It was only a few minutes after I came home, I heard James scream: ORCAS! Katha, ORCAS.
And there they were, passing by again on their route from Vetlefjorden directly into our Sværefjord, just a few metres away from the shoreline. The excitement stopped me from being able to find the right buttons on my camera, getting frustrated and then just deciding to just enjoy it for a while. Listening to the exhaling and just waiting, being excited where the massive finns might pop up next time.
Knowing the paths they took last time in December I decided to quickly jump in the car with Teddy and Dan to see if we can follow them for a while.
How could I have expected what was about to happen.
We stopped on the other fjord side and there they were. About 2 metres away from land gracefully paving their way through the water.
The sheer speed of them in the water is quite extraordinary, as you have to run to keep up with them.
By then we had been running around Inge's pier in Farnes for a while and that of course was not unnoticed. Inge, Annie and Kamilla were luckily also at home, stood right behind us on the balcony and could watch the whales playing infront of their front door. We were all so excited with big smiles and huge eyes in all our faces. Kamilla was even able to make a little video of this moment, especially of that one when suddenly one of them peeked up at us, as if he wanted to check us out.
The sheer amazement can possible never be put into words. Writing this blog now, one day after, my hands are still shaking.
But that was not the end of it all.
We followed them along the cost then for quite a bit. Teddy trying to get lower down to come as close to them as physically possible. If you once seem to have lost track of them, you suddenly hear them again. A moment of real satisfaction.
If we could have just had a boat! That would have been the optimum. Seeing that it is February, our boat was however not in the water.
But then it happened. Inge, Annie and Kamilla stopped and said that Øyvind is about to come to Dragsvik with his boat and we could jump onto it. He would take us. That was our chance.
As I had decided in a rush to follow them, my attire was however, let's say inappropriate with my thin wool jacket. But, Inge came to my saving and within a flash I had a lovely down jacket warming me. So, off to Dragsvik.
Unfortunately we could not all join on the boat, but I took my camera and joined Øystein, Benedikte and Gita on the boat. Well and for the rest, well I let the video speak for itself. The only thing I need to add.
I am speechless and still carrying this huge smile.
PS: Thank you to Øystein and Benedikte for taking me. And to Annie and Inge for organising it. I am truly grateful!!
It was one of those mornings when you cannot wait to get outside. Cloudy, but with the sunbeams peeking their way through. I was up early. The sun had just reached our fjord, and while having a small sip on my coffee I admired once again the view out of my window.
Nevertheless, today I was not going to enjoy it for too long, as I was off to even better views – off to Raudmelen.
Raudmelen is a mountaintop in Balestrand, Norway 972m above sea level, which is, for a “non- Norwegian” like me, pretty much as high as I can (or should) walk up without expecting to be hospitalised after. And to top off this challenge, one does not just walk, but wears snowshoes, or “truge” as the Norwegians call them. This you only need to do in the winter, of course, but as it is February now, there is no other way. Sounds fun at first, right? Well, more about that later.
Luckily I did not plan on taking this challenge alone. Franziska, who actually was the initiator of this idea and has done it before, guided the way. And after an energizing breakfast at her lovely place, we set off.
Our first stop, to enjoy some hot drinks and good old German Storck Riesen, was Orrabenken, circa 370m above sea level so roughly 1/3 of what was still infront of us. Here you can enjoy the spectacular views overlooking the Sognefjord on a cosy bench while still being sheltered by the trees around you.
Here we also met Trond. Trond is possibly one of the fittest men in the whole of Norway, considering that he is running (yes, RUNNING) up this mountain nearly every day. I was gasping for air while walking at a steady, slow pace up to Orrabenken already, while Trond, who is surely double my age, smiles and runs past you. One of those things, you have to get accustomed to when living in Norway, I suppose. Oh well.
The next part of the hike appeared to be a little more challenging. Icy paths made the odd step sometimes a little more than I had bargained for. But there are easy ways out as you can walk a little off – track. So we made slow, but steady progress.
And then we reached the place, where everything gets a little different. We put on our “truge”, the snow shoes. The tree line becomes smaller bushes, then slowly no more vegetation is around you and the snow takes over the landscape.
