Norway Trip Recap

The Aurora from Lofoten Islands in Norway.

I had the pleasure in September of leading a photo tour to the Lofoten Islands of Norway for Strabo Photo Tour Collection.

Norway was amazing.  It’s a pretty easy flight over to Oslo.  Then you have to overnight in Oslo and take two flights up to Leknes.  It’s above the Arctic Circle so takes some time to get there.  Luckily, the Norwegians run a super-efficient air travel system and all the flights were right on time.  

The Oslo airport, by the way, is quiet.  There are large halls typical of any airport.  People are quiet with their voices in low tones.  Conveyor belts and people movers are quiet.  Overhead announcements are quiet.  It was so amazing.

The Lofoten Islands form a peninsula that goes out into the Norwegian Sea.  There’s a road system connecting the larger islands so travel is quick and efficient.  Our hotels were near Hamnoy, Leknes, and Svolvaer. All the hotels were rorbuer-style or styled like a fishing cottage community.  Little red houses clustered around the rocky shoreline.  Made for great photos.  The little fishing cottages had two bedrooms, a shared bathroom, with a living room and kitchen.  Very cozy as long as you don’t mind sharing a bathroom.  One hotel had two bedrooms in one house and each bedroom had a private bathroom.  That was my favorite arrangement because we had private bath but still shared a living room and kitchen.

During the day we tooled around the area photographing towering mountains over crystal clear water.  The little villages were usually filled with real fishing cottages with boats, nets, buoys, etc.  That meant we always had something to photograph from a grand landscape to tiny details.  We went to an old whaling village that’s now a UNESCO site.  Lots of neat stuff from the late 1800’s and early 1900s plus museums all in a tiny village setting.  I went nuts photographing the general store with all the old tins, advertisements, and cash register.  

At night we shot based on the aurora activity.  Our first night out was pretty good.  It was especially nice since we didn’t have to leave the rorbuer to shoot.  We just walked across the parking lot and stood on the rocky shoreline.  Everyone got great photos of the aurora that night and worked on their skills.  We had a visible aurora in the middle of the trip but activity wasn’t predicted until after 11:00pm.  Several people decided to stay back at the rorbuer but the rest of us loaded in the van and headed off to a wide, sandy beach.  We had great aurora activity and got to play with reflection of the lights in the ocean.  Our third chance at the aurora was our best night.  Predictions were for spectacular lights and they began right about twilight.  I saw them on my way to dinner and had ants in my pants the whole time we were eating.  After dinner we drove to a nearby beach and stayed for several hours.  It’s amazing how you don’t get tired when green lights are waving across the sky.  Our guides said it was one of the best nights they’ve seen.  We quit shooting about 2:00am and that was because batteries were dead and cards were full.

Temperature the entire trip were in the 30-degree to 70-degree range.  We had rain on our last day as we drove to the airport.  I wore my down coat as an outer layer almost all the time.  Longjohns as a base layer and then pants and a long-sleeved shirt as a middle layer.  I only wore gloves at night when we were shooting the aurora.  

Food was amazing.  I thought it would be gross things or super bland stuff.  The fish wasn’t fishy tasting.  The meat, pork, and lamp the others had looked really nice and tender.  We had plenty of root vegetables with familiar carrots and potatoes.  Breakfast was the basic European buffet of sliced meats, cheese, fruit, eggs, and breads.  The breads were all hardy, whole-grain that I added fresh butter and jam to.  The coffee was weak but we learned to make strong coffee in our rooms.  

Thanks to Christian Hoiberg for being such a great guide. Same to Odd-Are Hansen. He’s also an awesome Aurora Dancer. Check out this video on my Facebook page.

Light Painting: Layers versus Long Exposure

I was in Ireland recently leading a photo tour.  A favorite location of mine for light painting at night is Burrishoole Abbey in County Mayo.

We set our cameras on tripods, composed the shot, focused, and then set our exposures for 30 seconds.  Then I “Painted” the outside of the building with an amber flashlight.  In one 30-second exposure I might cover half the building.  We reminded the group that they would use layers in Photoshop to get a photo of the entire building illuminated in amber light.

County Mayo; Burrishoole Abbey; Ireland; Ruins
A Photoshop blend of 21 photos of Burrishoole Abbey being painted with an amber flashlight.  Masking to have a uniform sky.  

Toward the end of our shoot at Burrishoole, I decided to make a change.  I told the group to leave their f/stops at 22, change the ISO to 800, and take a 4-minute exposure using Bulb.  We took one photo to check exposure.  Personally, I needed to change my f/stop to f/9.

Then we clicked the shutters and left them open for 4-minutes.  During that time, I painted the building one more time with the amber flashlight. Notice I had enough time to go inside and paint the window openings.

County Mayo; Burrishoole Abbey; Ireland; Ruins
Burrishoole Abbey painted with an amber flashlight during a 4-minute exposure.  Minor adjustments to the photo in Adobe Camera Raw.  No layers.

Each photo is a bit different but the last was much easier to make.  Many photographers don’t like Photoshop layers or don’t want to learn layers.  Personally, I think layers is a super powerful tool but do understand the learning curve can be steep.

Next time you do light painting, consider using a very long exposure as an alternative to layers.

I have another photo tour to western Ireland in June 2019.  Strabo Photo Tour Collection if you’re interested.