28 December 2007

International Years

2007 is drawing to an end.

It has been an International Polar Year (IPY), and the UN has drawn a lot of attention to the reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The UN was not involved with declaring the Polar Year, but it's hard to mention one without the other up here in Norway. Besides, the UN is very keen to announce International Years for all kinds of stuff. It wouldn't have been unnatural to blame them for this one too.

The real movers of the Polar Year are the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and International Commitee of Science (ICSU). The WMO is part-founder of IPCC as well, by the way. The other main contributor to IPCC is United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

There are lots of other TLA's (Three Letter Acronyms) involved, and perhaps even a couple of four letter... um... words as well. :-)

But that's about enough Bureaucrat Language for one blog entry, methinks. What d'you think they're up to for next year? Must be more of the same, right?

Right. So lets poke some fun at it. With, as they say, all due respect of course...

It seems, from the info floating on the web, that 2007-2009 is a bundle of three International Years together where the Polar stuff and the Climate Panel was just the start. 2008 will be the International Year of the Planet Earth. And so was 2007 and will be 2009.

But UN is certainly not any one-trick pony.

2007 has also been the International Year of the Dolphin, and of Violence Prevention. Wonder if they've got an office in Kabul.

-No, not the dolphin guys...

2008 will be the International Year of the Potato, of Sanitation, and possibly a whole host of other worthy causes.

The UN have also declared that 2005-2015 is an International Decade, entitled Water For Life (little did I know when publishing this).

I must admit I'm amazed by the sheer diversity of programmes. Good thing they stop short of the Century of the Anchovy.

And with that, I'd like to wish the Very Thin Crowd (VTC) of people reading this a Happy New Year (HNY).

Internationally. :-)

Big hugs to both of ya from Norway.

27 December 2007

2007 summary

In two days' time, it is one year since the first post in this blog. I haven't exactly gone out of my way to post regularly, or even to draw much attention to it in the rest of the blogosphere. Some of my friends have graciously linked to here from their own blogs, and on two occasions I've pointed to my blog from discussions at PDML. That's all.

This is accurately reflected in the number of visits per day, which is usually less than 10. The accidental reader will probably shun away after the first post, if readability has anything to do with it. An online test gave my texts a total thumbs-down. Apparently one has to be a genius to understand my writings.

I've tried to give this a bit of thought. Perhaps I suffer from... um... "hyperextended vocabulary"? Silly term, of course. Whatever it's called, I'm pretty sure I picked it up at university, where practically all the textbooks were in English. Biochemistry, ecology, physiology, statistics; the lot. My current daytime job is no better, with terms from medicine and IT. I'll take it as a challenge to improve readability in 2008.

Fewer fancy words, perhaps, and commas. :-)

My photography this year became totally dominated by the trip to Northern Norway in June. More than 60% of my total production this year is from that trip. Another 30% is from shorter trips, and less than 10% is from the local area. Since displaying local photography was the very purpose of this blog, I must admit failure.

I'll just have to improve next year.

16 December 2007

Pentax and telephoto

Got to start with a disclaimer this time: Serious wildlife photography is still not my cup of tea. I stand by my previous post on this matter.

Still, the subject lingered on my mind for a while after the night in company of Brutus Östling and the rest of the Furs & Feathers gang. So much, in fact, that I looked into whether any of the old super-tele lenses from Pentax are still in store somewhere. Globally.

The lenses I looked for were:

  • FA* 600mm f/4

  • FA* 250-600mm f/5.6

  • FA* 300mm f/2.8

According to Boz Dimitrov's K-mount page, the last of the large beasts (dinosaurs?) were discontinued in 2004. It's probably no surprise to anyone that they are now gone from the shops worldwide. Possibly except in Japan, if Pentax runs a different policy for their domestic market. I don't know.

What I do know is that the 300mm f/2.8 is still listed on the webpages of Pentax Japan. The 600mm f/4 also features there, on a "by order" status. Pentax Europe, however, has told me by email (Dec. 2007) it cannot be ordered anymore, and that the japanese webpage is out of date.

So Pentax is no longer a player in the field of wildlife photography, eh?

Take a look at the Pentax Gallery, then.

Here's some numbers as of 16. December 2007:

  • FA* 600mm f/4: 20 photos

  • FA* 250-600mm f/5.6: 4 photos

  • FA* 300mm f/2.8: 23 photos

  • Sum: 47 photos

  • Wildlife photos total: 446

  • Other lenses: 385

Pentax shooters seem to be quite capable of taking good wildlife shots without those prestigious, large-aperture dinosaurs.

Another long-lens contender is of course the FA* 300mm f/4.5 and its F* sibling. Together they contribute 110 images to the gallery, and most of them are wildlife shots. So if gallery representation is any indication at all, the most urgent gap to fill in the lens range seems to be the 300/4.5. Pentax seem to think so too, having a DA* 300/4 in the pipelines, but nothing larger or longer.

