Without a doubt, working in Norway was the hardest conditions I have ever taken photos in - 4 hours of 'sunlight' a day, -10 in the daytime and -22 at night!
We were off again as the Combat Camera Team to cover EX ICE READY an exercise to prepare Five British women to become the first all-female team to ski coast-to-coast across Antarctica in November 2017.
We set off from Andover to Heathrow at 3AM to catch 3 flights into deepest darkest Norway; literally. We had 4 hours of 'dusk' each day we were out there. I didn't see The Sun once...
The sun rising at Heathrow as we took off, this was the last time I saw this, until I got back to the UK 4 days later.
Our first stop was Oslo, the capital of Norway, then on to Tromsø and then one final flight to Lakselv where we would pick up our hire car (a lovely Suzuki Vitara). There we drove onto Porsangermoen, our home for the next few days. We made a stop off at the local Co-Op and grabbed some supplies for the week.
We were staying in a nice little chalet just outside of the Military training area that the girls were working in. When I say 'chalet' it wasn't like your Center Parks style. It was not quite Butlins, but not as bad as a Pontins! It was a place to edit, eat, sleep, wash and charge our batteries. That's pretty much all we need as a camera team. Well that and a set of wheels, but we had already picked that bad boy up!
This was the view from out the back of our window.
We were up early the first morning, so we could get up into the training area to capture what was going on - in good conditions it would have taken 45 minutes. The Suzuki Vitara was supposed to be a 4x4, but we got stuck in the snow. The digger that cleared the roads had not been out before we left and the snow was bad. The first hill we came to we go stuck (I wasn't driving). Luckily, a BV was bringing someone in off the area, they chained us up and pulled us out of the verge. We were on our way again, until 5 metres up the hill we lost control and ended up in a ditch. This time the digger that cleared the roads had made it to us and actually dug the car out of the snow. We had discovered that the 4x4 was not that good in snow, so we switched all electronic ESP and other gadgets off and managed to trundle up onto the training area.
The BV pulling us out.
So we got to the training area and began to work. Fuck me it was cold! I was wearing layers and layers of clothing and I still felt it! As I have said before, we did not have much light to work with, so I knew I was going to be using some high ISO's. I started snapping away and covered them practicing crevasse rescue drills and moving across the training area.
This was the type of terrain that they had been living and training in.
I didn't notice until after reviewing this photo, that there was a old tank in the background.
We finished that day as the light dropped below what our cameras could cope with, and before the snow really set in and we got stuck for the night. I drove us back down from the area and to say it was a ropey drive would be an understatement. The snow was as deep as the bonnet at some points. I don't think I got out of second gear the whole time. We made it back and realised that it was 3 in the afternoon and it was pitch black outside!
The next day, we waited until it was light and we could get up to the training area. We didnt get up until later that day, as it was snowing hard and the car would not have made it. We waited until the snow had stopped, and the digger cleared the roads and made our way up. By the time we got up there it was already getting dark. We got to the area where the girls were stopping for the night and waited for them to arrive.
Camera set up for a timelapse in the snow while waiting.
It was this dark at 1PM.
Once the girls arrived, they went straight into their routine to set up camp for the night. The only light we had at this point was the torchlight from them and myself.
Cleaning off the ski's to be used as 'pegs' for the guy ropes.
Hot water was heated on these fuel stoves.
The only way to get water was to heat up and boil snow.
The living conditions in the tents.
The steam filling up the tent. This made taking pictures hard as it would often fog up the lens. I combated this by putting the lens in the snow to cool down and wipe it off after.
Foot admin was key in the conditions that they were working in.
As we were packing all the gear away, I noticed that there was a massive break in the clouds and you could see the stars. On the off chance of getting some nice star shots, I whacked the camera on a tripod set the shutter speed to 25 seconds and waited to see what came out on the back of the camera.Checking it out there was a green smudge across the screen. I instantly knew it was the Northern lights. I told Gaz and we started unpacking all our kit again.
We both set our cameras up to capture a timelapse but using the interval mode in camera so we could tweak the images before making them into a timelapse afterwards. We then sat in the car with the heater on for a few hours and waited...
This was the exact shot I had in mind that I wanted to capture before I went out there. You can just about see The Northern Lights. The three shooting stars were just a bonus!
Happy with what I got we headed home. As it was an early start in the morning so we went straight to bed.
Up and ready for the last day of shooting we met the girls where we left them the night before. This day was by far the coldest, it was -14 when we got up there and it got colder by the hour. It was so cold my jacket was starting to freeze and I could only work for about 20 mins before I had to put on a set of mittens over my thermal gloves for my hands to warm up. I worked my way round what was going on and captured their morning routine doing both video and stills.
Stepping out of the warmth of the tent into -14.
Selfportrait, you can see the ice forming on my jacket.
I realised that I needed to drink more water and less brews after having this wee!
So cold you had to defrost your bindings with your breath!
The views were pretty spectacular.
As the girls set off we spent the next couple of hours of daylight running alongside and ahead of them to capture them travelling back to camp. I shot the stills and Gaz did an interview on the move. It was hard work running up and down the line as I had to get ahead of them enough to get shots on the long lens and then wait for them to come past me to get shots on the wide. I struggled with reviewing the images on the back of the camera as well due to every time I breathed on it the condensation froze!
The training area looked amazing that morning.
If you look into the distance you can see the Boss and Gaz running ahead.
Anyone have a guess to what the blue funnel is?
Gaz after filming, his eyelashes and hair had frozen.
After shooting for the day it was back to the chalet to download our images and footage and start the edit. The girls had to hand back in their kit and sort themselves out after being in the snow for 9 days. That evening a big meal was cooked for everyone and we had a few beers with everyone. Before I went to bet I thought I would check out the sky to see what it looked like. This time you could see the Northern Lights with the naked eye. It was hard to frame it up as I couldnt see anything through the viewfinder so it was focus to infinity, set shutter speed to 25 seconds, f 5.6 and ISO 3200 and hope for the best. After a few shots I got the framing right and took a few snaps. After I was happy I set the camera to timelapse mode, set an alarm for a few hours and went to bed.
This is what the camera looked like at 1230AM and at -25.
Camera set up in the middle of the night near the lake.
The front of the lens. Happy to say that none of the ice came up on the exposures and the camera still works just as fine!
This was out the back of our chalet. I would have been gutted if I did not come back with a picture of the Northern Lights.
And that was that! 3 flights home and back in Andover for 1130PM on the Sunday. A great trip, did some great stuff and got to meet some inspiring girls. I wish them all the best on the rest of their adventures and I hope to work with them again soon! Big up yourselves ladies!
Here is the finished video that Gaz filmed and shot. With one shot in their from me and the last bit of music made by me using garage band.
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