At the beginning of the year we thought about possible travels for this summer. The most important questions were first and foremost where to go and secondly what type of travel do we actually want to do. After some consideration and research we decided to do a roadtrip through Fjord Norway and travel and sleep in a camping van for the first time. Due to some social obligations in June and July the only possible timeframe for the trip was May, which means we would visit Norway before the main season when most of the campsites, streets and trails are literally full with people, tents and camping vans. The downside of the early season is that there still is a lot of snow on the mountains and not all hikes are open due to too much snow, additionally some of the trees are still in winter mode without leaves which mostly appears a little dreary on photographs. You can't have it all.
As usual, a lot of planning and preparation took place ahead of the start. I studied a lot of information provided by different maps and websites like visitnorway.com and norgeskart.no for instance to plan our rough route. But contrary to my dedicated photo trip to Scotland, this time the main focus was on the travel experience itself and to just enjoy the landscapes and sights along the road instead of setting the main focus of the trip purely on hunting the light and doing every step with possible photos in mind. However, before the trip we only booked the car, a black 2015er Karmann Dexter 625 - an absolutely awesome car to say the least, and the ferries from Rostock, Germany to Trelleborg, Sweden and from Kristianssand, Norway back to Hirthals, Denmark to complete our roundtrip. In the screenshot (image below) you can see the planned route. This rough route stretches for about 2200 kilometers. With all the sightseeing, side adventures and the distance Leipzig-Rostock and Hirthals-Leipzig the length of the trip was something about 4500 kilometers.
Norway Roadtrip - Route
This time I have not scouted possible photo locations online on the common websites like 500px, deviantArt or Google prior to the trip nor I have checked the photos from other known fellows which photographed the area before me. I did this on purpose so I could start with fresh eyes and without any previsualized images in my head. I more and more think to enjoy the journey and the adventure itself is far more important than to hunt any beautiful photos others have created before me in that region - whereever this may be - only to be disappointed when you have not the good photo opportunities (weather and other conditions etc.) they may have had when they visited that specific place. Without their images in mind you can start doing your own thing and find your own unique photo spots and compositions and last but not least you will be more satisfied with your photography because you're really creating your own images.
Besides planning the rough route, possible hikes and some side adventures this time there was not that much preparation needed. Because Norway is a really expensive country we bought lots of the food and beverages for the trip in Germany, changed some Euros to Norwegian Krones (you can pay nearly everything with credit card in Norway but it doesn't hurt having some cash with you, just in case). Then we had to check all the usual paperwork as with any trip abroad. That is e.g. health insurance, mobility warranty for the car, insurance card, identification papers / card (and copy) etc.
Since the Karmann Dexter is fully equiped with two large beds, fridge, heater, kitchenette and even sockets we didn't need so much camping gear as I needed in Scotland where I mainly slept in the back of my Ford Mondeo. One day before the start we loaded our camper with all the needed camping equipment, food products, clothes, toiletries, reading material and music for several weeks. To be able to check the weather forecast I booked a data roaming package which worked quite well so we could use internet on the smart phones and tablet almost everywhere in Norway. All this equipment for the two of us could easily be loaded in the camper, no problems with the available space. The Karmann Dexter is really an elaborate car, see photo above and this photo from the other side of the car, plus this photo taken in Mjelva near Åndalsnes.
The camera gear for this trip was a Nikon D810 body, plus a D800E as replacement camera, lenses spanning from 14mm to 300mm, four batteries, cable releases, Polarizer and GND filters, two tripods, battery charger, about 50GB of CF cards, another smaller camera, the netbook with an external harddrive (for saving the RAWs), cleaning wipes, some lenspens, a large and a smaller camera-/hiking backpack for carrying all this stuff during our wanderings.
So, that was the rough planning and preparation before the trip. Once everything was purchased, prepared and the ferries were booked the trip finally started at the beginning of May!
