10 February 2008


Cog's a guy always in for a challenge. He must be, having the nerve to host the PDML (Pentax Discussion Mailing List), and still be sane enough to write an entertaining blog.
One of his recent posts was about The Interview Experiment from blogger Neil Kramer, a sort of relay-stick handed from blogger to blogger, giving everyone a chance to shine up in blogspace for a while. I thought this could be fun, and signed up.
Shortly after, I found myself subject to questions from Australian Single Mom Frogdancer. To my surprise, and relief, the first question was not "Why do you blog?". Instead, I got a list of lightfooted, entertaining questions. Hope I've managed to reply in style.
This part of the Experiment has been very entertaining, so thank you, Frogdancer! :-)

Here's the interview:

1. Have you ever licked an icicle or something cold like that and hadyour tongue stick to it? (Does this ever really happen in coldcountries, or is it something only seen in movies?)
Munched plenty of icicles as a kid. The only time I got stuck was when licking a metal fence. Had a sore tongue for weeks. :-) Metal conducts heat well enough to pull it away from your tongue_very_ quickly, and so the spit between your tastebuds freeze up.

2. Is it really true that the sun doesn't set AT ALL at certain times of the year? If so, does this mean that Nowegians get really grumpy at these times because of disrupted sleep patterns? (We tourists need toknow. We'll come visit after you all get a decent night's sleep.)

From the polar circle and northwards it holds true. It certainly disrupted my sleep patterns last summer when touring the area for a fortnight. I think people respond in very different ways, depending on disposition. For a landscape photographer, the best light happens when the sun is close to the horizon. With the sun low all night,well..., I just don't get tired before I reach exhaustion.

Here's one shot from last summer, showing the sun dipping behind the cliffs of island "Lovund". Captured at 19 minutes past midnight.

People I know who lives or have lived up north tells me that winter is worse for disrupting sleep patterns. It is common to celebrate the return of the sun, even if they have to climb a mountain to greet it.

3. We come from opposite ends of the Earth. In your blog you talk a lot about climate change. In Australia we're battling a savage drought. Are there any weather patterns in Norway that are seeming a bit out of the ordinary?

The meteorologists warns us that we will see "extreme" weather more often than before. The South coast towards the North Sea (silly names, eh?) has, on several occasions over the last few years, received huge amounts of snow in a very short time. Add the wind of the storm bringing the snow about, and you get snowdrifts to above ground floor. :-) In summer, we seem to get hailstorms more frequently than before, but I'm not sure if anyone ascribes that to global warming.
However, the most most telltale sign doesn't show in daily weather. We have photographic records of the landscapes around the glaciers dating back to around 1870, and all of them have retracted significantly (well, not the photographs...). If you want to come here to experience glaciers, you better hurry while they're still nice to look at. Below is another shot from last summer. "Engabreen" is an arm of "Svartisen", extending almost to sea level. It has retracted from the obviously barren slopes only in the last thirty years.

4. Have you ever lived or travelled outside of Norway? Are you a city or a country person at heart?

Never lived outside Norway, but travel frequently. Both for leisure and business (non-photographic).

At heart? I dunno... I grew up in a suburb of Oslo situated on the very edge of a large forest, and with some abandoned cultural landscapes in immediate vincinity. Best of both worlds, I think. We used to hang out at a shopping centre one day, and go chasing butterflies or fishing the next.

5. In your opinion, are people or animals harder to photograph? Why?

People are more difficult to me because they're my own species. The viewer expects to connect with facial expressions, body posture, etc., etc., in a much more complex way than with animals. As a photographer you move in the social context you are about to photograph, and have to anticipate the Right Moments to catch them consistently. A good friend of mine who is a newsteam camera man for a living maintains that "if you can see the moment, it's gone". I think he's very right about that.
With animals, it's all in the preparations. Here you seek to remove yourself the best you can from the social context of the animal. Insects and such don't demand much as long as you don't scare them, but mammals and birds have complex social contexts. With them, a hide is usually the best option. Often in combination with a bait.

