Here’s a story that I’ve never told. It belongs to one of my most successful photos in all my years as a photographer, and it was anything but a lucky snap. This photograph proves that photography is a lot more than a click of a button. It involves planning, dedication and perseverance to get the shot you want.
This is the Big Picture story of my shot of Bergsbotn.
Our Photo Moment
It was on our last night in Senja. We had already dropped off our good friend Haku, who had joined us in Lofoten for a few days, at the Airport in Leknes. We enjoyed Senja so much on our way to the Lofoten, that we decided to stop there one last time before dropping the van back in Tromso.
I had heard about this lookout point from a friend of mine. It’s easily accessible, high up for a great view and perfect for a sky full of aurora. If only we knew how to find it! In a race against time, we began the hunt without the ability to reach my friend and without reception or internet. All we had were our paper maps, the idea of it being somewhere in the northern part of the island, and his picture for reference.
We spent the whole morning searching for the lookout, it felt very much like a treasure hunt, deciphering landmarks in the picture for clues. Not that we minded, the whole of Senja is absolutely beautiful and small enough to drive through in one day. We ended up in Hamn, which resembled the coastal line on the photo. We were convinced it had to be here, but all we found was a troll park and an iconic little house on an island which was picturesque in it’s own right, but not the lookout point we were searching for.
Once reaching Torsken without luck, we turned around and decided to drive around the island towards the north east, this was my favourite part of Senja which we came across at the beginning of our trip. Lo and behold, there it was! Right in the middle of route 862. There, neatly positioned on a turnoff, stood a wooden lookout overseeing a very overcast little village called Bergsbotn. And in Bergsbotn we stayed. Or more specifically in the neighbouring village Skaland, on an abandoned parking lot next to a tiny “supermarket” called Joker. We stayed here for a whole 12 hours until the clouds cleared. Eating cup noodles and buying random grocers just to be able to use their facilities. You may find this sleazy, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and for the most part the staff at Joker didn’t seem to mind.
Shortly after dark a star peeked through the cloud cover. Then another, and then suddenly the whole eastern side of the sky cleared up. The wind was very strong so we knew that it was only a matter of time before either the rest of the clouds moved on, or more would appear behind the mountain range. We prayed that the aurora forecast man was right and the lady aurora would make an appearance soon.
Finally at midnight we could make out the faint shimmer of green in the sky. You could almost dismiss it as a trick of the mind. So subtle, yet when viewed through the camera it was unmistakable. We made our way to the lookout point and waited. The wind was so strong that it took both of us opening each of our doors separately without them blowing off their hinges. In mid-February this kind of wind can make the difference between being able to stay outside a few hours and a few seconds… I really wanted this shot.
I wanted to illuminate the road below by headlights from travelling cars – Like that’s going to happen in the dead of night in a village with under 100 inhabitants! So the light you see in this picture? That light belongs to our very own campervan, expertly piloted by my partner in crime. While leaving me completely exposed on the shaky platform – did I mention I was deathly afraid of heights in the dark? – he grabbed the van and drove along the road all the way to our little supermarket and back again.
Blend of 5 images
14mm, 30sec, 2.8, ISO1600
Unfortunately some clouds were stubborn enough to stick around, but I still love the way the image turned out. As a bonus the lady aurora stuck around for the rest of the night. We spent another 3 hours driving along route 862 towards Ersfjord. In these three hours the aurora really showed off and treated us to the most beautiful show of lights I’ve ever witnessed. We captured it along most of the beaches, stopping in awe and even waking up fellow campers who might have otherwise missed it. We were able to watch it from our camping spot in Ersfjord, capture a time-lapse and fall asleep to it with our van door open. A special picture to remember an incredibly special night!