Update 2007.12.17:
After good help from Boris (Pentax-ways), I can confirm availability of FA* 600/4 from Japan. The "by order" status at the Japanese website is accurate, but apparently only applies to vendors on the domestic market. Two dealers have independently confirmed to me by email that they can still order this lens from Pentax.

If anyone care to buy me one and send it here, feel free. It's only 8300 USD. :-) :-)

06 December 2007

Furs and feathers galore

In Norwegian nature photo circles there is a strong tendency towards Furs And Feathers addiction. More and more people seem to invest in chimney-length telephoto lenses and spending their holidays in a hide, over the hills and far away from common sense.

To most of us, the cost of those telephoto lenses is prohibitively high. And it's kinda funny, isn't it? It's so easy to think that if you only had the equipment, you'd be able to take the same kind of pics as to those celebrated wildlife photographers. Like Frans Lanting, Mattias Klum, Brutus Östling (Nordic Nature Photographer 2007) or Kai Jensen (winner of the IFWP wildlife photo contest 2006).

Well... Last night I met Brutus Östling and his eagle photos. Kai Jensen was there too, in an audience consisting of nature photographers from Biofoto. Most of the audience was very pleased with what they saw, and after listening to Brutus they went on to discuss long lenses and the speed and utility of the newest Canon and Nikon machines.

As I listened in, I became more and more convinced that despite the conversation subjects, the 500mm or 600mm lenses and cameras are actually the least expensive part for the furs & feathers guys. The price of their gear must be small compared to their travel expenses (penguins, anyone?). And since time is money it's totally dwarfed by the time spent in hides to get those chirping or squeaking models to cooperate. Brutus mentioned several times how he had spent days on end (his rear end) inside hides without getting a single useable shot.

Not my cup of tea, thank you. And I don't even have enough male hormones left to think large-aperture telephoto lenses are cool in their own right.

Perhaps I'm getting old?!?

Oh, well.

27 November 2007

Tale of the Sticky Grip

A couple of weeks ago I had a nice all-day walk in the forest. In my backpack was the Pentax K10D with the DA*16-50/2.8, a lunch box, some extra fruit for boosting blood sugar at need, and some clothes. My backpack was one of those with a built-in collapsable chair, so I could have my break where ever I wanted to.

After some 7-8 km walking, I came to THE spot. A clearing in the forest on a high ridge in the landscape, with a beautiful view across a lake. Muted autumn colours and near-perfect reflections in the water.

"Better take some shots before eating", I thought. As I grabbed the camera in the rucksack I sensed something cold, wet and sticky.


Out came the K10D with mashed banana smeared all over the battery grip. I forgot about the scenery and cursed myself for not packing the food separately. I SHOULD have known. Aaargh!

Today I picked up the grip at Pentax Norway after the cleanout. The repairman commented that this was the first time he'd had a K10D grip open for "maintenance", and remarked that it was quite neatly constructed inside. However, he also said that the banana goo had found ways into it that he didn't expect. All the buttons were quite fine because of the rubber seals, but the seams between the plastic parts that make up the hull are not sealed the same way. The goo had slipped through in some places in small amounts.

So, memo #1 to self: Weather protected the K10D may be, but it's probably no more than lightly splash-proof at best.

Memo #2 to self: Cameras do not make good fruit blenders.

22 November 2007

Colour management, Vista and nVidia

A while ago I bitched a little about colour management in Windows Vista, and how my system would discard the loaded profile from ColorSpyder after about 30-60 seconds.

I must denounce my accusations towards Vista. It turns out to be caused by video cards having the nVidia geForce 8600 series chipset, and is the same on XP and Vista systems. The nVidia control panel which installs with the drivers has its own way of managing colour. Due to a delay in startup, the Spyder profile will load first, and then be replaced 20-30 seconds later by the nVidia application. The bad news is that the nVidia software does not support ICM or ICC profiles. There is only a crude, manual adjustment of gamma and colour balance. Solution is either to get a new graphics card, or resign to reload the Spyder profile manually on each startup.

Wonder if any of the other graphic chipsets are safe for manual colour management. ATI and Matrox are the first that springs to mind. Maybe Santa has any qualified advice? Hmmm... probably not.

Update 24. November 2008:
A little freebie bit of software to the rescue: Startup Delayer. I made a post about it here.

21 November 2007

Writing for a select audience...

I stumbled over a blog readability test today, tapped in this blog's URL, and got the below stamp.

No wonder I have few readers... LOL...

cash advance

05 November 2007

Prolonged pause

So October came and went, and no text at all emerged on this blog.

Sometimes Life doesn't match the scope of a blog. At all.

Oh, but there's some photography related stuff, though. I keep submitting stuff to the Pentax Online Gallery, an activity that keeps pulling me back. Perhaps because of a fairly decent rate of success; currently amounting to two images. To the power of six. :-) The voting pulls me back too. Much to my own surprise. I thought I would be quickly bored by that procedure, but flipping through lots and lots of images gives a nice bird's perspective on what other Pentaxians are pointing their cameras at.

