels visiting me every day they are the perfect subject to take photos of.

red squirrel standing on moped with yellow orchids

Au: Can you describe your process and technique?

GW: My studio is about 30 square meters and has a half open roof and 2 open sides. The rain and snow can come in, but still my equipment will stay dry. I created a 2-meter square table, which is the same height as my kitchen window from where I can shoot. The flashes are on remote and I use a big reflector. There is always back light, which is why many times only ambient light is not enough. I create scenes on my table and put food in the places where I hope squirrels will come. Sometimes I have to clone away small food buckets or wires from my photos. Sometimes I can do four scenes in one day.

great tit is painting abstract art

Au: Was there a trick you tried to get a squirrel to do that didn't quite work?

GW: There have been shots which I worked at for 5 days, but in the end I got my result. Like I had the idea that the squirrels were skiing in the snow, and I really wanted them to hold both poles in each hand. I am not a very patient man, but when I have an idea in my head it is hard for me to walk away. Sometime, I have difficulty capturing the squirrels with flowers; most of the flowers come from my garden, and there's a short window of time where they still look fresh.

I've had issues with mischievous squirrels in the past...some love to take props in to the trees and disappear before I can even take a shot. I lost a beautiful tea pot some years ago, though I was lucky then, and was able to capture the images I wanted before it disappeared. In fact, I FOUND IT this year in the forest, after all these years!

red squirrel standing on jumping horse with a hurdle

Au: What's the one shot you'd love to set up, but haven't tried yet?

GW: For 4 years now I've been photographing the red squirrels and I have literally worked with thousands of ideas, but there are still a few I haven't tried. It would be wonderful to capture two squirrels kissing, but I have no idea how to get them into that shot. I have captured squirrels sniffing each other, but these situations are impossible to plan.

squirrel with water, light tower, shark and canoe

Au: It’s a common saying in the business, "don't work with kids and animals”... would you say that's true?

GW: Well...It can be frustrating. I often find myself cursing. There are many potential issues...Of course there is wind, and weather problems, etc. In the winter days, I sometimes only have 3 hours of light, and it can be so cold that in 5 minutes I cannot feel the buttons on  the camera, but all that is not even the biggest challenge. The animals do exactly what they want, and I have no control. They are always on the move and very quick! Photography is not really relaxing when they are in front of my camera; I need to be alert and very quick to capture those moments! Lucky for me, there are so many squirrels that I have many chances to capture what I hope for.

Red squirrel holding a Mobile Phone in hands

Au: Do you think some of the techniques you use on squirrels would work on kids?

GW: For me, the trick is food and trust. The animals are always looking for food and looking for it in my studio with me nearby. It takes a long time before they feel safe. Similar to deer, they are alert the whole time. However, when they started to trust me they naturally became curious and dared to challenge themselves in new situations. Whenever I set up a new scene, they almost go directly towards it and act like they are familiar with their new surroundings, and behave like I am not there.

I don't photograph children, but I guess it has a lot in common with how I approach photographing wildlife. Children need to feel safe so they can behave naturally and they like a reward as motivation. When I have a good shoot, and the wildlife cooperates, I will climb out my window to give them a nut, as a reward. I assume child-photography involves rewarding the kids when they cooperate and listen, as well. However, I do think you can guide children in a different way than squirrels.

Here's a few action shots and behind the scenes of Geert's studio. You can see more of his furry friends in action here! man feeding a red squirrel which is standing on a wishing well man feeding a red squirrel  with a shark in hands with water and canoe man feeding a red squirrel which is standing on wooden blocks with text happy fathers day

Rock Solid

The stock photography landscape is constantly changing, but Aurora Photos is rock solid. For 23 years, we've been providing creatives with impactful photography and caring customer service. We're a small team, based in Portland, Maine, with actual people who will communicate with clients and photographers. We take a lot of pride in our work and our brand. What keeps us going? Our commitment to quality, and to our community of photographers and clients. There's never been a better time to come see what we're about! DSC01031

New Images for January

A man stands on the edge of Cecret Lake and shines his headlamp into the sky towards Devils Castle. New year, new images and new photographers! 2016 starts off with action packed days, exotic adventures around the globe and some fun ways to keep your "get fit this year" resolution in the outdoors. From oyster beds in Vietnam  to night skies over Yosemite, zip lines near Marrakech to rock climbing in Armenia, paragliding near Geneva to dogsledding in Minnesota, our photographers were everywhere! There's fly fishing, trail running up a mountain, celebrity athletes, a road trip in Namibia and Spain with new contributor Sergio Villalba, avalanche rescue, SUP and whitewater rafing in the Grand Canyon, skiing and welcoming a new addition to one contributor's family! See all this, and Santa delivering presents on a dirt bike here:  http://www.auroraphotos.com/result?webseries_id=14734