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37 Frames: Aurora Borealis Photography Workshop in Norway – The Northern Lights Chase (part 2!)

February 13, 2013
13 Feb 2013

37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway.

Behind the clouds the sky is always blue. ~ (Norwegian Proverb)

And the chase continues as we continue chasing life. We’re on or probably back from Okinawa by the time this gets posted. A quick little work/life diversion. From the Arctic Circle to the calm, sub-tropical aquamarine waters of the East China Sea. Our dreamscapes continuing to be colored by the Northern Lights, no matter how far removed we may be now. The experience lingers and we are in wonderment every time we revisit our celestial encounter. So the chase continues…as we move forward elated from our light show the previous evening (featured in Part 1) we wake up to Day 4 of our Workshop with a fabulous morning adventure thanks to Silvia to Ersfjordbotn. We were hoping for a light show of a different kind – the Arctic glow, a sunrise and set all-in-one. But this day the clouds came to play and we would be celebrating blues – the happy kind, with smiles – both sheer relief after a harrowing ice crossing from the car park to the icy beach and the fact that this landscape rightinfrontofus was simply breathtaking. Mountains rising from frozen lakes. A little surprise on our itinerary we hadn’t envisaged. Just the location for the ubiquitous group shot and some lovely portraits. Just to remember that we were indeed there.

37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. 37 Frames Norway Workshop - 10 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway.


We had no idea that right next door to this incredible landscape was the funkiest Cafe & Gift store around. Velkommen to Bryggejentene. With coffees and sublime carrot cake (THANK YOU Silvia!!!) it’s a wonder we ever left. A perfect local experience. Then add in the eye-candy galore instore and some of us did leave with much more than we came in with. It was a fabulous morning.

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On the drive back the Arctic glow teased us. We were all obsessed with the charming Norwegian red houses. So we were on a quest to photograph a few and Silvia was up for it too. 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway.

We found a few in the distance. Little Norwegian homey icons. We pulled into a driveway and trekked, probably, across someones garden, now blanketed in snow. And to say it was freezing is the understatement of the year. The wind chill was beyond TUNDRA…that’s all we can say. And as we lost the light all we could do was keep moving…because the alternative was a snap-freeze.

37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway.

37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway.

And that’s it…everyone bails around here. But I keep going and Art keeps documenting me keeping going…Just one more of my endless one more shots…

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lone tog

Back to the hotel and we thaw-out and warm-up as Night 3 of the Chase is about to begin…We are excited. We are giddy. In the last couple of hours we’ve been getting alerts via the iPhone that there will be Aurora Activity. And the alerts keep coming and coming. Like I’d never seen. And that’s when we found out that there was some kind of sun/solar flare, and 18 hours later results in an Aurora Storm. Previous alerts building up to our trip had reached a level 4kp (and just a very few times)…but nothing like what was to come this evening. When the latest update came in, you can be sure we were a whole-bunch of crazy…

“In 63 minutes the Aurora Borealis should be at ‘STORM’ LEVEL! (It’s On!!) See (6.67 Kp) See for immediate, real-time forecasts”…

And then we looked outside. And it was nothing but thick, thick clouds and snow flurries. But no matter, we remained positive as we all bundled in the van and headed off into the night looking for clear skies and Aurora Storms… That’s all part of it. But we knew what was going on around us, above us and we were just hoping, praying, begging for a sliver of a break in the clouds. Vidar had a plan. Go inland. Search for clear skies there. The alerts kept coming. Elation soon coupled with despair. The clouds more impenetrable (but to be honest of course we were MORE THAN SATISFIED with what we had already seen…but there was a STORM going on above us…and all we could do was imagine…). And you know, we always imagine BIG. But the weather was not on our side. Heartbreaking of course…but that’s the way it goes. And so…we drove to Finland.