But that's all for now. Back to the treadmill. :-(

15 September 2007


Funny how the itch comes and goes. No writing in three weeks, and not even time to think that over.

The weeks are too short. :-(

25 August 2007

64-bit tidbits

One guy brags about having solved a jigsaw puzzle in only six months. Another guy wonders why that's such a feat. "Well", the first guy says, "it said 3-5 years on the box".

This compares nicely to the 64-bit computer puzzle I commenced a couple of weeks back.

It's up and running, and switching to a 64-bit operating system (Windows Vista Ultimate) has brought some interesting experiences I thought I'd share.

The best thing on the plus side is the RAM extravaganza of 6 GB, allowing several 32-bit applications to run at their max memory capacity simultaneously. Photoshop is perhaps the most hungry dog in the pack, but all the applications I've set up so far seems to thrive.

Exept one. The LightZone raw converter actually runs slower on the new 'puter. Which is bad news because it was pretty slow on the old machine too. Too bad that such an innovative piece of software is bogged down by sluggish performance.

Another interesting puzzle about Vista is the way it handles colour calibration. I have the ColorVision Spyder 2 to calibrate the screen, and it dutifully loads the calibrated profile on each startup. Sometimes, however, Vista decides to discard the loaded profile after a couple of minutes and run without. A re-run of the ColorVision startup routine reinserts the profile just fine, so this looks like a fix to be included in a Service Pack from Microsoft. Or whatever. I'll try not to get too pissed while waiting...:-)

There are a couple of things I could really bitch about too, but I don't feel like bitching today. Just one little boo to Pentax for not providing a 64-bit version of the raw file plug-in for Windows Explorer.

As all boys with a new toy, I very much enjoy the step-up from a Pentium 4 to a Core2duo box. Besides the overall performance boost, the noise level has come down a couple of notches. That certainly counts for something too.

20 August 2007

Flash chase

It's been a while. If you still bother to check this blog once in a while, you have my humble thanks, and my deep respect for your persistence.

Thing is, there hasn't been much photography in my life lately. Not much of an environmentalist twitch either. Hope to rectify both in weeks to come.

What I have for you today is a humble test of a piece of flash gear. I've envied other people's macro shots taken with ring flashes for a long time, and have figured it's time for me to acquire one too. However, it tends to mean a lot of money, so I've been on the lookout for cheaper options.

Over at B&H, I came across the "Digi-slave flex-ring 6400". A solution that purported to be a very flexible and decent solution. Instead of using ordinary strobes, the Digi-slave use LED technology. On the manufacturer's website, it is advertised as "super-bright" and "perfect for any kind of close-up photography".

At face value, this appealed very much to the environmentalist within, since the light yield per inputted power is traditionally very good with LEDs. But are they truly powerful enough to replace flash strobes? Well, this unit has 64 of them, and could be worth the try. So I shelled out USD 350 to B&H, and received it a couple of days later.

Would you like the conclusion first?

Here goes.

After some initial testing, I now know that this is not the unit I was looking for. It will nonetheless be very useful, but I'll get back to that.

What was I expecting?

When shooting macro with flash, I work without tripod. I use flash sync shutter-speed, typically 1/180 or 1/125 seconds. I also want to stop down a lot, say f/22 or f/16. My macro lens is a 200mm, with a working distance around 40 cm for a 1:1 subject size factor. My expectation was for the Digi-slave to provide enough light to illuminate my shots at ISO 100 or 200.

What did I get?

This unit will emanate enough light for an exposure of f/4.5 and 1/180 second at ISO 200 and a working distance of 40 cm. That's just puny. This unit is unsuitable for field work with insects and other moving critters.

How can this unit be used?

To use f/22 at the same EV as described above, you'll need an 1/8 second exposure. So, obviously, this unit is for situations where you don't need fast shutter speeds. Like flowers (at still. Don't breathe hard...) and inanimate objects.

Personally, I will put this unit too good use when winter comes, to photograph snow crystals and other frozen water shapes. I expect this unit to excellent for the purpose because the LEDs release very little heat, which is essential for frozen water photography.

Is it worth the money?

If your primary application is real field work; no. Not at all.

With inanimate objects like jewelry, flowers, etc., it might be a different story. For me, as a nature photographer, the price is too steep for the limited use I can put it to. I wouldn't have bought it had I known what I know now. The lingo used to market this unit is stretching the truth, in my opinion, beyond recognition. The wording around the superlatives is exactly imprecise enough to ward off accusations of untruth, as it does not cite anything that is positively wrong. They are even careful to omit insects from their list of typical examples of macro subjects. To call it "super-bright" and "perfect" is way beyond, though. And come to think of it, there's a conspicuous lack of reference to guide numbers.

[slaps forehead] No Guide numbers?!? Duh. I should have known better.

28 July 2007

The Water Of Life

Brad Ewing recently posted an article in his blog (environmental economics...) on how people in some areas deplete non-renewable water supplies at their peril, and how dams and irrigation can increase evaporation so much that once large rivers like the Nile or the Ganges are reduced to a mere trickle by the time they reach the sea.

