So we ended up in Oslo.
Okay, maybe I should back up a bit. Back in November Holly and I had a week off for purposes of relaxing, chilling out, and using up annual leave allowance. We didn’t really have anything planned, although I had assumed we’d end up in Dorset at some point, because we always do. But then I found out that a budget airline was offering a number of tickets to European destinations, discounted to only £2 per person. What followed what a bit of searching around major European cities; we ultimately settled a short two-day trip to Norway as something ‘different’ (partly due to the lack of flights to warmer places).
Of course, going for only two days you’re playing roulette with the weather somewhat, and sure enough when we arrived it was grey and a bit grotty. I didn’t mind too much; it wasn’t actively raining, and the wet ground looks nice in city photography.
One of the problems with Oslo is, being so far north, the days are really short – when we visited, sunrise was about 8.30am and sunset was 3.30pm. We arrived in the city proper from the airport at around half one in the afternoon on our first day, so the light was already fading.
Like many European cities I’ve visited, Oslo has trams. I’m not sure why they’re so common on the continent but relatively rare in the UK. I guess that lots of British towns down have the street space for them.
For some of the shots in this set I’ve been playing about with Analog Efex Pro, part of the Google Nik collection what also gave me Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro. Analog Efex replicates the look of analogue film, which combined with some of the scenes I shot and the wet ground to get some results I really liked.
The light meant that, even at an ISO of 500, I was shooting at relatively slow shutter speeds. This had an obvious effect on my images of moving trams.
When I travel I usually end up photographing stuff I think of as atypical. So when I end up in Europe I end up photographing trams.
I do try and get a hint of something happening, like this woman on a bicycle near a bus, which I presume is some sort of typical Osloite scene.
I’m never sure how to read my travel photographs like these. To me, shots like this one and the one below are interesting because they’re new places I’ve never been before so they look clearly different, with different architecture and street furniture. But I know I’d not look twice at a similar scene in my hometown – and for that matter, how would a local of Oslo feel about these photos?
We made our way through the city from the station to our accommodation to dump off anything we didn’t need to be carrying around with us. At the back of the wardrobe I found a weird piece of graffiti, probably referring to some Norwegian thing I don’t understand (I say that in jest, but it could actually be true).
After dropping some things off, we headed to the National Gallery of Norway, based wholly on the fact that Munch’s The Scream (or rather, as we would later learn one of the several versions of The Scream) was on display there. I didn’t photograph the work itself, because it was behind glass in a busy room so there was no appreciable angle to make it interesting (I did snap a quick shot with my iPhone though, for the memory).
It wasn’t the only famous work on display that isn’t the rare, one-of-a-kind piece that I had previously believed.
I didn’t take too many shots in the Nasjonal Museet itself. I don’t see the point of photographing just other people’s art (especially paintings where high-quaulity scans already exist) and I felt too self-conscious about taking pictures that included other people despite it apparently being allowed (I did grab a shot or two with my iPhone; these will show up in an Instagram set at some point in the future).
On the way out, however, I did take a couple of pictures in the exit hallway, mainly because I saw something that was a bit different.
This is the ceiling in the entrance hall. For the most part it looked entirely traditional, apart from this grate with a bucket on it. The one place where it would be most visible for the public to see, and someone left it there. For reference, this next shot should give an idea of the space the picture above is the ceiling for.
After the Gallery we went back into the busier part of town and found a delicious burger bar to have dinner. It was absolutely lovely, but expensive – I don’t often give travel advice on this site, but it is useful to know Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in Europe to visit. Two burgers with fries, two desserts and four cokes cost just over 800kr.
The next morning we checked out and went in search of breakfast, giving an opportunity for taking some more shots of the city in actual daylight (look! I was able to shoot at ISO 100!).
I did manage to get a few shots with people in them.
And, of course, trams.
Something that seemed very visible in Oslo, moreso or at least in a different way than in London, was the homeless people. There seemed to be more sleeping rough, and sadly they all seemed to be of the same race. My suspicion is they’re refugees from the various troubles in the Middle East.
After breakfast we took a wander through the city with the ultimate end point being Frognerparken, a park that also contains a sculpture installation.
On the way we passed the Royal Palace and its surrounding park. There we found a groundsman, blowing leaves in the low winter sun.
I used the lovely low backlighting to get some shots of him and the leaves he was kicking up.
From near this spot we could see all the way down the street back towards the city centre.
I liked this image enough that I created a more grungy version of it.
I kind of prefer the latter, although it clearly isn’t a particularly accurate representation of the city. I also took a closeup, making it easier to see the buildings and somewhat emphasising the brownness of the trees on the right.
In the other direction was the Royal Palace itself.
The area surrounding the horse statue was bounded by a bush, which I used to compose this shot.
In the grounds we found a guard looking after where the King of Norway presumably keeps his power tools.