We started our journey at about eight o'clock in the morning in Leipzig and drove the first 400km towards Rostock at the Baltic Sea. The latest checkin at the ferry for cars was at two o'clock. Due to some really long redirections we lost about an hour and arrived at the ferry terminal at 14:25 in the afternoon - 25 minutes too late. During the last hour of our drive I was pretty sure that we would miss the ferry and would need to take the next one during the night which is more expensive and only assuming that is not already fully booked. Long story short - we hurried to the Checkin desk and asked if we still could checkin and after a little waiting (actually it seemed to take forever) we were allowed to pass and could almost drive directly on the ferry - of course we were the last car going the ferry. Phew - quite an exciting start of our journey! But the next six hours were relaxed. I took some photos from an outside deck and then we read a little and heared music. We arrived in Trelleborg, Sweden on schedule at nine o'clock in the evening and drove directly to a campsite where we spent the first night in the camper. It was a nice evening and the parking space was directly at the beach so we had a short evening walk and enjoyed the fresh sea air.
After a pretty short night (because we had to leave the campsite at eight in the morning) and a nice breakfast at a random parking space near Malmö we directly started our next long section up north and spent almost the whole day driving, passing Göteborg then crossed the Norwegian border about noon with a short break for lunch and continued along the E6 passing Oslo and driving further north. The landscape was not very exciting, mostly cultivated landscapes and some rolling hills. The region somehow reminded me of the Harz and Saxon Switzerland in Germany. In the evening, at about eight, after twelve hours of driving and pretty exhausted we found a nice place for the night somewhere between Hamar and Lillehammer directly at a lake. We had blue bird skies and moderate temperatures but strong and cold winds were blowing so we called it a day and spent the evening in our spacious car and went to bed fairly early.
The next day, after our morning routine (breakfast, morning wash, getting the car started etc.), we contined our way north on the E6 and passed Lillehammer (it was host city of the 1994 Winter Olympics). After a while of driving through beautiful valleys we ascended to a pretty nice mountain village called Dombås, near Dovre National Park from where we detoured towards the city of Åndalsnes and the Romsdalen valley with the famous Trollveggen (or Troll Wall), part of an impressive mountain massif called Trolltindene (or Troll Peaks). It is the tallest vertical rock face in Europe, about 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) from its base to the summit of its highest point and the summit ridge is even overhanging the base of the wall by nearly 50 metres (160 ft), quite a view. Along the road we also enjoyed breathtaking views of the first snow covered mountains and green valleys and visited lots of waterfalls like the impressive Slettafossen (which had a huge amount of meltwater at this time of the year).
When we arrived in the valley we again had blue bird skies and warm temperatures and since it already was pretty late we looked for a nice place to enjoy the sun and spent the night. We enjoyed the good weather (which is good for hanging out with friends etc., but not for photography) this evening on a terrace in the sun with some decent drinks and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the green trees and fields in combination with the white snow covered massive mountains in the background.
The following days were a combination of rain, strong winds and completely grey skies - also not very good for photography, nor hanging out. We used the days to explore Åndalsnes and the Romsdal region and to buy some souvenirs and so on. We also recognized that most of our planned hikes, like Romsdalseggen, would not be possible due to too much snow and the bad weather. At this point it was a bit frustrating. Until then I have not made a single serious exposure with my camera and slowly I became a little nervous. The fact that I was not able to take a single good photo due to the bad weather for days had an impact on my mood. I experienced the same thing in Scotland last year. If I want it or not, my mood on trips like this is somehow connected to the possibilities of creating photos.
However, one morning the weather was finally better and clearing off with hanging white clouds in the valley, so we decided to return to a previously scouted location to create a photograph of Trollveggen in the valley and then continue via the famous Trollstigen (or Trolls Path, a serpentine mountain road with a steep incline of 10% and eleven hairpin bends up to a steep mountainside with fantastic views) to Geiranger, one of the most famous Fjords in Norway. Near the Trollstigen you also find funny road signs saying look out for trolls. On top of the Trolls Path we then hiked a short but very grueling, steep and adventurous hike in frozen snow and took some photos. Originally I had planned to hike to the summit of Trollveggen from there but at this time of the year the hike is simply not passable due to too much snow (at least for us).