This reminded me of a piece of news I picked up a couple of months ago (details here). In Tanzania, old seismic data from oil searches in the Dar es Salaam region have been used to discover a huge underground water reservoir, an aquifer (definition here), 600 m below the surface. Dar es Salaam is a harbour city, and thus the aquifer is also deeply below sea level. The reason why the water is not salty is pressure. So much, in fact, that water gush out of test-wells like a large fountain. It seems like a truly extensive and convenient water supply for the growing capitol of Tanzania, now hosting a population of roughly 2.5 million people and growing fast.

But where does this water come from, and why is it under pressure?

According to the company who collects the cash from this project (www.agwa.no), it is a huge geological formation that collects rain water from almost all of Tanzania. They have estimated that the aquifers in the area contain about 680 cubic km of water, and claim that it is regularly replenished by seepage through the ground in the rainy season. The pressure comes naturally because the Tanzanian inland is higher ground.

But what will happen to inner parts of Tanzania when the coastal region of Dar es Salaam taps into this resource? To my knowledge, no attempt has been made to consider this yet.

Instead, it is maintained that the alternative to tapping this resource is to erect a dam in the nearby river Ruvu. This river is already in trouble because of deforestation of the drainage basin, and does not hold enough water in the dry season to supply the city. A dam would come with its own set of environmental complications (eg. increased evaporation and destruction of yet more wildlife habitat), and the deep aquifer is therefore heralded as a more "friendly" and environmentally sustainable solution.

The logic involved seems uncannily familiar. Point to something that's proven bad, expose all the benefits of the new solution, and dismiss skepticism with face value arguments because there are no firm investigations on consequence. If that doesn't work, point to the short-term economic or social consequences. In this case; "the people need clean water NOW". Agwa is, in typical Norwegian company tradition, boasting its environmental responsibility right now. Unfortunately, part of the same tradition is to forget their responsibilities as soon as the project don't generate cash anymore. Being a small company, they wouldn't have the reserves to spend on any cover-up operation either, should they screw up badly.

So what can go wrong, then? Are there any real risks involved?

Well, I'm not an expert in neither hydrology or geology, so I don't really know. Curiosity peaks, however, and some questions seem very interesting. Such as:

How much water enters the aquifer each year? -This would give a good measure on how much water you can sustainably take out. An answer would have to include data on both the amount of precipitation, evaporation and surface runoff. Not terribly difficult to obtain, but surely costly and time-consuming to a small company like Agwa.

The well extends to 600 m below sea level and is tapped close to the ocean. How much can the pressure in the aquifer be reduced before seawater seeps in and make the water salty?

I think both inquisitive and inquiring minds would like to know. Wonder if any of them works in the Tanzanian government...

20 July 2007

Infectious stupidity

After numerous incidents of photographers detained by police for photographing events in public space, in places like New York, Sydney, London, and of course in countries of more disreputable democracy, I have praised my luck to live in a more sensible country.

Conditions and activities in Karl Johan Street (which is the nearest thing to a boulevard in Oslo) in recent weeks has been subject of much attention. Beggars have gone from discretion to active promotion, and so have the prostitutes. Not very flattering in the height of the tourist season. What's more, newsteams have documented drug deals made in the middle of the street for everyone to see. "Where is the police?" is what everyone asks.

Now we know. Yesterday, four police officers spent a couple of hours issuing ONE parking ticket at the Oslo Central Train Station. A person stopped to take pictures of the event, and was handcuffed, brought to police offices and detained for a couple of hours. Upon release, he received no apology for police behaviour, and not even an explanation. He got his camera back though, a small compact.

What's special about this incident is that a newsteam from TV2 was present, and documented the apprehension of the photographer. There is pictorial evidence of unnecessary police force, documentation that the car-owner was "convinced" to pay the fine in cash, and all together a very much less than flattering image of the police, milking the public for money instead of doing something useful.

I just saw this on the nine o'clock news today. If the video is released on the web, I will post to it asap.

Needless to say, I'm pissed. I shall certainly not bless my luck anymore. This police misbehaviour is spreading like a virus. It would not at all surprise me if Oslo police have just mindlessly caught on to what seems to be the international trend of policing.

What idiocy. Sheesh!

Update 25.07:
The channel that published this news (www.TV2.no) does not allow linking to previous broadcasts without subscription. I do not wish to openly breach copyright issues, so I shall not post a rip of the videostream on the web. However I have acquired it, and will let you have a copy for private use only if you contact me by the mail address in my profile.

16 July 2007

64-bit puzzle

Warning: computer rant.

Do you remember when Intel Corporation released the processor (CPU) called 80386? It was way back in a previous millenium. My memory is a bit vague on the issue except the fact that I couldn't afford that newfangled stuff back then. What I know today is that the 386 was the first mainstream CPU with "32-bit processing". Number of bits in processing reflects how big numbers a computer can crunch at a time, so the larger the better.