Of course we make the very, very best of it with LOADS of laughs and a very fun photo shoot at the Finish Border. No lights? We’ll make our own. We had  a ball. And it was kind of a celebration of sorts. For all that we had seen and unseen. For what we had experienced and could only imagine. For nature, in all her glorious unpredictability and magnificence. For making the best of what you have. For friendships made and a love of photography forged forever under  layers & layers of clouds and a starless night. But always knowing the stars are there. Life – an Aurora Storm like none other, full of breathtaking experiences, tangible & invisible, meaningful & defying explanation and made all the better with fish-soup, cookies-on-the-go, back-lit snow, breathy effects & the echo of endless laughter close to midnight. Drunk on life. Half a rock-star pose.  Deliriously tired. The subsequent series we’ll blame it on the non-Northern Lights.
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Rock on…kind of.

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Our fearless leader Vidar…trying to locate where we are? Or perhaps plotting his escape…

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The fave…D4T_3563

And that was it. Our last night of the chase. With one last puff from Trace we are now but a memory on the Finish border. Hopefully not under surveillance. For the next day we were leaving Tromso. Ready for new, even icier adventures. Part 2 of the trip. Here we come Alta (also called the Town of the Northern Lights!!!). And we were only 7221km from Tokyo. Just down the road. We decide to fly to Alta – just 30 harrowing minutes in the air, rather than drive. We had planned the scenic 6 hour drive, but after considering our long, long drives from the previous nights and the fact that everyone was in favor of an extra somethingsomething we opted for the quick flight to make the most of our time in town. Alta was a little village compared to Tromso. While we waited for our pick-up at the Rica Hotel we had a quick tour around town in the amazing morning light, some mini-teaches from Trace and of course time for photos here, there and everywhere.

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Kept thinking this was Daniela… while simultaneously having serious hat-envy.

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And then we were off again. This time for another expedition in moving, living out dreams beyond the Arctic Circle as the locals did and some still do. A very different way of life. Completely fascinating.  For we were off DOG-SLEDDING and what would become another unexpected highlight of our trip. This was an optional extra in our itinerary and one that everyone opted for. We are serious dog-lovers so to be honest I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this. But we were all blown away. The dogs simply love what they do and cannot wait to run (even if sometimes it’s in the opposite direction…). It’s what they are meant to do. Our experience was so positive, informative and we could all tell instantly the owners love what they do. Northern Lights Husky is Norwegian ecotourism certified. Trine & her team were happy to share their daily life with us and all that it entails to work and live with the huskies. These dogs were beautiful. So loving and warm and giving of endless hugs and cuddles when they weren’t tearing through the snow. We had a lesson instructing us on to prepare the dogs, work with them and the sleds. And that’s when I started to freak out…because I still don’t drive a car. It was all very confusing…ropes, brakes, DOGS… Trace was very reassuring and told me she’d talk me through it. She would mush first and I would take photos and then the harrowing swap would take place – maybe. But before all that happened we put on our very spunky suits – kind of an Arctic onesie – and got busy. And it was a very active experience. We all had to prepare our sleighs, organise the dogs, get everything ready. And of course while everyone around us was having much success with getting their dogs together our team couldn’t be anymore US. Meet the gang and of course Palmer…

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Our team of All-Stars…So sweet. Let the chaos begin…and btw the yellow snow is not ours…

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Poor Volum…no we’re not going to ride you. Such a gentle soul in spite of me being slightly harnessed challenged…But we didn’t feel too bad because we suddenly saw one of Dani & Jesley’s dogs take off, ready for a solo run without his harness and things got berserk for a moment…

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But then back under control. Kind of. And around here the excitement was beyond madness. We were almost ready. All good to go. But first the doggies had to give massive shout-outs to all their friends not going for a Mush. Canine chaos.D4D_0208 D4T_3702

And off we go!!!


And how we ever left the start line and stayed on the track is a miracle. Our team had a mind of it’s own to begin with…especially Palmer. You can see below what we were dealing with, unsuccessfully. We ALL wanted to go one way – the ONLY way – and Palmer had a different, much more rustic, independent course in mind. Usually we’re fine with that…except right around this point.


