At the beginning of the year I began to plan a long anticipated roadtrip through whole scandinavia. I had scheduled about a month off from work during summer in August and September of 2017. For this photo expedition I booked a camper van, a Karmann Dexter, early in the year. I knew this car very well from our roadtrip through Fjord Norway in 2015. But contrary to our travels back then where the main focus of the trip was to enjoy the travel experience and the beautiful landscapes itself, this time my focus was on photography like it was during recent roadtrips through Scotland (2014) and Iceland (2008, 2016, 2017). Also this time I was traveling alone which made it easier for me to focus on creating new images at "bad times" of the day when the light is good or interesting for landscape photography but "normal" people prefer to sleep or just relax. Unfortunately this also made the trip a very lonely one with long days on the road and overall about 7000km (~4350 miles) of driving - but of course it still was very enjoyable journey overall with a lot of time for myself and solitude.
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 the rough route. I used the photographers ephemeris and Google Earth to plan possible photos and previsualize them in my mind before even being there. Depending on the weather at the location this sometimes works very well because most of the essential elements of a good landscape photograph you can actually plan before being out shooting. I've written about this topic earlier in this article. Previsualizing and thinking about what kind of photos you strive to create also helps a lot when planning the route of such a trip and the time of the year. I choosed August and September for this trip because of the temperatures and vegetation in the highlands, mountains and the arctic then and because from September onwards you also have the possibility to see Northern Lights on the Lofoten (or any other place above the arctic circle) for example. I have to confess that I really enjoy studying maps and imagining what it will be like to be there later. For me that is already part of the actual journey. The same applies to the post-processing of the photo and video raw material and writings about such a trip. The latter part also often brings up a lot of good memories when sitting in the comfort zone at the computer with a hot and tasty coffey. Sometimes it's a bit tricky with the experiences of such trips. They are like good wine, the older they get, the better they become. But even if you sometimes remember past tough experiences and challenges of a trip like this you should also keep in mind that nothing worth having is easy.
Also next to creating new photos one side goal of the trip was to find my personal Skyrim and Skellige like landscapes in scandinavia - and fortunately I did! I've found my personal Skyrim in Jotunheimen National Park and in the area of Norways national mountain Stetind in northern Norway (Nordland) and I've found my personal Skellige on the Lofoten Islands. The rugged and harsh landscapes there combined with very moody weather conditions and the feelings while being there alone reminded me a lot of my virtual adventures in Skyrim and Skellige. Another "goal" of course was to just enjoy the freedom and the time being outdoos, hiking, exploring new landscapes and take deep breaths of the fresh arctic air at a nice sandy beach between rugged mountains without any hecticness or stress, just doing what I really like and focus on creating new images. I've also really enjoyed the ride along all those breathtaking landscapes flying by while driving and listening to some nice music. Sometimes I caught myself driving with an open mouth, totally in awe of the spectacular landscapes!
Once the car was booked and the rough route was planned it was time to think about the needed equipment for the trip. Since the Karmann Dexter is fully equiped with a large bed, fridge, heater, kitchenette and even sockets I 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 I loaded the camper with all the needed camping equipment, food products, clothes, toiletries, quite some reading material and a lot of music for several weeks of traveling.
The camera gear for this trip was a DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ drone, a Nikon D810 body, plus a D800E as replacement camera, lenses spanning from 14mm to 300mm, six batteries, cable releases, Polarizer and GND filters, two tripods, battery charger, about 100GB 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 the wanderings and a whole galaxy of adapters and stuff to be able to charge all the different devices in the car while driving (which worked very well by the way, even with the drone).
So, that was the rough planning and preparation before the trip. Once everything was purchased, prepared and packed and the first ferry to Sweden was booked the trip finally started in mid August!
After saying goodbye to my girlfriend, which was very difficult for both of us, I started my journed to the North with very ambivalent feelings, a mix of sadness and excitement. On the first day my goal was to reach the ferry in Rostock and sleep somewhere in Sweden near Malmö just along the road. Of course, this did not happen as planned. After a few hundred kilometers on the Autobahn I got stuck in a traffic jam for serveral hours. Once I finally arrived at the harbour in Rostock the ferry was long gone.
