Inspire – An Interview with Neil Bloem, Lofoten Islands

Interview x Inspire

Inspiration comes in many forms; it could be spectacular light, your subject once they step into the frame, a dream, memory or something you saw briefly on social media. What about the work of other photographers? Have you ever taken the time to browse through the creative work of others? Not to pinch ideas or double tap for a quick like on Instagram but to really spend some time reading about why they photograph, their own inspiration and what drives their passion for picking up a camera and taking photos?

I’ve long been inspired by books. The coffee table type, those filled with pages of photos and stories of travellers who venture to places lured by adventure. It’s been a little while since I’ve flicked through the pages of a good photo book and because of this I’d like to reintroduce the concept of browsing for inspiration here on The Wandering Lens. While I can’t yet provide you with pages to physically flick through, in 2019 I’ll be sharing more stories and interviews of photographers who adore the art of photography and photograph not for social media stardom but because they love it.
 
From those working with National Geographic to those who take incredible photos while off-duty from their full-time jobs, I’m hoping what I’ve got planned will help inspire you to continue pursing the art of taking photos, become a photographer or find your own creative niche within this wonderful world of photography.
 
First up is a photographer I’ve been following for almost two years now. The first thing that caught my eye was a self-portrait he took jumping into the chilly waters of the Lofoten Islands where I was photographing at the time. The shot instantly made me look twice; first to say wow what a cool landscape, secondly to think ‘what the actual heck, is this guy serious!?’. Well he is, and has since swam in the waters of Svalbard and continued photographing the epic landscapes above the arctic circle. Neil Bloem hails from Australia but now calls the photogenic Norweigan islands home and after seeing a recent orca shot I couldn’t resist having a chat and sharing it with you here.
 
Lofoten Islands Photographer Neil Bloem interview
 
So without further chatter let me introduce you to…
 
Photographer: Neil Bloem
Nationality: Australian
Current Location: Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Instagram: @coldxneil
 

How long have you called the Lofoten Islands home? 

I’ve been living in Lofoten for just over year now. I arrived early February 2017, but then I moved up to Tromsø late August to be a Northern Light guide (the only thing that would make me leave Lofoten!). I moved back to Lofoten in April this year (2018).
 

Share something a little crazy about yourself? Perhaps your cold water swimming… 😉 

Haha well, yeah. I swim every day up here in the arctic. Only on occasions I will swim in summer though because the jellyfish arrive to the Lofoten Islands with the warmer waters. Because I only swim in my shorts, in summer I have to wait for days when the water is completely still so I know where the jellyfish are, and carefully pick my times to enter the water. But I swim every other day of the year regardless of the weather, you’re going to get wet when it rains so you may as well be in the water and enjoy it! (Read more about Neil’s winter swimming tips here)
 
Lofoten Islands Photographer Neil Bloem interview
 
What inspires you as a photographer?
 
I have friends back in Australia who are photographers, artists, or just people who are constantly creating something that they love, so watching all of them and what they’re putting their hearts into pushes me. But it’s not hard to be inspired living up here on the islands as well, there’s something crazy constantly going on. Northern lights, polar nights in winter (24 hours of darkness), midnight sun in summer (24 hours of sunlight), fjords, insane mountains with jagged peaks rising straight of the ocean, and orcas feeding behind my house just to name a few things.
 
Photographer Neil Bloem Interview - Lofoten Islands
 
Describe your ideal day of photography? 
 
I actually had my ideal day of photography a few days ago…minus one thing. We have just entered polar nights in winter where the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon. The last day of sunlight was my perfect day to take photos; sunrise was at 11:55am, and sunset was 10 minutes later. We finally had clear skies after constant storms for roughly 3 months, so the lead up to sunrise we had blue hour, similar to the golden hour but obviously blue. Dark blue skies with bright white snow covered peaks created the perfect contrast. Around the time the sun rose for 10 minutes, the sky lit with a palette of pinks and blues. Once the light disappeared, we were back into the blue hour once more. But this time inside the fjord behind my house, it suddenly started dumping with snow, a straight wall of snow between white and dark blue. After I got my photos, it was time for my daily swim in the snow.
 
I went home, showered, cooked dinner, then packed up my camera gear again and went out for the Northern Lights. Standing all night on a frozen beach by myself with the whole sky dancing with greens and pinks, with ice covering the sand creating reflections over the whole stretch of coast. The only thing missing from the day that I would have changed, would have been still reflecting waters in the fjords during the day. So that’s my perfect day of photography, a non-stop day of beautiful light and different dramatic landscapes. 
 
Photographer Neil Bloem Interview - Lofoten IslandsPhotographer Neil Bloem Interview - Lofoten Islands
 
Do the harsh conditions of the Lofoten Islands help or hinder your photos?
 
It works both ways for me. I prefer darker images with rough weather, but there’s only so much of the same photos you can take at ground level here with the storms. I prefer hiking into the mountains and camping for a few days to get my shots, but it becomes dangerous here as in a split second the weather can change, and you find yourself camping on top of a mountain in strong winds and rain with nowhere to go or take shelter. I’ve learnt how to read the weather while living here to help prevent things like that from ever happening so I can get my photos, but the mountains here have their own weather patterns that can’t be predicted a lot of the time. 
 
Aurora or Midnight sun? And why…
 
That’s a tough one, but aurora’s will take the win on this one. Midnight sun is great because I can start hiking at any time of the day and not have to worry about losing light. Also having the golden hour light for the whole night is perfect for taking photos as well. But I will never get tired of seeing the northern lights dancing across the whole sky, it’s the craziest and most beautiful thing to see and experience.
 
Photographer Neil Bloem Interview - Lofoten Islands
 
Hiking or Swimming? And why…
 
Definitely hiking. I’m pretty limited to swimming here unless I put on a wetsuit and start diving, but the hiking throughout the islands is endless. You can do the same hike over and over and each time will be completely different, the weather and the light are constantly changing here. I have only completed half of the hikes that I’ve wanted to do in Lofoten, and I’ve been living here for over a year
 
Do you have a dream destination you’d like to photograph?
 
I’m living in my dream destination 😉
 
Photographer Neil Bloem Interview - Lofoten Islands
 
Lastly, do you have any tips for photographers visiting the Lofoten Islands?
 
Do your research on what season you’d like to see the islands, and spend as long as possible here. Weather may not be on your side, so if you turn up for 1 or 2 days you may be limited to getting the whole Lofoten experience.
 
Thanks so much Neil!
 
Read more – To explore more about the Lofoten Islands take a peek at the ‘Lofoten Islands Photography Location Guide‘ on The Wandering Lens.
 
*If you’re inspired by a photographer, let me know in the comments below or send through an email via hello@thewanderinglens.com so I can potentially interview them and share their story here. *Please no self promotion emails, only send through links to photographers who inspire your photography or adventures!
 
Photographer Neil Bloem Interview - Lofoten Islands Photographer Neil Bloem Interview - Lofoten IslandsLofoten Islands Photographer Neil Bloem interview
Photographer Neil Bloem Interview - Lofoten Islands
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