A Cruise Through Norway

Author: Meng Tay

When I first read the article Day for Night in Norway in the New York Times, my first reaction was “I have to go on that cruise.”  That was about two years ago.  This year I had the opportunity to fulfill two items on my bucket list:  this Norwegian cruise and going to Oktoberfest.  I sandwiched the two trips with visits to Krakow and Warsaw in Poland.

Let me state that this blog is not an advertisement for Hurtigruten, the company that runs the cruise.  Most Americans have never even heard of the cruise company Hurtigruten.  It’s been around since 1893.  The name “Hurti” means express and “ruten” means route.   The company operates what it calls exploration voyages around the world.  This blog is about one of those,  The Classic Roundtrip Voyage.   Lonely Planet calls this “The World’s Most Beautiful Voyage.”  Whether you are a traveler or photographer or combination of both, you are sure to come home with a lot of beautiful pictures.

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Colorful shops, hotels, museums, etc., make up the Bryggen area of Bergen

 

 

The trip starts from Bergen, Norway’s second largest city.  Bergen, and the surrounding area itself is a big tourist destination.  This is where you can visit the famous Norwegian fjords.   Another famous activity here is taking the Flåm Railway.  It is a branch off the Oslo to Bergen railway and considered one of the beautiful train journeys in Europe.  If you want to combine the two activities plus taking a boat ride through a fjord, then you should sign up for a Norway in a Nutshell tour.  This includes riding on the Bergen Railway, Flam Railway, a cruise through a fjord, and a bus ride down a winding, steep mountain road with 31 hairpin bends.  You can do this all in one day.

Village on the side of Nærøyfjord

Village on the side of Nærøyfjord

 

 

Hurtigruten has 12 ships sailing the Classic Voyage.  They range from the oldest, M/S Lofoten, to the newest, M/S Spitzbergen.  Most of the ships are working ships, which means that besides carrying passengers, they also carry cargo and mail.  The 12-day trip stops at 34 ports, 22 of them north of the Arctic Circle.   Some of the stops are for only a short duration, enough time for the ship to load or unload cargo or passengers.  Many of the stops are at night or even during the middle of the night.  Whenever there is enough time, the ship allows the passengers to stroll through town for 30 minutes to a couple of hours.  At some ports, Hurtigruten offers excursions.  These excursions range from hikes to concerts to tours of the area to meeting local natives.  Prices of these excursions range from US$50 to US$300.

It is impractical to detail the whole itinerary so I will point out some of the highlights.  The first major port is Trondheim, Norway’s third largest city.  The landmark in this city is the Nidaros Cathedral, built in 1070, in memory of King Olav II.  It is as impressive as any church in Europe.  Many tourists climb up to the top where you can have a good view of the city.  Trondheim is also home to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, which puts a strong influence on the city through its student population.

Colorful buildings along the river, across from the University

Colorful buildings along the river, across from the University

 

 

Crossing the Arctic Circle was a big deal for the ship and passengers.  A ceremony was held to commemorate the occasion.  Those willing to withstand having a glass of ice water poured down the back of their shirts get a glass of whiskey, a time-honored Norwegian tradition.

As the ship sails north of the Arctic Circle, you start to hear names of towns that you have vaguely heard of:  Tromsø, Hammerfest, Kirkenes, and other names that only a Scandinavian can pronounce. Tromsø is known as the Arctic Capital of the World.  Despite its high latitude, Tromsø and other towns along the Norwegian coast, have a relatively mild winter temperature because of the Gulfstream.  Its most famous landmark is the Arctic Cathedral.  An optional midnight concert was held for the ship passengers; attendees raved about the acoustics of the building.  The Polar Museum is another landmark that is attractive to tourists.

Among Hammerfest’s claim to fame, besides being the northernmost town in the world, is the home to The Struve Geodetic Arc, an object used to measure the size and shape of the earth. It is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  This is also the center of Sami Culture.  Sami’s are natives of the region and are considered relatives of the Athabascans natives of Alaska.  We heard a talk from a Sami woman, who told us about life in the Arctic north.  The Sami’s own all the reindeer in Norway.  Reindeer meat is very common in this part of the world.