To harvest the benefit of better number crunchers, however, you'd need a full set of other hardware to go with it, and a corresponding set of software. It took a while to get there. The 80386 was introduced in 1985, and Microsoft, for example, didn't get a full 32-bit operating system to the market until 8 years later, in 1993 (Windows NT 3.11). It was partly in response to competition, as IBM had released its OS/2 v2 one year previously.

Interestingly, 1992 also saw the introduction of a quite successful 64-bit processor, the DEC Alpha. Never heard of it? -Well, Microsoft released versions of Windows NT for it for a while, but it never attracted many other software developers.

Now, fifteen years later, this seems to have changed. Not that many software vendors produce true 64-bit applications yet, but they're all keen to have their 32-bit stuff "certified" for use on Windows Vista. Just have a look at Adobe's website, on how carefully they explain the compatibility of their products.

Unfortunately, those who deliver drivers to peripheral devices are not as keen to provide support for their products on the Vista platform. And no economist is ever going to blame them. Incompatibility by driver-obsolence is a nice excuse for pushing new hardware, like PDAs, printers, scanners, etc. More revenue, shareholders happy, end of story.

These days, I'm taking delivery of components to build a new PC. It will run 64-bit windows, and I have checked all my software and hardware for incompatibilities. It kinda suck that my scanner is going obsolete. I don't use it very often, but there are some quite significant occasions when it's needed. Like when my mother wish to make a showcase of her watercolour paintings. Or when some relative comes around with a shoebox full of half-degraded visual memories and a plea for saving action.

So maybe I'll have to buy another scanner too. Funny how one purchase demands another. It feels like a vicious cycle, each turn starting with a new camera:

First, I bought a new PC and a scanner for slide film. Then I bought a new PC and a Pentax *istD camera. Half a year ago I bought the Pentax K10D, and now I can't stand the (lack of) processing speed in my computer anymore. Not to mention that I'm painfully short on harddrive storage space.

But okay, that was my wallet speaking. Truth is, I can't wait to put my new toy together.

I should be old enough for a 64-bit puzzle now.

11 July 2007


How do you find your motifs?

Let me present two diametrically opposite strategies.

You go for a stroll, enjoying the landscape, pick your motifs, relax and think that Life Is Good And Photography Is A Nice Hobby. If you're urbanly inclined just swap landscape for something more concrete.

Got you nailed. You're a gatherer. Pure and simple. Nothing wrong with that.

You spend days on end in a hide, waiting for the wolverine to come and gnaw the bait. Or you hike up in the mountains carrying so much gear you feel the taste of blood in your mouth every fifty meters, knowing the the mountain poppy you're looking for can't adjust your mood even if you ate it.

Got you nailed again. You're a hunter. Nothing wrong with that either.

A pure hunter's satisfaction with Life and Photography can be every bit as thorough as is the gatherer's, but the amount of labour to get there seems to be in excess if you ask me.

The Hunter strategy is sometimes necessary to obtain certain shots, but the gatherer strategy seems a much better over-all choice. Not the least for the hobbyist. For starters it is more compatible with a social life, having a daytime job, etc. And the occasional winner motif WILL present itself before your lens no matter how leisurely you pursue.

There is just one thing you should beware of. The lust of getting the pic that requires just a little more effort. You know, the little-odd detour from the beaten path to find new motifs. Or perhaps the pursuit of the creative angle on a familiar motif. That lust is dangerous. Once you start feeding it, you never know where it will take you.

But make sure to get your priorities right, between family and wolverine.

10 July 2007

Welcome, Graywolf

Just a small note to greet a real "web oldtimer" welcome to the spheres of blogging. The Appalachian Graywolf has arrived, and got his appropriate place in my shortlist of blog-links.

And here comes my recommendation: watch his space.

02 July 2007

Back home

It's always nice to get home after a long trip.

The good feeling will stay for a while yet, with all the raw files to process. It will bear me through the dysfunctional aircondition at work, and even through the extra mess at home from redecorating the living room. Life is good.

Some interesting calculations:
The total driving distance for the trip amounted to 3008 km, with a total fuel consumtion of 249 litres. That's an average of 0,083 litre/km, which better than I expected for a 1997 Volkswagen Sharan. But it is still a lot. Using the conversion factor recommented by the US Environmental Protection Agency , it amounts to roughly 580 kg carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. That's half a year's quota of sustainable emissions according to some environmentalist organisations, who cite a value of 1,1 tonnes per capita as sustainable, based on estimated world population size in year 2020.

It is difficult to relate to those numbers rationally. Without committing the emission, the trip would have been impossible, and I wouldn't have got the photos... :-)
The interesting issue is how a trip like that could have been made with less emissions. A smaller car is an obvious one. Better planning is another, which I might come back to later.

As the RAW processing proceeds, most of the photos from the trip will be posted to my AlunFoto website, but a couple are destined for future ramblings here too.

Thanks for reading.

28 June 2007

Home for granted

By coincidence, I've arrived in the middle of a religious gathering. Lots of Amens and Hallelujahs, smiling people and music. Spiritual encouragement abound, too. These people seem to find reinforcement of their christian beliefs in Norwegian nature; mixing awe for nature with religious feelings.

