2016 Midnight Sun Photo Tour
This year’s tour for 9 GTA and 1 Montreal based photographers began with our departure on June 6th; it ended on June 17th for half of the group, while the other half stayed in Oslo for 2 extra days. Unfortunately, with very little downtime throughout the trip….24 daylight lead to late nights out shooting….I wasn’t able to post of full daily blog. Instead, I’ve prepared a daily summary of our photographic adventure in Norway’s gem, the Lofoten Islands, which lie off the coast of northern Norway, about 200 km inside the Arctic Circle.
Day 1 & 2: June 6 & 7 – Enroute to Oslo
We departed from our home airports and arrived at Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport at various times on June 7th. My son, Mike, who co-hosted the tour, was the first to arrive (from the UK) and was there to greet our first arrival. The rest of us arrived at intervals throughout the day. After getting everyone settled into the Gardermoen Best Western Hotel, we shuttled back to the airport to catch the train to the Oslo Sentrum train station and then gathered at the Cathedral Cafe, on Karl Johan’s Gate. After a good outdoor dinner on the patio, we returned to the airport via train, back to the hotel via shuttle and called it a day….a loooooong day!
Day 3: June 8 – Oslo > Bodø > Stokmarknes > Stamsund
This was another long day, which involved a 1.5 hr. flight and another 35 min. flight to Stokmarknes, a small town located in the Vesterålen Islands north of Lofoten. After taking cabs from the airport to the Hurtigruten terminal, we boarded the ‘MS Midnatsol’, the newest ship in the fleet, for a 3:15 departure to Stamsund, in the Lofoten Islands, which would be our home base for 7 days/8 nights.
It was a cold, cloudy day, but it was smooth sailing for the 7 hour voyage. Despite the grey day, the scenery was as beautiful as ever and the detour into Trollfjord was as special as always.
We arrived in Stamsund on schedule at 10:00 PM and were greeted at the dock by cousins Ingbritt, Bjorn-Arne, Andreas, Harald and Hans-Christian.
The 12 of us would be living in 3 clean, fully equipped and comfortable rorbuer (cabins) at the ‘Skjaerbrgga’. Ingbritt and Bjorn-Arne had been kind enough to stock the fridges with the necessities for the morning: coffee, tea, milk, bread, eggs and orange juice.
Day 4: June 9 – Our First Full Day of Photography
Mike and I were at the store around the corner early to do the grocery shopping for the next couple of days. The 2 9-passenger rental vans we had booked were delivered to us at 9:30. It was a cool, cloudy morning, but with our photography gear loaded into the vans, we set off to explore the local sites: the fishing village of Steine, the town of Leknes, Haukland’s white sandy beach and mountains, Utakleiv – unquestionably the best viewing site for the midnight sun complete white sandy beach, large rocks and sheep, Eggum with it’s World War II Nazi radar station, coffee shop and klippfisk (dried salted cod fish) racks.
After a stop at the Leknes shopping centre to pick up wine at the ‘Vinmonopolet’ and the Bunnipris grocery store to buy more supplies, we returned to the rorbuer so that Mike could prepare our spa-bol and salad dinner. The 12 of us gathered in Unni’s rorbu for dinner. We have wi-fi!
After dinner, it looked like a good evening to take a drive to Unstad….clear, blue sky and wind. Unstad is a popular place for surfers and, with enough wind, the waves would be up. We had had a couple of long days, but not wanting to miss anything, everyone opted to go for a drive. About 40 minutes later we were there: both sand and rocky beaches, wind, waves, surfers and a few crazy kids swimming.
Day 5: June 10 – Henningsvær, a Home Cooked Meal and the Midnight Sun
The first thing on the schedule today was a drive to Henningsvær, a fishing village on located on several small islands on the southern coast of Austvågøya, the next island in the Lofoten archipelago. It’s about a 1 hour drive, but I knew from previous experience that it would take 3 to 4 hours, with several stops along the way. The landscape is great, but there are even good close-up and macro ops if you get down into the rocks.
The landscapes and seascapes are great, but there are even good close-up and macro ops if you get down into the rocks.
After getting shots from the rocks and along the road, we soon crossed the Gimsøystraumen Brua (Gimsøy Bridge) and stopped for a lunch/pee break at the Gimsøystraumen Resteplass (rest stop) and then continued on to Henningsvær.
Once we had the vans parked in Henningsvær parking lot, we split up to wander around, get a few shots and, in my case, get a soft ice cream with black liquorice bits. It’s delicious!! One of the shots I got was of Pøbel’s ‘In Cod We Trust’. Pøbel is a Norwegian street artist based in Stavanger. He is best known for his ‘Getto Spedalsk’ (Getto Leperous) project, which involved decorating abandoned buildings in the Lofoten Islands. His work is mainly based on man vs. nature. I also got the obligatory shot of the old Henningsvær rorbua.
