Faroe Islands : A nightmare or a dream for landscape photographers? UPDATE!

Update at the bottom!

As a landscape photographer who loves taking panoramic images, I came across this image in 2016 taken by Dennis Polkläser… The Kallur lighthouse on Kalsoy island!

[ ... nordic realm ] by D-P Photography on 500px.com

This panorama looked and still looks so epic that I decided I wanted to see this for myself. So in august 2018 I was flying towards the Faroe Islands. After spending a week on these Islands I wanted to share some of my thoughts/experiences on some locations in the Faroe Islands.

Saksun

Saksun is an old village surrounded by stunning scenery. So on our first evening we wanted to see and photograph this location. I had heard before that some of the old photogenic houses were on private land of a local farmer. However, I had seen lots of images from those houses on the social media pages of visitfaroeislands and also on Instagram. After seeing no sheeps or other animals on the grasslands, we decided to take a look and take some pictures, because we didn’t thought we were bothering someone. Turned out we were wrong…

It didn’t took that long before an angry guy showed up, telling us we had to leave and pay him 50 euro per person for entering his property. For a group of 7, he wanted 350 euro or he would call the police. After negotiating, he accepted just the 50 euro, but we still had to leave immediately because we were disturbing the sheeps that weren’t there… We were a little bit shocked (he really wasn’t friendly), but on the other hand we could understand him because probably everyday there are tourists on his domain.

Kallur lighthouse (Kalsoy)

THE location I wanted to visit, we waited for the perfect weather forecast to take the ferry towards this Island. So on day 4 everything was looking perfect and we were off towards Trollanes, were the hike starts. On visitfaroeislands and in every guide about the Faroes, this is marked as a must see spot! When arriving in Trollanes, you can see a parking lot for tourists, there is a toilet and a big map (with where the hike starts). So we started our hike like it was said on the map and reached a gate after 300 meters with a sign on it : DO NOT ENTER… Checking our guide and after seeing the map on the parking lot, we were walking on the right track. So we opened the gate and continued the hike towards the lighthouse. We have been there from sunset till sunrise. And I must say, what an epic place!!!

After sunrise, we hiked back to the car and drove back to the place where the ferry would pick us up. While drinking coffee, we talked to other tourists and heared the ‘horror’ stories we missed by accident. You have to know that 85% of the land in Faroe Islands is private land. So as soon as you leave the road, you are probably on private terrain. Apparently landowners of the terrain you have to hike on to reach the lighthouse are asking crazy amounts to tourists! We missed them because we took an afternoon ferry without much tourists. But if you are taking a morning ferry, you will probably have to pay an amount of 60 euro per person. The same amount if you do it with a guide from hiking.fo… And that’s were the problem lies!


Drangarnir

If you go towards Faroe, this location is probably on your list. The same for us, but after reading things on Facebook, I noticed you have to do it with a guide! We wanted to do it the proper way, so weeks before we were going I contacted www.hiking.fo because they do the guided hikes towards the sea arch. After multiple emails and phone calls we agreed we could do the hike with them for 300 euro. Normally it’s around 500 euro for a group of 7… As we are photographers, we didn’t want to do the hike in sunny blue weather, but on a moody day so we could take some nice images. No problem for hiking.fo, we just had to call when we arrived by plane and then we could discuss a date…

From The Earth by Hugo Valle Perez on 500px.com

So I call him on our first day and he asked me to write an email with the date we wanted to go. Send him en email with the date, no reaction… So I called back the next day, I had to send the email again. Then he said it wasn’t a problem to go on that date… Two days later I got an email he couldn’t go with us because it was too busy…. Contacted him with what we had to do now and he gave us the number of the landowner himself. So I call the landowner, said we had an agreement with hiking.fo to do the guided walk for 300 euro. No problem for him, his son would go on the hike with us!

The son arrived at the hour we have discussed, so we were ready to go! Before we started the son told me if we pay 400 euro, we could come back by boat. That deal sounded good for us, so we started the 2-3 hour hike after we agreed the 400 euro… After walking more then an hour, the son stopped our group and told me I was a liar and that I didn’t had a deal with hiking.fo… I must show him the deal or we had to pay 100 euro more! Off course, hiking.fo wanted the dates and hours by email, but the price was discussed by phone. The only proof I had was an email I sended to hiking.fo where I mentioned the price. I told the son how we agreed the price, showed him the email with the price, but that wasn’t ok for him. So I called the guy from hiking.fo immediately, but you can guess it, he didn’t pick up the phone… Send him a couple of messages, no reaction…

So we can only go further for 500 euro (going further for 400 euro really wasn’t an option for him) or we go back and nobody gets what he wants. With a little selfrespect (He told me I was a liar and he didn’t say a word to anyone of our group but me in the first hour), and with the support of the rest of the group, we went back and didn’t pay this scammer!

Oh yes, it’s a guided walk because of the rich birdlife they said. However the hiking path isn’t where the cliffs with the birds are. So that’s just an excuse to troggle of money from tourists.