The next part of our journey was a pass road through a winter landscape with up to six metres of snow on each side of the road. The massive mountains and the very impressive winter landscape really was an eye-opener and very adventurous drive. When I took photos up there standing deep in the snow, feeling the cold winds and with nearly no other people around and the view towards those huge black mountains and the white snow as far as one can see it somehow felt like standing somewhere in Antacrtica. Pretty awesome. Up to midday all the clouds were gone and we again had blue bird skies without a single cloud - very dynamic weather. We took the ferry over Norddalsfjorden to Eidsdal and continued our route on another impressive pass road through snow covered mountains towards the town of Geiranger.
We arrived there in the evening and stopped at a viewpoint called Ørnesvingen where you have a nice view into the Geiranger Fjord and towards the town Geiranger. We enjoyed the view and took some photos before driving down the winding road into the valley. We scouted the area for possible places to stay for the night and found a really idyllic place directly at the fjord with an awesome view. We had a walk, scouted the surrounding area, prepared dinner and enjoyed the weather. This evening I even was lucky with the clouds and created the photo below. In fact I almost missed the sunset while I was studying maps in the car Kirsti said: "look the sunset outside, maybe you want to take a photo or two?". I had a look outside, immediately grabbed my camera gear and jumped out the car and ran to a spot I scouted earlier and composed some frames like the photo below.
Later in the night I also took a photo of Geiranger at night with reflections in the calm water and blue skies above the mountains. During the nights this is a dark as it gets. During those white nights there is no need for a headlamp when hiking in the night, pretty enjoyable. Another welcome effect is that the sunrises and sunsets with the beautiful soft light last for hours - a very special experience, and especially exciting for the photography!
We then spend some time exploring the nearby town, viewpoints and the surrounding area. Observed how huge ships entered the fjord and Geiranger with thousands of tourists. After a while we continued our journey and drove the next winding and steep pass road through lots of snow, again a very interesting drive with an impressive landscape. We also saw abandoned farms deep in the mountains which looked like troll houses with grassy roofs and we imaged what it probably was like to live there a hundred years ago without the pass roads, ferries, electricity, running water and the only neighbours hours away - it must have been a very simple and isolated life, we guessed. After driving through the fjellet with lots of snow and frozen lakes and countless long tunnels we arrived in the Hjelle / Stryn area.
Actually, I had planned to take some photos of the mountain lakes with spectacular mountain peaks in the background and spent some nights exploring the area up there in the fjellet. What I had not planned is the huge amount of snow there in May and that the lakes are still hundred procent frozen. I defintely underestimated the weather conditions up in the fjellet. Lots of the planned hikes were still closed. Next time we will visit the region in August to be sure most of the snow melted and the hiking routes are open. What I also recognized is that the residents don't have their boats in the lakes and fjords at this time of the year which are an interesting foreground for photos. Most of the time it is tough to find an interesting foreground along the fjords to guide the viewer into a specific scene of an image.
That day, we decided to make the most of the warm cloudless weather, so we searched for a good sunny campsite, bought some fresh stuff in Stryn and barbecued in the sun and just enjoyed the evening and the awesome view with some drinks - again with all the fresh green in the valley and crystal-clear blue water in the lakes and fjords in combination with the massive snow covered mountains, real eye-candy! To be honest, I could not get enough of this combination and tried to create some working photos of it, like the one you see above. We slept very well, but the next morning everything was completely grey again - hmpf! We decided to go shopping in Stryn. Since it is called the fashion capital of the area there, we wanted to look around and see it for ourselves. They definitely have great things, but the prices are just unbelievable. These days we also visited Hornindalsvatnet, Europe's deepest lake, officially measured to a depth of 514 metres (1,686 ft), strolled around and took some photos here and there, nothing serious.
Later we also discovered a really nice valley near Olden with a glacier lake called Oldevatnet and the glacier Briksdalsbreen in the Jostedalsbreen National Park (the largest glacier in continental Europe). For me, possibly the most beautiful region we visited on this journey. It somehow felt like paradise to me with all those glaciated and snow covered massive mountains raising about 1.800m (~6.000 ft) straight from sea level and surrounding us and the lake, see the photo below. And there was absolute silence, no other people or cars, no internet and smartphone and no specific tasks to accomplish, no distractions. On the evenings there, we just enjoyed silence - absolut everything seemed to be muted - and let our mind wander. What a nice contrast to our normal life with all the hectiness, stress and civilisation noise of the city!