In spite of our very eclectic team, they somehow managed to haul us over the snow, up and down quaint trails, across fjords and frozen lakes and it was simply amazing. And we were going at quite a clip. A bit bumpy and airborne when we forgot the brakes…but simply fabulous. The scenery breathtaking, a little Arctic glow showed up. We were explorers for a little while, lost in where we were and a very different kind of life, mushing about.


It wasn’t all this romantic of course. Especially when Palmer had his own ideas about creating new course after new course. And tried to instigate this more than at least 20 times. We couldn’t really photograph it as we were too busy trying to get everyone back in some sort of formation. And on the TRACK. But you’ll get the gist of what we were dealing with because Dani & Jesley were having a few issues behind us at one point – before and after their team tried to overtake us (out of sheer frustration for our very random, hilarious & most-likely poor mushing form) at least 15 times…

“It’s this way guys…”


Back on the trail…loving every minute of it…And then…D4T_3821

Palmer has other ideas.

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Time for a snow face plant. And lots of rolling around, playing, general mucking about mid-mush. His team were not impressed. But I have to admit, I kind of like his style…So we all gave in and it was time for the swap and a few quick photos…You know, looking like we were in control and all…And off we go again!

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Over endless snow plains, in and out of forrests, past frozen and not so frozen rivers, stream and lakes. We sledded into a hint of sunset before it was all over too soon. What a day…


And waiting for us back at the homestead, after we had taken care of the dogs was a beautiful campfire. Tea, coffee, homemade brownies…we may never leave. Around the fire we asked a bazillion questions about life here. And were treated to stories of a Dog-Mushers life. It was fascinating and so very, very different and completely eye-opening. They also very kindly let us loose with our cameras to spend as much time with the dogs & puppies as we liked. Endless snuggles, hugs, kisses and affection. Here’s a little glimpse into our mushers life & morning post-sledding…

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We very reluctantly left…those beautiful dogs and that incredible feeling of flying over the snow, so freeing and exhilarating at the same time, now another chapter in our Norway adventure. An unexpected one.  And we were up for another frosty installment. This one very much planned. The one after the chase we had been waiting for…We were ready for our Ice Hotel episode – but was it ready for us???

Trine kindly delivered us to Sorisniva Igloo Hotel. It had just opened for the season 3 days earlier. Some parts were still being built (additional guest rooms, etc…) but the main part was complete and it was really something to see. But first we had a quick lunch (yes, fish soup again…) in the main fine-dining restaurant built in the style of a traditional Sami tent-home. The Ice Hotel is a separate structure next to a the lovely and very welcoming Warm Building including the modern restrooms, bathrooms, library/games rooms, restaurant, saunas etc. After exploring those we let loose on venturing to what we had come to experience, the magnificent Ice Hotel out the back. For a 1-night stay.

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Reindeer-hide covered doors welcomed us, to the incredible icy world beyond…It’s a constant -4 to -7 in the Ice Hotel all the time and it was every bit as magical as we imagined. The Igloo measures approx 2000 square meters and the entire exterior and interior is made of snow and ice; the rooms, the beds, even the glasses in the ice bar. Every year the Ice Hotel has a different theme. This year was all about Fairytales – which couldn’t have been more apt for this bunch of dreamers. Behind the doors were intricate, expertly carved ice creations, all depicting local fairytales & folk tales. We walked into a different world, one that would immerse us for at least 24 hours. The Ice hotel not only includes the famed bar…we’ll certainly get to that, but also a consecrated chapel where weddings are held, 30 rooms for guests, a bridal suite of course, and several lounges. The genius is in the details – from ice chandeliers to real roses now crystallized by the cold. We were so lucky to have the hotel to ourselves for at least 2 hours. So of course we got busy photographing it all, mini-teaches along the way, playing with light, taking in the big and small, and of course a Bridal Session (naturally 2 of us had bought wedding dresses!!!) which will feature here on the blog separately. Onto some of the many chilly highlights…

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Playing with light in the entrance.

