A Weekend in black and white

Ok everyone, let’s talk about making photos. I say “making” instead of “taking” on purpose. Photos are not lying around just waiting for you to pick up some of them. It’s you yourself that has to create a photo – or as I use to write to “make” it. It’s about two things: Your camera and your choices.

The better your camera equipment the more choices you have. Each piece gives you additional possibilities whether it is a telephoto lens, a flashlight or a sturdy tripod. Sometimes the choices can be overwhelming. Which photos do I want to make today? Landscape? Architecture? Sea birds? Night shots? People waiting at bus stops? Some of them? All of them? Phew!

I want to become a better photographer. To get better you have to practise. For me practising mostly means focussing on a certain aspect of the whole. This weekend I drastically reduced my possibilities. Instead of using my Nikon DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera) I used my new iPhone. Instead of the normal camera app I used an app called Lenka which only takes black and white photos with a fixed focal length (which means you cannot zoom). The only freedom I took was to post-process the photos by changing the contrast and the aspect ratio (and a bit more).

Here are the results. I’ll show the photos without any detailed comments.

Saturday – Sydspissen, the southern tip of the island Tromsøya – clouds and some rain

Sunday – Kvaløya, 430 metres above sea level – winter impressions

Sunday – Kvaløya, a short stroll at the coast – mostly sunny

I’m not content with the last photo. Maybe it’s because the house lacks three-dimensionality but I’m not sure. Beside from that it was real fun to use my self-set restrictions to get another kind of view on the motives around.

But no practising without a goal! My goal is to use the black-and-white photo app to train finding good motives and even when using my DSLR making full-color photos to be able to imagine how it will look black and white.

And you? What do you think about these photos? Criticism is welcome.

Winter sneak preview – the first snow hike

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

This weekend I planned to take the Fjellheisen. Fjell is Norwegian for mountain(s) and heis for lift or elevator. Fjellheisen however is not a vertical lift but a cable car up to the mountain Storsteinen (421 m above sea level) where you can have an incredible view on Tromsø, visit the café and most of all can start countless hiking tours.

Today morning I took the bus and changed to another bus near the polar museum. The second bus crossed the large bridge Tromsøbrua over the strait Tromsøysundet and ascended to the bus stop Fjellheisen. I planned to buy a multiple ticket (much cheaper) but the payment failed three times. To my delight I got a free return ticket. Soon the cable car arrived, two other guests and I entered it and Fjellheisen started its way up while I was looking down to the autumnal town Tromsø.

I got of the cable car, walked up some stairs, went through the door and then there it was: Winter ❄︎!

First I just strolled around. The snow was 10–20 cm deep and it was quite easy to walk. Few others people were around although the weather was quite fine – even though not as sunny as I expected. I decided to start my hiking tour by hiking up the nearest summit Fløya (671 m). Sometimes I had to cross knee deep snow, but mostly it was less. I followed some footprints – I wasn’t first this day – and soon arrived at the landmark – whatever it is – on a small pre-summit of Fløya and then on the near summit.

That didn’t take much time. So I continued in direction of the summit Romssavákkivárri (Sami) or Bønntuva (Norwegian) (776 m). Parts of the slopes looked steep but still it was relatively easy to ascend beside of the fact that the snow was deeper here. In the lee it was mostly knee deep and wind-pressed. This type of snow it quite easy to sink in and then you have to take the leg up the very same way it went down, since the snow is way too hard to plunge through. Sometimes I felt like a stork with balance problems.

On the way there were many heaps of stones which are used as waymarks. But you should be very cautious to follow these waymarks strictly in this part of the mountains because there are many tourists how just love to build heaps of stones everywhere. Anyhow, they are nice photo motives.

And so are the mountain ranges in the southeast. It could be the famous Lyngen Alps, but I’m not sure.

On the summit of the Romssavákkivárri I took a selfie. It was sub-zero (my Cola froze) and windy and I was glad about my winter anorak. Next time I’ll take warmer pants with me as well as woollen mittens.