The Struve Geodetic Arc

The Struve Geodetic Arc

 

 

 

 

A Sami farmer and his reindeer

A Sami farmer and his reindeer

We rode a bus to North Cape, the northern most point in Europe; a bragging right for those who’ve been there.  Kirkenes is our last port before the ship turned south to head back to Bergen.   Kirkenes, and the whole region, were occupied by the Germans during World War II.  Stories and evidence of life under the Germans were everywhere.  A road leading to the outskirt of town also takes you to the border with Russia,

Are there photography opportunities on this cruise?  Plenty.  However, because of the pace of the trip, it does not give one enough time to explore for the best photography locations and condition.  The combination of majestic mountains, water and deep fjords make Norway as good a photography paradise as any of the popular destinations like Iceland or New Zealand.  The Lofoten Islands is known for its natural beauty.  Wildlife, landscape, and at the right time of the year, Northern Lights; topics that are endearing to many amateur photographers.  It’s best to engage a local professional photographer to take you to the right location at the right time, or follow a photography tour.  Arizona Highways Photo Workshops does not offer one to Norway but one of its photographers,  Nathaniel Smalley, leads tours to Norway, Iceland, and other popular photography destinations.

Here are a couple of photographs of Arctic sunset at Solvaer, one of the ports of call:

Meng is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

 

 

A  Bold  New  World – Winter Photography in the Polar Circle

Author:  Nathaniel Smalley

Dance of the Green Dragon | Lofoten, Norway

Nordic-Dreams_Iceland_DSC2360

Nordic Dreams | Iceland – During my recent Iceland Winter Photography Tour we visited a few different locations looking for the elusive aurora borealis, including the mighty Skógafoss waterfall. The Northern Lights never danced for us here, but a moonbow put on a show all its own. Later over Vik we were rewarded with a beautiful aurora display. Iceland is a land full of wonders!

It is hard to believe that a few months have past since I returned from leading back to back photography tours in Iceland and Norway. I had a great groups of dedicated photographers for both destinations and we enjoyed shooting in some incredible conditions. People generally have one of two reactions when they consider the thought of participating in a photography tour to a colder climate. There are those that will jump at the chance relishing the challenge and new experiences, asking eagerly, ‘Where do I sign up?!’ The remaining personalities typically respond with ‘Over my dead body!’ or mutter something about how they’d turn into an icicle. Another objection I’ve heard is fear of the damage their camera will suffer from the snow. First of all, if your equipment is worth its salt then it should be able to manage a little dusting of snow. The main risk with

Labyrinth | Lofoten, Norway – A maze of fascinating sand patterns made the perfect foreground for the distant snow capped mountain peaks during my recent Norway photography tour. This quiet stream flows directly into the ocean and the large, broken ice patches were too inviting to pass up. Sometimes you wait for what seems like an eternity for clear skies when shooting in the polar circle, but when it clears the sunrises are nothing short of spectacular. This was one of those days.

camera gear in a colder climate is extreme temperature changes. If you you allow it to gradually adjust then you shouldn’t have any problems.

ScreamoftheSea_Norway_DSC3418-620x683

Scream of the Sea | Lofoten, Norway – This image was captured on the upper northwestern side of the Lofoten peninsula. The weather was extremely dramatic and while we were there it began to snow. The raging ocean crashed harder and harder into rocks with the rising tide. I sat and stared for a long time before going to work on this composition. I listened to the gusting wind as it drove tiny white snowflakes through the air like so many small darts. I watched the surf dash onto the coast churning white froth all over the shoreline. There were so many different emotions at work in the scene. When I finally began to shoot it all went silent, but the sea still let it’s voice be heard visually with this striking face in the foaming water below… Unforgettable.

Keeping batteries in a base layer pocket close to your body should extend their life in the cold when they aren’t in use. Secondly, at the end of the day the simple reality is that their really is no such thing as ‘bad conditions’, just a lack of creativity. We live in an age today when apparel manufactures make gear and clothing that will keep us comfortable in nearly any type of weather or at any temperature. I’m speaking from experience. Last year I led an winter expedition in the Himalayas to photograph Snow Leopards in the wilds of northeastern India. With the the right type of clothing and apparel you can endure some pretty extreme conditions. Finally, perhaps one of the best kept secrets about winter in Iceland (and particularly Norway) is how mild the winters are. The general assumption is that just because it’s in the polar circle it must be frigid. The reality is that almost all of Norway’s coast remains free of ice and snow throughout the year. Norway and Iceland are located along the same latitude as Siberia, Greenland and Alaska, so it is often expected to be a land of bitterly cold weather. However, due to warming influences of the northern Gulf Stream, the country actually enjoys a fairly mild climate. Average daily temperatures in the winter are typically above 32°F or 0°C. The good news is that this rampant misconception drastically reduces that number of photographers that visit these Nordic regions during the winter months, leaving it for groups like mine to enjoy. Once you’ve experienced and shot these locations in the summer, winter is a whole new experience. Like peeling back that layers of an onion, winter removes all the ‘fluff’ from the landscape and leaves one composing from a raw, rugged scene… and it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Below are just a few more examples from my winter tours, if you’d like to see more visit my Iceland Portfolio  or my Norway Portfolio.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

– Nathaniel

Flow | Iceland - There are few things that I enjoy more than spending time alone with a camera surrounded by nature. However, there is certainly something to be said for sharing the magic of the outdoors with fellow photographers. For some it's the moment they see a new country or species the first time that they have longed to witness for years. For others that have been to a destination before, it's like taking them back to visit an old companion. Each time that I lead a tour to the Nordic countries I look forward to sharing the magic of that region with friends both old and new, and with you all. This is a large chunk of glacial ice getting caught in the rushing tide that was photographed on a black sand beach in eastern Iceland. I hope you enjoy it.

