Monday, September 29, 2008

Up the Fjord to Oslo

My vacation to Denmark was a chance to visit family members I had never met before and until a few years they never knew I even existed. There are three very warm and loving nieces and nephew living in Norway. They treated us like royalty and the feasts if not to die for, were at least to gain weight for.

My three brothers also wanted to join my wife and I on the trip to Norway as the 4 boys had never traveled together and yes in someway we were like little kids again. They thought it would be exciting on the trip to take a ferry from Copenhagen and head up the largest fjord as we sail into Oslo.

The ferry is not the type of ferry I am used to in North America as it has 14 decks, with 2 swimming pools and a hot tub, movie theatres and numerous restaurants and a grat area for young kids.

As we leave, you can see the bridge that connects Copenhagen to Sweden. You can also see a few of the wind generators that are located in this sea and now make up almost 40% of Denmark’s electrical power needs. For some reason the caption did not want to back up the ship so I could frame the imager better.

We rented 2 cabins, one for the boys and another for the 2 wife’s that also joined us.
These cabins are not large and since I can suffer form claustrophobia went it is warm, dark and I am laying in bed, I was not able to get any sleep during the night. At about 3:00am I decided to get up and roam the decks until our scheduled breakfast at 6:00am.

The ship at night is a lonely place and with the constant rain outside even the open deck on top became a problem. I did find one overhang that provided about 3 feet of dry space for a chair. During my sojourn I only meet 2 cleaning persons and 2 deck officers.

The main reason that the ship leaves late in the evening is so that the passengers can sit in the restaurant in the morning and gaze out the windows and watch the spectacular scenery unfold and we head up the fjord. Being up early ensured that I was first inline when the restaurant opened and we got the front row, center seat and we were therefore able to see the vista on both sides of the fjord.

With a long telephoto lens (300mm effective) I was able to compress the distance and have the ferry behind us appear more realistic in size to the tiny lighthouse on the small island.

It appears that many other large ferries also have departure times that coincides with arriving early in the morning to be in the fjord.

It is somewhat strange to see towns high up on the cliff sides and almost no housing along the waters edge. The main reason is for some coastlines, is it is too steep and only access would be by water.

The image below is just as we are starting to head into Oslo, which is through the opening in the islands ahead of us. While it rained all night it just stopped a few minutes before breakfast, the skies remained overcast and occasionally the sun would peek through and provide a natural paint with light landscape.

Below is one of the islands just outside the harbour of Oslo and from the high vantage point on the ferry, it almost makes the houses seem like Legoland structures. The red ship is a ferry that goes to Oslo and if you look closely it is bringing oil to this tiny community. Not many trees to heat with.

We only stayed part of a day in Oslo and while other members were doing the shopping thing I had to do what I do best or is it incessantly and that is my photography. There was a small canal that ran through the city to the sea and I enjoyed the reflections created in the water.

If you have read my other posts you may realize that I have a strong affinity for the abstract and when I saw these colourful patio tables, I just couldn’t walk by without getting an image.

The windows below is one of my favourite abstracts or close-ups. The rich yellow wall is being complement by the warm purple windows. There are several diagonal lines formed by the wall trim and in the opposite direction with the window frame elements. Even the standard grouping of three comes into play.

It was a bit hard trying to select only a few of the images taken for this post as I wanted to provide just enough for enjoyment but not to inundate the readers with too many similar type scenes.

I have now converted the almost 1,000 better RAW images into jpegs and for my family, a DVD should be arriving soon. I didn’t use automatic conversion but decided to hand tune each slightly and I averaged about a minute each. These images represent me and something within me drives me to always make each photo the best. Even if I only send them to other family members. You never know when they will get posted somewhere else and I only want one standard for my work and that is the best I can do.

I still haven’t had a chance to really review and work any photos to the quality I want for saleable prints. This trip should provide me with enough material to keep me busy for years.

As a side note I have now also started to paint with oils. I did have some experience with watercolors, but oils require new techniques and approaches and right now I feel like such a beginner. I do hope I retire soon as I am running out of time to get all the projects and artistic endeavors underway. I sometimes feel that it was a mistake to pursue a normal career and I should have just stayed with the artistic passion that drove me at an early age,

To others, if you have something that gives you passion, don’t give it up for the standard career. You might be poorer early on, but the riches (not necessarily money) you will gain from your artistic work will keep you a lot happier, unless you are one of these troubled artists. I now really regret that I put things on hold for way too many years.

Thanks for taking the time to drop by.

Niels Henriksen

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The White Cliffs of ….. Mons Klint?

On one of our daily excursions while on Sjealand we headed to the most south-eastern part you could get to on this main island of Denmark. In fact you have to cross a bridge to get to the island of Mon, which is just a kilometre off shore.

This area has spectacular white chalk cliffs that are just overpowering in beauty as you walk about along the shore.

The image below demonstrates one of the classic photographic adages that is, you should always check behind you. More a joke here as it’s hard not to gaze around while walking along the beach.