So, after loudly cursing the traffic jam I asked my way through all the different shipping companies in the port terminal and finally found another ferry on the same day but it was going to Gedser in Denmark and not Trelleborg in Sweden which I originally planned but I was moving forward and was no longer stuck in Rostock.
After a few hours on the Baltic Sea I arrived in Denmark and directly started driving through the whole country over the famous and impressive Öresund-Bridge to Sweden where I've found a nice place for the first night in the car. While driving through denmark where the landscape was illuminated by nice soft sunset light I smiled and enjoyed the scenerey and some good music and I was happy with the first day of the journey, although it was a very bumpy start with the hours lost in the traffic jam and the extra costs for the ferry to Denmark. After finding a nice spot for the night just along the road I've had a short talk with my girlfriend on the phone and then I fall asleep immediately after more than 14 hours of traveling.
On the second day I continued driving through Oslo and into Fjord Norway. This was another day full of driving, all in all about ~1500km on the road during the first two days. Luckily I had found a nice spot for the second night, directly at a lake where I scored my first good image of the journey (see sunset image above "Fjord Norway").
It was such a peaceful scenery and very welcome after the exhausting drive through Oslo and on the narrow mountain roads with the camper van. Two norwegian guys stood at the shore fishing, the temperatures were very mild with almost no wind and I was very lucky with the light and clouds during sunset. During the blue hour I also sat at the shore and enjoyed the landscape and the peace on the spot. Somehow the whole scenery strongly reminded me of Montana and the movie "A River Runs Through It". The rest of the evening I realaxed in the camper with a good book and a talk on the phone.
The next day I drove through the mountain village Øvre Årdal on very narrow and steep mountain roads on a very interesting drive towards Skjolden and then further to the Jotunheimen National Park where the rough plan was to spend a few days there and just take my time exploring the area and finding new photo compositions on the ground and fly around with the drone for some interesting aerial images and new perspectives.
At about midday I arrived at an altitude of ~1300 meters on the E55 in the rain. I decided to cook lunch and then see what the weather forecast says. The forecast said very dynamic weather conditions for the next couple of days and a mix of rain, strong winds, clouds and sun which can be quite interesting for landscape photography so I decided to wait in the area for some interesting light conditions.
The rest of the day, it has poured like a bucket with very strong winds and I spent my time in the car reading. At night the storm and the wind were so bad that I was partly afraid the car would tip over. A memorable experience! The nights up there in the fjellet were so cold that the batteries of the cameras and drone almost discharged over night. I had to drive some extra kilometers during the day to be able to load all camera devices and of course the mobile phone, which actually was the most important device of the journey. It was my connection home to my girlfriend and family in case anything happens while I'm traveling and hiking alone in remote regions.
During the next couple of days I explored the area and did some hiking and test flights with the drone but the weather was too bad for serious images combined with a lot of rain and strong winds there in the Sognefjellet in the mountains. I know the saying "bad weather equals good photos" - but not in pouring rain and boring grey skies. After a few days there in the rain I was a bit disappointed because the weather just did not get better and the forecast also gave little hope. So one afternoon, after spending most of my time reading and watching the storm outside, I decided to move on further north on the next day and to finally escape the bad weather.
When you are travelling alone for several weeks, far away from home and everything familiar, often tired and sleeping in the car at remote and exposed spots, several days of rain and the strong cold winds can be pretty annoying and upsetting. During those moments it helps immensely if you once again have a successful experience with the camera and motivate yourself with thinking about why you're doing such a trip. It's good for the own morale (just like a good warm and tasty meal). Fortunately on my last day in the mountains near Jotunheimen the storm cleared for a few hours and I created the image above with dramatic skies and sunset light on a nice location at a lake I've scouted some days earlier. I left the fjellet with a smile on my face and continued my road trip the next day.
