Gratulerer med dagen from abroad

Today is syttende mai (17th of May), the Norwegian national day. On 17 May 1814 the The Constitution of Norway that declared Norway to be an independent kingdom was signed. That’s why Norway turns 207 years today. Gratulerer med dagen – Happy birthday!

The first time that I was in Norway was the turn of the year 2003/04 together with a friend. Although the weather was really miserable – storm and rain – I was so fascinated by that country, that I travelled there one month later again to find a job as a developer.

Well, I didn’t find a job. I couldn’t speak Norwegian, didn’t have much programming experience and the dot-com bubble was still present.

2005, one and a half year later I visited Tromsø for the first time of my life after a week of hiking on the Hardangervidda. I had less than two days to discover this town but since then it has been my favourite town in Scandinavia.

Anyhow I didn’t think about moving there. The same year I had been in Northern Sweden twice and preferred the colder winters there. In addition to that I was a bit scared of mørketiden – the seven weeks in winter, where the sun stays below the horizon. Five years later I moved to Sweden.

This year however I was sure that I will be in Norway for syttende mai, since I’ve been working in Tromsø since last October.

Well, at least on the papers. Due to Covid 19 we were strongly advised to work from home, which I can better in our house in Obbola/Sweden than in my tiny room in Tromsø. On 22 November 2020 I took the plane to Oslo, another one to Stockholm and a third to Umeå. Since then I’ve been working and living home in Obbola. In five days I’ll have been here for half a year.

It feels a bit like a dream. Did I really work in the office of the Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø? Together with others? Walked the 1.7 km from my shared flat? Enjoyed the first snow in the mountains? Took a kayak course?

Only when I miss my down sleeping bag (in Tromsø), my macro lens (in Tromsø), my rain parka (in Tromsø) I realise that I still have my flat there. And of course when I have to pay the monthly rent. And that’s a lot because it is ridiculously expensive to live there.

At time I’m forbidden to travel to Norway even though I have a job and a shared flat there. It’s unclear when I’ll be allowed there again. Until then I have the blog articles as memory of my two months in Tromsø to remember, the knowledge that I’ll be there again but most of all a wonderful time home.

April weather – kayaking through the snow

Yesterday the whole day was sunny. The sun was warm enough that we could take breakfast on the terrace. At lunch time we took a bath at Vitskärtsudden. Of course the water temperature is hardly above zero, but it felt springlike to go barefoot over the sand of the beach. Yes – sand, no more ice or snow!

Today however:

In the morning it has started snowing and since then it has been constantly snowing at temperatures round 0.3 °C. A good opportunity for …

… kayaking! Although wind had become stronger the Baltic Sea still was calm. Maybe it was the snow, that created a wet blanket of slush and made parts of the surface slow and doughy, but that I don’t know.

I just took a tour round Lillskär, but took some photos with my Nikon. That took time, because each time I took photos the wind blew me back 50 to 100 metres again. But as I said, the water was calm and it didn’t took long to round the island, cross a field of floating slush, disturb some geese and return home.

Short experiences can be great and memorable experiences!

A photo from the afternoon – still snowing. The original photo looked almost black-and-white and so I made this composition completely black-and-white with a slide blueish tone.

The background: a line of trees, dimmed by the intense snow fall. The middle layer: A line of rocks in the sea, covered with snow. The foreground: The sea, covered with a layer of slush.

April weather by the sea

Yesterday at lunch break: The sky is blue and the sun illuminates our little bay. After last nights frost it is still covered with fragile, transparent ice. I stand ashore and take a photo of some ice floes. The inner part of the bay behind me is still covered with thick, old winter ice you can walk on.

Today at lunch break: The weather forecast of SMHI was right: a hard and gusty wind drives wet snow from the sea. The water level is more than 60 cm over normal. (Remember: no tides in the Baltic Sea). The breaking waves have broken all the ice that yesterday still covered the bay and wash the ice floes ashore.

Impossible to make a photo without spray on the lens! Therefore you can see some pale bubbles on the photos.

I stepped from one large ice floe to the other. They float and move under my feet, they raise and fall with the waves but they are still stable enough to bear my weight.

And so looks our house from the middle of our bay Grundviken:

Time to show some more abstract black and white images that I made today. One of the wooden barrel (or whatever it is), almost covered by the sea. Another one of the snow bucketing down from the low hanging clouds.

Black and white weather

+1 °C, grey and hazy with some rainy showers. I ignore the weather and go out for a longer walk. Time to put a black and white film in the iPhone.

