Norway’s Best-Kept Secret

Sean Ensch is a Norway-based landscape photographer. Originally from Southern California, he spent the last year traveling through the Eastern Caribbean, the North and Southwestern United States, parts of the Central American Caribbean, and the west coast of Norway. Besides photography and travel, Sean is a freediver, spearfisherman, hiker, explorer, and adventure enthusiast. Through his stunning body of work, Sean would like to give viewers a fresh look into a world they didn’t know. In this story, Sean takes us on photo road trip to explore the true countryside of Norway. Plus, he also shares how he shot and processed his gorgeous landscape images. Scroll down to see Norway anew!

A Norwegian Country Road Trip Right Out of a Dream
by Sean Ensch 

Visiting Norway soon? Get out of Oslo, and come to one of Norway’s best-kept secrets instead—the county of Møre og Romsdal, a perfect place for a photographic adventure. I recently moved from the sunny beaches of Orange County to the countryside of Western Norway with my girlfriend. We spent our first two months living in her hometown of Åndalsnes in Møre og Romsdal, which is a landscape and adventure photographer’s dream come true. Strangely, not many people that visit Norway have ever heard of this region, nor is it advertised a lot. When people visit Norway, they always go to the same places—Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, the bigger cities. They’re all great places to visit, but for a photographer, you’re really missing out. Want to shoot epic mountains, winding turquoise rivers, the infamous Atlantic Puffins, and quaint farms along beautiful fjords? You can have it all with a train ride from Oslo International Airport. The train drops you off right in the town center of Åndalsnes. From there, you can rent a car and be off on your journey. There are so many striking locations around this region that I had a hard time fitting them in this article. Here are my favorite locations in Møre og Romsdal that look like they come straight out of a fantasy fairytale:

The Grand View

Welcome to Åndalsnes, the small town at the end of the train. For some reason, this town doesn’t get the exposure it deserves. The town itself is small, quaint, and probably nothing exactly to write home about. But the scenery around it is breathtaking in every way. There is a mountain in every direction you look, surrounding the valley like giants. If you have the drive, you can hike up any of these mountains and take in the epic views. This is a view of the valley floor from the mountain Nesaklsa. It’s the most used trail with the locals running up and down it for exercise like mountain goats. I hiked up late one evening in the middle of summer as the sun had already dropped below the mountains and splashed a hue of color through the hazy sky. It created a nice scene for the view. I shot this with my Canon 6d that I use for all my images, along with a Canon ef 17-40mm lens and took two exposures—one to capture all the highlights and one +2/3 stop in order to capture a few more details in the shadows, especially the river. In post-production, I used Adobe Photoshop CC to blend the two exposures by creating a layer for each image and masked the brighter image’s shadows in to other exposure through luminosity masks. I brought up the shadows and blacks, along with adding some vibrance to enhance the photo.

Rain over Romsdalsfjord

This is Romsdalsfjord, the main fjord that runs through the town. This image truly captures the wild weather through this region, which can be unpredictable and beautiful. I took this on a day where it had been raining non-stop, which isn’t all that uncommon because the clouds seem to get trapped along the mountains in the valleys. As the late summer sunset was approaching, I noticed the storm blowing over as it passed the mountains. I jumped in my car and headed down to the fjord. As soon as I arrived, the light seemed to explode, twisting and turning around the angry clouds as they passed. The now-distant rain lit up beautifully as the sun broke out. I noticed a nice curve in the sky’s lighting, and I tried to quickly compose an image that would make the eye follow this curve through the image. I always strive to make the eye travel through the photo with compositional elements. It’s an important element in creating an image. And in a place with vast views like Norway, sometimes it can be difficult to simplify your image. So take your time evaluating a scene before you set up. I took this photo with a Canon 6d and Canon ef 17-40mm lens. I really spent a lot of time processing the image. The wide variety of light, tone, and color really threw my camera sensor for a ride. I worked with the raw image in Adobe Lightroom to fine tune the white balance, levels, and adding contrast. In Photoshop, I worked with multiple layers to tweak the levels in the dark areas, and I used luminosity masks to adjust the color balance between the lights and the darks. I used a mild Orton Effect to soften the sky a bit, and really show how much the scene glowed.

That Magic Light

Innfjorden is an even smaller town, about twenty minutes away from Åndalsnes. Innfjorden is a picturesque place with tall, sloped peaks on either side to stand guard over the valley and town below. It’s a good area to explore with small rivers and many good hikes to go on. This image was taken on the peak Nøsa. It took me about one and a half hours to get up. I got up late in the evening just as the sun was dipping below the neighboring mountains. Since it was close to midsummer’s in mid-June, the sun didn’t set until 11:20 p.m. It’s a great time to be shooting because the light and colors last for a solid two hours when the conditions are right. Below, you can see the fjord stretching off Romsdalfjord. Across the mountain, Gridsetskolten sits, towering over with a sheer vertical drop. Gridsetskolten is used for the World Base Jumping event that happens every year at the end of July. This is a pretty straightforward photo. I just wanted to fill the frame with the scene before me. I used a cliff off Nøsa as a small counterpoint to the mountains across the fjord. I waited until the light shot straight through the frame and lit up the side of the mountains across the fjord. In post-processing on Adobe Photosho, I used dodging and burning techniques with luminosity masks to really fine tune some of the detail through the image. This image represents the countryside of Western Norway well—a small farm town in the valley along the fjord surrounded by mountains.


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