We decided to spent some days there, take our time, explore the valley and hike up to the glacier and compose some photos. But, with a few exceptions, again the weather was not very cooperative with our plans. Since the rain was not stopping, we decided to hike the glacier in drizzle. To our surprise, the car parking and the trail was full of people. Most of them obviously from Britain. Later we found out that the Britania - a large cruise ship - had stopped in Olden and crowds of tourists were transferred to the glacier. Lots of them not even hiking but paying for so called Troll Cars, carrying them almost directly up to the glacier tongue. Perfectly organized embarrassing and shameful mass tourism, imho.
One evening, after a very rainy day, we (and to be honest with we I mean Kirsti) cooked a nice dinner, turned on the heating and then decided to watch a Lord of the Rings movie. It felt very special seeing such an epic movie in this spectacular mountain scenery - really a great pleasure! One morning, the weather and rain clouds were clearing off a little and I was fortunate to create the image below at dawn, only a few metres from our campsite. What a great start into the day!
Since the weather forecast for the upcoming days was only rain rain rain and even more rain we decided to continue our roadtrip to the south of Norway. The next day, after our usual morning routine including a hearty breakfast, we started another very long and strenuous drive towards Eidfjord and Vøringfossen. Especially the section between Vikøyri and Myrkdalen, the Vikafjellsvegen was an unforgettable drive on this spectacular mountain pass road on about 1000 meters (~3.300 ft) above sea level. Temperatures about 0°C, constant drizzle, strong winds, sometimes almost no visibility and snow up to 6 metres high on each side of this very narrow and steep winding road through the mountains. Another ferry ride and countless but very impressive tunnels later we arrived at Eidfjord in the evening.
We were both a bit exhausted after this long drive but since the weather was not looking too bad I absolutely wanted to drive up to Vøringfossen to have a look and maybe press the shutter and create an image. We drove to Måbødalen to see its total drop of 182 meters. Vøringfossen really is an epic waterfall! I was instantly very impressed and due to the weather conditions in combination with all the snow and the lack of vegetation (and maybe because we watched the movie some days earlier) I felt like I was standing somewhere in Mordor. At this time of the year I'd like to call it Mordor Falls. We spent some time there enjoying the awesome view with the three waterfalls and the stream cascading down the valley. I tried several different perspectives, image compositions and did countless exposures. At the end I finally found a combination of the elements I was happy with, see the photo below.
We spent the night at a nice spot we scouted earlier, directly at the Eidfjordvatnet. By the way, I the meantime while driving down from the waterfall it started to rain again. After a quiet night we started pretty early and drove further south. The tunnel architecture is pretty fascinating to say the least. We drove through an seemingly endless tunnel only to arrive at a roundabout (inside the tunnel) then the road was winding up spirally in the mountain. From this tunnel we drove directly on a large bridge over the fjord and from this bridge directly into another mountain on the other side of the fjord, also leading to another roundabout in a tunnel - spectacular!
On our way south we passed nice landscapes with countless huge waterfalls, blooming trees and snow covered mountains on narrow roads through the fjords. We made a short stop at some massive waterfalls near Odda, but in the pouring rain it was not really fun to compose photos there. After some pass roads through the mountains, lonely small roads along some lakes with literally countless waterfalls and a ferry ride we arrived late in the evening at the campsite near Preikestolen. Exactly when I turned the car keys the rain stopped and the weather started to clear which was great for us since we wanted to hike Preikestolen the next day. We took advantage of the comforts of the campsite and enjoyed long hot showers and had a nice and quiet evening.
The next day, after breakfast we drove the short drive to the car parking and to our surprise the parking lot was already completely full of cars. Then, my probably worst hike ever began. It felt like being in the middle of a touristic rathole, people everywhere. Somewhere on the trail I shortly closed my eyes and due the noise of hundreds of people talking I felt like sitting in a large cafeteria or something and not like being out in nature on a mountain path. Lots of the people were wearing no solid shoes but thongs or ballerinas on their foot and some even brought their dogs up there and not to forget all those embarassing selfie-sticks everywhere. It just not felt like hiking in the mountains but like strolling around in the city centre of Rome during the main summer vacation time. Unbelievable mass tourism, Kirsti thumbs up! This is absolutely the opposite of what I am looking for when being out in nature. However, we probably only had the wrong expectations for this location or - as usually - should have hiked early in the morning or late in the evening (but rain was forecasted for the afternoon and evening). At least the view from the top of Preikestolen over the Lysefjord surely was a nice one. We took some snapshots of each other at the summit and after only a short break with countless other people there we decided to directly descend back to the car. After about four hours overall we were back at the car parking again and detoured to the E13 towards Stavanger. We explored the area a little bit more and then called it a day and enjoyed the evening - this time surprisingly without rain.
