Senja, Probably a Better Destination than Lofoten

I had not heard of Senja until I began researching on Norway’s best tourist destinations prior to my trip to Lofoten. It is the second largest island of Norway, located roughly between Tromso and Lofoten. Since I wanted to visit Tromso and Lofoten, why not take a side trip to Senja? That’s how we ended up spending a day in Senja. Which we later regretted very much. We should have spent two or even three days there! Because Senja is really beautiful, so beautiful that we now, after the entire trip, believe it is probably a better destination than Lofoten.

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For one thing, Senja is huge, with many more fjords and in locations further north than Lofoten, offering better chance to see northern light. For another, it seems cheaper to stay there. The resort unit we rented for less than $100 a night was luxurious with full kitchen and a million dollar view towards a fjord. Senja also looks wilder than Lofoten, with much less population. However, because we had already booked our accommodations in Lofoten, we had only one day to stay in Senja.

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The place we stayed in Senja is called Hamn i Senja. It is located in the mouth of a big fjord, facing north, which is an ideal location for observation of northern light. Unfortunately, the night we were there, the sky became cloudy after sunset.

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There are many worthwhile destinations on Senja. On our way to Hamn i Senja, we took a detour to Bergsfjord. The roadside lookout offers a stunning view of the fjord.

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On our way out, we also had numerous roadside scenic stops.

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If we ever revisit Nordic Norway, we will definitely make Senja a multi-day destination.

Tromso and Northern Lights

*This post is long overdue. Too many other things diverted my time.*

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Tromso

Tromso is in far north Norway, almost at latitude 70 degree, way beyond the Arctic Circle. We drove over 620 km up there from Tornio, Finland, along the Sweden-Finland border. The route was chosen for two reasons. One was to take advantage of the relatively low cost of car rental in Finland, and the other was to maximize our chance of seeing northern lights, as Finland’s Lapland and Norway’s Tromso are well known for northern light sighting.

It turned out, however, that the weather was not cooperative. We did not have a clear night on our way to Tromso; our imagination of greenish northern lights over snow-covered Lapland forest remains imagination only.

In Tromso, we chose Ersfjord to try our luck. We checked out the village of Ersfjordbotn in daylight on the day we arrived in Tromo, and enjoyed a beautiful sunset there.

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We went back to the city center for dinner and drove out to the fjord again after 10pm. It was only about 15 minutes after we got to our chosen spot that northern lights started to flicker over our heads ! The activity level that night was not high, at only Kp 2 (on a scale from 1 to 10), and it was a bright moon-lit night. Still, the northern lights were very visible to naked eyes. With the moonlight, we did not have to worry about finding our ways on the ground and foreground objects were well illuminated. However, the northern lights were so far high up that sometimes it was difficult for us to frame it together with any foreground object below.

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We spent over two hours under the flickering northern lights. Many photographs were taken but we were not satisfied, hoping there would be more chances ahead while we travel in the arctic Norway. Unfortunately, it turned out that night at Ersfjordbotn was the only night during our entire trip when we could photograph the northern lights.

 

A Good Route to Travel Beyond the Arctic Circle

It’s been a while since my last post. The reason is I’ve been away from home for half of April. I went beyond the arctic circle, into the Nordic Europe.

Specifically, on the spur of the moment, when I found a relatively cheap flight deal to Finland, I called up a friend couple and organized a two-week trip to the Lofoten Archipelago of Norway via Finland’s Lapland by car.

Lofoten has been on my list of must-see-must-shoot-must-hike places for some time already. The high cost of flying directly into Norway is prohibiting and car rental is more than triple the cost here in North America. It just occurred to me that going there via the relatively cheaper Finland might be a good idea. And it is.

I found a return flight to Helsinki via Amsterdam costs only US$720, plus a US$210 flight from Helsinki to a Lapland airport (Kemi-Tornio). An officially called “Northern Lights Road” leads north from Tornio all the way to Tromso, Norway. From Tromso, it is only a few hours drive down to Lofoten. And it is a very scenic drive. Car rental in Finland is much cheaper, and one can stock up cheaper food in Finland before driving into expensive Norway.

My plan worked very well, economically. For a 15-day Arctic Europe trip, each of us three spent less than US$2100, all inclusive. The car we rented in Finland is a Mercedes A180 with GPS and studded winter tires, and we stayed in cabins with kitchenette most of the days (so that we could cook our oriental food). What can one ask for more?

Here is a map showing my travel route and the cities/towns where we stayed overnight:

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The only thing that prevents me from rating this trip excellent is the weather. We had much worse weather than we expected, and ran into practically every kind of bad weather, including heavy snow, hail, rain and gale wind.

Still, we managed to have a few northern lights photos, and a bunch of post-card like Lofoten pictures.

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I will post the pictures in the next few blog entries. So stay tuned.

Spring Elegance 2

The elegance of the season remains even in drizzling rain.

Shots of some cherry tree-lined Vancouver streets in the rain (the second one is a timed selfie):

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Spring Elegance

No need to say anything. Just enjoy the beautiful season !

Happy Patty Day !

Not that I have any special feeling for this festival, but green is my favorite color.

You know what? I vote for the Green Party here in BC every year, just because I love the color (chuckling ….).

IMG_9557 happy patty day

Spring Comes Early

Al Gore should come to Vancouver to sell his curses and cures on global warming this winter. Too bad he lives in the freezing cold east coast.

We Vancouverites have just had an unbelievably warm winter. And a short one, it seems. Because the cherry plum trees (prunus cerasifera) that line up many streets here are in full bloom, at least two weeks earlier than normally the case.

Cherry trees have also begun blooming.

Spring comes early in 2015!

It’s time to photograph flowers!

All of the following pictures were taken with long lenses, either my 70-200mm f2.8Lor my 400mm f5.6L prime, all hand-held. Long lenses are very useful for photographing the blossoms on streets. They help, among other things, compressing the scene, capturing details high above the trees, and throwing the background out of focus thus giving the scene a great visual depth.

Enjoy the early spring!

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The West is Red and Spectacular!

While the eastern areas of North America are suffering from unusually cold weather, the western coastal areas are enjoying unprecedented warm winter. For the last ten days, we in Vancouver had no rain at all, which is truly extraordinary. The nice weather also produced spectacular sunset (and perhaps sunrise as well, but I didn’t get up early to verify that). For several days in a row, I witnessed beautiful sunset at Garry Point, the west facing seaside park near my home. There are several shots I would like to share with my fellow bloggers.

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The one below is a composite of three pictures; the sunset setting, the music guy and the birds:_MG_5588-3

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Turn, Turn, Turn, a Time to Fly a Kite

I was an avid kite flyer during my childhood, and each time I see people flying kites I can’t resist standing by and watching with great interest. Garry Point, a park near my home, happens to be a perfect kite flying place, with its expansive open space and strong breeze from the sea. Unless the weather is too bad, there are always some kites flying over the park.

A few days before the Chinese New Year, a lady and a gentleman were there flying some long-tailed kites which could make rapid turns in the sky. The sky that day was beautifully blue and the afternoon light was soft. I watched for a long time. And, of course, I took dozens of photos. The turning kite reminded me of Pete Seeger’s song “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Hence the title of this post.

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My Chinese New Year Greetings

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I believe I am a goat reincarnated :=) But sheep will have a great year too!

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