If photographer and Instagram success, Daniel Taipale, actually had time to spare in his busy jet-setting life he could work part time as a guide to Lofoten. He has visited this stunning region of Norway “25-30 times”. This makes him something of an expert. But he doesn’t have time to spare. He’s working flat out travelling to some of the world’s most spectacular destinations with 15kgs of camera gear in tow.
Daniel has come a long way from his former small-town Finland life. After a round-the-world trip in his early twenties and seasons working as a snowboard instructor in Japan, he now has an Instagram following of close to 200,000.
“Yeah it’s pretty crazy but it’s taken a lot of hard work,” says Daniel, “though I know I’m living a super privileged life.”
Inspired by his dad’s analogue travel photography, filling photo albums on living room shelves a young Daniel and his brother, Samuel, saved up all their summer-job money to buy their first digital SLR camera. “It was one of the first DSLRs and it was super expensive. But we loved it. We were out all the time, shooting everything from trees to cityscapes.”
A few years later Instagram came on the scene. Back in the early days of the now ubiquitous photo-sharing app you could only shoot with your phone. This added an element of spontaneity and simplicity that Daniel liked. There were just a few filters to choose from then, so images were more ‘honest’.
“In the beginning Instagram was about the things that happened then and there. It was purer in some way. It was more like analogue photography, or street photography – you either get the shot or you don’t get the shot. You have that one chance and you can’t fake it. I loved that!”
As Instagram’s global presence grew, so did Daniel’s. But rather than choose to follow a path of ever-more editing, he wanted to keep things simple and honest. He switched back to his digital camera, mostly because it offered better image quality, but continued to shoot the same bombastic nature images he’d been shooting with his phone, with minimal editing.
His style shaped and formed. His images had, and still have, ‘a look’ that you can say is Daniel Taipale’s. “I like moody shots, kind of dark, that have an analogue look to them. It’s funny because I get invited to lots of warm, sunny beachy places but I usually turn those trips down. I need grey, rainy, snowy and cold places that suit my style. I don’t know why I like that look so much, I’m just drawn to it in some way.”
When we spoke to him he’s just arrived home from a trip to the Faroe Islands. “They were beautiful but I don’t know if I’ll share many shots from there. It was too sunny.”
In fact, according to Daniel, maybe 80% of the time his trips are unsuccessful. It doesn’t help that his modus operandi takes him to weather-beaten locations where sunny days are usually in short supply, like Lofoten.
“I love Lofoten, it’s my favourite place to travel to. And it’s really, really beautiful. I know it well now as I’ve been there 25 to 30 times. But the weather can be tricky. And although most people think this work is easy, a lot of the time I come back from a trip without any usable images. I’ve been to Lofoten in the middle of the winter; it’s cold, I’ve been sleeping in the back of my car. I’ve hiked hours, reached a peak and it’s been cloudy so I can’t get any photos. That’s pretty tough. But when it’s good, this job is amazing. I’m really lucky. I know that.”
He’s clearly dedicated to his art. And puts a huge amount of time and effort into finding the angle. Telling the story. Generally shooting with people in the image, to give it a here and now kind of feeling. We’ve been working with him for a year or so and love how he just makes you want to get outside. He captures the greater ‘presence’ of nature, that unknown element that draws us to wild places. He’s perhaps so adept at capturing this feeling because of his own adoration of nature.
Growing up in Finland, deep, dark immense swaths of forest were on his doorstep. They were – and still are – his places to escape. “After just 15 minutes in nature, for whatever reason you’ve taken yourself to the forest whether photography or running, you feel better. You forget busy life that can take over. It’s definitely a place for me to go and relax. It’s alone time too. It has some effect that I can’t explain. It’s a special place. I spend a lot of time in nature here in Finland. Not usually to take photos. Often just to enjoy moments outdoors.”
This notion of ‘moments’ he talks about is something that resonates with us at Fjällräven. Sometimes a lot of emphasis is placed on the importance of getting outside for days on end, on technical expeditions into the mountains. But this isn’t really what we mean. It’s more about the small moments, those quick escapes on a Friday evening, a Tuesday lunchtime, a Sunday afternoon that have the biggest impact. Because these you can repeat and enjoy in your way.
“My best photos and memories are often of those small moments, like hanging out by the fire or in the forest. They’re maybe not the most photogenic photos, but those moments are really special.”
Seeing as Daniel is such an expert on Lofoten, we asked him to share some tips. Here are three of the best:
- My favourite camping spot has always been a beach called Kvalvika. It’s gotten very popular the last few years, but you can still end up staying on the beach on your own enjoying the sunset. From the beach you can hike up to a peak called Ryten. This gives you an amazing view towards Kvalvika beach and the sea. This location is usually best for sunsets.
- Lofoten is full of amazing hikes, but Storrnappstinden is, for some reason, my favourite. This hike takes around 1h30min to get up and see the amazing 360° view. It’s a pretty steep hike, but definitely worth the effort.
- I like combining a camping spot and a nice hike and there are plenty of awesome places for that in Lofoten. One fairly easy combo is camping at Uttakleiv beach and hiking up the fairly easy Mannen peak or a little more challenging and longer Himmeltindan. Both of these hikes can be started from the parking area at Uttakleiv beach.
Oh and one last thing. Lofoten is an amazing place, no matter the season. With the right clothing you can enjoy Lofoten even on the coldest winter days and see the landscape in totally different way.
You can follow Daniel on Instagram at @dansmoe
Text: Sarah Benton