What you may forget when you see these photos is the surroundings. All the snowy mountains are surrounded by straits and fjords of the Norwegian Sea. Here’s a panorama photo taken from the summit.

If you take the telephoto lens (most photos were made with it) you also see the snow line, which is quite low but not low enough to cover the lowlands with snow, too. That have to wait probably some more weeks.

After a while of photographing, eating cookies, drinking, watching, resting and enjoying I started my way back. Some other hikers had passed by and left tracks in the snow that made it easier to walk most of the time. I looked down at Tromsø and watched the weather worsen. From the north clouds with dense snow showers approached.

Several times I stopped. Once to talk to a skier – the only one I met today. He was British, lived in the Netherlands and was in Scandinavia quite often. Later I would meet him again at the cable car and he would give me a lift back to Tromsø. Thanks a lot!

Mostly however I stopped to take more photos.

Up here it was quite sunny and when finally the first snow flakes fell down I already was near the summit station of the Fjellheisen, where I had vegetarian lasagne for a late lunch in the café. It was a quite small portion and of course expensive as almost everything in Norway, but it was tasty. After that I went out again. The sun has started to set and the western sky was orange.

When I looked east I looked into a void. A huge shower cloud had approached and it started to snow. Seven minutes the same motive looked like this:

At 17:00 I took the cable car down, got the mentioned lift of the British man and was back in central Tromsø where I hardly could believe, that I just made my first winter hiking tour. Down in the city everything was just wet and just a bit slippery.

Conclusion: That was a great day with hiking through a winter’s sneak preview. I’m lucky since the snow will probably last for half a year, at least in the mountains.

As usual I made most of the photos with my Nikon D750 DLSR and different lenses. Today however I had another “camera” with me, my new iPhone 11 that I got from my employer, the Norwegian Polar Institute. It’s a huge improvement to my old iPhone SE. First of all the camera is much better and it has a real wide angle lens. Then the phone works in the cold! My iPhone SE would hardly have survived this day while the iPhone 11 was still ⅔ loaded when I ended my tour. Having these advantages I can live with the fact, that the iPhone 11 is bigger and feels twice as heavy than the SE. No ad, just my two cents.

iPhone photos today (all edited with Adobe Lightroom): The 1st one, the panorama and the last one.

Winter is coming … in Tromsø …

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

This week the temperatures have started to fall.

On Wednesday I could spot the first fresh snow on the tops of the higher mountains and on Thursday evening the top of the near mountain Fløya has got a white cover, too.

Last night even in Tromsø snow started to mix in the rain and this morning all mountains beside of the lowest hill were covered with fresh snow.

The sun sets earlier and earlier each day. Today sunset was 16:52. I took the following photo at the nearby bay Telegrafbukta at 17:27, 35 minutes after sunset.

In three weeks sunset will be at 14:11 and after three more weeks the sun won’t rise for seven weeks. Then there is polar night in Tromsø.

My way to work

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Today I got the test result: corona negative. So I was allowed to go to work at the Norwegian Polar Institute. It’s a bit more than 2 km to walk and I did walk.

Here are 16 photos, from the street where I live to the entrance of the Framsenteret.

As usual: A click will enlarge the photo, then you can navigate by clicking or using the left and right cursor arrows on your keyboard.

A small after-work promenade

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Today I had my first work day at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø. Since I am in quarantine I had to work from home. Not easy when you don’t know what to do yet.

Right after work I took a walk to fight my fatigue. First up the streets, then along some tiny paths through the forest-like park Folkeparken. One of the paths led down to the western shore of Tromsøya, the island which Tromsø is on. Here I started to take pictures.

You see the coloured spots at the right side of the last photo? It’s people taking a picnic. There are not extremely many people around, but more than I expected. They jog, they cycle, they sit round a campfire. They take photos, they act as photo motives. They take care of their children, they walk, they talk. They take a winter bath from the wooden pier, they paddle kayak, they sail. All these people present Tromsø as an awesome place to be. The gorgeous autumn weather is just the icing on the cake.

