Endless Light: Dan Westergren Talks Photography in the Land of the Midnight Sun

As the longtime photo editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine, Dan Westergren was responsible for the magazine’s photographic vision, which has earned the publication numerous awards for photography. Dan prefers going to extremes: he has photographed the summits of Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and Kilimanjaro, and has made more than ten trips above the Arctic Circle. Here, Dan shares tales from his adventures in the far north.

Tell us about your favorite National Geographic project in the planet’s northerly realms.

Two of my most memorable assignments for National Geographic were in the far north. The first was a hut-to-hut hiking trip in Norway’s remote Jotunheimen mountains. The second was a trip skiing the last degree to the North Pole out of the Svalbard archipelago. Every time I land at the Oslo airport, I know I’m off on a memorable adventure.

You’re joining an upcoming departure of National Geographic’s Coastal Wonders of Norway, the Faroe Islands, and Iceland by Sea expedition. What, for you, are some of the highlights of the trip?

Anytime I can be above the Arctic Circle, in the land of the midnight sun, I’m happy. There’s something about 24 hours of daylight that makes me feel energized. On this expedition, we hug the Norwegian coastline, moving in and out of beautiful fjords. Everywhere you turn, there are great photo opportunities, with steep mountains reaching down to the water. The long days also mean that twilight lasts forever. This is not so great for getting a lot of sleep, but it provides amazing light for photography.

The Norwegian coastline is just the start. After we’ve had our fill of that scenery, we have the chance to visit several remote islands where people seemingly live on the edge of the world. I marvel at the lives the locals have been able to carve out in the remote Shetland and Faroe Islands.

How would you encourage travelers to approach photography during this trip?

Travelers should be prepared with both a wide-angle and a telephoto lens—the wide angle for the stunning scenery and the telephoto for the wildlife, especially puffins. Throughout this trip there are several places that are overflowing with these amazing, colorful birds. I would also encourage travelers to be outgoing when we travel to the places where people live. Photographs of the locals provide an interesting view under the surface of the destination. The camera gives an excuse to meet and learn from people whose lives are different from our own.

Is there anything you would never travel without?

I would never travel without several cameras. I have been taking pictures of everything since I was young, and seeing the world through a camera lens makes me look harder and understand the world more fully.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Sitting alone in a farmer’s hut high in the mountains of Norway. The feeling that there was no one else save the reindeer for miles gave me an unparalleled feeling of peace.

Frame Norway’s soaring fjords alongside Dan on a National Geographic expedition cruise to the far north.