Trolltyg i tomteskogen

Hunting Trolls

“I have always been drawn to a darker, mysterious, and melancholic side,” the Norwegian photographer Sebastian Dijkstra Nilander tells me. “In music, I prefer songs in minor keys, and I read mostly thrillers and horror books.” His fascination with the shadows began in childhood; he spent his early years watching films like Labyrinth, The NeverEnding Story, The Lost BoysThe Goonies, and others. And it’s continued throughout his adult life; now a father himself, Nilander spends evenings and early mornings exploring the woods close to home in Lier.

“My wife and I have a deal that if I’m out shooting in the morning, I have to be back for breakfast with the family at 10:30, so to get some pictures, I have to get up pretty early,” the artist admits. Sometimes that means heading out at 3:30 AM and driving hours into Sweden in search of magic. In a noisy world, these dark, dense landscapes provide moments of silence and solitude.

Scandinavian folklore lingers in the periphery of Nilander’s world, in subtle ways; we anticipate the footfalls of trolls and huldra, who have inhabited these forests and valleys long before we were born. But we never see anything outright frightening; instead, the photographer hints at the presence of something not quite of this world. At the same time, that sense of anxiety and dread co-exists with real moments nostalgia and warmth. After all, these photographs are a tribute to a boyhood spent building tree houses and devouring monster movies.

And in the end, Nilander assures us there’s nothing to fear in these woods. “In Lier, there are a lot of cows, sheep, and horses but no dangerous animals lurking in the woods,” he says. He even has an explanation for that eerie quality of light: “This is an area where they grow a lot of fruits and vegetables, so there are greenhouses everywhere. If there’s a misty evening, the greenhouses light up the sky with this yellow-red color.”

Nilander’s imagination runs overtime, even when he’s not behind the camera. “I’m always watching,” he admits. “There are so many times that I’ve been driving and spotted a perfect location.” And no matter how many adventures he’s taken, he continues to be surprised and enchanted by the place he calls home, adding, “Some of my best pictures was shot when I had planned to shoot something totally different.” Follow Nilander on Instagram at @___sebastian_dijkstra___.

The Creek

Cabin Fever


Stranger Things

The Valley

The striking beauty of late summer evenings

Cheap thrills and TV dinners


M-o-o-n, that spells moon

All images © Sebastian Dijkstra Nilander

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