However I think the two are closely related, and understand their reason for the confusion. The awe sits deeply within me too. At the moment, I think that this is an area well worth returning to. Hopefully as soon as practically possible, given that it is at least 800 km from home.

Speaking of home, some friends from university have settled up here, and winding up in this religious gathering has a lot to do with them arranging it. There are people here from all over the world; all expressing an awe for the nature akin to my own. This goes for my friends too, although they've lived here for eight years now. On the other hand, there are locals present too. People born and grown up here. Their attitude to the natural splendour is markedly different.

They take it for granted.

23 June 2007

Half way

After a week of sleeping in a tiny tent, or even in the car, the desire for a shower had moved up the priority list to the very top.
So here I am, clean, shaven, and connected. The place is the island Lovund, a good way out into the archipelago fencing in the coastline of Nordland county. Here's a Google Map link (opens in separate window). A nice little resort with B&B, a restaurant and a wireless network for paying guests.
The trip has been good so far, but the continuous light wreaks havoc on my sleep patterns. I'm still a few km south of the polar circle, but there's midnight sun here, all right. On summer solstice itself (21. june) the sky was all clear, and the sun didn't touch down on the horizon at all.
Only last night the weather failed me. I was up in a mountain side to photograph puffins, but was chased down again by rain and midges. Perhaps I'll try again tonight. However, there are midsummer celebrations on the beach tonight. The party and the bonfire could make for motifs just as nice as those wingflapping featherballs. With considerably less effort involved.


14 June 2007


Here's a short version of the itinerary as promised in the previous post, by days.

  1. Oslo - Trondheim transport leg
  2. Trondheim - Vega transport leg
  3. Vega
  4. Vega
  5. Vega - Alstadhaug
  6. Alstadhaug - Dønna
  7. Dønna
  8. Dønna - Lovund
  9. Lovund
  10. Lovund - Engavågen
  11. Engavågen/svartisen
  12. Engavågen/Svartisen
  13. Engavågen - Mo i Rana/Melfjorden
  14. Melfjorden/Svartisen
  15. Melfjorden - Trondheim
  16. Trondheim - Oslo
This will most likely see modifications, though. There's a festival going on at Alstadhaug when I pass, which may be worth spending time at. It will also depend much on how far spring has advanced up there. There's a lot of calciferous rock around Svartisen making the flora very interesting if spring has been good.

Right now I'm so keen to get off that it's difficult to concentrate on the packing. :-)

Oh, well. To anyone who actually bother to read this blog, see you in a fortnight.

11 June 2007

On the virtue of masochism

According to onelook.com, masochism is a word reserved for sexual pleasure induced by punishment. When putting out the subtitle for my blog, I had nothing that raunchy in mind. I assumed that there was an additional and more abstracted meaning of masochism in English. More like in Norwegian, where it is also used for more mundane cases of self-inflicted unpleasantness for the sake of a future reward, with the twist that the unpleasantness is a also a blessing in disguise.

I'll keep the subtitle, and hope that dictionaries are not up to date on second interpretations.

It is the disguise part that made me think of the term to begin with. It goes back to the issue that I kept sulking about in the first two posts in this blog, that photography needs regular practice to maintain skill. I shall not harp that issue any more (for now), but rather share an anticipation.

In less than a week from now, I will know whether I've practiced enough to unleash creativity from day one on a lenghty photo excursion.

The planning of this year's photographic excursion began on the same day as I started this blog. For six months, I've been looking forward to it, talking to people about photo op's on the way, connecting to locals in the area, studying maps, planning what equipment to bring, Plan B for poor weather, etc. etc.

I did mention looking forward to it, didn't I? There's motivation for you. This is what makes me tick. No self-infliction of unpleasantness at all. :)

I have no idea whether I can get online during this trip. If I can, I'll make this blog a travel diary. There will be another post with an approximate itinerary before I leave. Then there may be a fortnight without any posts.

Whether by silence or by words, the Blog will tell.

08 June 2007

Go Pentax Photo Annuals!

A fortnight ago I claimed that the Pentax gallery was a replacement for the Pentax Photo Annuals. After having laid eyes on the 2006-2007 edition of the Annual, I stand corrected.

However, the challenge still stands for the Gallery. It has a quality publication to live up to.

To the uninitiated, the Pentax Photo Annual is a yearly publication by Pentax Japan, featuring Japanese pentaxians' take on the World At Large. The only non-Japanese name I've ever seen in there is Sam Haskins, whose blog I warmly recommend. The Annuals are not widely distributed. The only place I've seen a near-complete collection is in the offices of Pentax Norway, who have been kind enough to let me in on the secret.

It is sad that this publication is such a well-kept secret. The pictures in these books are well-printed, well-selected and well-presented collections of Japanese photography. As I commented in the former post, the difference in aestethics between the books and my own work is pronounced. Today I'd like to add "compelling" (after looking up that word in a dictionary...). There's something about them that attracts and challenge. Especially in the way of interpreting landscapes.