The next two days I mainly spent on the road driving a lot of kilometers again. While driving through Fjord Norway I again was often totally in awe of the landscapes flying by. You could literally stop every ten minutes and take a picture with all those breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and the combination of countless lakes, fjords, waterfalls and mountains. After a long day on the road I looked for a nice camping spot along the E6 to spent the night there and had my evening ritual, which consisted of a phone call and reading or watching nature documentaries on the laptop and of course eating (mostly convenience foods or sandwiches).
On the following day I crossed the Arctic Circle at 66°33′ north and asked another tourist to take the cheesy shot of myself above. I then visited the center and bought some souvenirs and a wrote a postcard from the Arctic Circle to my girlfriend back home in Leipzig. (There is a post office in the center just for this purpose.)
On my way further north towards Bodø and the ferry to the Lofoten Islands I came across some very nice wild landscapes, again with countless waterfalls and forests like the scene above which I photographed with the drone. There was not much wind but it was drizzling a bit but luckily that did not affect the device. When driving through a whole country one really gets a good feel for its actual size. The sheer vastness of the landscapes of scandivia (especially in the far north with very low population density) reminded me of documentaries I had seen about Alaska and Canada and I began to feel like a real adventurer exploring and photographing the wild landscapes alone there in the far North.
After another long day on the road I finally found a pretty nice spot for the night directly at the ocean not far from Bodø. The sunset was quite unspectacular with not much photo opportunities. So I only had a walk along the beach and relaxed the remaining evening. I was pretty exited to return to the Lofoten the next day which I visited the first time in 2013 and also was the main destination of my scandinavia trip in 2017. Here you find a list of hiking reports I wrote back then, including Reinebringen, Kvalvika Beach, Bunes Beach on Moskenesøya and Tjeldbergtinden near Svolær on Austvågøya.
The next day I continued my journey to the harbour of Bodø, parked the camper van in the waiting line for the ferry and explored the city a little bit. I also took the opportunity to restock my supplies of food (and some tasty arctic beer) in a large supermarket because on the Lofoten those things are a bit more expensive caused by their exposed location.
On that particular day the sea was quite calm and the ferry ride to Moskenes took about three or four hours, I think. The ferry arrived after sunset so I drove directly to a nice camping spot I scouted in Google Maps prior to the trip. It felt great to finally arrive at my main destination and to suspend driving countless hours and days for a while and to do some hiking and exploring and again focus on creating images for a change. To be honest at this point I was already a bit tired of driving but also somehow proud that I drove there all on my own, not taking the usual flights to Bodø. Plus, the ride itself was definitely worth it just because of the great scenery I saw along the way.
The photo above shows the very scenic fishing village Reine with a 'classic' postcard like view of the harbour, the red rorbuer huts and the reflection of Olstinden (675m) in the water on a beautiful summer day in the arctic.
Unfortunately the next couple of days were again a mix of strong winds and a lot of rain, the same what I experienced previously in the Mountains of Jotunheimen. Looking back, I was not really blessed with good weather on this whole trip. The photos you see here in the article are actually the selected highlights of light and weather condions of a trip spanning over several weeks. So, one might get the impression that I was very lucky with the weather but in truth the opposite is the case. In fact most of the time during this trip the weather in Norway was not on my side with a lot of rain, strong cold winds and boring grey skies.
Nevertheless, I drove around Mosekensøya, Vestvågøy and Ausvågøya and explored the area, did some moderate hiking and scouted possible photo compositions, just in case the weather should eventually get better. I mainly camped on a nice spot near a picturesque village called Å (photo below) in the south of the islands or at a really nice beach near Flakstad (photo below "Skasanden Sun") on Flakstadøya.
Here is a little side story about another long anticipated (since 2013 when visiting the islands for the first time) hike I planned for this photo expedition but dismissed while being there. Back home in Leipzig I originally planned a two day hiking adventure to the summit of Hermannsdalstinden (1029m) the highest mountain on Mosekensøya. I've read quite a few hiking reports about the mountain and the hike itself and I was really eager to see the awesome view from the top of the mountain and of course to create a decent photo at sunset there (at about ~08:45pm). The mountains of the Lofoten are just to high and rugged to get this view with the drone, especially at sunset. One could maybe climb up to about ~500m altitude and then try it but I also wanted to capture the awesome vista with my full frame sensor camera for maximum image quality and sharpness.
