A Unique Holiday Present
Photographer Ron Azevedo Treats His Family to a Week in the Lofoten Islands
written by Liz Goldner
Two days after Santa Claus rode his sleigh down from the North Pole to deliver presents, Ron Azevedo flew to Norway to photograph a place that, he says, is characterized by “lights, color and atmospheres.”
The San Clemente resident and Laguna Festival of Arts exhibitor left sunny California on December 26, 2016, accompanied by his wife, Myrtha, 30-year-old daughter Nicole and 24-year-old son Preston. After arriving in Norway’s capital city of Oslo, they transferred to a smaller plane for the next leg of their journey. Their destination was an ancient fishing village north of the Arctic Circle, once inhabited by Vikings, in the Lofoten Archipelago. The weather was so inclement that their pilot thought he might be forced turn back, but after “a scary 20-minute flight,” as Azevedo describes it, they landed and went on to spend seven glorious days. The photographer was there to capture images of what he describes as “the majestic mountain landscapes rising from the sea like some spiky dragon, the sandy beaches, deep fjords and cute red cabins.”
Azevedo explains that in Lofoten, the sun is below the horizon from December 7 through January 5, but that for five to six hours each day, the available light is like a gorgeous winter sunset. “The darkness becomes the real protagonist,” he remarks, “and although our days were very short, the lights during this period make this archipelago stunning. They are bright, intense, incredible, and the colors are unforgettable. My goal was to capture that beauty with my camera, to share the perfect juxtaposition of water, rock and human habitation that is Arctic Norway.”
Azevedo’s photographs feature winter scenes so magical that they might have been conjured up by highly imaginative painters. Happiness Found depicts a small red cabin, or rorbu, decorated with antlers and sitting on an isolated, snow-covered beach, with the waters of the Selfjorden Fjord and the snow-covered peak of Volanstinden lying beyond. “With not a soul to be found for miles,” Azevedo remembers, “we discovered this small colorful building. And with the deep and the amazing colors of a sunrise, it became a favorite image from our Norwegian winter.”
Sovereign features a cluster of the rorbuer, as several of the cabins are called, on stilts, nestled beneath a cliff and overlooking the snow-covered beach and deep blue ocean. Azevedo points out that these seaside wooden structures in the town of Hamnøy once housed “hardened fishermen who made the winter pilgrimage to the world’s most fertile cod fishing grounds.” By the mid-twentieth century, though, their owners had begun restoring them and renting them out to tourists.
In A Winter Wonderland, a classic wooden walking bridge leads to a row of larger houses abutting the mountain peak of Hammerskaftet and illuminated by the setting sun in shades of yellow and orange. “Reine was the most beautiful place in the world,” Azevedo recalls. “With its blanket of snow, jagged granite mountains, red cabins, pastel colored skies, and the warm lights of the village, it was a hypnotizing sight out of a storybook.” Sakrisøy is a similarly enchanting scene of orange and white homes on stilts, their lights reflected in aquamarine waters, with jagged mountains and a pale blue sky rising behind them. The Gift of Norway features azure waves crashing against the rocks at Skagsanden Beach, with mountains in the distance
Returning to Oslo before flying home with his family, Azevedo spied a bright red Volkswagen next to an old-fashioned gas station—a scene that he captured in the image Bensinstasjon. “Though around long before my time,” he admits, “I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia checking out this vintage 1920s petrol station.”
Growing up in Big Bear Lake, [U1] Azevedo was smitten with both photography and skiing from an early age. His parents provided him with a camera and a portable darkroom by the time he was 10 years old, and he took photography classes in high school. “I was also raised on skis,” he explains, adding that he skied on his high school team. He went on to study cinematography at Columbia College of Motion Pictures & Television Arts & Sciences, [U2] and worked for an NBC affiliate as a videotape editor and cameraman. He has received recognition from the National Geographic Society for his images, and his photos of Norway received Top 10 honors out of 140 exhibitors in the Festival of Arts in September.
Azebedo’s wanderlust has led him to roam the world, traveling to places as diverse as Peru, Germany, Romania and, recently, Chernobyl, site of the catastrophic nuclear disaster in 1986. [U3] With the aid of guides, he toured the city and photographed its abandoned dwellings, fields and amusement parks with their decrepit bumper cars and Ferris wheels. “Photographing Chernobyl and the city of Pripyat [a ghost town in northern Ukraine] is like walking the set of a horror movie, except the horror there is very real,” Azebedo says. “My goal is to display the beauty that can be found in a zone left uninhabitable for humans, and to portray earth’s amazing ability to teem with life, not long after annihilation.