Lapland... the most wonderful holiday ever!

We have just got back from the most amazing trip to Luosto in Lapland.  It totally beat every expectation I had!  I was going to do a small blog about photography in Lapland for my beginners camera workshops (scroll down), but so many people have asked questions about whether I’d recommend it I thought I’d give a bit of an overview!

We did the Magical Interlude with Canterbury Travel and cannot recommend it enough!  More on them later…

What age is best for your children to enjoy Lapland?

We went with our 6 1/2 year old and our 3, almost 4 year old.  They both totally bought into every aspect of what we did.  From the elves showing them around their bedrooms, to the wise words Santa gave them.  Every part of the trip was magical for them.  Both my boys I would say are quite hardy when it comes to being outside, they are happy to get dirty and walk quite far as we go outside a lot as a family.  My eldest isn’t keen on the cold but I knew with the layers he would be fine and could decide how many layers etc he would wear.  So in terms of the general cold and the logistics of getting snow suits on and off and walking through thick snow, their ages were perfect.  We didn’t need buggies and actually even if our youngest had been younger we were given toboggans to get around the resort, so it would have just been on the excursions he’d have needed carrying.

hot chocolate in Lapland

What I would say, is that with our youngest you could notice that the tiredness and weather took its toll slightly more than it did the eldest.  He is still at that age where moods are dictated by food/sleep/routine etc and although he would go outside in shorts at home come December, in the more tired hours he was partial to the odd meltdown if his face felt too cold – fair enough, but we think that maybe a year older would have been the more perfect time for him perhaps.  This is hard though, as unless you have one child, you will never have a time that is perfect for all of them; I wanted them both to believe and as we have a baby on the way I didn’t want to wait another 3-4 years, so this was our perfect time and I am quite happy to sacrifice a few meltdowns for that (he was also more than ok on the whole, just not so keen in getting a snowball in the face from his brother when tired – totally fair enough when you’re three!).  He understood it all and the questions that came from him were amazing (wow how does Santa know my name?)! but there was also one moment where the cheeky elves raced the kids to the coach and joked they were going to steal our seats. That almost brought out a few tears as being 5 months pregnant I  honestly didn’t have the energy to run and beat them.  They beat us and he thought the elves were replacing mummy and daddy and he was a bit worried I’d disappeared (but after a quick explanation he was fine)!  My 6 year old thought it was the best, funniest thing ever, by comparison.  Other than that, the trip blew both of them away.

What clothes do you need to pack?  Is the cold unbearable?

We were told by Canterbury Travel to wear what you would on a cold winters day, and with the snow suits on over the top, this was perfect!  We did, however, over pack, massively!  We went for three nights and took two suitcases and we could have easily taken one, I think.  However, when we were there (8th-11th December), the majority of the day time was about -6 which wasn’t that cold with snowsuits on.  We had one day that started at -11 and went to -20 felt bitterly cold and I wish that day I had worn more. If  I had put on two pairs of socks and an extra top underneath I would have felt fine.  The rest of the time the cold didn’t bother us.

With our trip, we were not outside all day, we would do something outside, then get back on the coach or go inside for lunch or for a talk so you are constantly going from freezing weather to warm environments.  So I thought what worked better was wearing thinner clothes but layering up, rather than big thick jumpers, as when you did have a big jumper on, you felt like you were overheating when you got back on the bus or inside.  With thick jumpers it’s also harder to partially remove the top half of your snowsuit and sit comfortably.  My suggestions based on our trip with Canterbury travel:

  • Layers rather than big jumpers – vest tops for the kids, long sleeve tops, thin fleeces or sweatshirts (I got loads from Mountain Warehouse at a great price.  I also found hooded tops worked well as extra protection for the ears!
  • Thick waterproof gloves
  • Under layer gloves (only for the really, really cold days – I didn’t actually use these).  Lots of people spoke about silk gloves.
  • Thick ski socks, again I bought from mountain warehouse, and on the cold days I wore two pairs.
  • Snoods – I wrapped mine around my face/hat when it was snowing as you tend to get colder face then as it’s wet.  I could also take it off if my youngest was struggling and give to him.
  • Thin scarf – I took a pashmina type one that tucked under my snowsuit nicely and acted as an extra layer around my chest and neck.
  • Hats – We had at least two each just incase we lost one.
  • Leggins for everyone, so much easier to get snowsuits over and work great on cold days as an extra layer under trousers.

