Photographer Zbigniew Wantuch recently shared his portfolio of amazing work with the Sifter and it is through his lens that we get to experience the natural beauty of Norway. Currently working as a photojournalist for the local newspaper, Zbigniew lives in one of the northernmost cities in the world, Hammerfest, Norway.
Below you will find an interview I did with the budding photographer as we learn more about his travels and experience. Enjoy the photo tour of Norway below and be sure to check out Zbigniew’s official site at zbigniewwantuch.com for more fantastic work!
1. Norwegian Book Town – Fjærland, Norway
The Norwegian Book Town in Fjærland started out very modestly in 1995, and now stocks about 2.5 miles of shelving, filled with books, in a variety of abandoned buildings – from ferry waiting rooms, stables and local banks to post office and grocery shop. Besides taking care of books, the idea here was also to preserve the old buildings, this makes some of the shops rather exceptional and characteristic.
You here find small, specialised shops, some of them in connection with other trades like the two hotels and the arts & crafts shop, and quite large shops selling only second-hand books: Straumsvågs Antikvariat and Den norske bokbyen A/S.
The shops in The Norwegian Book Town are open 10am-6pm every day from May to September, every day from 10 am to 6 pm. Requests by e-mail, post, fax or telephone are served all through the year, and the book town enjoys a lively postal order business.
For more information visit: http://bokbyen.no/en/
2. Aurora Borealis – Hammerfest, Norway
Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m originally from Poland. While living there I was working in advertising as a copywriter but about 1.5 years ago I decided to move to Norway, mostly because of the dramatic landscape and nature. Right now I live in northernmost city in the world (at least that’s what they say in the city hall!) – Hammerfest in Finnmark province and work as a photojournalist for local newspaper Hammerfestingen.
Because tittle “northern most in the world” is quiet controversial I just want to explain that: yes, there are people living further north then we here (f.ex. on Svalbard) but we are the farthest north among places that are under Norwegian law that can be called a “city”. Don’t believe people from Honningsvåg – they will say something completely different 🙂 [You can read more about the dispute on Wikipedia]
I have been making a living by taking pictures for a year now, but I have been interested in photography more or less since I was 17. Before that I was focused on becoming NBA player. It didn’t go that well.
3. Godøy Island, Norway
Godøy is an island in the municipality of Giske in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway. The island is famous for its beautiful nature, dominated by the 497-metre (1,631 ft) tall mountain Storhornet and the large lake Alnesvatnet.
Most of the population lives on the southeastern side of the island in Godøy and Leitebakk, although the small fishing village of Alnes, with its old lighthouse, is located on the north side of the island about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) away via a tunnel through the 436-metre (1,430 ft) tall mountain Sloktinden. [Source: Wikipedia]
4. Sunnmøre, Norway
What gear do you usually use for your landscape photographs?
For landscapes I mostly use a Canon 5D mark II and Canon 16-35 2.8L lens. I use density filters (not always because of strong vignetting from filters mount at 16mm) and polarizing filters. Funnily enough most of the pictures you see under this article were taken before I went “pro”. Back then I could only afford Canon 550D with kit 18-50 3.5-5.6f lens (with polarizing filter). In my opinion it proves 2 things:
1: it’s not the camera that is most important
2: shoot in RAW and take your time post-processing – this is when you can hide your gear’s weaknesses. Apart from that, for northern lights pictures I use a tripod and a lot of coffee.
5. Trollstigen – Rauma, Norway
Trollstigen is a serpentine mountain road in Rauma, Norway, part of Norwegian National Road 63 connecting Åndalsnes in Rauma and Valldal in Norddal. It is a popular tourist attraction due to its steep incline of 9% and eleven hairpin bends up a steep mountain side.
Trollstigen is closed during autumn and winter. A normal opening season stretches from mid-May to October, but may sometimes be shorter or longer due to changes in the weather conditions. Vehicles over 12.4 meters are prohibited from driving on the road. [Source: Wikipedia]
6. Godøy Island, Norway
(taken from the top of Ålesund)
What are some challenges about shooting
the Norwegian landscape?
Most people think it’s the cold. I would say that it’s more wet then cold. Of course during winter in inland Finnmark you will get -25*C but then you can just put one extra sweater on and you’ll be fine. Most of the gear also can cope with this kind of temperatures – my camera never froze, screen was working fine, only batteries dies faster then normal. If you can survive, so can the gear.