Kayak – crisp morning – roe deer – crushed ice

The week in five chapters – including photographers comments

Tuesday, 16. March, 7:45 – a short kayak tour

The blue sky invited to interrupt work and take a short kayak tour. It hardly needs preparation: Putting on the waterproof coverall, put the iPhone in a waterproof bag and drag the kayak over the ice to the islet Lillskär. Then it gets a bit harder to find a good place to set the kayak into the water. I found a place and some minutes later I paddled to the island Bredskär. The tour however turned out to be shorter than planned because between the islands Bredskär and Bredskärsten the Baltic Sea had frozen over in the night. I wasn’t eager to hack myself through the ice, so I turned and realised, that – as so often – the wind came from land and was fresher than expected. At time I do not have a real drysuit for paddling and moving in the thick neoprene survival suit is exhausting. But it’s great to be outdoors, even when the tour is only a tiny one.

Photographers comment:

It’s always like spinning a wheel of fortune, when you try to photo with an iPhone in a waterproof bag and your fingers are in rubber gloves. Sometimes nothing happens, sometimes you have waterdrops on the bag, sometimes the camera triggers too late and sometimes you’re taking pictures of your own gloves as in image #3.

Photoing like this is about visual storytelling, not about high quality photos you want to put on the wall of your living room. But on the other side, why actually not?

Yesterday, 6:30 –a crisp morning

-10 °C, could be the last cold morning before the warm air will arrive. I walked to the coast quite early and took some photos. One from the packed ice, that has frozen together, one of a funny ice sculpture that I discovered a bit further out.

Photographers comment:

Alas – a DSLR camera. Not waterproof and much heavier but much more fun to handle. The quality of the photos is of course superior but something is missing a bit: The beautiful warm light of the sunrise. The sun rises however already at 5:43, so I was almost an hour too late.

You have to decide: Do you want to sleep or to take better photos? It’s up to you.

Today, 8:30 – cautious visitors

When I went to the living room this morning I saw a movement outside. Right under the kitchen window two roe deer were eating leftovers of the bird food that was lying in the snow. Annika and I hold distance to the window and even though they were extremely cautious they didn’t seem to be able to see us through the glass. They continued eating for a short while and then went on. I slowly opened the kitchen window to give them carrots, but as expected they didn’t dare to come back. Now the carrots stuck in the snow and we’re curious if they’ll find them there the next days.

Photographers comment:

Luckily the roe deer stood on a metre of solid snow, so they could peek in and we could peek out and see them. The first photo gives a good impression of how near they were, even though it is taken with a focal length of 200mm.

Today, 12:00 – no winter bath

The whole day it has been above zero and at 11 o’clock it started to rain. In the need of fresh air Annika and I walked to Vitskärsudden. We weren’t prepared for a winter bath and it would have been quite useless since the whole bay was filled with ice floes and crushed ice and slush that lazily followed the slow waves of the sea.

Photographers comment:

Well, while the motive is quite ok, the grey overcast weather made the light so dull and poor in contrast, that the photo looks pale and boring. Should you photograph under such conditions? Well, of course! But don’t expect the best results.

Today, 15:45 – crushed ice

Where I started my Tuesday morning paddle tour now a large area of the sea was covered with the very same mixture of ice floes, smaller pieces of ice and slush. I went to Lillskär again – equally prepared as for paddling – and watched the ice floes. It’s mostly the trees of the neighbouring islands that prevent the scenery looking completely arctic, but it’s still impressive.

Finally I took my ice bath but since I didn’t get wet in my coverall it probably doesn’t count.

Photographers comment:

The conditions: bad. Again iPhone in a bag and rubber gloves plus the grey sky. Taking the selfie however was fun.

That makes me realise that I’m quite result-orientated when I make photos. Sometimes I just forget, that the process of photographing itself can be fun, last not least because it gives you reasons to do silly thinks like standing outside the whole night, wade through a mud bog or like today – just jump into the ice pool.

What was your last “crazy” photo action?

The last cold morning?

A clear blue sky, -20 °C – this may be the last cold morning here in Obbola. I was up early and went to the coast to catch the sunrise. The sea, where I paddled yesterday afternoon was completely frozen over again. Patches of ice fog drifted by – a clear sign that other parts of the sea are open (and that it’s cold). The fog partly hid the island Bredskärssten.

When did you watch your last sunrise? Do it again! It’s always fascinating to see the sky and the clouds change colours– from soft pink to deep purple, from crimson red to bright orange. The sunrise position has moved more and more westwards. Now it’s behind the larger island Bredskär. The sun illuminated the drifting fog in spots of orange.

Now in mid-March the sun rises much faster than in midwinter and soon the colours went pale. Time to go back and to warm up. The parka and mittens kept me warm, but the ski pants were a bit too thin when sitting on the ice.

Outdoor exhibition

A Covid-19 compatible art exhibition visit.

What’s that? That’s the Baltic Sea off Obbola. When you stand on the ice, you see the frozen surface reaching to the horizon.

