Guest Blog: Northern Lights Travel Guide and Photographer, Odd-Petter Tanke Jensen
My name is Odd-Petter. I’m a photographer based in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway. I’m 47 years old, and I started photography as a hobby in late 2014. I found a friend here in Kabelvåg who had the same addiction to the northern lights and landscape as I do. We went from Svolvær to Reine in the west of Lofoten almost every night from October 2014 until the end of 2015. It was very strange to drive in Lofoten to hunt our lady Aurora, but with no tourism attached to it. Towards the end of December 2015 I went to Svinøya Rorbuer to ask if they needed a guide to drive guests around hunting for the northern lights. This began my journey as a tour guide photographer.
In December 2015 – in fact, more specifically, on the 29th – I started my own business. Today my brand is Discover Lofoten. In order to start this business and comply with all the rules and regulations surrounding businesses in the tourism industry I had to get all the necessary permits from the government. Trust me, that was hard work and very expensive, even by Norwegian standards. I’m proud to say that I did it, and today I am known as “The Aurora Jager” here in Lofoten and around the world. “The jäger” translates as “the hunter!”
In the beginning of 2016 a tourist company called ‘Il Diamante’ came to the Lofoten Islands from Italy. They contacted me and asked for help. They wanted to know where they could find the northern lights. Normally this kind of group tourism operator never uses a local guide or photographer when they are in various different places. I told them over phone that I don’t know where or when we could find the northern lights, but I offered my service to them for a trial. They took my offer and for the first three years we had bad weather and snowstorms here in Svolvær. They did not want to get out. I told them that we could try different places in Lofoten to see if we could find better weather. We went out hunting other locations, and I succeeded in finding the aurora for them on all tours from 2015 up today, except for 2 nights. We always recommend tourist to book us more than 1 night and, book the first night here so they have the best chance to see the best northern lights.
Aside from this, from the period between 2015 and 2021, I have been on Radio Monte Carlo Italia web radio live for more an 17 million listeners in Italy, and they play the live broadcast again many times after that. I’m also at Aurora Jager – Radio Monte Carlo – They say that I am famous in Italy, but who knows! I’ve been featured in various different blogs and travel magazines, including in-flight magazines. I get interviewed globally, including a recent interview with a Belgian publication. Sometimes it’s not for the same reasons I’ve described. For example, in 2017 a young boy fell 840 metres (2750 ft) and unfortunately didn’t survive. I photographed and filmed the rescue effort, which made the local, national and international news.
I have been in local newspapers here in Lofoten, as well as Norway’s national TV2 news channel, and NRK1 for my work as a photographer and guide here in Lofoten. I’m proud of this, and of my features on websites around the world. You can also check out Aurora Jager on TripAdvisor. You will find me at WeChat, Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram, or on Google by searching Discover Lofoten. I have 2 different activities at Svinoya Rorbuer, here:
So, what led to all this? Why did I become a photographer?
Well, here’s a little story about me before I started. I was born and grew up in Kabelvåg in Lofoten. As a child, I was very active in nature, doing mountain climbing, fishing tours, walks, mountain skiing and cross-country skiing, smelling the fantastic smell of nature as it was made.
When I turned 19 years old in 1995 I went into the Norwegian army. I sustained injuries in my feet and have been in and out of hospitals in Norway and Germany. I had to rely on a wheel chair from 2003 to 2013. I was married to my former wife from Cebu City in Philippines in 2009. She bought the first camera I used for the northern lights at the end of 2014. It was a Nikon D3200 with a kit lens and without a tripod! 😉 LOL
I knew I had to get better camera and bought my Nikon D750 and the 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. I will say that for me this lens is maybe the best northern lights lens I’ve ever have had.
Today I use a Nikon D5, Nikon Z6 and Canon 1Dx MkII. The lenses I use are Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Canon 800mm f/5.6 with a 1.4x extender for wildlife safaris so I can get close up images of the wildlife. The tripod I use is a Siuri W-2204 waterproof. It’s a fantastic tripod. We have different tripods in the vehicles that we loan to our guests on tours as well.
I am also ambassador for Kase filters – it’s an easy and high end filter system. But from the start to the end of the Northern lights season I only use Zero filters because they have a GND 4 ultra soft, which makes it easy to take down the daylight above the sunset colors together with the Northern lights.
My good friend Steven Henriksen, who I met and started hunting the northern lights, or Aurora as we say, say that she is our wife. I learned everything from him and I can see a big difference in quality from my work from 2014 up to today. Today I am self learned, and I’ve never gone any workshops or classes for photography or Lightroom.
If you’ve been to the Lofoten Islands there’s a chance you may have seen my images. I have my own sea eagle gallery at Lofoten Explorer, who do sea eagle safari. I also have some northern lights photos hanging at the sushi restaurant in Svolvær.
The feeling of just driving out on a landscape or northern lights tour is amazing, and for me it’s full of passion. It’s an exciting challenge that I never know what I will find or how the skies or the northern lights will look. My life involves looking to the skies to see the stars. I smell the flowers and the sea salt. From seeing the sunset colors to seeing the northern lights it’s all just impressive – counting all those stars and thinking about how small we are compared to the universe. It makes me think about my photography. I always look for reflections. When I’m shooting. It can be in the sea, in the wet sand, a small river, waterfall, wet rock or just a simple pit or a wet car. You’ll notice a lot of reflections in my northern lights images.
Our Northern lights season in Lofoten runs from around August 25th until around April 29th each year. The start of the season and the end of the season are amazing, just in that you have the sunset colors combined with aurora overhead that are so big and impressive. Taking in all sense of the colors and lights together with the landscape amazing. I always say that I live in paradise. I love living under the northern lights in northern Norway. I will never live in a city. Never.
Odd-Petter Tanke Jensen
Odd-Petter is a tour guide and photographer working in the Lofoten Islands high in Arctic Norway. Life has slowed down more than usual since the pandemic hit, so Odd-Petter has had time to explore a little more recently while waiting for life to return to normal. You can keep up with him on Instagram.