I am back home.
From near zero and sub zero degree temperatures, straight into the boiling cauldron that Bangalore has become this year. With more than 10,000 images to sort, choose and edit. Phew.
This tour has been a real experience. Not only did we go to some truly remote places and got pictures of subjects that are uncommon, but we also put ourselves through a fair degree of discomfort to do so.
Over the last few months, I have got into the habit of taking down daily notes which I continued through the trip and hence, while I had another unrelated ( to this trip ) post ready, I thought it might be interesting for you to read some excerpts from my daily jottings.
So here goes…and I hope, not only that you enjoy these, but that you also get a sense of the experiences we went through. ( Mostly mobile phone camera images here )
I had, for a change, thoughtfully got myself a window seat and as I peered out during the landing at Oslo, the place looked covered in a carpet of snow. Stark, white and rolling softly, dotted with trees, interspersed with cute little buildings…looks rather picturebookish !
I hoped the snow was a good indication of what awaits us.
A night here at Oslo and then, onwards.
Kirkennes took our breath away.
As our flight landed we gaped in awe at the snowy carpet that was spread out. We gasped in disbelief at the beautiful scenes around us.
Picture postcard perfect ! Taken from the bus
We sped towards Batsfjord in a bus, a stoic sea on our right and a gently undulating landscape in a singular shade of pristine white till it reached the disturbed whiteness of a cloudy sky. Leafless trees and shrubs stood frozen on the ground, tiny thin branches reaching upwards, as if grasping for every bit of sunlight that they can grab.
An hour later, the landscape changed. Starker. Whiter. A minimalist’s dream.
Where is the horizon ? Did you notice the poles ?
There wasn’t a soul on the roads when we reached Batsfjord. Where do we go ? How ?
The morning’s photography was a very different and an extremely challenging experience.
We spent five hours in the floating hide. The first difficulty was simply in lying down with your elbows propped up holding the camera – it really asks some tough questions to your back and neck ! On top of that, I guess because of the lack of movement, you start feeling the cold a lot more. It did become mighty cold and uncomfortable. Your legs are stiff and your fingers question your role in making decisions about their lives.
If nothing, we developed a renewed respect for a sniper's fitness levels...this pose IS tough !!
The ducks came, the light wasn’t the best, but might have got a few decent ones.
There are ways to leave a town and then there was the way we left Batsfjord..
It was an extremely windy afternoon. Snow was flying all around us ( and they hurt ! ), the wind added to the cold and …well, it was simply unreal. The locals, of course, like locals everywhere, looked mighty unimpressed and dismissed our awe with a shrug, this was a mild day :).
Just another afternoon stroll for lunch
The weather dictated that vehicles going out of town do so as part of a convoy. A snow clearing truck led the way, with a safety car bringing up the rear.
The journey was magical, with a snow clearing truck ahead of us, billowing out snow in huge clouds, and streaming across the road, a sulking sun, almost balefully peeping at us from behind dark clouds…is there a stronger adjective than ‘surreal’ ?
This sight...don't think we will ever forget it
What a brutal climb that was.
It came as a total surprise. The lighthouse was a fair distance from the dock, up a snow covered slope and, to make matters more interesting, we had to carry not only our luggage but also all the provisions needed for our stay. We huffed and puffed our way up, I was carrying my backpack, a can of water and one of my bags. Boy.
Pack light. Should be the mantra for life. Thank God for Paddy and his fitness routines ! I could do the walk without too much of damage but lugging all that stuff up was….brutal !
I was thinking we would have to rough it out at the cottage, but the place was actually rather comfortable ! Comfortable beds, a good kitchen, lots of books…not bad.
And…got some dream shots of the puffin later in the evening !
Does that look tough ? It felt tougher !!
Our first night in the hide. Plus another first. Snow shoes.
We were driven upto a point, put on snow shoes and then walked a kilometer through snow to reach the tents by 11 pm. The black grouse arrive before daylight.
Tents...practically in the middle of nowhere
It was a tough night.
Sub zero conditions ( the temp was -8 C ), the perpetual discomfort of being in a sleeping bag, the struggle to fit comfortably within the tight confines of a tent, the ever present worry about making too much noise which might scare off the birds, the need to use the pee bottles …I wondered, why on earth am I doing this ? Freezing my butt off in a strange country, all for the sake of some images of some strange birds fighting!
Grouses are funny birds. They strut around, sometimes looking as if they are itching for a fight. They walk upto another bird, indulge in a staring contest and then sometimes just walk away. Sometimes, they keep staring at each other and then one turns away to race towards an altogether different grouse who is peacefully minding his own business. Rinse. Repeat.
I wonder who won :) - was it a staring contest ? Was some message passed ? Of course, sometimes they break into a rather vicious looking fight that lasts for a few seconds, but its all fury with flying feathers and bared claws.
However, the question remains…how is the winner decided ?
What a lovely, refreshing hike ! I walked with Erlend up an incline to see if we can shoot the stoat ( ermine ). It wasn’t extreme but it was challenging and, I think, I needed that exercise.
The beauty in this land just takes your breath away
I was feeling a little mentally tired, I needed a bit of a break from photography and this walk was a good one. The fact that the stoat didn’t appear actually helped, I think. I didn’t want to again think of creative possibilities, settings…the works. It was nice to just to simply push yourself physically and look around without a camera and enjoy the raw beauty around you.
There was a moment.
As I was returning, I climbed a rather tricky stretch to a high point and as I stopped, panting slightly, to gather my breath, I looked around.
The sight was achingly beautiful. The sun was winking mischievously through the clouds, the sea quivered in shimmering delight at the unexpected warmth and thousands of birds were swooping all around us, a constantly moving cloud of black and white dots, softly calling out to each other, the whole world seemed to bask in a soft golden light. Rising just above the sounds of the bird calls, was the sound of the wind, combining to create a mesmerising fusion.
Briefly, this felt like heaven.
Another day comes to end...and soon it will be time for the puffin to fly out and spend the night at sea.
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