I might be hooked. Just over a week ago I returned from Arctic Norway where I was on a photo workshop run by Antony Spencer and Charlie Waite to photograph the Aurora Borealis. What a time!
If you’ve read any recent posts you’ll know that I won this trip as part of a competition run by Light and Land, and for those that haven’t read any recent posts, now you know. The trip was 6 days in Norway based in Sommaroy, a village around 45 minutes from the town of Tromso, which Wikipedia tells me is the second most populous town this far north behind some place in Russia no-one has ever heard of that probably produces steel for Roman Abramovich.
Let’s start with the most important thing: the trip was brilliant. The location was great and Norway is an incredibly photogenic part of the World. Huge mountains rising out of nowhere by the sea forming awesome fjords with some of the clearest water I have ever seen in my life. The hosts were also great.
Charlie has an incredible passion for photography and is just unbelievably enthusiastic about anything and everything to do with it. His appreciation for the tiniest or most mundane details and turning those things into great photos is unreal. In these kinds of locations it easy to get lost in the grandeur of it all, trying to fit in the massive mountains with foreground interest and just take in everything. Charlie seemed to spot this as well as all the relationships in shape between all the individual elements and find 10 great potential shots where most people see one.
His enthusiasm for making great photos is matched by Tony’s dedication to get us to the right place at the right time to make sure we had the best opportunities to make the most of the light. I don’t think I have ever met someone as dedicated to finding good weather, exemplified by a road trip across Scandinavia that involved 24 hours of travel time to try and see the northern lights, with many awesome stops along the way. Serious commitment! This isn’t even including his photographic ability which is clearly pretty damn good to boot.
Both were great people to learn off, giving hints and tips to improving compositions and providing technical advice when required. The level of their involvement was just about right. When arriving at a location they’d mention a few basic things that they had spotted, then let everyone have ample time to roam around and pick out some photos which they would then have a few comments on to see if there were minor tweaks they could suggest. I much prefer this kind of tuition rather than everyone lining up to take the same shot the tutor has found, one after the other. That inspires nothing really, though I can see the benefit for that approach with inexperienced photographers.
To top it all off they were both just really nice people.
As for other participants on the tour, they were all really nice. A great bunch of people. They were all a bit older than me, but this didn’t seem to provide any problem really as we were all there because we love taking photos as opposed to meeting to natter about the state of the local town hall or whatever.
One final point about Norway. THE LIGHT THERE IS SO GOOD IT’S STUPID. I had read bits and pieces about the light and hours of daylight, but never have I seen such soft, delicate, incredible light that just produces astounding tones in the snow. At the time of year we visited you got about 2 hours of twilight, followed by 1 hour of sunrise, 1 hour of sunset and a further 2 hours of twilight, all back to back. So you get a potential 6 hours of constant shooting to make the most of. Such a contrast to the long wait followed by 20 mins of frantic rushing around that we experience in the UK.
Ok, that wasn’t the final point. It was really refreshing to show up somewhere with no preconceptions about that I was going to shoot. I was so busy for the months leading up to this trip I had no time to look at other Norway photos, scout locations and so on. The result was that I didn’t go to a location with a shot in mind and had to make it up as I went along. The result, so far, is that the photos I have looked at and processed are some of my favourite shots I have ever taken. Interesting result!
Right, that’s it really. Well, no, there’s loads more to tell about the locations we shot, dinners we had, so on and so on. All I can say is that each and every bit of the trip was great, so maybe I’ll save that for another time when I can’t think of anything to write in the spirit of these random ramblings.
So yes, I might be hooked on photographing in northern places with amazing light and the aurora. I’m already thinking about Iceland again and trying to get to the Lofoten Islands ASAP.
Bottom line, if you have the money and want to go on holiday with a bunch of people enthusiastic about photography to an amazing location with some of the best photographers in the UK, go Light and Land.
That’s the end of this super unstructured piece of text. Thanks to Charlie and Tony for picking my photo : )