Everyone has a happy place. A patch of land, sea, or mountain where everything makes sense. A geographical and emotional pin, where the past, present, and future can connect easily or meaningfully. For Norwegian photographer and filmer (and DB’s in-house camera go-to-guy) Hallvard Kolltveit that place is Lofoten Islands; the Norwegian archipelago where the mountains and oceans collide.
Hallvard Kolltveit took a circuitous route to find his happy place in the Lofoten Islands. While born and raised in the city of Oslo, Kolltveit has travelled all over Norway, going into the deep fjords, across mountain ranges, and scouting the immense coastline of the Arctic.
Having family in Bodø, well inside the Arctic circle, meant he had always been drawn to the far north. And yet while he knew that the best places might still be out there where the ocean meets the steep mountains, he hadn’t been to the Lofoten Archipelago. The dramatic sweep of islands that juts out between the Norwegian Sea and the Vestford.
That changed in 2015. Hallvard was living in Lisbon and had a few months where he had no where he needed to be. Hawaii was an obvious destination. It was on the islands that he completed a Bachelor of Arts Degree and started photography as a hobby. The hobby turned into a passion when a surf trip to Iceland on the way back to Norway produced some truly memorable moments and some half-decent imagery.
Given he had been bitten by the Arctic surf bug, his friends recommended a visit to the Lofoten Islands. “From Lisbon, it was cheaper and faster to get to Honolulu than Lofoten,” says Kolltveit. “But I ended up heading north and within three days I figured out I needed to live here. It was love at first sight.” After staying for two months, he returned to Oslo packed all his belongings into his van and headed north. He would live there for the next five years.
“You can get great waves and snow and there’s a great community of surfers, skiers, and creatives who have all moved there to try and live life to its fullest,” said the 32-year-old. “As a photographer, it had all the elements you needed. I was lucky too that the guys before me like Chris Burkard had created a scene that meant you could make a living if you committed to it fully.”
Initially, Hallvard stuck to surf photography, with his first few seasons coinciding with some of the best run of swell and banks the Islands had seen in years. It wasn’t always easy, but endlessly rewarding. Snow would turn to rain to sun, to rainbows, and back again often within an hour. The job was essentially just reacting to the elements and the light and dealing with the cold that drains batteries as fast as it does your energy.
However, as his knowledge of the stunning landscapes expanded along with his photography and film technical skills, he found himself doing work with apparel, car, and skiing clients. Since 2021 he has been Db's in-house photographer and filmmaker. He is currently based in Oslo and travels the world for his work, filming surf gigs in Oahu, product shoots in Portland, and ski touring action in the Alps. Yet the pull of Lofoten Islands, and its role in changing the trajectory of his life, remains as strong as ever.
He recalled one day a few years ago in late March. It was a bluebird day and Hallvard and two mates had spent the morning summitting three mountains within a couple of hours. They would ski tour up and then choose whether to ride through untracked powder towards the dark blue of the Norwegian Sea or the aquamarine of the Fjord.
Happy with an epic day, they were packing for home when the call came that the wind had changed, and the waves were firing. They swapped their snow gear for surf and headed to the waves near Ustad.
“The surf was super fun with just our friends and a sunset vibe. I swam for three hours and the last shot I took remains my favourite photo of all time. It was of my friend tucked in the barrel, with the snow in the background lit by the sunset light,” recalled Hallvard.
“After the surf, we packed up and as we drove home the sky was blazed by the northern lights,” continued Hallvard. “It was one of the days where you were questioned why you’d ever live anywhere else in the world. Sure, those days are so rare, but the fact that it’s even possible, well that’s why Lofoten is, and will always be my happy place.”