What better way to spend an autumn week than in a national park? From my apartment in Oslo I set out on a four hours drive up north to Femundsmarka, an area situated on the Swedish boarder. A bit of a hidden gem among tourists, but well known among Norwegian nature lovers.
I aimed to spend about a week in the wild. No supplies whatsoever, so everything from food to batteries had to be brought from the beginning of the hike. This made my backpack heavy. Very heavy.
I spent hours the day before to minimize the weight as much as possible, eliminating everything unnecessary. However, with food, tent, sleeping bags, clothes, and, most importantly, camera gear, the weight was well above 50 kg (110 lbs).
I left Oslo a few hours delayed (because the store I was getting my Sony cameras back from sensor cleaning was in total chaos after being flooded) so the hike did not start until 4pm in the evening. It wasn’t until the next day I reached my first major stop. The place is called «Oasen», or translated «The Oasis», and it is not difficult to understand why. Over my past two years of near continuous travels around Norway, this is definitely one of the coolest photography spots I’ve visited. In the middle of big rocky plateau there is a group of trees standing completely alone, with a small pond in the middle. Fortunately there was little wind and the trees reflected beautifully in the water.
I ended up spending two nights here, and specially the second night was something else.
The sky was clear and I was preparing to shoot some star time-lapses, but already early on I could see something green in the horizon. An hour later it exploded, and the sky was lit with green and pink in the north and the milky way appeared in the south. This is actually the strongest northern lights I have ever seen, strange considering how far south this actually is. The lights were actually moving so fast I had trouble capturing them properly on time-lapse.
After the night’s show I got a few hours of sleep before I had to wake up to catch the sunrise. It was a pleasant surprise to see that fog had appeared lower down in the valley, making it possible for some cool time-lapses.
I packed together my gear and did a short one hour hike down in the valley and put up a new camp where I stayed for the remaining 3 nights. The weather was very nice (maybe too nice from a time-lapse perspective) with clear blue skies and no wind whatsoever. The days were pleasant, but the nights were rather cold (-8C or 18F). This caused problems.
As I was going to spend a week without being able to recharge any batteries, I had to depend on external battery packs. I had a total of 6 Sony batteries (1020 mAh each), which do not last long on their own. Additionally I had three 10,000mAh packs and one 20,000mAh pack. I spent about half of the juice at Oasen, so I had to be selective with the rest of my shots (I kind of got the feeling I was shooting on film). I had one particular shot in mind; a time-lapse of the milky way reflecting in the lake.
First night: Had my composition ready and started firing the camera. However, the lens quickly fogged up and I had to give up.
Second night: I knew that to prevent the lens from fogging up, I had to keep it warm. As such, I kept the lens in my sleeping bag during the evening. I had five heat packs (hand warmers) in my backpack, of which I attached three to the lens before starting the time-lapse with a woolen sweater tied around for isolation. It worked great and the lens was nice and clear. However, another problem occurred. The power was running directly from one of the battery packs, but the power was not consistent and the camera kept turning off. Another night was spoiled.
Third night: This was my last chance, and I was kind of desperate for solutions. I knew that one of the battery pack was reliable enough, but it was already empty. One of the others had suddenly stopped working. I only had one full battery pack left, but it was too unreliable. Fortunately I had a microUSB cable with me, so I could charge my reliable battery pack from the unreliable one. I did the same procedure as the night before with the two remaining heat packs. Fortunately it went perfect this time, and I got exactly what I was looking for. Under is a frame for the time-lapse. Patience pays off!
Since I had no more batteries left I decided to head back to the car the following morning. It was about 25 km (15 miles), and my backpack was still almost 50kg. It did not help that the backpack's hip belt had broken, and I had to tie it together with a rope. I walked for 8 hours straight with only three short stops for some water and chocolate, and my feet were totally destroyed in the end, full of blizzards.
I rewarded myself with a well-deserved hotel room that night, with a way too expensive pizza delivered to the room. What a trip it had been!