What you are provided with (remember this is based on our magical Interlude trip with Canterbury Travels):

One snow suit (which is an all in one and really lovely and warm and waterproof) and warm snow boots.  We wore these everywhere, even to dinner in the evening and then just removed the snowsuit once we got there.

We also had a warming cupboard which meant our hats / gloves etc would be try in half an hour if we needed them to be.  Definitely worth checking if you have one in your room.


EXTRA TIP – TAKE SNACKS!  With two boys and a 6ft 4 husband I tend to be laden with food most of the time anyway!  But snacks came in real handy for when on the coach.  I think the kids are so engrossed in what they are doing they don’t notice that are hungry but as soon as we got on the bus we had a lot of ‘I’m thirsty/hungry’ and we had biscuits, apples, water bottles, crisps, fruit bars etc to keep them going.  It’s very physical during the day and there are set times for lunch.  It also helped if the journey was a bit longer to pass some time.

Would I recommend Canterbury Travel?

100 million percent!

It is such a slick operation.  From the moment you are picked up, you are part of the most magical, well thought out secret that ensure the children will believe in Santa for years to come!  I don’t want to post too much about how they do things as I actually loved the element of not knowing, but here are a list of some of the things we did:

Husky ride (you drive, the kids are passengers)

Snowmobile rides with the kids and without the kids

Reindeer safari and talk from family that run the farm

Meet the huskies – we met a puppy!

Trip to the elves post office in the forest

Trip to the elves place of sleep

Story with one of the elves in their lounge

Trip to Wendy Woods house where you meet Mrs Clause and Santa.

We found Santa party (which was epic)

Plus our resort had toboggan runs, which the kids loved.  The kids go everywhere in toboggans at the resort as they are outside all of the buildings, it’s a great way to get them around.


The whole trip is focused on the search for Santa and there are 5 key elves that the kids come to know and love, that help you along the way.  There was also a brilliant song that gets repeated throughout your journey and keeps everyone in the Christmas spirit throughout.

The people that work there, are simply fantastic and I would say it’s money well spent to pay a little but extra and know that you are getting a completely hassle free, top of the range Santa experience.  After all if you’re going to go all that way you may as well make it a trip to remember!

There wasn’t one thing I would say was a disappointment.  We stayed in a log cabin with bunk beds and a sauna in the bathroom!  It was amazing and really added to the experience.

What were my favourite things to photograph in Lapland?

Snowmobile ride - settings: Shutter Speed 1/500th Aperture F2.2 ISO 1250

snowmobile ride in lapland

Lots of the activities happen in darkness or at dusk as we only had around 4-5 hours of light a day.  This makes for amazing photo opportunities when you have lights on snowmobiles or torches illuminating the paths!    In order to freeze the motion for this photo I needed a fast enough shutter speed – so I always had it at at least 1/250th or over.  Because it was so dark I bumped the ISO up a bit but you can see not a huge amount considering how dark it was, this is because of the lights from the snowmobile giving me more flexibility.  I wanted to keep it dark enough that you could see the pink colours too.  If I had made this photo much lighter I would have lost them.

Silhouettes in the sunset - Settings :Shutter Speed 1/800th Aperture f2.2 ISO 1250

Sunset in Lapland

Silhouettes against the sunset.  This can be trees, reindeers, your kids doing star jumps, elves, santas sleigh you name it!  Here I just loved the silhouette of the teepee against the purple/ pink sky (which by the way I have not edited at all).

In order to do this I needed to underexpose slightly as when I brought my exposure up (either by using a wider aperture/ faster shutter speed or bumping the IS0) The sky became lighter and the colour wasn’t as vibrant.

Fun in the snow - Shutter Speed 1/500th Aperture f2.2 ISO 1250

snowball fight in Lapland

Snowfights and sledging.  This is usually an easy shot to get if it’s during daylight as you can freeze motion with a fast shutter speed, whilst having a wide aperture and not needing your ISO up high.  For example, here I wanted to get crisp photos rather than capturing the blur of the snow or the movement so I used Shutter speeds of 1/500 and because it was a bright day I didn’t need to compromise the quality of the photo with a high ISO and therefore lots of grain.

