on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Norway Trip Report

An Alternative take on Lofoten

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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During our last Meeting of Minds conference, one of our regular visitors, Trym Ivar Bergsmo, said to us “Would you like to come and stay with us in Norway sometime and allow me to show you around?” As both Charlotte and I are more of the cold climes holidaymakers rather than the beach and cocktails sort, this caught our interest immediately but in the frantic conference conditions, it slipped our minds. We checked that Trym was still amenable and arranged a date to try to coincide with probable Autumnal conditions, around the end of September to the start of October.

Tim, Trym and Charlotte

For Trym’s sake I don’t want to reveal the actual location we stayed but I can summarise by saying it’s somewhere on the south side of the Lofoten Archipelago, midway between Narvik and the tip. Most of our explorations covered Lodingen, Hadsel, Vågan & Vestvågøy. I will also apologise for the number of photographs in this article but for me, each image revealed something about the area different to my preconceptions of mountains, rocky beaches and fjords. Finally, Trym was the perfect host and I have to give a big thank you to him and his family for allowing us to share his house and his love of his country.

In a quiet moment, Trym strikes a "Ruckenfigur" over his native land, recalling Caspar David Friedrich.

Arriving in Narvik and getting past the shock of driving on the wrong (right) side of the road, our first major hurdle was moose dodging, when an adult and juvenile ran across the road right in front of us. Trym said that this surprise was the hardest to organise for us! Are Norwegians always so accommodating?

Anyway - the rest of the journey that evening passed without mammalian obstacles and we arrived in the dark on a small peninsula to a beautiful home and a welcome meal where we slowly unpacked.

An example of the scenes we were passing on many occasions but were unable to stop the car at. Fortunately, before each road tunnel there are places to stop your car for a short while and we made the most of this to capture a wider view. Those familiar with British birch trees will notice the difference in colour here. It's not a photographic error, the Arctic birch trees had a more orange yellow than the typical British more lemon yellow.

I was unsure what photography equipment to take to Norway as I knew we were going to be climbing and walking (well - I thought we were going to be doing lots of climbing, more later) and hence most of our weight allowance was taken up by trad climbing gear (lots of cams!). In the end, I settled for a simple Sony A7R3 and 24-105 thinking that it would handle most situations.

Our first day started early with a trip over the border to Abisko in Arctic Sweden where we bumped into Oliver Wright (who works in the area) and a random encounter with Alister Benn (who was scouting with his partner). The drive over the border would have taken about two days had I stopped everywhere that looked interesting, but we had a goal and once we got there I knew why. The Abisko canyon is beautiful and the forests that surround it were nearly at their peak of Autumn colour, a swathe of orangey-yellow with mixed colour still in some of the trees.

Not intended to be a finished photograph but just a record of the view of the lower Abisko river. The combination of Autumnal colour, water and rock made me want to spend more and more time here.

I found a way down to the edge of the river to make the most of the lichens and protected autumnal colour and spent the remaining part of the day exploring the forest and canyon. I could spend weeks in just this location and hope to return.

The following four days were spent exploring the area and getting past that usual visual hurdle of seeing too much to photograph but not enough to deeply interest. It seems to take me a while to start to see things that really engage. I talked a little bit about this in my presentation at David Ward’s talks which will be included in the magazine in the next issue.

Although Trym was only supposed to be around for a few days of our trip, after a couple of days Trym asked if he would mind his company for a bit longer as the Autumnal conditions were some of the best he’d seen for many years and the prospect of settled weather for over a week couldn’t be resisted. How could we refuse a knowledgeable and entertaining guide! (and not only did he arrange the moose and sea eagles, he also managed to organise Charlotte’s first aurora viewing on the balcony of his house!)

Another 'tourist' shot to capture a memory of a moment. This was the very last glimpse of light as we returned from a day climbing near Henningsvaer. The colours visible on the banks of the mountains opposite were what stopped the car but the wonderful reflections and pair of swans in the lake to the right were the icing on the photographic cake.

What became quickly apparent was just the extraordinary amount of forestry and scrub of all types. Although most of the trees were birch, there were also many aspen, rowan and willow. In some ways, the views seemed similar to Scotland - but a Scotland without deforestation where the trees wandered all the way to the natural treeline and the small amount of commercial forestry was drift planted and in most cases not visually unsettling.

At the end of the first week, I felt like I had my ‘eye in’ and was starting to see compositions and ideas that ‘worked’ for me. We also had the first cold spell with early morning mist and frosty conditions. The arrangement of the fjords meant that quite often a gentle onshore wind would carry wet warm air into the mountain valleys where it formed layers of mist and created an accumulating hoar frost in little cold pockets.

On our drive out to go climbing, we saw some amazing hanging mists as the moist, coastal area drifted into the cold valleys from the overnight clear skies. We returned the following day with Trym to find the same conditions. I spent some time working out whether to keep the skyline and glow of direct sunlight in this picture but I think it gives a little context and interest. The two key parts of the picture are the cold, clean trunks of the birch against the warm, frosted grasses and the snaking brook winding its way through the picture.

The following couple of days were spent exploring near Trym’s house and reminded me of why I need to spend more time randomly wandering in a sort of photographic Brownian motion. Not only that, the fun in rock hopping, exploring and chilling out is as important as the photography itself for me.

We did spend a couple of days rock climbing though, our first proper outdoor trad climbing. I quickly found a problem with climbing in Norway though, beyond the cheese-grated ankles implicit in gabbro crack climbing, and that is the distraction of the landscape when you’re supposed to be belaying your wife!

Whilst walking near Trym's house we discovered a very wet and boggy hollow. On traversing above the reflections of the wonderful blue and fluffy skies complemented the far mountain range.

Back to the photography though and we spent a two-day trip driving down to the tip of Lofoten, which had drama in spades but didn’t work for me. The best part of this trip was discovering the areas around Henningsvaer and Valberg. A wonderful stretch of coastline with amazing autumnal colour.

After a final frosty morning which produced the best hoar frosts of the trip, we spent our last day following the cruise liners down to Trollfjord.

After seeing so many images from Lofoten, and refusing to research the trip ahead of time, I was most pleasantly surprised to find that the area had so much more to offer than just the mountains, fjords, aurora and beaches that I had seen previously. The combination of arctic flora and mountain habitat gives something familiar to those who may have visited the Scottish mountains but with a consistency of colour, texture and dynamics that provide abundant material for the landscape photographer. We were obviously lucky with the weather and autumnal conditions but I could see that the potential was there even if these didn't play their part in the same way that we encountered them.

Again, I apologise for the abundance of photographs. I hope they portray a different side to the area than you may have seen previously.

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