On the return trip to Stamsund, we stopped to get shots of the Gimsøystraumen Brua….
….and at the Storfjord cemetery, where my paternal grandparents are buried, looking out toward Skifjorden.
We arrived back at the rorbua about 5:30, which gave us about 2 hours to cool our heels before our dinner date at Ingbritt and Bjorn-Arne’s house. What a great dinner they prepared: Bacalau, whale, salmon, potatoes, other vegetables and a wonderful cake for dessert. Those who were up for it even got to try some of their homemade ‘brennvin’, or moonshine. Mike’s 40th birthday was on May 25th, but since we couldn’t celebrate it together, I asked our hosts if they would stick a candle in the dessert and sing the traditional Norwegian birthday song, which involves some hopping and dancing around. They sure didn’t disappoint and Mike was completely surprise. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the dinner. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good photos.
We didn’t finish there, though. It was a nice evening, so after changing back into our photography duds, we drove back to Uttakleiv to see if we could get some good midnight sun shots.
Day 6: June 11 – Vikten, Nusfjord and a Group Dinner of Fish Cakes
Since we had a fairly late night, we decided on an 11:00 AM departure for Vikten. Rather than taking the direct route to Leknes, we turned onto Sennesvikveien and Finangen to drive over the mountain in order to get the view down to the Buksnes Fjord….Leknes, Gravdal, Buksnes, etc. We spent about a 1/2 hour there capturing the great panoramic view.
On to Vikten, through the Nappstraumen Tunnel that connects Vestvågøy and Flakstadøya. In addition to the seascape photography along the way, we stopped at the very popular glassblower’s shop, Glasshyta Vikten, and the ceramic shop. We spent about 45 minutes there and then continued on to Nusfjord.
Nusfjord is one of Lofoten’s oldest fishing villages and the whole village is now a museum. There’s a general store, a cod-liver oil shop, a restaurant and many rorbuer. If standing close to the buildings, watch out for the seagulls nesting on the window and door sills. Besides the photo ops around the docks, a climb up the surrounding hills is worth the time.
On the return trip to Stamsund, we stopped to get shots of the great wall of Stjerntinden.
Back at the rorbuer a few of us put together a dinner of fried fish cakes, potatoes and salad for another group dinner in our rorbuer. It was quite overcast tonight, so we stayed in for an early night.
Day 7: June 12 – A Hike Up to Heia, A Tour of Tørnholmen
It was quite cold and sometimes rainy today, so we decided to take the opportunity for some downtime. Well, not totally. Seven of us went for a (strenuous) hike up to Heia, one of the highest points in the Apnesfjellet range, in Stamsund. We didn’t push it, so the round trip was approximately 3 hours.
I had met up with my cousin Hans-Christian at the store and asked if it was possible for us to spend an hour or so wandering around Tørnholmen. He came to the main docks to pick us up in his RIB (rubber inflatable boat) for the short ride to his island. Once there, HC gave us a short run down on the island, it’s history, the work he’s gone through to restore the buildings and his plans for the future, which involves marketing Tørnholmen as ‘Rent an Island in the Arctic’. You can rent an island in the Caribbean, but this will be the only one above the Arctic Circle.
We wandered around the island for about 1.5 hours shooting whatever attracted our individual attentions. We got a few shots of HC and his father, Harald (my 1st cousin), and we were delivered back to the main dock.
Dinner tonight: fish balls. I haven’t had those for many years. Nina did most of the work preparing this in a creamy white sauce and I sure wasn’t disappointed. Everyone enjoyed it along with a great salad.
Day 8: June 13 – Gimsøy, Hovsund, Høynes, Vestersand, Torvdalshalsen and a Great Fish Pie
The day started out cloudy and rainy and, although the rain subsided, it stayed cloudy throughout the day as we drove around Gimsøy, into Hovsund to have an up-close look at the salted cod, or ‘klipfisk’ drying on the racks. We wandered around the docks and shed there and spoke with the owner. He told us that all of the fish are being shipped to Italy, where it’s used for making Bacalau. Here we had a chance to get some interesting and amusing detail shots as opposed to land, sea or mountain scapes.
There’s a good story about this one. The owner told me that the fishermen string this herring up to dry for about 6 months and then take it with them when they leave. They dip it in their schnapps or wine and then eat it. Yuk!!
We left there and drove down the road to another Pøbel creation along the side of the road. A great group photo opportunity.
Before continuing on to Kvalnes and Høynes, we backtracked to the Gimsøystraumen Resteplass for a toilet break and lunch. We made our way to the Haverringen road which follows the coastline around to Kvalnes and Høynes, which is where my mother was born. What was once a thriving community is only a few houses now. Last year, I had the opportunity to go into my Mom’s old house. There were photos of my great-great grandparents on the wall. We saw a few sights along the way worth photographing.