This is one of my favourite images for several reasons, at least from those attributes I find intriguing. For most of us, there is always this special fondness for ocean scenes and if you can include that surreal luminous tropical turquoise, well what’s not to like.

This might get you the initial “wow” appeal but only momentary. It’s the subtle detail of all the black cormorants on the posts and that there is this almost ghost-like sailing ship that looks like a duplicate of the central sailing ship.

The sign at the beautiful treed landscape up top says, 1.2km and 580 steps to the bottom. On the way down it doesn’t seem such an onerous task even though when you watch the people coming up you can’t help but be concerned about their overall health, as it sure doesn’t look good for some. Thankfully about every 50 feet there are these small 8x8 extension on the wooden stairs where there are benches to sit and rest. These are also great spots to take in some of the landscape.

Sometimes it is good to have a good sized pixel camera as you can make large prints with fine detail, as shown above, with the close up of the people along the shore,

Once you start the descent, there are no detours until you get to the pebbly shoreline at the bottom. There are so many steps that even going down took a while.

The cliffs are made out of very soft and easily dissolved white chalk that rise almost straight up. Threading through this white surface are curved black lines of solid mostly black rocks, which is left to form the beach..

On a sunny day, the powerful brightness of the white cliffs is hard to capture on film as with all these white cliffs around, you are constantly being bathed with the luminous glow of heavenly light. With the power of this radiant wall of light, it feels like you are in a studio with all those light (reflectors) shining on you.

These cliffs are about 425 ft high. The group thought that they would take the shorter stair set of 480 steps that was about a kilometre and a half along the beach. What we didn’t realize was the up and down hilliness of the forest on the way back. Even this set of stairs proved to be a long journey with many scenic opportunities to sit and gaze.

The image above shows the net-fishing poles from a higher perspective than that shown in the first image. I have darkened the poles to make them stand out better in the small image.

These cliff faces are pure white with the odd bit of other rocks strewn amongst the layers. I thought I would, through the use of a B&W image, capture a bit of the brightness and still retain the interesting texture in the cliff face.

The ocean side can also provide good photo opportunities with the four colours of white, turquoise, purple and blue.

After an exhilarating day of hiking around, we decided to stop in the old village of Stege on the way home to find a restaurant. One of the storefronts didn’t appear to be a restaurant but a meat and deli store, as you can see from the image below. But upon entering, there was a huge room on the other side with dining tables.

It turns out that the restaurant offers an all you can eat buffet of salads, cheeses, hot items and other assorted prepared platters. You would order from the counter the meat, fish, poultry or other specialty items, at a price per kilo and they would cook it for you.

It was a special pleasure to eat in a building that was more than many hundreds of years old, with its high ceilings and the outdoor treed courtyard. The warm summer breeze helped to a complete a perfectly visual day.

Niels Henriksen

Monday, September 15, 2008

Copenhagen Bicycles

Since I had been to Copenhagen before, I new I wanted to capture a few camera images on cycling in this city. Cycling is a way of life in Copenhagen and the city planners have done a great job of integrating the bicycles within the urban and vehicle structure of the city.

On the wider streets there are separate lanes at the edge of the road that is separated by a curb that is for exclusive use of the bicycle and the few motorcycles (less than 30km/hr). This means that the traffic doesn’t mix and should there be an obstacle on the road, a car will not suddenly swerve over to go around and accidentally hit a cyclist. Also, the traffic lights provide a few seconds of advanced green for pedestrians and cyclists.

The first thing that impressed me besides the vast number of cyclists is that most bikes were the basic black with only 3 speeds (internal hubs). Bikes were everywhere, not just on the road and in the downtown area they were lined against the building walls. Many had simple locks for the rear wheel only and most were not locked to any immoveable objects.

Trying to photograph bicycles in an urban setting is not an easy task if you want some drama or punch in the image as there is way too much clutter on the street that just distracts from the main subject.

I had to rely on other items in scene providing interesting colour or backdrop to simplify the image. In the image above the bus right behind the bicyclists provides such a backdrop. There were a fair number of these 3 wheel bicycles with the 2 wheels and carriage upfront. These include a canvas cover for the many times it rains in Copenhagen.

On sunny days these carriages are exposed for all of us to view its contents.

These special bikes become chariots when one is driving his well dressed lady friend out for a fine dinner on a warm summer evening.

Occasionally, as you wander about you will find opportunities with simple scenes where you can use colour to harmonize the image.

And if you are really lucky, the city will provide better photographic images that have stronger elements.

I decided to make this a center-focus image because the orange bike was playing off the orange garbage container with the man sitting in the middle. The bright colours on the background help to anchor the vividness of the orange. The bike lying down creates a bit of a story as the bike does not seem to be connected to the person except for its proximity.

In the downtown core, there are several large parking lots, sections of streets that are reserved just for bicycles. It’s hard to capture the true size of these areas. In the image below, the bikes go all the way back to the red object.

