The Art of Getting There

Sastrugi formations in twilight in Sarek National Park.
Beautiful Sastrugi formations. Shaped by the wind they are a subject worth going the extra mile for. Sarek National Park. February 2021.

Photography is all about being in the right place at the right time. But what about the journey to get there?

For winter photography in remote mountains the “getting there” is a real challenge. It requires a multitude of skills and, as I’m out alone, I have to rely completely on myself.

Being out for weeks on end in the midst of winter is demanding, both physically and mentally.

Winter camp in Sarek. Hilleberg Nammatj 3GT, Acapulka Delta Force 135, MSR Lightning and Åsnes Ingstad.
My home and transportation during the winter expedition in Sarek in February 2021. Hilleberg Nammatj 3GT, Acapulka Delta Force 135, MSR Lightning & Åsnes Ingstad.

Some ingredients of winter adventure:

  • Skiing with a heavy pulk
  • Navigating in whiteout
  • Judging the ever-changing weather
  • Pitching the tent in high winds
  • Battling the cold
  • Melting snow
  • Keeping the gear dry
  • Waiting out a winter storm
  • Climbing a mountain in the dark to capture the first light
  • Staying safe
Birch trees in a winterstorm in Sarek National Park.
When the winter storm roars the birch forest is a good place to be. It provides shelter from the elements and much needed contrast for the photographer. Sarek National Park. February 2021.

Compared to ”normal” expeditions with pre-planned routes I have a different approach. As a mountain photographer I’ve learned that it’s best to adjust to the weather and light. My goal is not to cross the finish line at a specific time or break any records. I have a more subjective goal of creating photographs that I’m pleased with.

To have a higher chance of being in the right place at the right time I try to camp as close to the location where I want to photograph as possible. If it’s a summit it means some hard work. Anyone who have tried to pull a heavy pulk uphill knows what I’m talking about. It’s a demoralizing exercise.

High alpine winter landscape in Sarek National Park.
High up in the mountains there’s a different aestethic. One that I had to work hard for to capture. Sarek National Park. February 2021.

At the end of a long day I’m sometimes so tired that all I can focus on when I’ve pitched the tent and got the stove running is to drink, eat and sleep. Photography is never my number one priority. My safety and well-being always comes first.

To get out of the warm sleeping bag six hours before sunrise to climb a mountain in the dark requires determination. With – 25 °C and a bitter cold wind outside of the tent it would be easy to just hit that snooze button. But it’s the uncomfortable decisions that pays off in unique photographs and life-changing experiences.

Snow-covered peak catches the midwinter light in Sarek National Park.
The first midwinter light gently paints the rugged mountains and fills my soul with joy. Sarek National Park. February 2021.

Why am I doing this? Sometimes I ask myself this question when I’m out there. The answer is right in front of me, in the extraordinary beauty of the winter landscape and its light.

I also find great satisfaction in the challenges along the way. My best moments in the mountains have been when I’ve put in the effort, challenged myself and been rewarded with special conditions for photography.

Hilleberg Nammatj 3GT during a winter expedition in Sarek National Park.
Crawling into the warmth of the sleeping bag after a long day is a wonderful thing. Tent: Hilleberg Nammatj 3GT. Sarek National Park. February 2021.

To truly capture the mountains in the winter I not only have to master the art of photography. I also have to master the art of traveling through these wild and remote places.

The making of a photograph in the winter mountains involves so much more than just pressing the shutter.

/ Magnus

Self-portrait of Magnus Lindbom crossing a wolverine track during a winter expedition in Sarek National Park.
Crossing a wolverine track (barely noticeable at the right edge of the frame). Sarek National Park. February 2021.

The images in this post are from my winter expedition in Sarek 2021. From which I also made the film “Exposed”.

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