Lofoten in February? Sounds like a masochist plan. But when I woke up in Svolvaer, I knew I made the right decision.
It was the last day before returning home. Having been rewarded with exceptional photographic conditions over the last week I was hoping for an ultimate gift from nature, and there it was: a splendid blue-sky day.
Together with my group of 22 avid photographers we embarked on motor ship m/s ORCA, after a lecture and slideshow on the local wildlife. The photographs we saw wetted our appetite, although we were a bit frustrated too. Most of us thought it would not be possible to achieve the same level of quality, as the pictures were simply breathtaking.
Per Ung’s statue “The Fisherman’s Wife” marks Svolvaer’s harbour entrance.
When we left Svolvaer the daylight still needed a little boost. Remember, it was February and we left port at half past nine.
Although I was dressed warmly the speed of the vessel increased the chill factor considerably. Fortunately there were thermal suits for everybody. I felt a bit like the popular Michelin man but no risk of getting cold.
As we sailed into the Vestfjord the sunlight became stronger, intensifying the utter beauty of the landscape.
“Unbelievable how lucky we are,” said Willy, a retired banker. “These are simply the best conditions for this excursion”. Sabine, our guide, said that indeed we were very lucky. “So often we have to cancel the trip because of rain or bad visibility.”
Around noon we arrived in the tiny Trollfjord. This fjord is one of the highlights of a trip with Hurtigruten, at least in summer. In winter the ships cannot go in because of the ice and risk of avalanches. Actually we passed the fjord the day before, with m/s NORDNORGE. It was raining and it was dark. Therefore it was a good idea to do this small-boat excursion from Svolvaer. It was pure magic to enter the fjord. The surface of the water changed into a perfect mirror. Even the perception of sounds changed. Although the engine made a bit of noise it felt as if everything became completely silent.
And then it was time for the birds! To be honest, I can recognise most ships from miles away. But birds? Even if they would land on my head I could not tell the difference between for example a Herring Gull or Black-backed Gull. Of course I do identify an eagle or a puffin. Luckily there are two guides on board, and there is this poster.
I am pretty sure the Seagulls know Sabine well. Even before she started to throw pieces of slightly frozen herring the birds were hovering over the boat. We were impressed by their agility to catch the bites.
What we were all waiting for was the eagle. Sabine had some special treats for these majestic birds: entire herrings, which had been inflated with air to make them float. That sounded a bit silly to me, but anyway. The eagles’ elegance of manoeuvring was simply impressive. The approach felt like it was in slow motion, until the bird reached its floating bite. One, two, three and the fish was hanging in the eagle’s claws. Damn… it was difficult to take pictures.
Geert, ready for the eagles
Some friends of our group were experienced bird photographers, such as Geert De Vetter who has his own website.
After a nice bowl of hot creamy fish soup it was time to head back to Svolvaer.
Back to square one: our hotel, Scandic Svolvaer.
A winter day in Svolvaer. We have been so lucky!
The fjord safari in Svolvaer had been organised by Svinøya.
It was the last day of our photo trip to Northern Norway, organised by tour operator Nordic.
It was my first experience as a group leader, giving workshops about photography and helping the people during the voyage to make better pictures. You can find my website here.
Being the guide of this group of fine people was a great experience. I was impressed by the harmony of our little community. If I will do other photographic voyages? Yes, sure. Suggestions are always welcome.