November 1 to 9 - Trek to Tromso Norway
Rolv invited me to give a presentation to the Norwegian Cinema Conference (held each year somewhere in Norway). I prepared two presentations - one on the current status of the technology of the theatrical experience (picture, sound and accessibility) and a second on the politics of change in the studio/exhibitor/manufacturer world of the cinema. They were well received - I included “advertisements” throughout both presentations of photographs I have taken over the last 10 years. Final result: folks remember the photos, don’t remember what I said. This could be a good thing!
I had hopes to see the Northern Lights - aurora borealis - during this trip. So when I arrived at the hotel on Sunday night (November 3) I booked a tour with the hotel - they recommended “Tromso Safari” a group that takes a bus out each evening to one “base station” that has fire pits, a warming hut and a guide. There were about 20 people that went in the bus out to try and spot the lights. I have nothing bad to say about trumsosafari dot no - they went to an OK place - still lots of light pollution - even being 30 miles outside of the main town. They schedule to maximize the chance to see the lights, not necessarily to get a good final picture product. It was chilly - about -10C (15f).
We saw the light!
It took about 4 hours from the time we arrived until the lights began to appear. Not very strong lights this evening. But it was very educational about what to look for (basically high “clouds” that shift quickly in the sky) and to the naked eye looks slightly green. If someone had not pointed them out, I probably would have missed them. But a long exposure brings out the green! I took about 75 pictures and I would say they were a 4 out of 10 success - but I did see the lights! BTW I was using a 14mm f2.8 lens and the front surface fogged up at the end, so I lost a few shots over the last 20 minutes of the light show.
Then back to the hotel around midnight and feeling very happy, started the adventure of not sleeping due to too much alcohol and jet lag. Aren’t trips wonderful? :)
Next day was the start of the conference (my presentations were on day 2), so I went a little late to the conference - the early presentations were in Norwegian. I began to mingle with the wonderful people in our industry. It was lightly snowing out so I bundled up and went for a walk. I walked across the bridge connecting the island we were on to the mainland. Took a few pictures along the way. I did fall in love with the sculpture of a mother and daughter running. Very fun art. Well done! In particular I like how the artist captured the motion and the hair. Especially when covered in a cap of snow.
Tromso is a tourist town of 85K people. It looks like there is a strong fishing industry as well - but I got a distorted view of the city. Tourists were offered opportunities to see the northern lights, take a boat tour of fjords, take a land tour of fjords, have an experience with sled dogs, encounter with reindeer, take a boat out to look at whales or a combination of them all. (Fjords are basically inlets that are sort-of lakes connected to the sea. They are tidal (+/- 1m of tidal action). The temperature is regulated by the sea so was fairly constant between 20f and 30f while we were there. There is a hill in the middle of the island that has a honeycomb of roads running underground. It would be easy to get lost under ground! The frozen ground meant that all the cars had serious studded tires that really worked. No slipping and sliding at all!
The first event of the conference (for me) was a Norwegian Cinema Conference tradition of “In the Pub with Mike.” Free beer for all and a group of 3 on-stage with Mike Bradbury to talk about - whatever - with beer. I was one of the victims along with Toni and Kevin. What a great concept! I’m going to steal it for my next show!
We did a nice dinner at a local restaurant and many went to the local bar for final mingling. As with all good conferences, it’s about the mingling and talking.
I played hooky the next day and checked out the opportunities to tour somewhere. I decided to take a tour of the fjords, there was a boat doing a tour so I waited until the office opened (9am) and went to book the tour. Oops, the boat was broken and they were not running on Wednesday. They didn’t know of another tour. So I went to the travel office down the road and they said no boats, but a small bus from “Enjoy the Arctic” was going out at 10am. Sign me up!
A minivan that seated 8 people arrived. 5 friends from Italy, the tour guide (Horia @ Enjoy the Arctic) and a young lady from Hungary. Sometimes things are meant to happen. Horia is a good photographer and understands the requirements of photography. It was fresh snow so everything was clean. Sunlight and mixed weather so the clouds made things just perfect. Sunset was around 4pm and the golden hour started around 2:30pm. PERFECT conditions for photos. I would HIGHLY recommend Horia as a tour guide. He does both fjord tours and northern light tours. Make a reservation and ask Horia to lead the way for either / both of these tours.
Back to the last night’s dinner at a wonderful restaurant. After dinner a few of us formed a new group - the “Northern Lights Group” Rolv, Yuki, Ulrika, Jan and me. We used peer pressure and a desire to try and get a glimpse of the Northern Lights. We (well Yuki) nudged us to get a taxi to drive a short distance out of town and see what happens. We found a small “van” taxi that fit us all and the driver offered us a 1.5 hour fixed price to take us out.
Off we went. Over the bridge and aiming to a place the driver thought might work - but wait! He spotted the lights as we were leaving the city! He pulled over into a residential neighborhood, parked and we REALLY saw the lights. It could have been better, but not much better. The lights were spectacular! VERY bright, fun to watch and change. WOW!
We came back on a high. The next morning the last of the conference and off to the airport and the trek home. Flew from Tromso to Oslo with Rolv. We were planning on going to downtown Oslo for dinner, but the trains stopped running! Some accident, so we just had dinner at my hotel. Well, sometime I’ll go back again!
Early departure from Oslo to San Francisco on Norwegian Airlines. This was my only failure of the trip.
Don’t Fly Norwegian Air
When I think of nasty airlines I think of Spirit and Horizon. They figure ways to charge you extra for the air in the cabin. Or use of the bathrooms. I didn’t think Norwegian Airline would be doing the same thing.
I normally don’t complain about airlines - I praise Southwest airline all the time! But I had a very bad experience on Norwegian Air - guess it is time to share the pain.
It’s not about the policy, it is about Norwegian’s inconsistency. They weigh carry on bags and allow 15 kg when loading in San Francisco and allow 10 kg when loading in Oslo, Norway. And if you are over by 1.5kg, you are forced to pay $160 to check a bag. It makes US airlines seem downright cheap!! No warning when checking in my one (of two possible) suitcases to offer me a chance to make sure I would pass their test. Nope - go ahead and find you must pay the fee at the gate to get on board.
Again, it’s not about the policy, well it’s somewhat about the policy - is it really about weight? Shouldn’t it be about size? It’s really that on the same ticket they have two different rules depending which direction you are going.
Did I mention they charge for coffee on a morning flight? And they didn’t accept American credit cards (at least that’s what they said - I didn’t test it).
So Spirit, Horizon and Norwegian - all in the bottom of the list for airlines.
So you know. I don’t think you will find me flying on Norwegian. Ever.
Norwegian got $160 and lost a customer. I’ll choose United Airlines over Norwegian any day. My goal is to influence a number of people to NOT fly Norwegian. Or join a class action suit against them for the amount of the fee!
Bottom line: The pictures speak for themselves. I LOVED THE TRIP!
In Celebration of PI
Yes I used the photo from the night before for my presentation! :)
Next day (Tuesday) I gave my two presentations. No one died. The evening had us get in a bus and go to an outdoor venue for a barbecue. T-P style tents (heated). VERY wet floors. We had BBQ lamb, whale (!), reindeer and some mussels and king crab legs. As we exited from the bus, we caught a glimpse of the northern lights. But it was very short and the clouds moved in. Remember the snow all day? It was a very light snow and cloud cover. Back to the bar to mingle.
Photo out of my hotel window!
Some bikes get more use...