There were only a few of the wilder styles, but as with most bikes only locked, if at all, to themselves.

Every now and then you would run across an old bike, a veteran from the days when there were work horses at the local grocery stores.

Keeping your camera permanently glued to your body allows you to stumble onto images that are just a little different than the rest.

Or come upon a fellow tourist, who has rented a local bike and then he is out photographing as well.

I found the image below interesting only for the fact that the red was all tied together with the hydrant, spokes, “runes” letters on stones and writing on window.

It’s not easy trying to collect very good images of bicycles over a 2 day period as the great ones really depends on being at the right place at the right time. I am sure that if I lived there that over a period of time I would be able to get a few great images. But it was worth the effort to see what I could capture and a few of them I do like.

Niels Henriksen

Photographers Showcase.

The following site Cycle Chic - Copenhagen Girls on Bikes provides a good photography of bicycling in Copenhagen with a focus on girl power. It has been described a social documentary on high heels.

This site Copenhagen Magazine provides videos and photographs of cycling within and around Copenhagen Denmark.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Stay in Denmark, Norway and Trip Through Sweden

I have been back almost a week now and I am now finally adjusting to being back home. The hectic pace of being on the go for the month of August creates a vacuum in activity levels when you get home that make you wonder what to do next. Then at the same time there is the tendency to overdo the do nothing feeling and just relax.

The vacation to Denmark, Norway and Sweden was a family holiday, in fact a chance to see new family members who until a few years ago did not even know I exited. It was really great and special to meet all the gang and they treated my wife and I like visiting royalty. Every breakfast, lunch and dinner was a feast of great local delicacies that filled the entire table. There was extra weight brought back and not just in the suitcases.

For not being a photography holiday, I did take a fair bit of camera gear with me. See previous article for a list of items. If you need something, it is too far away to get it to you.

There was a last minute change in that I did take my tripod and I was glad I did and I left the gorilla pod flexible tripod behind. When I decided to test the gorilla pad on table for steadiness, it wasn’t that great for long zooms. I could have used the camera with the mirror up but this seemed too much work in trying to steady it. In all the years I have owned it I have not used it for one real photograph. I find with the new vibration reduction or image stabilization lens and the good high iso on the d300, I don’t need the tripod as much for low light settings.

Except for the few flower macro shots (Tamron 90mm di) I used the Nikon 18-200 f3.5 vr exclusively. This allowed me to carry with me at all times a camera in a small bag.

The images that I am showing in this article will each be, on its own, a photographic scenic essay.

Nikon 18-200mm vr @62mm (93=35mm), f11.0, 1/500s, iso 200
The white chalk cliffs on the south eastern part of Sjealland at Mons Klint, Denmark

After a review of the images (a rating system I use) I have 1001 images that are 2 or higher and 99 that are 3 or higher with a total of 1638 images and a storage capacity of 32GB.

Nikon 18-200mm vr @ 157mm, f5.5, 1/1160s, iso 400

Copenhagen is a city that is fully adapted to the bicyclist. Notice the separate roadway that has a curb departing the road. These end just before each intersection, but bikers have first green signal before cars can go. Also, no turning on a red light.

The old flashtrax 40GB storage device worked flawlessly in backing up all my CF cards. I highly recommend that, when on a maybe once in a lifetime adventure, there is some method to backup your images, in case something happens to the original storage device.

Nikon 18-200mm vr @27mm, f6.3, i1/1000s, iso 200

Old historic train yard and ferries from World War II.

Norway has a very special beautiful charm with its high rising treed cliff sides to tall snow capped mountains.

Nikon 18-200mm vr @200mm, f11.0, 1/500s, iso 200

I did manage one afternoon to get out by myself and explore the local shoreline in the small town of Nykobing Mors, Denmark.

Nikon 18-200mm vr @93mm, f10.0, 1/250, iso 200

This was my 8Gig afternoon were I decided I would fill up the card at about 18mb an image. This was easy to accomplish while shooting panos of the other coastline. It will be interesting to see how these will turn out. My nephew was hoping to get a B&W for his living room wall and I think that there is one that might work.

Nikon 18-200mm vr @50mm, f9.0, 1/800s/iso 200

Sometimes there are just interesting discoveries as you trek about. If you look closely, you will see a surfer on a kite sail. There were some good shots of them playing around on the surf.

Being near the northern oceans you can’t help but notice the intensity and strangeness that the sky and clouds can take on.

There were many good opportunities to capture a few images as we traveled around. There is this one spot near Rjukan, Norway were I kept the kind car driver on short notice as I would cry out “stop the car I just have to get this picture”. This was repeated almost every 10 feet it seems, as we traveled up and over the 5,600ft mountain ridge. This is where I may have gotten the one image that you think might have it all as I looked back at the rain entering one end of the valley town and the sun was shining through all this fine mist. You’ll have to wait for a future article to see this spectacular photo.

Niels Henriksen


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