Trip report. EXPLORING SENJA
It has been one and a half month now since I returned from my trip to Senja, but still have not had the time to write a blog about the tour. Until now that is. Senja is the second largest island of Norway and is situated in the north of the country, at roughly the same latitude as Tromsø. I visited Senja for 9 days to explore the possibility for offering photo tours on the island. The main photo subjects of the tour were supposed to be landscapes and northern light. But during my visit I learned that the island offers more than that.
When we (I had two guests with me) arrived at the accommodation and checked in, the receptionist was shocked to see that we were staying there for 9 days. He asked what we were planning to do for those days. When I explained him what the purpose of our visit was, he started to look even more worried. He said that we would be able to explore the whole island in 3 days and if we would take it slow, 4 days. He shortly pointed out the interesting places on a detailed map of the island. We thanked him, but I had already decided before starting the trip, that I wanted to see everything of the island. I wanted to drive to the end of every single road to make sure that we would not miss out on any possible photo locations. I had planned to first explore the northern half of the island and afterwards the southern half. And if there would be enough time, revisit the best locations. I bought the detailed map, thanked the guy and we went off for our first short exploration trip around the accommodation.
The scenery around the accommodation was absolutely amazing. Mountains surrounded the fjord in every direction. But the weather however, didn’t want to work with us. Heavy snowfall and wind made it for most of the day impossible to photograph. Yet we managed to find some nice locations to start with and encountered a small herd of semi domesticated reindeer. A nice start of the tour.
On the second day the weather had not changed. The whole day we had heavy snowfall and heavy winds, with some breaks of a few minutes in between. We spend a lot of time waiting in the car for the snow to stop or become less intense. Luckily, we had several moments with good light and happened to be at the right spots at the right time.
Because we wanted to photograph the sunrise in the early morning, we got up early on the third day. We quickly found out that during the night it had snowed a lot. And when we went out, the roads were not cleared yet. We tried anyway to get away from the accommodation. Well… we managed to get about 300 meters until I drove the car stuck. I guess a VW Polo is not made for driving through 40cm thick snow. After some attempts, we managed to get the car out of the snow and after picking up some speed in our old tracks, we managed to get to the main road. Luckily there was only about 15 cm of snow on the main road. During the drive, we saw how the sun rose above the horizon and colored the clouds and mountains. We arrived about 20 minutes late at the spot we wanted to photograph. Sadly the parking place had a lot more snow on it than the road. Too not loose time we just basically plunged the car into the snow. …how we would get out was a worry for later. We rushed with our cameras to the waterside and managed to catch the last minutes of coloration in the sky. Once we were done photographing, we started to dig out our car. Luckily we had some help from a snowplow driver who cleared the parking lot and helped us to get the car out of the snow. During the rest of the day we found several amazing photo locations for as well wildlife and landscapes.
On the fourth day the weather finally started to change. The clouds opened up now and then and it stopped snowing. This day we used to explore the area south from our accommodation. This area offered some completely different landscapes as we have seen in the previous days. We drove through In snow covered hills and birch forests as far as the eye can see. Around every corner we found a new spot where it was worth it to stop and photograph. In the evening we arrived at the coast again, where we photographed the most beautiful sunset of the whole tour. The sky coloured intense red and orange for an hour. Luckily we managed to find some great locations to photograph this stunning sight.
For the fifth day we had planned to try to photograph the sunrise again on the location where we missed out on, on day 3. Sadly we missed out on it again. This time clouds came in front of the sun. Luckily we stopped on the way at another location and got some shots of the pink clouds. The location we visited has a lot to offer and we used the whole morning to explore all possibilities it has to offer. Even though we didn’t manage to photograph the sunrise, we still came back with many great shots. Later that day we found a large rocky beach which offered a lot of possibilities for photographing in the evening. For the night the northern light forecast predicted strong activity throughout the whole night. But the heavy clouds made it impossible to see anything of it.
The sixth day finally presented a chance for us to photograph the sunrise. Instead of visiting the same location again, we visited a fjord closer to our accommodation. Although the sunrise wasn’t that intense, we had some nice coloration in the sky and mountains. After the photo session, we found a small herd of reindeer which we could photograph with some great back-light. During the day we played a bit around with long shutter speed images of the coots which were in the small harbor right next to our accommodation. In the evening a storm arrived. So we only went for a short photo session close to our accommodation. For the night the forecasts predicted strong northern lights and partly cloudy skies. So we stayed out for most of the night. Sadly it stayed cloudy and we came home empty handed.
On the seventh day we slept in because we had been out almost all night. During the day we explored the eastern part of the island. Sadly it didn’t have much to offer and we didn’t take a single picture, until we arrived at the northern part of the island. Again a storm picked up and made it basically impossible to photograph. Again the northern light forecast predicted strong activity. But yet again, clouds crashed the party.
The eight day of the tour was the last photo day we had on the island. The only area we had not explored yet, was the far south west. It was a bit of a drive, but totally worth it. We came across a female moose with her two calves. Strangely enough, the female was not afraid of us and gave us plenty of time to photograph her and her calves. Before reaching the coast, we drove through a pine forest where we could take some nice landscape pictures. Just about 5 minutes before we reached the spot we had the highest expectations of, it started snowing so heavily that we could only see for a few meters. We waited for a while, but the situation didn’t change. So we headed back to the accommodation, where we had the chance to photograph the sunset.
For the night the weather forecast predicted clear skies. But this was the first night with very low northern light activity. On the peak we would get a kp of 2.0. Even though it looked like nothing would happen, we went out with our cameras. And we were happy that we did! Senja proofed to us why it is the perfect place to photograph northern lights. Even with very little activity, the green lights are visible when you are this far north. We had to push our ISO and shutter speed a bit, but we finally got what we came for. I can only imagine how it must have looked like if we would have had clear skies the nights before. …but that is something for next year to witness!
After a 2 hour sleep we had to get up again to catch our early morning flight back to Oslo.
Do you want to join me next year to this stunning area to photograph landscapes, northern light and wildlife? Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
For the Dutch photographers, you can book the tour here at the "Fotoreisspecialist".