Flow | Iceland – There are few things that I enjoy more than spending time alone with a camera surrounded by nature. However, there is certainly something to be said for sharing the magic of the outdoors with fellow photographers. For some it’s the moment they see a new country or species the first time that they have longed to witness for years. For others that have been to a destination before, it’s like taking them back to visit an old companion. Each time that I lead a tour to the Nordic countries I look forward to sharing the magic of that region with friends both old and new, and with you all. This is a large chunk of glacial ice getting caught in the rushing tide that was photographed on a black sand beach in eastern Iceland. I hope you enjoy it.

Ribbon Candy | Lofoten, Norway - At times hunting for the northern lights can be a bit like an emotional roller coaster. Typically I will have been up early that morning shooting sunrise and then out in the mid afternoon for sunset. After a warm meal for dinner one usually just wants to curl up on a couch and fall asleep looking at the images from the day. But the chance of seeing the beautiful aurora coaxes me back out into the dark and the crisp, winter air. Trudging through the snow or along a dark roadside thoughts of doubt creep into your mind and whisper that you're wasting precious hours you could be sleeping searching for a phantom. And then suddenly from out of nowhere the sky explodes into into vibrant, changing patterns of color. In that moment all thoughts of sleep rush out of your your mind and adrenaline courses through your body. For a minute you forget to even shoot. All the tired muscles and sore joints in your body are forgotten as you bask in the glorious display of one of the natural worlds greatest phenomena. Nature's therapy at its best.

Ribbon Candy | Lofoten, Norway – At times hunting for the northern lights can be a bit like an emotional roller coaster. Typically I will have been up early that morning shooting sunrise and then out in the mid afternoon for sunset. After a warm meal for dinner one usually just wants to curl up on a couch and fall asleep looking at the images from the day. But the chance of seeing the beautiful aurora coaxes me back out into the dark and the crisp, winter air. Trudging through the snow or along a dark roadside thoughts of doubt creep into your mind and whisper that you’re wasting precious hours you could be sleeping searching for a phantom. And then suddenly from out of nowhere the sky explodes into into vibrant, changing patterns of color. In that moment all thoughts of sleep rush out of your your mind and adrenaline courses through your body. For a minute you forget to even shoot. All the tired muscles and sore joints in your body are forgotten as you bask in the glorious display of one of the natural worlds greatest phenomena. Nature’s therapy at its best.

Explosion | Iceland - There are certain locations that regardless of how many times you visit, it's like a new experience every time. Iceland is one of those. This image was made at dawn on the beach in Vik, and while most are drawn to photograph the ancient sea stacks there, the surf is a subject unto itself. This area tends to experience some of the island's more dramatic weather systems and the towering waves are astonishingly powerful. Exercising extreme caution here is of the utmost importance as sleeper waves often surprise tourists and can be deadly. The small black flecks that you see in the crashing wave here are actually fist-sized stones... just to give you an idea of how powerful the ocean is on this beach.

Explosion | Iceland – There are certain locations that regardless of how many times you visit, it’s like a new experience every time. Iceland is one of those. This image was made at dawn on the beach in Vik, and while most are drawn to photograph the ancient sea stacks there, the surf is a subject unto itself. This area tends to experience some of the island’s more dramatic weather systems and the towering waves are astonishingly powerful. Exercising extreme caution here is of the utmost importance as sleeper waves often surprise tourists and can be deadly. The small black flecks that you see in the crashing wave here are actually fist-sized stones… just to give you an idea of how powerful the ocean is on this beach.

Arctic Pastels | Lofoten, Norway - Hamnoy is the oldest fishing village in the Lofoten Archipelago, and though small, it is undeniably beautiful. Considered by many to be to be one of the most picturesque villages in the region, Hamnoy is also popular tourist destination due to its scenic, unspoiled nature. This village was only accessible by ferry until bridges were built connecting it to the rest of the peninsula about 35 years ago. During my Norway Photography Tour, participants are accommodated in remodeled fishermen cabins like the red ones pictured here. The oldest one of these was built in the 1890's. There are few things that compare with staying in a traditional seaside cabin overlooking the coastline and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean lapping against the rocks below. This image was captured during the first sunrise photo shoot of my tour, we were rewarded with a soft pink blush in the clouds just above these iconic peaks.