The initial plan was to do this very exhausting and demanding hike directly when I arrive at the islands. But, of course, the weather did not work as planned and everything was muddy, slippery and wet after several days of rain and to be honest my motivation to do this strenuous and slighty dangerous hike alone was not that high as it was back home while planning it in the comfort zone of my office in my loft. At this time, the weeks I have spent on the road and the hikes I already did have left their marks I think. After thinking about it for a while, I opted for the more reasonable option and against this hike and to explore some other locations instead. It was a tough decision because I was so looking forward to it, but the right one, I think.
So instead of doing the multi-day hike up to Hermannsdalstinden, during the days when the weather was good (means no pouring rain and strong cold winds) I was driving all around my previously scouted locations and flew with the drone and created lots of new images with the normal cameras which always lifts my spirits again on photo dedicated trips like this. Especially after some days of rain in a row mostly spent reading in the car. In the end, for me, creating new images is one of the main reasons for such trips next to the freedom, exploring, enjoying solitude and of course not to forget all the time spent outdoors. I noticed that having the possibility to do this somehow is in a magical way connected to my overall constitution and general mood on trips like this.
The image above was taken on one of the famous bridges connecting the islands. This is Hamnøya with its typical red rorbuer huts and blue skies above on a beautiful summer day. In one of those rorbuers (Willi-Bua) I've spent about ten days back in 2013 during the first visit of the Lofoten.
On days like this such a trip is just amazing! It's so much fun driving around the previously scouted locations, exploring new ones, enjoying the breathtaking views, fresh air and take your time for creating some decent new images. It's just so much fun and this is what it's all about - having a good time doing it!
The image below shows Skagsanden Beach where I planned to catch some Northern Lights during the nights. I've spent more than three nights there and tried to stay awake up until three o'clock in the morning. Actually the conditions where quite good with a relatively strong aurora forecast of more than 4 Kp and no clouds. So I've spent my time a lot with waiting, walking along the beach, creating sunset photos, studying the behaviour of other tourists (which can be quite funny), reading books and talking to my girlfriend on the phone.
After spending two nights with waiting and seeing no Aurora Borealis during the night I almost lost my motivation for another night of waiting. But during the third night I was finally rewarded with a nice little display of Northern Lights. Unfortunately it lasted not long enough for my planned composition which included Hustinden (691m) and the reflection of the Dancing Lights in the water at the beach, so I quickly improvised with the composition of this one. Also, compared to the intensity of the lights I saw in Iceland, it was kind of "weak" but nevertheless very enjoyable. I went to bed with a smile on my face.
In following days I drove around and focused on enjoying the incredible landscapes, a nice tasty burger at the harbour in Reine and of course finding new perspectives for interesting images like the one below. This is an aerial photo of the small island called Sakrisøya, its harbour and yellow rorbuers and the rugged mountain Olstinden (675m) in the background. For me as a enthusiast of spectacular landscapes, this looks like some kind of arctic paradise and it actually is - the right weather provided.
On days of good weather I tried to be as productive as possible. I drove a lot back and forth all around the islands to capture as much of their beauty as I could. Below you see the famous bridges of Fredvang and the turquoise beaches of the Lofoten Islands, photographed from above with the drone. With conditions like this without strong cold arctic winds and blue bird skies and no rain its really a pleasure to fly around with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro+ and to compose some nice images of those awesome landscapes, again this is just a lot of fun!
When the weather forecast prognosticated rain for the next days I decided to go on and leave the Islands and the bad weather behind. On this particular day I started in the south near Å and headed up north to Svolvaer where I spent most of the day visiting the city, again buying some souvenirs and presents, writing postcards and enjoying the scenery at the harbour. I then drove to a nice spot for the night which I remembered from my travel there in 2013. The spot is not far from Svolvaer and provides some really nice views of rugged mountains and fjords but this last night on the islands was one to remember. This night the predicted bad weather rolled in from the sea and brought a heavy storm with very strong winds and rain and during the night I again was partly afraid the car would tip over - for the second time on this journey. Another memorable experience!