Day 9: June 14 – Flakstad, Sund, Reine, Å, Fredvang, Uttakleiv
We had another full day planned heading west again as far as we can drive in the archipelago, to the village of Å. Yes, that’s right the town name is just 1 letter. We made a few stops along the way – the church at Flakstad, the village of Sund, Reine and, on the return trip, Fredvang.
The sights of Sund:
Day 10: June 15 – Vikten, Balstad
Today was a bit of a catch-up day. We returned to Vikten for another stop at the Glassblower’s and to get some coastline shots. On the way there, we passed an older gentleman walking along the road. I got a few shots inside the building and made a purchase and when I went outside, I saw Harvey talking with the guy we passed on the road. He called me over only to find out that it was Herbjørg, my tante Arna’s brother! I have been in email exchanges between him and my cousins, Bjørnar and Bent-Johnny, but we had never met. What a bizarre coincidence!
Back at the Buksnes Kirke (church), we decided to split up rather than get in each other’s way. Mike’s van stayed at the church, while I drove my group into Balstad to see what we could find. The best thing was some old buildings along the docks.
After about a 1/2 hour there, we drove back to the church to trade places.
With the church shots loaded, we drove into Leknes for some shopping time and then back to the rorbuer for dinner and packing for tomorrow’s departure.
Day 11: June 16 – Stamsund, Leknes, Bodø, Oslo
The last day in Stamsund. We loaded up the 2 vans and headed to the airport, in Leknes. The van drop-off was dead easy, since there’s an Avis counter at the airport. Ole, the Avis guy, came out to the vans and even helped us take luggage inside. Check-in was easy and no questions about carry-ons or weight; however, the Wideroe rep did suggest to Mike that he pack lighter the next time.
We had a very clear day and the plane took a flight path out that I’ve never taken before….right over Hagskar, Stamsund, Heia, Ureberget, etc. What an awesome view and wouldn’t you know, I didn’t have my camera out.
The short 25 min. flight to Bodø was uneventful. The wait until our next flight to Oslo was very short as well.
When we arrived in Oslo, we pointed Eva, Nancy, Diane and Hilarie in the right direction for the Park Hotel. They were returning home on early flights.
The rest of us – me, Mike, Lil, Lenore, Harvey and Sharad – caught the NSB to the Oslo Theatre train station and then walked up the street to the Best Western Karl Johan Hotel, where we would be staying for the next 2 nights.
Day 12: June 17 – Oslo Sentrum
The plan for this morning was to take the tram to Vigeland Park. Here’s the park’s website description:
“The Vigeland Park is the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist, and is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions. The park is open to visitors all year round.
The unique sculpture park is Gustav Vigeland’s lifework with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland was also in charge of the design and architectural layout of the park. The Vigeland Park was mainly completed between 1939 and 1949.
Most of the sculptures are placed in five units along an 850 meter long axis: The Main gate, the Bridge with the Children’s playground, the Fountain, the Monolith plateau and the Wheel of Life.”
After a coffee/tea break at the cafe, we caught the train back to Karl Johan in time for lunch at Eggon. We had planned to go to City Hall, but we were too late….it closes at 5:00
Day 13: June 18 – Oslo Sentrum to Gardermoen
This morning we returned to Akker Brygge to spend some time wandering around and getting some last minute shots. We were back at the hotel in time for the noon check-out. We decided on lunch at O’Leary’s Irish Pub, right outside the hotel. By the time we finished lunch, we walked to the Theatre Station to catch the train to Gardermoen rather than stay downtown any longer. From there, we caught the shuttle to the Scandic Hotel for our last night in Oslo.
The Scandic is much nicer than the Best Western Airport Hotel. In fact, it has quite a good restaurant, so we decided on dinner there vs. taking taxis to Jessheim, a nearby town.
It was an early night, since we had to be up early for our 6:30 flight.
Day 14: June 19 – Gardermoen to Toronto Pearson
Up at 3:45, shuttle bus to the airport to check in for our (me, Pierre, Lil and Lenore) 6:30 flight with Brussels Air: Oslo > Brussels > Toronto. Harvey had a later flight through Frankfurt and Sharad was continuing to Copenhagen to meet his wife, Stella, for a week vacation.
The flight left on time, but there was quite a line-up at passport control and again at the gate. There seemed to be some confusion, likely related to extra security following the bombing there a couple of months ago. The flight departed late, but arrived in Toronto about 45 minutes early.
Pierre and I said our goodbyes to Lil and Lenore then waited for Bonnie to pick us up for the drive home.
All-in-all a great trip!