A short story about our trip to Tromsø (Norway), in July/August in the summer of 2021.
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Just like last year, we spent our holiday in Norway. With COVID still plaguing the planet, me being fully vaxxed, my wife and daughter halfway there, it still felt like the safest choice to stay within the Norwegian borders. But, being a very long country, Norway has a bit of variety to offer when it comes to landscapes and nature. We chose Tromsø, way up north, as our destination.
I was bringing along the X-T3 with the XF 16-55mm, the XF 10-24mm & XF 50-200mm, hoping to get a few good landscape shots. Despite my somewhat strange relationship with extra-wide lenses, I especially wanted to get some more time with my newly acquired XF 10-24mm. More on that later. The first stop on our trip was Sommarøy.
Sommarøy is a fishing village with a population of about 300-350 people. It consists of two islands called Store Sommarøy and Hillesøy connected by two bridges. They are also connected to Kvaløya, which is the fifth-largest island in Norway, which in turn is connected by bridge to Tromsøya, where the center of Tromsø city is located, our starting point for the day.
After a few minutes on the road, we noticed a reindeer standing on a field. A reindeer! Like Rudolph. We took a quick turn into a small road towards the field, and soon saw a small pack of about 5-7 additional reindeer, just enjoying the morning sun, lying on the beach.
After a few exciting minutes of reindeer photography, we got back into the road, heading for Sommarøy, but after a few kilometers, we had to make another stop because nature on either side of the road was just so impressive. I pulled out my camera, attached my 10-24mm, and started taking photographs, but the mountains just don’t look that impressive in my photos. As mentioned, I struggle with wide lenses, even more so, with ultra-wide lenses. Throughout the trip, I switched between my 10-24mm and 16-55 to take wide shots, and sometimes I think the ultra-wide perspective worked to my advantage, but to really capture the scale of mountains like these, it takes more than just the correct lens. Let’s just say I’m working on it.
The conditions were sub-optimal as well because the sun kept hiding behind clouds, casting different shadows on the mountains, making some parts look great, while another part was just dark and boring. We didn’t have time to wait for the sun to make up its mind so after a few minutes we got back to driving. Of course, I could spend more time dodging and burning, lift the shadows in selected areas, etc. during post-processing, but I just didn’t bother.
After a few more kilometers on the road, there were more houses, ocean, boats, with those huge mountains as backdrops. Notice the beaches with fine sand and the clear, green ocean.
And then finally, we saw Sommarøy, but we just had to have one more stop.
We drove across the first bridge to Store Sommarøy, passed a camping site, a hotel, and continued over the next bridge to Hillesøy, where we parked, paid 100NOK in parking fee, and strapped on our hiking shoes.
We talked to one of the locals, who had suddenly opened a kiosk selling soda, chips, etc at the bottom of the hill, and he told us it was an easy climb, but being in less-than-great shape, we took that description with a grain of salt. This would be the first time one of the locals would give us false hope regarding hiking steep hills and the effort required.
After just a few minutes we were greeted with this view:
Of course, there was somebody on a sup board also enjoying the nice weather as well, but an angry seagull was constantly diving towards the poor soul, making her head for land. Still, it made for a better photo, adding a human interest and all. Human interest is all the rage among landscape photographers ;-).
We started our ascend, turning around every few minutes to enjoy the view.
The trail started easy enough, but when you have to use ropes to climb, you know things are getting steeper. And steeper it got.
My wife and daughter took a more relaxed approach, and waited about halfway, just enjoying the sun, while my son and I carried on.
As I got more and more out of breath, the breaks came with increasingly shorter intervals. After each break, I took some photos. In the photo below you can see our parking spot down to the left.
In the following photo, you can see the bridges connecting the islands to Kvaløy, and the wind turbines on the top right. Those turbines power all of Tromsø, – when there is wind enough.
And a few more of Hillesøy, just to be sure we covered it all 🙂
As we started to get back, I dared to go a bit closer to the edge, trying to capture the height.