The following day we drove a few hundred kilometers to the southernmost point of Norway's mainland to the lighthouse Lindesnes Fyr on the penisula Neset. When we arrived the sky was grey and the rain was pouring down. We could not even get out of the car so we started reading our books and later cooked dinner in the car. After approximately three ours of sitting in the car and rain pounding on its roof the sky eventually started to clear. When the rain stopped we stepped outside and explored the area and the hill with the lighthouse Lindesnes Fyr and soaked in the view of the coastline. Lindesnes Fyr is not only the southernmost lighthouse of Norway it is also the oldest lighthouse station in the country, first lit in 1655. During World War II Lindesnes lighthouse was taken over by the Germans. They built a small fortress with guns and a radar antenna. The traces from World War II are still visible as trenches, tunnels and bunker which are all open and accessible. I later returned to the lighthouse with my camera when the light became interesting. At this evening I was fortunate to capture the lighthouse in fantastic golden light (photo below). What a great finale for the trip.
We woke up on a sunny day at the coast, smelling the fresh sea air and started very relaxed into the day. We had breakfast and did a walk to the lighthouse and the surrounding area. At eleven o'clock or something we started to drive to Kristianssund, a pretty short 80km drive. We arrived at the ferry terminal - this time relaxed and in time without the need of being in a hurry. We even had enough time to eat a Hot-Dog while waiting in line for the ferry. After an hour or so the high-speed catamaran ferry arrived and the boarding process started. Two hours later we arrived in Denmark, awesome. It really is a high-speed ferry as you can see in the picture below.
We arrived in Hirthals, Denmark at about five in the afternoon. Our rough plan was to spent the night somewhere at the beach but when we were there we haven't found a nice place instantly and since we were both not really in a chill-mood we decided to see if we can make the drive through the night back home to Leipzig, about 900km (~560 miles). And yes we did that. As expected there was not that much traffic during the nighttime on the Autobahn (or highway). We had a quick stop to refuel and eat some burgers shortly after the border to Germany. From there on we drove without any more stops back to Leipzig where we arrived at about three in the morning. A pretty long drive, especially in the dark but I think it was a good decision to avoid the dense city traffic around Hamburg, Hannover and other much used highways with lots of roadworks and redirections during the day. It was a long but relaxed drive through the night.
Looking back it was an awesome roadtrip through Norway with very dynamic weather. We often had wether cloudless blue skies or completely grey skies with rain and only very few interesting sunsets/sunrises with spectacular light and some colour. Difficult conditions for creating interesting landscape photos but I think I made most of the possibilities we had. I am satisfied with the photographic results of the trip because with the experience of the past years I've more and more realized and came to the opinion that the best (or most successful) photographer is not the one with the most spectacular photos but the one who has most of the fun while scouting new locations and perspectives, simply creating new photos in the field (without any pressure or expectations) and who is also enjoying the selection and post-processing process back home in the comfort in front of the computer (or the digital darkroom) with a hot tasty coffee and some good music. This is what it's all about - having a good time doing it! In my humble opinion the best photographer is the one who has most of the fun doing it! And we both enjoyed the trip with all the new experiences and impressions along the way. We also found out that doing such a trip with a camper is working quite well for us. We especially enjoyed to be completely flexible and make our own schedule which is not tied to hotel rooms or other bookings. We really started to feel completely free and enjoyed the vagabond lifestyle without any restrictive obligations - at least for a while.
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Norway is such an exciting place, Would love to try this really soon maybe after the exciting weekend getaways from san francisco
Yes, it is! Norway is always worth a trip! Best, Dave