We’re very excited to share this exclusive interview with Norwegian photographer Stian Klo. In this interview you can read about Stians experience with growing up in perhaps the most beautiful landscape on our planet and how this has formed him as a photographer.
Thanks for taking the time, Stian. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself and how you got into the world of photography?
Well well well – I’m 36 years old and located in Harstad in Northern Norway with my girlfriend Heidi Hallseth, who is also a freelance photographer by trade. I used to be a professional house DJ and producer when I lived in Oslo from 2001 to 2008, but after I “retired” at the age of 26, I had to fill my days with another creative outlet/activity. I went back to school, but my mind was always elsewhere …I had this urge to explore and do something more creative.
I picked up my first proper camera in fall 2010, and tried everything from street, macro, wildlife, long exposures and outdoor photography – but the latter was the only one that really stuck with me. I bought several tutorials and e-books, studied non-stop for what felt like months, and then headed out trying to replicate some of the scenes and techniques I had read about. Needless to say, it was not success at first attempt. It wasn’t till Apple picked up my “Høyvika” shot that I first realized that I might be on to something – and I haven’t looked back since!
You live in what many consider the most photogenic location in the world. How important do you think it is for a landscape photographer to live in photogenic surroundings?
I am blessed to be living here, but I don’t think it’s a must to actually live in photogenic surroundings – I think it’s more important to find a place that convey that “homey” feeling, then the rest will just naturally follow I think. I don’t really shoot back home in Harstad, but I relax and recharge my batteries and motivate myself to keep going. It’s a very calm city and that helps a lot when there’s so much going on and people pulling me in all directions.
Why do you think people are so attracted towards the nature of northern Norway and the Arctic?
Just look at it ! It should be added as the eight wonder of the world – it’s THAT beautiful! A client from Switzerland once told me: “Stian, I am used to mountains and snow back home – but this is otherworldly, it looks like someone dropped the Swiss alps in the middle of the ocean”. That comment really stuck with me – the jagged granite mountains rise straight out of the ocean, lush vegetation illuminate the landscape and don’t get me started on the Arctic light, it can’t be described really – it’s one of those things you’d have to experience to understand. Can you tell I am proud of being from northern Norway ?
How has living in northern Norway formed you as a photographer?
Growing up with the elements so close definitely shaped my “eye.” When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house during the weekends. Their home (now, the family’s vacation home) is located in Alsvåg, Vesterålen, just north of Lofoten. On one side of house we had our own white sandy beach with boats, fishing rods, bonfires, and on the other side, huge mountains and unexplored forests. I remember stumbling upon eagle’s nests when hiking up there on more than one occasion. The winters were a lot different when I was a kid, and is probably the season I have the fondest memories of, which, I guess now is reflected in my photography. I rarely photograph in the summer, even though we are blessed with the midnight sun. Winter and ice cold images are my preferred choice. To be honest, I haven’t really thought much about how this has shaped me, because for me it’s just everyday life. I am spoiled with having the opportunity to wake up in the morning, brew some coffee and be out in the wild Arctic just minutes later.
Has there been any challenges being labeled as an Arctic Photographer?
Nope, not as far as I can think of! Wish I had a better answer haha 😉
You recently became an official photographer for Lonely Planet, congratulations! How do you think this will affect your photography in the years to come? Will we also see a more tropical side of you?
Thank you, pretty wild eh! That deal really came out of nowhere, but I’m super happy and motivated. Since it is all brand new, I don’t really know how much it will affect my photography. My company with Arild, www.lofotentours.com, will still be my main business but I’m hoping for maybe 4-5 trips a year with Lonely Planet on top of that. It’s a unique opportunity to see more of the world, and more importantly – lesser visited areas and destinations unknown to many. I am truly privileged!
Tell us a little about your experience making the leap to becoming a full time photographer.
Well it’s definitely a lot of work and strange working hours. My clients are spread out all over the world, so there’s not a 8am-3pm work day. It took me quite a while to get disciplined enough to try and work “normal” hours and not spending way too much time online. Someone might be see me updating and replying on Instagram and think I’m just fooling around, but it’s actually all part of the marketing and business plan. It’s one thing being “instafamous” and have a lot of likes and comments, running a business is a whole different story. People only see the images I post but they don’t really think about the logistics and machinery behind it all – I sometimes compare it to an iceberg, you only see 10% and the rest is hidden.
Is there anything you know today that you wish you had known when you started with photography?
That’s a good question and I should probably say yes, but I can’t! As mentioned above, I thought long and hard about taking the leap, and was both mentally and financially prepared in case shit was gonna hit the fan. I have an education to fall back on, although I have no plans of returning anytime soon 😉
What’s next for Stian Klo?
I’m off to Greenland in mid August! Visiting Greenland has shared the no.1 spot on my bucketlist, together with Antarctica – for yeeeeeeeeeears! Finally I can tick it off the list, and I am super excited. Other than that, I recently bought a drone – so you can expect more aerials and maybe videos ? Time will tell!
What are your top 3 tips for an amateur photographer who wants improve?
Be consistent and produce quality instead of quantity. Don’t let the chase for fame, likes and freebies be your main focus. Take your time, perfect your craft and find “your” own niche. Patience is a virtue they say, clichè – but couldn’t be more true!
Secondly, don’t compare your work to other photographers work – yes you can be inspired and intrigued by their vision, but don’t copy them!
Last but not least, be outdoors whenever you can! Some of my best images are direct results of going back to the preferred location on several occasions, in different light, tide, season etc – it’s a lot of work, but in the end results will come …if not, your karma might be off 😉