Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be able to go on two very different back to back trips.
The first was a photography trip to the north of Norway and the Lofoten Islands, with their mountain peaks and Artic fjords. Then less than 24 hours after returning to London, I was flying out again. This time to Germany, to photograph the skyscrapers and urbanscapes of Frankfurt. The two trips couldn’t have been any more different, yet both very enjoyable.
Arriving in Tromso to temperatures in the minus 20’s I couldn’t help but to feel excited. The lakes were frozen, the trees covered in frost, snow everywhere and you could see every breath you took.
I was on the trip with 5 other very talented photographers, photographers that are much more landscape photographers than I am. Every location that we arrived at they would all scatter finding the shots they wanted, while I was walking around wondering how to capture my amazing surroundings. I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the vast surroundings and epic conditions. This certainly wasn’t going to stop me having a great time and was certain to get some images I was happy with.
It took me a few days to really find my feet in a photography sense. I was having a really good time, yet struggling to see the images I wanted to create. As the trip went on I started feeling more and more comfortable. The weather played a huge part in this too. While there was amazing light with big blue skies and the contrasting snow everywhere you looked, I couldn’t help but find it hard to capture it all. Then when we had a change in conditions, with winds, dark clouds and some snow I felt much more comfortable, yet a fair bit colder.
Walking along an empty beach of frozen sand with sun-lit, snow-capped mountains in every direction, certainly makes you stop and try and take it all it. Or standing in the middle of a lake that is well and truly frozen. A little daunting at times, when you hear the sound of the ice cracking and creaking under your feet. Or when a huge wave of ice cold seawater comes crashing over a rock that’s only a few meters away. There’s no one about telling that you can’t take photos here. You’re not feeling anxious about taking a photo of a stranger who may confront you. There are no CCTV cameras pointing at you watching your every move. Yet there also isn’t anyone there to help you or witness you disappearing into some icy water. Saying that, having no one around, not feeling watched all the time I found it all so refreshing and relaxing. Taking my time walking around, exploring different compositions, playing with exposure times, not feeling any pressure at all. The whole trip was very enjoyable.
Then there was Frankfurt… The trip couldn’t be more different. Huge buildings, hustle and bustle on the streets, people and cars everywhere. Yet I felt much more at home, not only in the sense that I live in a populated city like Frankfurt but in a photographic way. I could see compositions and photographs everywhere I looked. I could already picture how the finished image would look after processing before even getting the camera out of the bag. This was something I found hard in Lofoten and even struggled processing the photos in my usual black and white style. Hence some rare colour images in this post.
So many buildings to photograph, so many opportunities for some street photography. Yet every time you get a tripod out your waiting for a security guard to come and, at best question what you are doing. Setting up a composition to have a car come and park right in the center of your shot. Being told “no photos”, “you can’t do that” and “this is private property” is all something that comes with shooting in the city. Getting stressed and anxious about it all but feeling much more at home. I will say on a whole, Frankfurt is much more open about photographers taking pictures than other cities I have been to.
Lofoten did have its own very different problems that Frankfurt certainly didn’t have. Numb fingers, making using a camera much harder. Iced sea water that breaks giving you a very cold wet foot (yes it happened) makes moving about a lot slower. Frozen tripods that don’t work properly and camera batteries that don’t seem to last five minuets due to the cold, all cause their own issues. Problems that didn’t exist in Frankfurt.
The architecture in Frankfurt is one of the best in Europe. It has one of the best skylines I’ve seen. Unlike London its pretty much finished too. Not a crane in site to ruin photographs. Some wonderful designed buildings, with great shapes and angles. Most nicely spaced so you can walk round and get different compositions. Some very iconic architecture that we have seen some brilliant photographs of in recent years. Yet, there is still different compositions and processing styles to try and create your own art. A truly wonderful city for architecture.
So what was the better trip?
A very hard question to answer, as they were both so different. The epicness of Norway can’t be beaten. It’s up there with Iceland with its raw extreme landscapes. It’s an amazing place and I’d love to return one day. Yet the cost of the trip and the time needed, you can’t really pop over for a weekend, would mean its quite possible that I never will. Whereas Frankfurt, like most European cities is less than 2 hours from London. Making it an easy and much cheaper trip to make. There is a very good chance I’ll be back there sometime in the not so distant future.
The experience of Norway is something I’ll never forget and has to be classed as one of the best trips ever. While I had a great time in Frankfurt, it’s just another city break. I’ve done many before and I’m sure (hope) I’ll do more in the future.
Most of us take photographs that we want to take, shooting things that make us happy. We sit in our comfort zones and do what we like. But why not, photography is of course a hobby for most people. I have to say I much preferred the calmness and laidback shooting out on the fjords of Norway. Yet from a photography point of view I felt much more at home in the City of Frankfurt. I may well be a happier person out in the wilderness yet I’m a happier photographer in the city.