Having visited Tromsø and the surrounding area in early December 2018 when photography wasn't the main reason for being there, a return trip had to be planned and this is it. Will the weather be kind? You'll just have to find out.
  • Day6

    The Journeys End

    March 4, 2019 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    Then all of a sudden it's all over.

    I had a really good flight back and most of the way I chatted with a couple who'd come to find the Northern Lights but hadn't been lucky but they had thoroughly enjoyed their time in Tromsø. Back at Gatwick I stopped at Costa to get a bite to eat and (you guessed it) a coffee then a taxi took me to my B&B accommodation for the night.

    This trip has been amazing. It's the first time I've travelled on my own and not ended up bored and fed up at some point. I have loved every single second of this and have been so lucky to see the things I've seen and done the things I've done. If you've followed me throughout the trip then I hope you've enjoyed the journey with me and thank you for sticking with it and for contributing if you have done so. For photography it was the first part of this trip that shone and I know I've potentially got some great photographs from those days. All of it was brilliant though, which is why it all went too quickly, so maybe another return trip to Norway is needed at some point.
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  • Day6

    Back to the Airport

    March 4, 2019 in Norway ⋅ ❄️ -8 °C

    It was now time to start the final drive to the airport at Tromsø. There are two routes to get from Sommarøy to Tromsø and my preferred option was to take the Northern road. Having checked at the hotel reception I was advised to take the southern coastal route due to the potentially bad conditions away from the coast.

    The drive to the airport was quite straightforward with some heavy snow showers at times which weren't any problem because they didn't last very long. Before long I was refuelling the car and returning my car to Hertz. All that was needed now was to check-in, find something to eat and then board my flight. But first I needed to squeeze into a cubicle in the men's toilets.

    Now, I realise quite how that sounds but the reality is I needed to change my clothes because as I arrived at the airport I was wearing all my thermal attire, so sitting on a plane for three hours in clothing suitable for standing outside at -10c would only lead to a potential melt down ... literally. It was quite a manoeuvre to get into the cubicle but I managed okay and was soon having a bite to eat and watching the snow falling heavily outside.

    In no time at all I was boarding the plane to fly back to Gatwick and being amazed at how the airport copes when everywhere is covered in snow. In Britain, two snowflakes closes just about everywhere but here - no way. Things weren’t entirely straightforward however, because the amount of snow made it difficult for the aircraft to be pushed back from its stand - the wheels of the tractor (if that’s what it’s called) couldn’t get grip so grit had to be put down to help. Then the plane had to taxi to an area where de-icer was spayed over it then finally the 737 taxied to the runway and we were off, with a final view of the city before we climbed up towards and through the snow clouds.

    One last surprise: I had a window seat and as we rose above the clouds I peered out to find Aurora waving goodbye. Very dimly shining and white because of that, but a lovely sight to end my time in Norway.
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  • Day6

    Photography at Sommarøy

    March 4, 2019 in Norway ⋅ ❄️ -8 °C

    It was still very unsettled with snow blowing in and quite a wind too, and the wind made it feel really cold. I can't complain though, because I've had some amazing conditions during my trip, so I put my bags and things in the car then went to see if there were photographic opportunities to be had.

    I took a few photos from the decking area outside the bar in the hotel - a bit like the main photo in this footprint - and then left the hotel to investigate the local area, talking several photos in the cold and snow, though I'll have to wait until I get home to see if I have anything worthwhile.
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  • Day6

    Not Looking Good

    March 4, 2019 in Norway ⋅ ❄️ -4 °C

    My aim for the last day was to be out with my camera taking photos in the area surrounding the hotel. There are lots of little inlets and tiny beaches here and also the signature wooden red boat houses that would make excellent photographic subjects set against a snowy Arctic landscape. I was therefore somewhat disheartened when I opened the curtains and found it was still blizzard conditions outside. By the time I'd eaten breakfast things had improved a little so I decided to go and pack ready to leave then chill out in the bar area with yet another coffee so that, with good luck and fortune, the weather might improve. And so it did.Read more

  • Day5

    Travelling to Sommarøy

    March 3, 2019 in Norway ⋅ ⛅ -12 °C

    The weather today was again bright and sunny and ideal for driving to Sommarøy. In a straight line the distance between Skaland and Sommarøy isn't all that great but by road it's a long drive because you can only go where the roads, bridges and tunnels take you - and that means a 4hr drive. I could save 30 minutes by retracing my route back to Tromsø then driving west, but I fancied the shorter route on more minor roads as I guessed the views on the way would be much prettier. It was the right choice and it turned out to be an amazing drive.

