29-January-2013

Gone to See Norway 2013. Chasing the Northern Lights. Day 1: New Jersey to Copenhagen

The more I travel, the more I try to travel light. Going to Norway to photograph northern lights in the middle of the winter makes this difficult. I needed to include cold weather clothing and I the right photo gear. To save some weight, I decided to use my Lowe internal frame mountain backpack (saving 4.5 lbs/2 kg vs. the rolling suitcase). This allowed me to include a winter parka, long underwear, and a heavy Norwegian sweater. The backpack went into a heavy nylon bag that would go as checked luggage for the flight to Norway. In all, just under 50 lbs (way too heavy).

For camera gear, I debated not taking a DSLR and only going with a mirrorless Nikon 1 V2 camera and Leica X2 camera. In the end, I did take a Nikon D800 with a 24 mm f/1.4G lens and a 16 mm f/2.8 fisheye lens. I wanted to make sure that I had a camera and lenses that would work for low light work and has an internal interval timer. Nikon removed the interval timer when they upgraded the Nikon 1 V1 to V2 model. Just before leaving I purchased an Olympus FCON-T01 fisheye converter. This adapter has the same 40.5 mm thread used by the Nikon 1 series lenses. When attached to the Nikon 1 10mm f/2.8 lens, the field of view in the camera is increased from 27 mm to 20 mm (on a 35 mm sensor camera). After including a laptop computer, 1.5 TB USB storage drive, batteries, power supplies, and cables my ThinkTank backpack weighed just under 30 lbs. Since I planned to take this bag with me on the plane, the travel tripod and walking stick went in the checked luggage bag.

Not knowing what the weather would be like in New Jersey while gone, I turned the water off and drained the pipes. Over the last 3 years, power to the house has been out 21 days due to hurricanes and snow storms and I didn’t want to risk frozen pipes. Also, last week the hose to my washing machine burst. Luckily, I was home when this happened and didn’t suffer flooding.

I had a car service (Ground Link) drive me to the airport. The driver arrived 30 minutes early and got me to the airport in just over 1 hour. I was not able to print the boarding pass at home due to the SAS representative needing to confirm I had a valid passport. Interesting note – while going through Homeland Security they needed to pat down my beard??? Total time from home to the departure gate was 90 minutes.

Once on board, I had a window seat near the rear of the aircraft. The seat next to me was empty and there was plenty of room for my camera bag. Early on in the flight I was a bit concerned that only Business and Economy Plus would get a meal on the flight. We just needed to wait our turn and did get served a hot meal. Drinks with the meal were included. During the rest of the flight coffee and tea are free in the Economy section of the plane. Families with children were treated well on the flight. I had a Garmin GPS with me and was able to track the progress of the flight (map below). For most of the eastbound flight we had a strong tail wind.
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Leaving Newark. Image taken with a Nikon 1 V2 and 10 mm f/2.8 lens with Olympus FCON-T01 adapter (ISO 160, 7.5 mm, f/2.8, 1/50 sec). (David J. Mathre)
Leaving Newark. Image taken with a Nikon 1 V2 and 10 mm f/2.8 lens with Olympus FCON-T01 adapter (ISO 160, 7.5 mm, f/2.8, 1/50 sec). (David J. Mathre)

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GPS Track: Newark to Copenhagen (3890 miles) (David J Mathre)
GPS Track: Newark to Copenhagen (3890 miles) (David J Mathre)

Author: David Mathre

I am a scientist by training (Eckerd College, BSc; Caltech, Ph.D.). I worked for 27 years as a Chemist in the Pharmaceutical Industry developing processes to manufacture medicines for human and animal health. I now spend my time as a photographer and world traveler. My interests in photography include the natural world, wildlife, landscapes, skyscapes, and seascapes. I have traveled to over 50 countries over the last 10 years, often on Semester at Sea voyages. While at home in New Jersey, I spend time on a home renovation project and expanding my wildflower garden/meadow.

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