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Taking in the details. This passage leads to the guest rooms.

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And once we lit it all up from behind… magic.


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Looking towards the chapel.

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Suite room anyone? With a working ice-harp.D4D_0722

Carvings, sculptures, icy eye-candy, stunning details and more than a few laughs/photos/memories.

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Heading towards the bar…D4D_0726

Daniela has an idea for a photo. Apparently a group photo. We’re up for that. Let’s do it at the bar.D4D_0372 D4D_0375

But when it suddenly involved ice-bar planking…there were simply no words…(lots of signs though about not touching… in Dani’s defense, through the shock, awe & laughter there were none about planking)…D4T_4083 D4D_0386

Fastest group shot in history. Love you all and your infectious love of life, ice and willldoanythingforaphotoattitude.

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Jesley looking incredibly excited about getting into the icy vodka…

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Back to the details and exquisite works of art.D4T_4110 37 frames sorrisniva - 5 D4T_4123

And yes, a few more (legal) portraits.37 Frames Norway Workshop - 15

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Trace still on her quest for fabulous, cheap photo-effects.D4D_0633

And possibly our favorite series of the stay. Just love this so much and only wish we had thought of it. Presenting Daniela & Jesley. In the Ice Hotel. Shooting themselves. With the self timer. ON. In every room. Daniela by Daniela. Jesley & Daniela by Daniela.


Somewhere in between here (and all the hilarity) Nay emerged as a stunning ice-bride much to the surprise and delight of the staff and we had a fabulous (& fast time) photographing her. More on that in a later post. A quick game of Cheat in the games room and then it was off for a very fancy dinner (all local ingredients from salmon carpaccio, to reindeer, hare and more). It was a heady culinary experience. We were hoping for one more glimpse of the Northern Lights but when we ventured outside it was snowing fiercely so we set-up for some portraits in the snow. Again.

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And now on to the sleeping arrangements. Yes, we were staying the night. The beds were ice with natural reindeer-hides, “mattresses”. Then from the warm building we had to gather sleeping-bags that can stand -30 degrees. 2 bags each. We would be toasty. It was recommended to wear woolen underwear and a hat during the night. And you really needed the hat. Once we were all organised and tucked inside it was so warm. Except if your head popped out, the face got a little cold, but once you snuggled down it was all good. A once-in-a-lifetime-sleep. Trace and I photo bombed everyone’s rooms for a quick peek into how we all looked asleep on the ice…


Maybe Nay & Art…D4D_0668

Could be Jesley & Dani…D4D_0669

And then we took a page from Daniela and did a quick self timer shot…


Goodnight Sorrisniva…D4D_0703

Morning came and we all survived. Our shoes at the foot of the beds were crystallized with ice so it was a crunchy start. We signed the guestbooks, took our bedding back to the Warming building and started our day with a lovely local breakfast spread. And the swapping of stories…how we made it through the night.



One last group shot before it was time to leave!!! At about 9am – love the twilight blues of the Polar Nights in Alta. I think this is one of my/our favorite photos from the whole trip…not sure why, but just so…everyone…


We had a quick transfer back to Alta before our afternoon flight to Tromso. Always time for more photos, a walk, instruction and a photo-project or 2. Including a somewhat failed, flawed and very fun attempt at making snow angels.

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It’s a wonder we ever left Alta, because while we were waiting for our flight the weather was horrendous. Snowed in, dark & stormy. Which just gave us all time to plan for our next trip…It starts with B and it will happen next year…The weather finally cleared up and after a milk-run of a trip later (a couple of stops) we were back in Tromso.