There was also this statue, which I attempted to shoot in an eerie fashion (by which I mean getting the end result to look eerie, I didn’t stand in the shadows in a cloak to take the picture).
It wasn’t just in the statues that I saw aesthetic appeal. I love the assortment of colours on this frosty pipe.
We got a bit lucky with the weather. The day was sunny but with a few clouds, making for interesting skies and lovely shots using the low winter sun.
We exited the park and continued through some Oslo suburbia towards Frognerparken.
Just before we hit the park we were aiming for we encountered a small playground, itself with a couple of sculptures in it, giving us a small indication of the sort of statues that are popular in Oslo.
We soon arrived at the park, and stopped briefly on the benches by the entrance for a break after wandering for a couple of miles through the city. There was a woman sitting on one of the benches, so I quickly swapped out for my 50mm prime lens.
I’m not sure how to describe the sculptures in Frogner Park. They seemed all be along the theme of family. Weird, naked family. I’m not sure if it’s a Norwegian thing or if the artist responsible for the park was a bit peculiar.
By ‘family’ I don’t mean simply kids. I also include naked wrestling in a tractor tyre in what is admittedly a bit of a catch-all definition.
But even so, plenty of traditional family tropes were represented, from a baby having a screaming tantrum…
… through the weird older sister who has discovered Wiccanism…
… to the proud dad and creepy uncle.
All naked, of course.
Standing out was this guy, who had clearly had enough of all the babies and snapped.
He was clearly very angry.
Although it wasn’t particularly cold when we were there, the various fountains in the park were all apparently switched off for the winter. It meant a few sculptures were missing something, like this bunch of naked dudes holding up a large cat bowl for some reason.
The park’s centre point was atop a hill, a peculiar appendage that looked like there should be a nine inch version in the gift shop made out of bio-friendly rubber.
Surrounding it were the usual assortment of nude figures undertaking various forms of debauchery, the most eye-catching and weird being this baby straddling a woman, using a rope as a yoke.
From that spot atop said hill one could get a decent view on all directions of the surrounding area, including back through the bulk of the park and towards the centre of Oslo.
Behind the weird appendage was a little brow, which had another sculpture on top.
Shooting from behind that, with the appendage (which is apparently called The Monolith, which could also be a brand name for a… well, you get the idea) and the crane that was set up next to it made for a nice silhouette shot.
We wandered back out from the sculpture park and back into the more general Frogner Park. There we found a bandstand.
Frogner Park is also home to Frogner Manor, which houses Oslo City Museum. I took a few photographs of it, starting with this one that I like for how the blue, green and brown play against each other with the dark, spindly winter tree.
By this point the sun was beginning to set, adding a lovely golden hue to the sky.
We continued walking, and found a bridge with an oft-traditional number of padlocks attached to the railings.
Like in the morning at the Royal Park, the sun lowering itself in the sky gave the opportunity to take shots with it poking its face through the trees.
This particular section of the park had a river flowing through it, complete with a few waterfalls. As we were only there for a couple of days and flying hand luggage only I didn’t have my tripod or any filters with me in the country, but despite this I was determined to get some nice long exposures of the water in motion.
In the end, not wanting to put my camera on the wet leafy ground, I resorted to balancing it on my boot. As you can see, the end results – at least, some of them – came out sharp enough to use.
Speaking of the leafy ground, it was a lovely colour.
As we headed out of the park to get a tram back to the city centre to have dinner before getting a train to the airport, the sky turned an ever more stark shade.
Whilst we were waiting for the tram, the clouds turned properly red.
Outside the station, opposite which we had a lovely American style pizza (we admittedly didn’t eat much ‘traditional’ Norwegian food whilst we were there) there was a tall tower with a clock on it which looked lovely lit up at night.
After a leisurely and lovely dinner, we made our way to the station.
After that it was on to the airport, and then England, arriving back home barely 40 hours after we’d left.
This is one of the first times we’ve done such a short city break. It was great to be travelling hand luggage only, bringing only the essentials, and being able to fly through airports (although one quirk I’ve noticed: London airports don’t mind if you leave your camera equipment in your main hand luggage. Other places, including Newquay and Oslo, ask you to take your kit out and have it scanned separately) without too much hanging around (and it helps keep things cheap). That said, I think our tour was a little too whistle-stop, we didn’t have a huge amount of time to spend anywhere and by only staying one night we didn’t have a whole day unencumbered by travelling to absorb more sights. Still, it was a bit of an experiment to see how bare bones we could go, and it gave us useful information for future trips. Plus, I enjoyed my short time in the city, and certainly have Norway in general on my list of places to return to. I’d love to see more of the Norwegian countryside as we didn’t even have the time to get into the forests surrounding the city on our short break.
But most importantly of all, it gave me something to photograph, which is something I have been struggling with quite a bit this year.