The Faroes and the Beauty in fear
Updated: Aug 16, 2022
Breathtaking, Dramatic and Unforgiving. If I were to pick the top 3 adjectives to describe the Faroe Islands, these would be my pick. In that order.
You get introduced to the breathtaking aspect of the islands as soon as you look at them for the first time from the corner of your aircraft's window. Mainly because that's when the turbulence begins and you forget to breathe. The violent gusts of wind cause the aircraft to tremble, and you quickly begin questioning all of your life choices that lead you to this point. Nonetheless, just like the Faroese weather, your mood changes dramatically as the aircraft descends. The cloud cover fades away suddenly, revealing the spectacular view of the deep turquoise Atlantic waters, relentlessly smashing against the humongous black cliffs. A sight that immediately fills your mind with awe. The aircraft begins approaching the foggy runway and you see those little colourful Faroese houses getting bigger and bigger and you finally touch down.
The Faroe Islands are located in the North Atlantic ocean, off the northern coast of Scotland. Officially a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, they are a well developed, neatly organised, self-sufficient and prosperous archipelago full of friendly people. Not a lot is known about the original inhabiters of these islands, but it is believed that they were
first settled by Irish monks, who described them as "The islands of Sheep and the Paradise of birds". Interestingly, Faroe Islands or Føroyar in the old Norse language, means "Sheep Islands". Which makes complete sense, since there are hundreds of thousands of Sheep here. They are literally everywhere! In places you'd never imagine. Much like some of our politicians, they make you wonder "How the hell did he manage to get all the way up there"?
The Viking connection
About a thousand years ago, these settlements used to be constantly raided by the Vikings. So much so that it caused the residents to abandon the islands to save themselves. The Vikings then, made the islands their home. The oldest Viking settlement on the islands lives on to this day. Although, it has developed with time, you can still see some of the surviving grass-covered stone houses built roughly a millennium ago.
The beauty in fear
Although the Faroese people that I met were very friendly, I would characterise the islands themselves as "violently beautiful". They are extremely beautiful but equally scary. They will give you the most magnificent of views, but if you're not careful, the wind can quite easily throw you off the cliffs and into the churning waters underneath. In some places, the power of the waves was such that I could see a "reverse waterfall". The ocean, pushing the water up the cliffs and into the lake above. For someone who is used to city life, a sudden exposure to the purest form of nature can be quite mind-numbing. If I were to slightly exaggerate the analogy, imagine what it would be like to stare directly at the molten core of the earth. Or imagine that you are standing on the deck of some futuristic space craft flying past the Sun and you stare directly into the ball of nuclear inferno up close. It would be tremendously unsettling, but beautiful nevertheless. The same goes for staring at the ruthless waves of a stormy ocean from atop a huge cliff, with slippery grass beneath your feet. A perfect reminder of why you shouldn't take the power of nature lightly. But be aware of your surroundings and more importantly - be humble and you'll be just fine.
On the first couple of days, we were greeted with warm sunny weather and clear blue skies. Apparently not very typical for this place. What was seen as a blessing by the Faroese people, was a turn-off for us drama-hungry photographers. So we just prayed and waited for some action. Some of us might have prayed a little too hard though because in an hour, the sky was filled with clouds and we rushed to our vans to avoid getting drenched. The weather is very unpredictable here and one needs to be prepared for all possibilities before stepping out for the day's shoot. But with the sun, clouds, and a bit of luck, you will see some truly mesmerising sights. It's as if the islands put up a performance just for you and someone shines a moving spotlight through the clouds on the performer, showcasing every nook and cranny.
Of course, it helps when you go with friends who know the island in-and-out. Stian , Arild and Thomas are masters of landscape photography who have tons of experience photographing these islands. I'd highly recommend checking their fantastic work for those of you interested in doing something similar. Hopefully you get to travel to the islands some day and experience all of this and much more.
Don't forget to checkout some of my photographs from the trip in the Faroe Islands album. And Happy travels!