Arctic Pastels | Lofoten, Norway – Hamnoy is the oldest fishing village in the Lofoten Archipelago, and though small, it is undeniably beautiful. Considered by many to be to be one of the most picturesque villages in the region, Hamnoy is also popular tourist destination due to its scenic, unspoiled nature. This village was only accessible by ferry until bridges were built connecting it to the rest of the peninsula about 35 years ago. During my Norway Photography Tour, participants are accommodated in remodeled fishermen cabins like the red ones pictured here. The oldest one of these was built in the 1890’s. There are few things that compare with staying in a traditional seaside cabin overlooking the coastline and falling asleep to the sound of the ocean lapping against the rocks below. This image was captured during the first sunrise photo shoot of my tour, we were rewarded with a soft pink blush in the clouds just above these iconic peaks.

Winter Oasis | Lofoten, Norway - Ice is often one of the best elements to utilize in a winter scene, however this year many of the large lakes in Norway were covered due to increased snowfall late in the season. The snow cover compromised the stability of the ice which made working around the lakes difficult at times. Adapting to these conditions meant passing on some of the grand compositions with ice cracks in the foreground, and instead finding small hidden ponds like this one just off the beaten path. While shooting in a colder climate certainly has its challenges, with the proper clothing one can remain quite comfortable and and the rewards are great. Winter images are very unique and produce results unlike any other season. This is a favorite area of mine for sunrise in Norway for good reason. And yes, the ice is really that color.

Winter Oasis | Lofoten, Norway – Ice is often one of the best elements to utilize in a winter scene, however this year many of the large lakes in Norway were covered due to increased snowfall late in the season. The snow cover compromised the stability of the ice which made working around the lakes difficult at times. Adapting to these conditions meant passing on some of the grand compositions with ice cracks in the foreground, and instead finding small hidden ponds like this one just off the beaten path. While shooting in a colder climate certainly has its challenges, with the proper clothing one can remain quite comfortable and and the rewards are great. Winter images are very unique and produce results unlike any other season. This is a favorite area of mine for sunrise in Norway for good reason. And yes, the ice is really that color.

The Gatekeepers | Iceland - Off Iceland's eastern coastline fantastic rocks protrude from the ocean creating great subject matter for compositions. At this particular location they're precisely where the sun sets during the winter season. As the sun drops down to the horizon it splits the difference between these two gigantic formations. If the skies are clear, then you're treated to a beautiful display like this one.

The Gatekeepers | Iceland – Off Iceland’s eastern coastline fantastic rocks protrude from the ocean creating great subject matter for compositions. At this particular location they’re precisely where the sun sets during the winter season. As the sun drops down to the horizon it splits the difference between these two gigantic formations. If the skies are clear, then you’re treated to a beautiful display like this one.

Kaleidoscope | Norway Fascinating sand patterns along the shoreline of one of Norway's many beautiful beaches. Turquoise waters and white sand beaches, Norway is very much like the Caribbean of the North.

Kaleidoscope | Norway Fascinating sand patterns along the shoreline of one of Norway’s many beautiful beaches. Turquoise waters and white sand beaches, Norway is very much like the Caribbean of the North.

Someone recently asked me what we do on my Nature Odyssey Worldwide Photo Tours when the weather changes and the storms blow in. I was puzzled, but smiled and said, 'That's often when we do our best work.' This shot was taken on my sold out Winter Iceland Photography Tour in 2016 with a great group of dedicated photographers. We've found some great scenes both in the landscape and the ice caves.

Someone recently asked me what we do on my Nature Odyssey Worldwide Photo Tours when the weather changes and the storms blow in. I was puzzled, but smiled and said, ‘That’s often when we do our best work.’ This shot was taken on my sold out Winter Iceland Photography Tour in 2016 with a great group of dedicated photographers. We’ve found some great scenes both in the landscape and the ice caves.

What a beautiful country! This shot was taken on the final day of my Nature Odyssey Worldwide Tours in Norway. A fitting end to what was a week filled with the perfect variety of weather, allowing us to photograph the landscape in all conditions. One of my participants that travels a lot for photography said this was perhaps the best tour they'd ever been on, I couldn't ask for a better compliment. Thanks to this great group for joining me this Winter, 2016 Photo Tour in Norway!

What a beautiful country! This shot was taken on the final day of my Nature Odyssey Worldwide Tours in Norway. A fitting end to what was a week filled with the perfect variety of weather, allowing us to photograph the landscape in all conditions. One of my participants that travels a lot for photography said this was perhaps the best tour they’d ever been on, I couldn’t ask for a better compliment. Thanks to this great group for joining me this Winter, 2016 Photo Tour in Norway!