After a few weeks on a rig off the coast of Norway, I was grateful to have received an invite from a friend in Stavanger to join him on a road trip across the southern portion of Norway. My buddy, Geir, had purchased a Mercedes GLK from a dealership in Oslo and they agreed to meet partway to handle the exchange. The morning after I returned to shore from the rig, we departed Stavanger to make our way to the small coastal town of Kragerø in Telemark county. On the drive, I learned that my friend is originally from Kragerø, and he hadn’t been back to visit it in over 20 years. To get there, he chose a route along mountain backroads in lieu of the highways so that I might see more of the countryside. I’m always up for taking backroads on a road trip since you tend to see more and they’re fun to drive on. I came to understand that in Norway some of these backroads are just a single-lane ribbon of asphalt painted onto the side of a mountain. It was gorgeous, if not a bit thrilling at times!
Since we had a meeting time to consider, the drive to Kragerø didn’t allow much for photo detours. After nearly 7 hours, we made it to the meeting point and my friend was able to trade in the BMW that we drove there in for the Mercedes. With that all settled, we were free to do some site seeing.
Kragerø’s waterfront seems to be where all the activity is. Boats coming in and out of the harbor, folks merrily clinging to bar stools and couples in repose at small wooden tables outside the cafes; it was quite the idyllic setting.
I shot a series of photos and stitched them together to make this panorama of the harbor.
The full size file is about 140 megapixels – too big to post here – and trust me when I say there is detail for miles in it. Shot at f/11, I was amazed by how sharp this old Minolta zoom lens rendered the scene. Even the corners of each frame were consistently sharp, making the stitch and blend very simple and error-free. I’ve used this Minolta MD 35-70mm f/3.5 as my primary lens in several countries now and it always impresses me with its outstanding performance. Even with the aperture wide open, the images are sharp… like modern lens sharp. As in way sharper than the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4. With an average eBay price of $130-170, I don’t feel it a stretch to claim that this lens is one of the best bargains on the market. Be aware though that it is manual focus only. I prefer this but I understand that is not ideal for everyone.
Here are few scenes from our walk along the harbor.
A tiny patch of land jutting out into the entrance to the harbor provides a good vantage point for the preserved canons that once guarded this port town. This one, in particular, would have had a clear shot at any un-welcomed visitors attempting access.
Passing by the large window to a closed-up shop, this old cash register caught my eye.
It was getting on in the day and we still had a 6-7 hour drive ahead of us to get back to Stavanger. Returning the same way that we came, this time we could afford to pull over at a few spots to take photos:
This shot is my favorite from the day. Norway being so far north, the sun, this time of year, hovers just above the horizon for hours. It paints the landscape in such a wonderfully warm, colorful light that truly redefines the phrase, “The Golden Hour”. Shooting directly into the sun can be a real challenge for a lens, especially one as old as this Minolta. Equally challenged is the camera’s ability to hold data in the areas that are required to be underexposed in order to keep the sunlight from blowing out. The dynamic range of the A7RII’s RAW files is so, so good! No HDR (exposure stacking) here.
By around 10:00 pm, we were losing the last bit of light to the day. A nice mist was starting to form over the fjord so we pulled over for this final shot of the sun setting behind the mountains.
With bloodshot eyes, we arrived in Stavanger around 1 am, tired yet satisfied by the pleasant day we had.
Geir, thank you for the exceptional hospitality you’ve shown me every time I come to your beautiful country. I had a wonderful time and, as always, look forward to coming back someday.