Arriving on our Private plane, of course…


Tromso, we’ve missed you!! And here’s one of the mini-projects we had in the works during the trip. A fun little alphabet challenge to take in our surroundings. We look for lines & shapes to create letters to spell where we are. Just in case we forget. One of our more successful titles (more to come…with varying degrees of success…)


We wearily arrived back to our hotel and had our last dinner together, after a final walk around town. It was our last day, tomorrow everyone would leave. We were all blissfully ignoring it. There was a lot of sharing of photos, a visit to the Film Festival that had finished and so we remembered Tromso with the glitters…another little exercise in long exposures, fun and photos. Here’s what we got up to in town on our last night…


Morning came and flights weren’t scheduled to leave until the afternoon so we spent the morning together going over photos and taking in the Polaria. With Jesley in a skirt and flip-flops, because she was so over her clothes. I have to admit we all were too. A lovely combination of reindeer and canine aromas were somewhat overwhelming at this point. Established in 1997 on the initiative of The Department of the Environment, the Polaira aims to spread knowledge and awareness of Arctic flora and fauna, climate and environmental consequences, to tourists and other visitors. We took in a few films on, of course, the Northern Lights and the Polar environment and perhaps finally understood how the mystery of the lights (it explained it all very clearly…) And then it was time to part ways. We didn’t even want to think about.

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One last walk through Tromso and the sky was about to put on some kind of show.

37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. 37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway.

We reminisced the whole way back, so thankful and grateful to have been bought together by the lights. Here’s a few more shares from the group…


First to head on the long trip home were Jesley (rocking some serious heels), Nay & Art. We cannot tell you how much you all mean to us. It was truly the trip of a lifetime and we couldn’t have imagined spending it with anyone but you. Thank you for all the memories and all those to come. We all waved until we couldn’t wave anymore. And if we had this much fun this time, can you even imagine next time?!37 Frames Alta 5

Leaving is part of hello. And as if we needed some kind of exclamation point to this whole trip and experience upon leaving the airport I was greeted with this view. It was the sunrise/sunset of dreams.  So I jumped in a cab and on the way back to town asked him to pull over.I only had my camera, no tripod to really photograph it the way I saw it. Long, slow, layer after layer of light exploding in the sky. But that’s life, not always perfect but a perfect enough send off all the same.

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We found Dani at the pizza joint for a last quick bite and another endless laugh-a-thon before it was time for her flight. That pink light was still lingering in the sky. Poignant to the end. This group sparkled…each and every one. Beautiful, talented, so full of joy and goodness. How we ever all collided together at the top of the world is beyond us. All in search of the light, in so many ways.

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37 Frames Northern Lights Workshop. Tromso, Norway. And that was it. The end of our Workshop at the top of world and chase for the lights. There will be more, for sure, perhaps not quite like this one, but once-in-a-lifetime photo journeys all the same. And that’s just the point. To try new things, take the road less traveled, go for the risky, understanding the costs, but always with positivity, energy, and an insatiable appetite for curiosity and living out loud. Not sure if we can find the words in our hearts to express what this experience has come to mean. We hope the photos speak to some of it. Love, Dee & Trace x

Revisit Part 1 HERE

With Part 3 to come…when we’re left on our own…

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5 replies
  1. Pam Bell says:

    Need a love button for this post! Wow! What beauty you captured. thank you for sharing with us–and such fun for all, as is evident from the pics. Your lighting is exquisite!!! I have to say, though–to this Florida (born in GA) gal-it looks COLD there! Even though none of you show it at all…Gorgeous!!!

  2. Daniela Viscarra says:

    Loved it!!! every word, every photo!!! I hope we can make the next B trip possible!! love you guys so much! I learnt so many things with you guys that I cannot thank you enough….love you…love us!

  3. Maggie Ford says:

    And, the beautiful photos of this adventure keep coming! Absolute gorgeousness!!!

  4. Mira says:

    I am _speechless_! amazing photos, amazing shots, I love them all. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Yolando Munson says:

    The aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) and the aurora australis (the Southern Lights) have always fascinated mankind, and people even travel thousands of miles just to see the brilliant light shows in the earth’s atmosphere. The auroras, both surrounding the north magnetic pole (aurora borealis) and south magnetic pole (aurora australis) occur when highly charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elements in the earth’s atmosphere.`”..-

    Very latest write-up from our personal internet site


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