Snow Bokeh - Settings: Shutter speed 1/160th f2.8 ISO 6400

Snow Bokeh

Falling Snowdrops or snow bokeh.  I like to shot wide open (a wide aperture) in most of my photography apart from when I have groups of people at different layers within a photograph.  So this was a fairly typical shot for me.  But in a nutshell, when the snow is falling, if you focus on something in the background (in this case the reindeers) everything in front will be out of focus which means that the snowdrops create this lovely blurry bokeh affect. I  also had my shutter speed fairly slow (the reindeer weren’t moving) which helped as it wasn’t snowing that heavily, had it been super fast I might not had got as much snowfall (to the eye, it didn’t look like it was snowing much at this point).  And my ISO was fairly high making my camera sensitive to the light it’s taking in.

What camera should I take to Lapland?

I was toying as to whether I should leave my larger camera at home (Nikon D750) and just stick to my Sony A600 which is a lot smaller.  However I was really pleased I took both.

The Sony A600 I find struggles in low light, which is most of the day in lapland!  I mean it’s fine if your subject is fairly still and of course you can use a flash, but for me I wanted to have the flexibility to photograph us whilst moving during the activities we did, or the boys having snowball fights and just generally feel confident that when I got home I would have some sharp (albeit it quite noisy because I had to use a high ISO at times) photos.  I do 90% of my work using my Sigma Art 35mm lens and this worked a treat for me as It’s wide angle and could get some amazing shots when outside, and still get nice close ups of the boys.  I just needed to do some cropping when I edited some of the ones from our times inside with Santa  or the elves as I couldn’t always move to where I wanted to be and got a lot of other people in some.  I could have also taken my 24-70mm which is a great allrounder for the types of photos I wanted but for me I prefer my 35mm.  Just personal preference.

I used my Sony A600 to photograph the build up of excitement on the plane and airport and also at home when we gave them the news that they were going.  It meant that I could pack my main camera in my case.

Another reason I liked having my larger body, was because I find it easier to hold and control with gloves on!  I actually got the hang of rotating the aperture dial with them on and my Sony would have been too small to do that and at times its as far too cold to remove the gloves!

I packed extra batteries but actually didn’t need them as when I was out I kept my body covered in a scarf (not sure if that helped). We didn’t have as cold a days either than some people I had read about whose batteries were draining quickly.  And it was always in a rucksack when not being used wrapped in clothes.  I did have to watch out for the condensation when going from outside to in but just checked the lens and body before I put the camera away.

5 tips when taking photographs in Lapland

  1. Get to know your camera, don’t just rely on your phone.  Cameras (especially those on the phone) need help working out light situations.  They overcompensate by adding more light or less light when you don’t want them to.  It’s worth getting to grips with your camera to get some photos you’ll actually print and look back on!  Learn what Aperture mode / Shutter mode are, learn about ISO and how to use your flash.
  2. Don’t be scared to bump up your ISO.  ISO is the cameras sensitivity to light and when you’ve got your aperture as wide open as it will go but you need a fast shutter speed – the ISO is your next option to make the photo brighter.  You will get grainy photos if it’s very high / especially if it’s high but still a darkish photo.  But these will still be fine to print 6 x 4 size or to put in a photobook.
  3. Don’t be scared to use flash. I used flash a lot, when outside, photographing the kids jumping in the snow and when inside at the party or seeing Santa.  It means I’m getting well exposed images every time and I didn’t have to keep adjusting my settings.  I chose to use my ISO when I wanted to get the feel that it was dark (more for my landscape shots) and use the flash when I was photographing the kids and wanted their faces exposed correctly or when I was inside.
  4. Switch to TV or S mode when photographing activities like the kids tobogganing or snowball fights.  This gives you complete control over how fast the shutter moves and will mean you can freeze motion when you want to and get nicely sharp, focused shots.  The camera will work out what
  5. Keep your spare batteries and camera equipment warm if you are going when it is very cold.  As I said I think part of my luck was that we didn’t have -30 like some!  Take cloths to wipe the lenses and to wipe the viewfinder as that also got steamy at times.

I hope you found this interesting!  You can book on to one of my latest camera workshops here