As we got to the bottom, my son decided it was time for a swim. It was a short event, probably due to the 5-7 C degrees in the water, but I was still impressed by his determination. Photos were not allowed, so I haven’t got any proof it happened.
A small pee-break over at Sommarøy on our way back to the apartment gave me a few minutes to capture some of the surrounding buildings and houses.
The mountain in the photo above is called Håja, and is suppose to be one of the sources of inspiration for the church in Tromsø. This has not been confirmed by the architect, but the idea is nice. The church is shown below, and during the summer there’s an organ concert each day which is also great, at least according to my parents who visited the church a few weeks before we did.
We drove a different route to get back to Tromsø and passed a farm with pigs, – pigs living outside, in the dirt, roaming free on a pretty large area with fresh air and a nice view :-). It’s nice to see pigs in something at least a bit closer to their natural environment. About 99% of Norwegian pigs bred for human consumption are kept indoors, on concrete floors, in tiny spaces. So it’s nice to see farms like these once in a while.
We also passed Straumen Gård, an old group of houses turned into a small museum, located in Straumsbukta, a village on the south side of Kvaløya.
And here are a few more examples of me trying to get a grip on wide-angle lenses.
Just as we were getting back into the car, the sun came out and sprayed some sunshine. It’s just amazing how light, especially the sun during golden hour, can enhance a photo. For a few minutes, everything looked just gorgeous, and then the sun was gone.
After a while on the road we once again saw the same bunch of reindeers, feeding in the bushes by the road.
And a shot without reindeer just for fun. Mostly to capture the mountains in the background.
Rain & a trip to Bryggejentene
The next day the weather turned from overcast and sunny, to mostly grey and rainy. We decided to go to a fishing factory turned into an interior/cafe called Bryggejentene. It was a great spot to spend some time, but I couldn’t help myself and got out to snap some photos of the surroundings. My gear got soaked each time I tried to take a photo, but I got this one, of a pier, which I like.
Go to the homepage of Bryggejentene to learn more.
We spent the remaining hours of the day walking around Tromsø city, but at that point, my gear was drying up in the apartment so I didn’t get any more pictures.
Fjellheisen / Sherpa-stairs
Our final day in Tromsø was spent on another hike, this time at the Sherpa-stairs, leading up to Fjellheisen. It’s just amazing how the sherpas have been able to build these stairs all over Norway. Once again, we asked a few locals what they thought about the hike, but again we asked the wrong people. I’ve now learned that you should never ask the people in tights, with tiny water bottles at their waist, and huge modern sports watches keeping track of their heart rate, about how hard a hike is. The hike would take 25 minutes they said, 40 if we really went for a slow pace. This would turn out to be waaayyy off.
The start of the trial wasn’t that exciting, but as we got over the treeline, we got a great overview of Tromsø city.
The sherpa-stairs is a way of building stairs that seem to affect the surroundings much less than traditional western ways of building stairs. But the spacing between each step was high enough to make this into a two-hour squat exercise. Well, enough talking about those stairs, now let’s just see a bunch of photos of them instead.
Closer to the top we got a great view of the surrounding mountains.
At the top, there was a cafe & restaurant.
The view from the deck in front of the cafe:
The steepest places were protected by fences, but the not so steep, but still deadly spots had a single piece of rope. Go figure.
There are two elevator cars going up and down the hillside.
After a while, we decided to take the elevator down to the car.
That’s pretty much it. The final hours before leaving Tromsø I found this guy, living on the balcony of our apartment.
In conclusion, our time in Tromsø was great, even if it was colder than expected, and we had a bit of rain as well. The apartment was great, renting a car gave us the freedom to get anywhere we wanted, and every other minute a photo opportunity presented itself. Next time I want to explore more of Tromsø city, especially all the breweries and pubs. I highly recommend Tromsø, both for Norwegians and foreigners.