If you wonder where we got those snowshoes from, as we did not bring them ourselves. This is one of those Norwegian community ideas that I so cherish. The Balestrand Trugelag has kindly hung a few of those, with some sticks at “Klugshaug” a place half way up the mountain. So, if you actually manage to walk up there, just use them and hang them back after. A fantastic idea, I think, and a free ticket to an extraordinary experience, that was about to come.
But, before we go on and what should be made very clear. This is not something you should do if you already feel totally exhausted before you even put on those snow shoes as there is quite a walk coming up. So, always bring warm clothes, spare food and be attentive of what is going on around you. The weather can change at a speed of a hummingbirds wing and it is not the best place to sit 800m above sea level in a snow storm. So, above anything, be safe!
But back to us. We were enjoying the views in sunshine at first, but then we were suddenly surrounded by ghastly, heavy winds. And, unprofessional as I am, I had also forgotten to bring my gloves. NEVER EVER TRY THIS AT HOME, if you know what I mean. Additionally, with the snow covering the normal tracks, you no longer walk in serpentines but straight up the steep hills. Meaning, it can be pretty tough. Especially after a long Christmas break with hardly any training. With an ice layer on the top of the snow you have to be sure that every step is safe.
But, we were lucky, the wind flattened down slowly after we had reached ¾ of the walk. Not wanting to give up, with a runny nose, runny eyes, iceblock hands and a heart beating as if it wanted to burst out of my chest, we took one last break.
And, all this pain and effort of the last 1hr seemed to leave me once I looked around me. Words to express what you see are difficult to find, but I can assure you that you understand what drives people to climb mountains if you experience the freedom and breath-taking scenery on top of them.
Franziska, my guardian angel, with the stamina of two Olympic champions walked on, and I followed. Slowly, but surely, and then surrounded by the glistening sunshine, we made it to the top. What a view. What a place we live in. There is no other place you want to be than there. The view reached kilometres and kilometres out, 360 degrees of pure beauty around you.
Snow covered, glistening mountain tops, blue fjords with ferries and wind gusts leaving their traces on them, clouds in every shape creating a fairytale landscape. The tiny Dragsvik peninsular and Esefjorden to the left of us, with Tjuatoten and Keipen mountaining up behind it. Melsnipa in the far distance, Menes at its bottom and the majestic Fjærlandsfjord right infront of us. Hella and the road to Sogndal, Vangsnes with its fruit fields and the road to Vik with the Vikafjell behind it.
There is no wonder that this landscape inspired Disney to make a movie from it- Frozen! I wished I could stay there for a while to soak in every detail, but it was getting late and also the wind had caught up on us.
It was always only something that I found fascinating. I may have had a different eye than others and saw the world a little different than others, but who does not?
More than anything I was lucky to own my first digital camera in my early 20s. From there on in the journey began. It was a trying out on what happens if. It was never reading a book and actually looking at it in a professional way.
Then I moved to england and was suddenly marketing my own property villa sognefjord. A new camera was needed and it became a Nikon d7000. A standard Lense on a wonderful body which i am still using now.
But then it happened. I was given an old Nikon 1 with three manual lenses (35mm, 50mm and 135mm). But not only that, these were lenses with an incredible aperture. Something that a student could have only wished for. I still think of it as a sign from heaven that I had by then bought a d7000 body, That body that actually allows fitting these old lenses.
Since then a journey of countless landscape pictures began., and combined with the idea of sharing these pictures. Balestrand of norway was born.
the little community grew, not only of local but global followers, and with it and the encouraging comments also my confidence.
A little later, in the middle of 2015 I was given a chance exhibiting my pictures, here in Balestrand, and actually even sold a couple. later in the year I was even allowed to have a few little "photoshootings" at work and for friends and their children.
Now i am here, and have just started my course at the New York Institute of photography which needs to be finished within 18 months. An exciting, but also scary journey which i take step by step, always with a little unsure feeling if i can actually do it. But I am trying my best.
I am making my daily ferry journey to work a productive one by listening and reading about apertures and diaphragms, in summary: how to become more professional. The first assignment needs to be handed in soon and I am already creating some ideas.
Having ideas was never a problem, I guess. So, I will keep you posted on my progress...