First real challenge is rain and/or wind. Most typical pictures you see from Norway were taken during a few sunny moments in the summer. For the rest of the year it rains quiet often and suddenly, so it’s hard to plan anything in advance. When wind blows so hard that you can’t stand, it’s also hard to hold the camera steady. Waterproof bags and clothes are quite useful.
Second challenge is distance. If you are looking for interesting angels or perspectives you will need to walk/climb for a while. My advice, don’t take too much gear with you. If it’s heavy you will hate it before you get to your destination.
Third challenge is light. In a huge part of the world you expect to get the best landscape shots around sunrise and sunset (around 6 in the morning and 8 in the evening). It’s also true here in Finnmark, with a small twist: in the summer, the sun doesn’t set for 2 months and in the winter you don’t see it at all. In the southern part of Norway you get absolutely amazing light for 2 hours around sunrise (around 0400 in the morning) and sunset (around 2300 in the evening) if the sky is not covered with clouds.
In Finnmark, in the summer, you get the best pictures at night (from 2300 to 0500 in the morning). In the winter you just shoot northern lights. When I’m hunting northern lights I check two pages: yr.no for weather and http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/Europe for solar activity.
7. Aurora Borealis – Hammerfest, Norway
8. Aurora Borealis – Hammerfest, Norway
Do you have a favourite place in Norway?
Norway is full of beautiful places and every part of the country has it’s unique charm. You have all the small cozy cities of the south, fjords and glaciers on the western shore and no-mans-land up north. But if you only have a week to spend in Norway than you should visit the Møre og Romsdal region. This part of the country (south-west from Trondheim) is packed with attractions (Geiranger fjord, Alesund city, Trolstigen, glaciers and all the mountains around) and if you are into landscapes this is where you will fill your memory card on the first day.
Most of my the pictures with green grass and trees on them were taken there (there is not much green stuff and almost no trees where I live now). Check out this 360 tour for a taste: http://www.visitnorway.com/360/geiranger/#/knivsfla
9. The Highest Road in Northern Europe
Juvasshytta is a mountain tourist station with restaurant and accommodation, located in Jotunheimen, in Lom municipality, Norway. It is located at an altitude of 1841 meters, and is accessible by road, the highest road in Northern Europe.
There is a public bus connection from Lom. Juvasshytta is used as a base station for walks to the summit of Galdhøpiggen, at 2469 meters altitude, the highest mountain in Northern Europe. The area and the road is usually open from May to September, and closed down the rest of the year. [Source: Wikipedia]
10. Kjendalsbreen Glacier – near Loen, Norway
If you could travel anywhere in the world for free, no costs!
Where would you go?
11. Firefighters – Hammerfest, Norway
12. Firefighters – Hammerfest, Norway
You have moved to photojournalism. How is it different?
What’s challenging and what do you enjoy most about it?
It’s totally different. In my opinion photojournalism is about the stories. This is the main challenge – ‘how do I tell this story in a (preferably single) picture?’. You mostly work with people and this is a huge challenge itself. You need to gain their trust and you need to understand what the story is about. Then you need to make yourself invisible – you’re just registering the story, you’re not part of it. Subjects need to stop noticing you. Time is limited – often you only have 1-2 hours in a location, so it’s not possible to wait for better light or weather – you need to make the best of what you get. People are talking, moving, interacting and experiencing things – you only have a split-second to catch it.
In photojournalism the story is the key. In landscape most of the stories are quiet frankly boring: ‘there was a beautiful sunset’, ‘the mountain was standing there in the clouds’, ‘the tree was lightened by a beam of light’, ‘this was a really high cliff’. Landscape photography is playing on other emotions – it’s taking you to places and making you want go out and explore the world. Good photojournalism is bringing the world to you and forcing you to think about or experience it.
13. Trollstigen – Rauma, Norway
14. Sunnmøre Alps
Taken from Ålesund, Norway
Are there any current photographers that you really admire?
There are two polish photographers I haven’t had the opportunity to meet but I greatly respect: Tomasz Lazar and Tomasz Gudzowaty. They are both World Press Photo winners and extremely inspiring artists focusing on black and white photojournalism with a modern twist.
15. Storfjell – Hammerfest, Norway
16. Aurora Borealis – Finnmark, Norway
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