I do mostly landscapes and flowers, though... :-)

6. That project for taking local photos. How's that coming along?

Not as well I would like. But looking through my archives I realise that 2007 was an improvement over 2006, at least. I have also commenced two local projects that seem to sustain my curiosity. So far I don't have any shots from those suitable for any audience, but I think I'm homing in.

7. How old were you when photography first took your interest? (I'm asking because my 11 year old has his own little photo blog. If he ends up taking shots like you I'll be very pleased. Oops. Didn't mean to interrupt....)

My mom bought me a Kodak Instamatic when I was about 10. However she quickly refused to pay for developing the films. Both because of cost and because my pics didn't match her own expectations. She's never admitted the latter of course :-).

8. What has drawn you to Pentax cameras in particular?

You know how newly-weds give each other morning gifts? I thought it was a male-to-female tradition only, so my wife took me completely by surprise by giving me an SLR camera. Guess which brand...

It's twenty years ago, but I haven't seen any point in changing.

9. What is the best advice you could give to a young photographer?

Pursue your interests. When interests wane, look elsewhere instead of lingering. Then the joy of it will return later.

10. Australians eat Vegemite, which everyone else in the world finds revolting and inedible. (It's a black, salty yeast extract like Marmite BUT BETTER TASTING that we spread on toast. Mmmm yum.) Is there anything that Norwegians eat that the rest of us just don't understand?

Oh, man... This can be a long list, I'll pick a few. It's hard to find one single dish that unites all Norwegians, though. Each region has their own die-hard traditions.

1. Flatbread
Made from flour of potato, wheat or rye, or a blend of any of those. Milk and salt, no yeast. Baked on big hot plates, almost like pappadums.

Ubiquitous accessory to traditional dinner dishes.

2. Rakfisk (cured fish)
Made from brown trout or arctic charr. Local varieties with other species exist. Freshly caught fish cut in filets are put in sealed containers with a strong salt/sugar solution for a couple of months. Well made, it's a delicacy. Probability of getting a nasty strain of bacteria into the mix is always present, and will give itself away by the smell. Usually akin to pungent old socks.

The addicts among us will ignore the smell. I'm not an addict, but find the well made ones irresistable.

Served with potatoes and flatbread. And usually a good ale and Aquavit.

3. Brunost (brown cheese)
Not a cheese at all. Made from the stuff left over from real cheese production. Cooked until it almost caramelize. Palatability depends on the ratio of cow milk over goat milk. The more goat, the more weird.

Made from cow milk only, it sells as "mysost". Which is yummy.

Used as spread on bread (not flatbread).

4. Lutefisk
Made from cod. First dried, then soaked in lye. It needs careful boiling to give it a sort of gelatinous consistency. Overcooked, it simply dissolves.

Common part of the Christmas Eve dinner menu, especially on the West coast. Served with potatoes, vegetables and flatbread.

5. Raspeball
Many local names and varieties. Basic form consist of shredded potatoes, flour and milk, recompressed into lumps the size of tennis balls and then cooked.

Served with extra potatoes and mashed yellow turnip (Kålrot), and of course flatbread. Some serve Lutefisk and Raspeball together, even.

That's it, but please don't ask me for recipes...

Next in line is Canadian blogger Karen MEG at A Day in the life. She's a fast typist (90 words per minute - three times my speed), so I've got a fair bit of reading to do. But stay tuned. I'll do my best. :-)


cog said...

Why do you blog?

heh heh heh heh

Alunfoto said...


There can be only one answer.


Thanks for asking, mate. :-)


Frogdancer said...

You've done such a good job.(I was actually a bit intimidated... your photos are so much better than mine (I really have to lift my game) and I knew NOTHING about Norway. I felt so ignorant. My photographer son Connor loved the photo of the midnight sun. If anyone is interested, his blog is

He's not allowed to put any photos of himself on there, but he has fun anyway. Thanks again for being such a fun participant. I enjoyed doing this.

MP said...

Awesome interview..and OMG the pictures. Do you have a flickr account?

I loved the Norway/Aussie connection! :-)

Alunfoto said...

Hi MP,

Glad you liked the pics! And the interview as well.

I don't use Flickr, I'm afraid. The best place to view my photos these days is actually over at the Pentax Photo Gallery hosted by Pentax USA...
This link should lead you there directly.