    What a landscape! It was truly stunning at times and the photos here are just a few taken on the way and where I felt it safe to pull over to take them. There were a couple of moments, one in particular, where I turned right onto a very narrow road, completely snow covered and wondering if all this was such a good idea in what seemed the middle of nowhere on my own. But of course it was fine: I had a very winter-capable car (even if it was a Skoda!), a constant phone signal and 4G Internet access and it's not like Britain because here the roads are ploughed and drivable even in these conditions. Okay, you often can't see tarmac, just a thick layer of ice, and the roads may be lined in snow 4ft high, but if you drive sensibly there's no problem.

    The journey took way more than 4 hours because I drove to the conditions but also because at times I stopped to take photos with the Canon and tripod. It's funny that - at one time I thought a tripod was an inconvenience but now I use it most of the time with landscape photography. In fact these days I feel a bit lost without it.

    Eventually I made it to Sommarøy. I arrived in time to catch any evening light and though I took a couple of images the light wasn't with me. When I got to the hotel I was really tired and after checking-in I found my room, showered and then chilled with a G&T in the bar. As I went to dinner I checked through the window to see if I might be lucky with a clear sky and get the Aurora tonight but the weather had suddenly changed and it was now a raging blizzard outside.

    Where did that come from?
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  • Day5

    Up Early Again

    March 3, 2019 in Norway ⋅ ⛅ -10 °C

    The alarm was set for 5.30am so I could check the conditions to see if it was worth venturing out ... and it was. I'd already decided it might be good to photograph the mountains on the other side of the fjord if conditions looked promising and this was also a good idea because it meant I only had to venture across the road, around the buildings there and to the water's edge. I chose my spot and set up my tripod whilst the light was still quite blue, but it wasn't long before the delicate shades of pink I was hoping for arrived. I spent quite some time photographing the white snow-covered mountains against a pink-toned sky. Absolutely gorgeous, even though it felt much colder than yesterday morning.

    The main photo for this footprint was taken after I'd finished with my big camera and packed it away. You can see the kind of light I was experiencing but I'd got the images I wanted and now it was time for breakfast and the inevitable coffee.

    The last two photos in this footprint are typical views of the fjord, taken as I began my drive northwards to my next location. I'll take some photos as I travel because once again it looks like lovely weather for the long drive ahead.
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  • Day4

    Mefjordvær and Evening Light

    March 2, 2019 in Norway ⋅ ☀️ -4 °C

    Generally, the hour before sunset, when the sun's light is more towards yellow/orange, is known as the Golden hour. In northern climes this golden 'hour' lasts much longer because the sun is much lower and therefore grazes the horizon at a much more shallow angle. Sunset at the moment is around 5pm but the Golden hour starts around 2pm and after that time you start to get softer lighting and a very different colour pallet.

    My journey today took me as far as Mefjordvær - the main photo in this footprint - and the light was now changing as it was mid-afternoon. I took some photos here but it was really cold for some reason even though the car showed it wasn't any colder. My fingers didn't agree so after a while I waddled off in true Penguin style and ended the day photographing fjord reflections.

    Photography-wise this has been a quiet day, one of sightseeing and wonderful views. After dinner back at my hotel I checked the Aurora forecast and it wasn't so good so tonight they didn't make an appearance at all. I did however have a lovely evening chatting with a Norwegian couple. She worked in the old people's home next to the hotel and he was retired from working for Ever-Ready - you know, the battery people who I think had a factory in Wolverhampton at some point. Locally the area is important for graphite mining, hence why Ever-Ready are an important company here. They’re known by the brand name Energizer these days.

    The weather is still good with clear skies so it may be an early start again tomorrow. After an early start this morning my body was telling me it was time for sleep.
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  • Day4

    A Penguin on a Sunny Day

    March 2, 2019 in Norway ⋅ ☀️ -4 °C

    In December when I came to Tromsø with Penny & Tom, the forecast had been for pretty much continuous snow the entire time, but it wasn't anything like that and we had pretty much ideal weather the entire trip. It was the same this time - not continual snow forecast but mostly cloudy with regular snow showers. As you can see however, this has not (so far) been the case though for photography, as I've said already, bright sunny days with clear blue skies is not what's needed to get moody or atmospheric photographs. Don't get me wrong though, you can still capture some stunning views but as an example, take a look at the main photo of this footprint captured on a brief stop at Tungeneset where now it looks completely different to yesterday. Which do you prefer? I bet you prefer this one don't you ... sad face!