Oh yes, I miss Annika! Anyhow I think, I’ll like it here.

A cold bath in Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Two days after Annika and I bathed at “our” beach Vitskärsudden in Obbola I bathed again today. Alone at the Telegrafbukta in Tromsø – more than 650 km north from home. It’s a beautiful bay hardly 500 meters from my room.

The differences:

  • While Annika joined me many times bathing at Vitskärsudden I probably have to bath alone in Tromsø
  • Home: the way is more beautiful. Tromsø: the way is shorter
  • Tromsø: the water tastes salty. The salinity is at least 10 times higher as home
  • Tromsø: there is seaweed in the water and sea urchins and probably a lot of other species starting with “sea”. I use bathing shoes
  • Home: the water level doesn’t change quite often. Tromsø: there are tides here with a tidal range of up to 3 metres.
  • Tromsø: Probably the water won’t freeze over the whole winter.

Today the water was 8.5 °C, two degrees less than the last time. My plan is to bath there the whole year round. Let’s see if I manage to do it.

Flying to Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

7:58 – Umeå airport. I’m one of the first passengers for the flight SK2023 to Stockholm Arlanda at 9:50. Outside it is dim and foggy but I’m waiting outside anyway to avoid using my face mask that will accompany me the whole day today.

9:43 – Umeå airport. I’m going to the airplane. Of course with face mask. Soon our airplane departs and lifts us above the thick layer of fog and then the clouds. Welcome sun! After we landed in Stockholm Arlanda i realise that it’s as foggy there as home. I have something looking forward to: Japanese food. Then I’ll pass the security control once more. As already in Umeå my camera bag is examined for explosives, this time very thoroughly.

Next stop: Oslo-Gardermoen airport.

Why I’m taking this long and environmentally unfriendly trip by plane? Because the passenger trains from Sweden to the Norwegian Narvik have been cancelled for months. From there I could have taken a bus to Tromsø. Hopefully the train will be opened soon again.

13:46 – arrival in Oslo. And guess what, it’s foggy again. The airbus A320 was almost empty. Only 25 passengers instead of 180. I (and the stewards) have the last 7 rows for me alone.

In Tromsø I first have to show my passport and my employment contract, then I have to go to the baggage claim to get my luggage. It has to go through the custom. While doing that I somehow leave the arrival area where I planned to make a corona test. Since the info desk is closed I have to continue without any test. Maybe I’ll manage to get one tomorrow in Tromsø. This could shorten my quarantine of ten days.

The most visible ad at the airport: Norrøna outdoor equipment featuring a downhill skier. That slope would be hundred times too steep for me but I start longing for snow.

Next (and final) stop: Tromsø. The checkin is in ten minutes.

16:30 – Somewhere above the airport Oslo Gardermoen. Our airplane has started. It is hardly half full. The fog has vanished and I have a view to the autumnal surroundings of the airport.

This landscape looks cosy, a bit like Tolkien’s Hobbiton. An hour later the landscape looks completely different.

Soon the plane starts to sink giving me the probably fastest sunset I’ve ever seen. Hardly more than five minutes later we have landed on the airport Tromsø Langnes where I get a lift of K., my roommate in Tromsø.

Tomorrow I’ll have a day off. The next day I’ll start working at the Norwegian Polarinstitute. Unfortunately from home because I’m in travel quarantine. That’s not the easiest start, but that cannot be changed.

Bathing gets colder

Yesterday afternoon. It had been quite foggy the whole day and so it still was at the small sandy beach at Vitskärsudden. Annika and I had bathed several times the week the last months. We both could see and feel how the water temperature slowly had decreased. Yesterday the bath thermometer showed 10 °C and slightly above and the water started to feel cold, especially in the fingers. But we still enjoyed the bathing, the beauty of the place and the sensation afterwards.

Today I’ll fly to Tromsø and probably I won’t be back home before Christmas. I’m curious whether the sea at Vitskärsudden will already be frozen over or if there will be open water where we can take a real winter bath.