Today I take the skis to explore our coast the first time from the frozen sea. I head south and ski along the coast until I reach our beach Vitskärsudden.

From there I can see an apparently higher wall of ice at the southern tip of the island Tarv, 1.3 km away in the southwest. I do not know this part of the Baltic Sea in wintertime. Is it safe? Can I dare to cross the ice? Well, let’s check for tracks or prints.

OK. There is roe deer prints, footprints, ski tracks, ice skating cuts and a snowmobile trail. And I can see skiers on the ice. Doesn’t look too dangerous. Of course I have my ice picks round my neck as a rescue tool in case of breaking into the ice. Spoiler: the ice sings but nothing happens.

I ski across the ski and there it is. This year’s ice art exhibition:

How large are the exhibits? Here, where I took the photos mostly between 150 and 200 cm.

Most impressive is the ice wall along the coast. But some of the ice formations on the solitaire rocks look interesting, too. If you lay down they look like mountains.

I follow the coastal line of Tarv and finally find a place where the ice wall is so low, that I can enter the island. On the sea there was hardly half a cm of snow, here it’s more half a metre. And a lot of forest.

Parts of the forest are quite dense but after a while of squeezing between the trees I find a snowmobile trail that leads back to the coast. Although it is one and a half hours before sunset the light starts to become a bit orange.

Now I ski back quite the same way.

When our House comes into view I see that the front chimney is smoking. Has Annika warmed up the uninsulated winter garden? Yes, she has! A fire is burning in the stove and I even get a hot chocolate. A warm welcome! And a cool tour!

From dawn till dusk

After some cloudy days the sky cleared yesterday afternoon so that Annika and I could do cross-country skiing under the full moon. Beautiful!

This morning was crisp (-17 °C) and sunny. I took a short break from work and skied a bit along the icy coast, just in time to see the sun rise behind the layer of clouds at the horizon.

I stopped working already at 14:30 and directly put on the skis again. I managed to follow more or less the icy edge to the bay Vitskärsudden, our favourite bathing place. The sun was going down already and lit the ice in warm sunset colours. The scenery looked really arctic. And it felt arctic, too. I felt quite cold and was glad, that I had a down jacket with me to put over the touring jacket.

It was mostly the forests that revealed the fact, that it’s not the Arctic Ocean but the Baltic Sea that I ski along. And of course the houses, hardly 200 meter away from the icy shore.

When I arrived at Vitskärsudden I realised that – unless another storm would break all the ice – bathing season is finally over. I posted a picture on Facebook in the Umeå winter bathing group and then returned home, still on skis but mostly following the roads.

Even with taking the photos the tour took less than two hours. But it felt like having holiday. It’s really a privilege to be able to live here!

 

The forest is covered in snow

Snow fell in the last two weeks. Not in the South of Sweden, much less in the North of Lapland, but a lot in the province Västerbotten where Annika and I live, amongst others a bit west and north of Umeå.

Today we wanted to go up the hill Hemberget in Tavelsjö (or at least try). We parked our car at the church, crossed the road and skied up to the cemetery. There we followed the advice of a sign to cross the cemetery. Leaving the wrought iron gate behind we were lucky to find a snowmobile trail to follow through the forest. The forest was deeply covered in snow.

The trail crossed a cross-country ski run twice and vanished into thin air. We followed the way marks on the ski run and then left it to continue on untouched snow. At least we tried. While I managed to ski ten metres, Annika who has much shorter skis was bogged down in the deep powder. It was no surprise, I already guessed that we wouldn’t reach the top due to the snow conditions. So we changed plans and skied on the Tavelsjö skidspår, the cross-country ski run. A short, but extremely beautiful circular trail. It was so fun to slide on the perfectly prepared run that I forgot to take any photos.

The snow in the forest was round 130 cm deep. How I measured it? With my ski pole, which is 150 cm long. I sticked it into the snow at many places and looked about how much was left in average. But there’s also another method of measurement:

The photo was taken three steps beside the ski run. Here the snow was so loose, that even with skis I stood knee deep in snow, sinking deeper with every motion. I unmounted the skis and hopped. With a PLOP! –  I landed in chest deep powder snow and took a selfie for my blog. Then I wanted to continue to catch up with Annika. I wasn’t stuck but I didn’t I manage to get my feet onto the skis that now lay one metre above my feet in the powder. I had to crawl back to the ski run where it was easy again to mount. I guess we never would have reached the summit of Hemberget today, at least not with these skis.

So I plan to look for Tegsnäs skis for Annika. It’s time. These wooden skis are a much better choice for such snow. There are 225 – 240 cm long and also broader than normal tour skis. Disadvantage: I’m not sure if we manage to put them into Annika’s Volkswagen Golf. Well, we’ll see …