Other spots

Off course it’s not al bad news. A lot of locations are free to enter. Or you have to pay a small amount (5-10 euro per person) like on the first picture below. I have nothing against a small contribute to preserve nature, it’s even a good thing!

And we also had nice encounters with landowners! The last image of the serie above is a stunning waterfall which we saw from the road and looked like it had potential for a nice picture because of the gorge. So we asked the landowner, he didn’t bother and we had a nice chat with him about the Faroe Islands. When we got back to the car we even paid him 20-30 euros because he was so friendly to us.

Conclusion

I found Faroe Islands a beautifull country with amazing nature. However, as a landscape photographer, I want to go out and explore areas. And with 85% of Faroe Islands is private land, it isn’t that simple…

1) An option is to go on private guided walks with hiking.fo, however that company is way to small to handle all tourists. And the email, phone, email, phone, email,phone… It just doesn’t work!

2) You can ask the landowners to visit there property, but some of them ask the same amount as hiking.fo for a guided walk. So that’s just a crazy amount of money. You can off course do this, but take enough money with you!

3) You can off course don’t ask anybody and just go with the risk of getting caught. Normally I would never advice this, but on Faroe….

With this in mind, I don’t think Faroe Islands is a nightmare for photographers, but it definitely isn’t a dream location either. And for me, it looked way to much like a dream on social media…

Regards,

Sven

Note 1 : I went in summer (high season for tourists), maybe you don’t have those problems in other seasons…

Note 2 : I really love nature, and I said it above. Paying a small contribution to preserve nature is a good thing!

Update:

I am glad this article was picked up by the media on Faroe Islands and I would like to thank all people who have shared this information.

http://www.vp.fo/news-detail/news/news/detail/gestsins-eyga-utlendskur-ferdasmidur-roer-framundir-at-foeroyar-eru-ein-marra-at-vitja/

http://www.vp.fo/news-detail/news/news/detail/hagastyrisformadur-tad-er-ein-promillupartur-sum-eru-onoegd/

But I would also like to write a few things more regarding these articles about Drangarnir, but first here is what I believe a translation into english, I hope my translation from Faroese is correct :

It is a small percentage that is unhappy.
There are a lot of people coming here to take pictures of Drangarna. They will cross our land to come to this place to take a picture as they have seen in Instagram.
What we've said is that it's ok, but they have to first pay. There is a lot of wear due to all people going out there, and there is only one path to go on.
No one can go without a guide. Gutti Guttesen says that the number of visitors has grown a lot over the last year.
Most have booked a trip before they go out, and the majority are quite satisfied, even though it costs 550, - per person and sometimes more.
But if there are somebody trying to sneak or cheat on the price. In the case where the Swedish photographer that was here, it quickly became apparent that he did not intend to pay what he had been told that it cost. 
Therefore, his trip was not so positive, says Gutti to VP.We do not negotiate price, it's only if they are really many that we give some percentage discount.  We spend a lot of energy on this, so we also want something out of it, says Gutti
Pol Sundskar, who owns hiking.fo, who also handles payment access to more land in the Faroe Islands, also received a comment in the blog of the Swedish photographer. 
But Pol Sundskar does not want to comment on what is being said.I try to be available most of the day. But if someone is calling again and again and want to discuss price, then there is not much I can do about it , says Pol in a brief remark.

So what I have to say about this:

They say we didn’t want to pay the full price -> This is false! However, at my first phonecall to arrange a trip to Drangarnir, I asked if we could have a discount because we were a group of 7 people (500 euro is a lot of money). In exchange for some advertisement on social media, this most likely wasn’t a problem. Second time I called the discount was agreed. So this was the first time the 300 euro (2500 DDK) was ok. I can understand hiking.fo doesn’t have time for all tourists in high season, so like I said above, we called with the landowners. On that phonecall the same price was agreed (2500DDK). As we were ready to start our hike, the price was agreed a third time! Then the son of the landowner asked us if we wanted to come back by boat for an additional 100 euro. This was ok for us. So we all agreed a price of 400 euro. 4th time the price was agreed!!!

Then we started our hike, the ‘guide’ didn’t said a word to anyone of the group, apart from few things to me! We all thought this was very weird, but didn’t bother, because we only wanted to see the sea arch… But like I said above, the son/guide stopped us after hiking more then an hour and then told me I was a liar and I didn’t had a deal with hiking.fo… Next thing that is weird is that at the moment he stopped us the guide said they (son or his father) got a phonecall from hiking.fo we didn’t agreed the discount. But when I called hiking.fo 5 minutes later, no one picked up the phone! I called multiple times and send a couple of messages, no reaction…

I strongly believe they didn’t got a phonecall from hiking.fo and that this is just a strategy they use to troggle of more money from tourists. That is what I think, I strongly hope I am wrong and that this isn’t the case…

So it is not that we didn’t want to pay the full price! But after treated so badly, we didn’t want to pay even more!!! And from all the messages i have got from other photographers and tourists, I think the percentage that is unhappy is not that small…

Kind regards,

Sven

sven broeckx