    The original plan was that yesterday I'd explore the area north of Skaland but I didnt get very far as you know. Having spoken to the hotel reception about whether I should stick to the original plan of going south today, or continuing northwards, they recommended north. So that's what I did, hence the very brief stop to check out the light at Tungeneset.

    I had a lovely driving tour with the odd stop for photography but I found it hard to find compositions with the harsh light today. I was either in full sunlight or flat shadow alongside fjords where the sun was too low to make it above the mountains. You have to remember that my photography isn't all about what the light may or may not be, I have to somehow also be in the right mood and be inspired to be creative. Today it wasn't happening for me and I've learned not to try and force things. Nothing good comes from that.

    For most of today I was therefore happy to be a wandering Penguin, taking a relaxing drive through the stunning landscapes in which I was immersed and stopping every now and then simply to try and take it all in.
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  • Day4

    Photography Before Breakfast

    March 2, 2019 in Norway ⋅ 🌙 -5 °C

    The alarm was set for 5.30am and a sneak peek through the curtains revealed clear skies and calm weather, which was what I hoped for. So once again it was time to layer-up and venture out into -7c.

    My destination was again the Bergsbotn Viewpoint because hopefully the morning light would create a subtly different scene. I expected other photographers to be there when I arrived at around 6.15am but in fact I had the place to myself, only interrupted when two walkers arrived to park their car there before setting off down the road.

    I stayed for quite a while taking photos as the sun rose and the light changed. You can see from the photos in this footprint how the light is gentle at first, about half-an-hour before sunrise, and when the light increases the scene soon looks completely different. The third photo I took when I arrived back at the hotel for breakfast at around 8am so comparing the three you can perhaps see why photographers love the beginning and end of the day, an hour or so either side of sunset or sunrise.

    It was just lovely this morning. Yes it was cold and yes it was a little bit of a push to leave a warm bed and head out into Arctic temperatures, but it was so relaxing and peaceful watching the light change as the sun moved gently upward to the horizon then rising above it and painting the landscape in a beautiful red-orange glow. A magical experience for sure.

    Then, in a moment, it's all over and the day had arrived.
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  • Day3

    She's More Subtle Tonight

    March 1, 2019 in Norway ⋅ ⛅ -3 °C

    It was a miracle that after such a cloudy day the clouds began to part as I arrived back at the hotel. I could see the sky was clearing but my first thought was that it'd be temporary, but it wasn't. So, once again after the meal I undertook the ritual of climbing into clothing layers with double socks, mittens, etc and headed off into the night in search of those mysterious lights and some serious deja vous visits. The temperature was the same ad yesterday too at -10c or thereabouts.

    First stop was the beach from this morning and when I arrived the Aurora had beaten me to it. Tonight the display was good for a while but very erratic and then it died down to almost nothing. The German couple were here too but soon they left, probably because like me they felt there may be other locations which might offer a more interesting composition. The problem here was too wide a vista, just a view out to sea, and there were street lights here too which was a nuisance.

    About half way back to the hotel there was a really dark section compared to the beach area and I decided to stop and wait a while to see if the Lights would return, which they did. They were nowhere near as bright as yesterday and were very much more subdued in tone, but in the darkness and with patience I managed the first photo you see here. It's definitely a more subtle photograph but I'm quite pleased with it all the same.

    The final location for the evening was to return to Tunganeset and the Devil's Teeth. I stayed here taking photos until 1am and the second photo in this footprint is just one of them.

    I packed away my gear at around 12.45am and just as I finished and zipped-up my camera bag, I happened to look up to see an explosion of activity and undoubtedly the best show of the evening, a last burst so to speak. It all happened really fast and I had no time to set up my camera so I chose to be an observer and simply enjoy what I was being given. It lasted only a short time with the Aurora appearing to surge from the top of the mountain across the fjord, sending a ribbon of green and red across the sky and over my head to behind me. It was truly wonderful and a brilliant end to the day - I think I got to sleep just after 2am and this meant I'd not get much sleep before the next event.
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