Imagine a picture of a Japanese cherry tree. Beautiful flowers, with a sense of spring in the surroundings. Then imagine trying to shoot your inner image. I would go for maxiumum colour and texture impact, perhaps with a foreground flower up close and a repetition of the pattern in the out of focus background. Crispness in rendering would be imperative also.

Then again perhaps not. Maybe the cherry is a fragile beauty in an early spring scenario where the scene must be rendered with tenderness rather than impact. The resulting image would be quite different. To me, the latter is the more awe-inspiring.

Certainly, the former would be more Sellable. More Catchy. More Wow. But the latter would bespeak something else, something more profound. And with a more quiet voice.

Maybe this doesn't make sense to you? That's ok...:-) Viewing images is an individual exercise anyway, isn't it? Perhaps it's all down to personal taste rather than global differences in aestethics. Anyway, I have only my personal experience to base recommendations on. If you can lay your eyes on one of these books, then don't miss the chance. Consider the pictures, and make your own opinion. As they say in the hair product TV commercials; "you're worth it".

07 June 2007

In lack of elephants

Sometimes I marvel at panning shots. Trees become smooth, vertical structures without any untidy branches cluttering the lines. Pictures of animals or dragonflies zooming by leave the panned background smooth and palatable.

Trouble is, it doesn't take many such shots before they become boring and repetitious. One notable exception that comes to mind is an article in National Geographic from the mid-nineties. The photographer had combined long shutter speeds with flash to produce, for example, an eerie shot of an elephant charging in the tropical twilight, the flash producing an almost demonic glint in its eyes. I don't have that issue of National Geographic anymore, unfortunately.

In lack of elephants, and mostly any other kind of cooperative wildlife, I decided to make my own first experiments in that direction on trees. Yeah, I know it's hard to get those eyes right that way, but I had something else in mind. I want to create a sort of "ominous-looking fairytale forest". Not quite there yet, but I think the concept looks quite interesting.

Click the image for a larger version.

26 May 2007

The Pentax Gallery

The Pentax Photo Annual was a yearly publication by Pentax in Japan that, as far as I know, stopped a couple of years back. I have been able to lay my hands on a few of them, and it is fascinating to study the differences in photographic aestethics between Japanese photography and my own.

Last December, however, Pentax USA sought to revive the spirit of the Photo Annual in a gallery website, and invited photographers at the Pentax Discussion Mailing List to contribute their images. As of today, the gallery is still in the "beta"-stage, but the number of photographers and images is rising steadily.

If you want to see what they're up to, you can find the beta version here.

I am proud to say that I've got about a dozen images accepted in there myself, but with such a grand-scale undertaking, personal exposure comes second to finding inspiration. What I really hope for the Gallery is that it will become as good as the Annuals were. - It probably means they'll have to throw me out, but honestly, that would be all for the better to the gallery. :-)

Good luck, Pentax USA. Your efforts are deeply appreciated by this blogger.

17 May 2007

Happy constitution day!

Congratulations, Norway!

It's the day of national patriotism, the day of unlimited supplies of hotdogs, lemonade, ice cream and cakes, the day of flag waving, the day of celebrating democracy, monarchy, and national identity.

Constitution Day became a children's celebration by the initiating efforts of Henrik Wergeland many decades before we even gained independence as a nation. It's one of the things I'm really proud of as a Norwegian; that we manage to keep Patriotism free of political nationalism.

The first person to greet me with "happy Constitution Day" today, was a woman dressed in a beautiful beige and brown costume, a white shawl over her shoulders and a beige silk cloth covering her hair as her culture and muslim religious faith requires. As we exchanged glances for a few seconds while I returned the greeting, I think I saw in her eyes a sincere thought about this being a day worth celebrating. I really hope I understood her right, because she reinforced the very thought in me.

Here are a few shots from the local celebrations.

The Cake and Hotdog supply depot

Frozen lemonade

Pillow fight; The moment of defeat

Airing the flags

15 May 2007

Proceeding spring

When I was a kid, we always hoped the silver birch would pop its leaves out before the 17th of May, which is the Norwegian Constitution Day. "So much nicer with some green on the trees", my parents said.

Odd, that...

Noone seems very concerned about it anymore.

A shortcut to work takes me across 15 meters of greening pasture. Here's what it looked like today.

09 May 2007

Commutable mode of transport

Thanks to Boris and Knarf for trigging me on this one. It's more or less a follow-up on the discussion from my previous blog-post, and taking Knarf's advice on acting locally to the heart.

Time and again, I've made half-hearted attempts to make the Road To Work into a photo project. Since my work is technically within walking distance from my house, I feel a bit sheepish each time I cave in and use the car instead.

But today I walked. And a nice walk it was too. The motifs that present themselves are not within my usual sphere of interest, but heck. Maybe it's time to throw more than just local wilderness into the blog bargain.

Into the light

04 May 2007

Can a blog protect the global environment?