Another thing I wanted to mention is that apart from the weather, it is completely safe to stand and sleep anywhere in Norway and Sweden. I was not even afraid that the car would break open or be attacked by burglars or anything like that. Scandinavia is from the tourist point of view a very safe travel destination for people with a camper van.
After the stormy night, a hearty breakfast and a short hike directly starting at the parking spot and some snapshots of the location I made my way up to Lødingen on a very scenic road with breathtaking views to catch the ferry via Vestfjorden back to the mainland to Bognes where I took the ferry via Tysfjorden to Skarberget. I then drove to my last planned photo location, the famous Stetind, Norways National Mountain (photo below).
When I arrived at the Stetind parking lot the weather was very dynamic with fast moving high clouds and a mix of low clouds, sun and rain. On my way to the location I drove along some nice other places like Efjorden where I was fortunate to capture the image below which shows the mountain Karikollen (753m), a rainbow and a little fishing boat floating in the calm water with a perfect reflection of the whole idyllic scenery. The whole area of the Ofoten strongly reminded my on Skyrim (btw, I'm listening to the Soundtrack of Jeremy Soule while writing this), the famous northern virtual adventure whereas the Lofoten are my personal Skellige.
When I arrived at the Stetind in the late afternoon I ate dinner and then started to explore the nearby area. It was such a beautiful and peaceful combination of natures elements with the stream and its cascades, the green forests, the calm fjord and rugged mountains all around. It really was just beautiful and luckily I had enough time to take a deep breathe and to enjoy it all and take my time to compose some photos.
Actually I was prepared to camp there for a few nights and wait for better weather because when I arrived I couldn't even see the summit (1392m) of the mountain and it was drizzling and I really wanted to create a decent photo presenting Norways National Mountain. But after a few hours the clouds suddenly cleared and the landscapes and clouds began to catch the light of the beginning golden hour before sunset. As I saw this I grabbed my camera gear and the tripod and ran to my previously scouted favorite location to create a photo with the mountain and composed the photo above.
Satisfied with the picture of my last planned photo location of the trip, I finally set off for home the next day. I drove further north up to Narvik on winding roads in order to return via Lapland and Sweden. I made a very slowly progress this day and I had my mind that I had to drive about 2700 km until I would be back home but I was very looking foward to it.
The way back across the eastern coast of Scandinavia was relatively unspectacular. I traversed the fabulous vastness and the endless forests of Lapland. That was really impressive again and a real eye-opener. I actually wanted to make several more explorations for upcoming trips to Sweden, but somehow I had no more peace and wanted to go home. At this moment the spirit of adventure in me was satisfied.
I did several photo-stops along the road and also camped just along the E4 on my way back. The scenery below was one of those camp spots for the night. Really quiet and peaceful and I was lucky with the wind, clouds and light at this evening. It is also the last serious landscape photo that I created during this trip and somehow marks the end of this journey.
Looking back it was an awesome roadtrip through Scandinavia with very dynamic weather and a lot of solitude. I often had wether cloudless blue skies or completely grey skies with a lot of wind and rain and not that much interesting sunsets/sunrises with spectacular light and some colour as I had hoped for. Difficult conditions for creating interesting landscape photos, but I think I made most of the possibilities I had. I am pretty satisfied with the photographic results of the trip and all the new experiences and what I learned about myself.
With the experiences of the past twelve years with landscape photography 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 - most of the time - I've enjoyed the trip with all the new experiences and impressions along the way. Travelling with the camper van again worked great for me. Enough space, very mobile and cozy during the cold evenings and all the rainy days. I especially enjoyed another advantage of the camper van which is that you are completely flexible and can make your own schedule, adjust the plan to the weather which is not possible with booked hotel rooms for example. Sometimes during the journey I really started to feel completely free and enjoyed the vagabond lifestyle without any restrictive obligations - at least for a while.
See more photos from Norway in my gallery.
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