We spent a week in Tromsø at the end of October and were blessed with lots of cold clear weather. The days were short, the sun was always very low and so we saw lots of colours that you never get here in South Africa. This lone birch was standing by a part frozen lake with icy mountains beyond. It had lost all of its leaves and the mix of blues, grey, white, black and brown was exquisite.
It inspired me to start working with mirroring and multiple layering to try and evoke the colour palette I was seeing. I did a lot of this work using Adobe Photoshop Mix – a new process for me to learn – and I’m really pleased with the results. Nordic Noir 1 illustrates how I started with the one image and then produced ever more complex symmetrical overlays. The contrasting blues, peaty browns and grey really catch the Arctic light and landscape.
Nordic Noir 1
The second panel takes one underlying geometrical theme from Nordic Noir 1 and produces a wonderfully rich variety of colour combinations. I’ve never worked with this range of colours before and I can’t wait to print these images.
Nordic Noir 2
My first day in Tromsø it started to snow – they told me it was the first fall of winter. Whilst it was still daylight I went hiking to the cable-car station through the birch forest and up above the tree line. There was no point going on to the summit beyond as everything was white and I was in the cloud anyway. About 15 cms of snow had fallen so it was a very slippery walk back down. Occasionally the clouds would break and you could see the harbour below.
I had booked an aurora hunt that night. There are plenty of organisations in Tromsø that will take you out. Snow showers were forecast and it was very windy but breaks in the cloud meant that we might be able to see something. We went out at seven and returned after one the next morning and in all that time there was a single two minute sighting of the aurora – it was very beautiful though and well worth it.
They took us across to the next island in the archipelago – Kvaløya (whale island) which has spectacular scenery and visited a number of view points. The best was where it was sheltered from the biting wind. We’d left the tour bus and scrambled gingerly down to a beach through the ice and fresh snow. I placed my tripod and camera on a small headland as there was a great composition looking northwards across a bay to the mountains. I knew I wouldn’t have selfie takers walking backwards into my pictures from there! As it turned out I had set up looking in just the right direction as the aurora flashed green on the horizon just when the clouds opened up.
I took four pictures in two minutes before the clouds rolled back across the scene and the snow started to fall again. The full moon bathed the clouds and the mountains white and gave a lovely blue-green tint to the Arctic Ocean. The exposures were five seconds long so I caught a lot of light and colour – it was breathtakingly beautiful.
The tour took us back across to the mainland looking for more breaks in the clouds. We ended up high in the mountains but turned back for Tromsø at 1am due to the heavy snow. Walking back to my hotel just before two I took one last picture – Tromsø cathedral.
The last night of my brief time in Norway was very clear and cold. I spent a lot of it on the pier that runs right out into Tromsø harbour. It was an ideal spot for night photography as it wasn’t too icy (so there was little chance of falling into the frigid ocean!) and it was some distance from the brightest lights.
The full moon is just rising over the brow of the mountain in this picture. The sailing vessel makes a lovely composition with nice reflections in the water and a black sky. I took it at 6:45pm – three hours after sunset …
Tromsø harbour 1
After an hour or so of taking pictures I was cold and hungry so I went into town for some supper. By the time I returned to the harbour it was 10pm and the northern lights were rippling and weaving from one horizon to the other. It was also a lot colder but that was easily ignored. This second picture is taken at almost the same place as the first. The moon’s now over my right shoulder lighting the scene.
Tromsø harbour 2
I’ve used my Olympus camera’s live composition function for the next picture. I set it up to take a 1 second exposure every second for 10 minutes – that’s 600 exposures. The great thing is that you can watch them added live on the camera’s screen. It’s fascinating to see the star trails grow. The bridge joining the city to the mainland is reflected really nicely in the ocean and there are lots of green flashes of the northern lights as they rippled above the horizon.
Tromsø harbour 3
The last picture was taken at 11:15 after a very memorable night but the northern lights were fading and I was cold. It was time to get back to my warm room and enjoy a hot coffee.
Tromsø harbour 4