I write this just two hours after IPCC's press conference on the publication of their "Mitigation of Climate Change" report, and the main points from their document has already reached the headlines of national newspapers. If the journalists have got it right, the effort needed to halt global warming in the short term is a 3% reduction in global GDP, which is a surprisingly small figure in my opinion. However I'm sure this figure will be fiercely debated in the next weeks. James Lovelock (the Gaia-guy) has already announced that doom is imminent no matter what we do. Politicians (eg. Bush administration, Norwegian government, Hugo Chavez, etc.) and scientists backed by fossil fuel industry will predictably criticise the report and try their best to destroy its credibility. The more time they can bargain for, the more money they'll make. But I digress. As my friend Frank Thériault stressed in his blog two days ago: Act locally!

So, can my blog help *me* to protect global environment? Or is it just a rhetoric question to justify my masochism?

Alas, yes.

A lot of good things can be said about photographing locally instead of travelling far and wide. Reducing car emissions is a big one. The big question, however, is whether local activity replace expeditions or simply add to them.

In my case, it's an add-on. As I stated in one of the first posts in this blog, regular photographic exercise is necessary to maintain skill. What I should have added is "for when you really need it". Which in my case means dedicated photo trips. Since january, I've been planning a fortnight's trip to Northern Norway, which means more than 2000 km driving. Yes, 2000 km. Norway is pretty stretched-out. I hate to think about the emissions in my wake, but I'd love to get those pictures.

In fact, my targets for the trip are areas that will be altered by climate change. One is an archipelago that will disappear completely with a two meter rise of sea level. The other is a glacier. Both are protected by legislation; the archipelago is a UNESCO world heritage site and the glacier a national park. Does this make my trip a moral dilemma?

To me, yes. And my solution?

As most people do, to find a justification (or excuse, if you like) ranking "higher" than the environmental cost. I won't insult your intelligence by explaining how.

Instead, I'll keep telling myself my expedition pictures better be damn good!

03 May 2007

Pardod by dose (snif)

My father stopped by this afternoon. He complained about dizziness, and I asked him if he was troubled by the heat already.
"not the heat," he said. "Pollen". I should have guessed.
He has a tough time every spring, but this year has been the worst in a decade for him. The warm weather has made the birch unleash its pollen like a mist.
Here's the intended target. The female catkin of Betula pubescens. It doesn't look the least like a nose, though, does it?

01 May 2007

Sampling the water

My daughter is a brave eight year old. Three days ago she was defiantly insisting that the water temperature in nearby lake Vesletjern has reached bathing levels, and got moral support from her equally defiant (and brave!) friend.

I believe they got their knees wet, eventually. I guesstimate the water temperature to around 10 degrees Celsius. :-)

Pentax K10D and FA 77/1.8 ltd.

Notice the lack of leaves on the tree. However with the current temperatures I wonder how long it will take. Probably it will be all green in a fortnight or so. Spring is definately early this year.

25 April 2007

Ssshh! It's sleeping.

Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Some old cultural landscape in the vincinity still harbours a diverse flora. Right now, the Wood anemone has the area to herself, and sleeps undisturbed with her petals wrapped about her face.
Oh, well. I'll never be counted among poets, that's for sure. But I hope you can sense the mood anyway.

18 April 2007

Broken Ice


After two sulking posts for starters, it is time to get down to business.

Finally, the ice is gone from the good lake. Spring has launched an early surprise attack, and nature is queueing for the return to life.

While the last ice is busy melting from the shaded north slopes, the first flowers and leaves are emerging. The great outdoors is simply the best place to be at the moment. Here's a couple of shots from a short stroll two days ago:

Alunsjøen is backup water supply for Oslo. But nobody mends the fences anymore.

Blåveis, Hepatica nobilis, is a highly cherished spring token in Southern Norway. It doesn't have an English name. It is only present in continental Europe.

27 March 2007

Getting re-started

Given the number of entries in my blog, your immediate conclusion may be that I'm a lazy guy. I'll be the first to concur, but it's only part of the explanation. The rest can be explained by having focus on other parts of life.

Good thing to have photo as a hobby, then. A blessing because I'm free to indulge in photography only when my heart so desires. No pressure to produce to pay the bills. But what happens after a period of absence from photography?

Each time I pick up my camera after a pause, I get frustrated with the results I produce. I spend a lot of my creative time re-learning skills I have posessed more than once before. This process is frustrating.

Photographing more regularly seems the obvious answer. The associated risk is s is that photography lose its recreational value to the self-induced plight to maintain skill. Alternatively, one can always reduce the ambition of improvement. Which reeks with the risk of creative stagnation; implying that the joy of doing photography will suffocate.

Regularity and practice seems to be the lesser evil.

A key question to solve is how to fit some photography into everyday life, which can be pretty hectic at times. Motifs better be close to home, to avoid spending time on travel. This actually fits quite nicely with the purpose of this blog (ok, I'm the one who need reminding); which is dedicated to photography in my immediately surrounding nature. And now we're approaching April and spring too! Time to check if the ice is gone from the good lake Alunsjøen.