Lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

When A Camera Goes Swimming

Lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

Photo: Evening twilight on lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden Trail, Lapland, Sweden.  September 2013

It was at 9:00 am on a crisp September morning that I learned a valuable, no, expensive, lesson: camera’s can’t swim.

The journey from Germany to the north of Sweden was a long one.  A flight from Berlin to Stockholm’s Arlanda airport.  An afternoon sitting around the airport.  A night train north of the arctic circle to Gällivare – top bunk in a 6 bed cabin, no open windows,  the Italian family I shared the cabin with was not too keen on fresh air.  I tossed, turned, and sweated through the night with dreams of cold mountain air and colder autumn nights.  Come morning it was a couple hours by bus followed by a short boat ride the the STF mountain hut Saltoluokta.  The beginning of my journey into the mountains.

Morning rain cleared and the birch forests shined in the brilliant colors of fall. The sky filled with blue and the arctic sun floated above the southern horizon.  All was perfect.  I could feel my excitement growing at the promise of the days ahead and the simple task of putting foot before foot, mile upon mile, day after day.  After waiting around for the shop to open so I could purchase fuel for my stove, I began my journey southward, the 24kg of my backpack my only burden.

Before me was 20 kilometers of trail to the shores of lake Sitojaure and the next hut.  After a short time wandering through the forest the trail soon ascended to a barren mountain plateau.  Warmed by the sun I was down to a t-shirt by this time and I witnessed a new phenomenon I’ve never seen in Sweden before, dust.  So dry the summer and autumn had been in the north.

Having slightly sprained my ankle while hiking in Lofoten at the end of September, I was slightly worried that this would perhaps cause me to have to cancel the trip.  I wasn’t sure if I would travel all the way to Sitojaure and left the option open of finding a nice campsite for the night if I so desired.  Luckily the hours passed by and as long as I was careful with my steps, all remained well as I headed deeper into the mountains.  The sun shining bright I soon realized that I had come all the way to Sweden to get a sunburn.  Perhaps I should not have left the sunblock at home after all.  Though I guess getting a sunburn in Sweden is not something to complain about, given the alternatives I’ve experienced in previous years. I had more sun this afternoon than in the entire 10 days of my hike in 2009.

Soon enough I found myself descending back into forest towards lake Sitojaure.

There were only four of us in the cabin that night.  Myself, and Austrian, and two Dutch.  At least I had a room to myself and wouldn’t have to worry about any snoring, though tiredness would likely keep me in an undisturbed sleep anyhow.

At some point I filled out my name in the guest book.  Some moments later one of the Dutch guys asked, ‘Have you filled out the book?  Is Cody here?’

Somewhat surprised, ‘Ya, that’s me. Why?’ I reply.

‘Oh, cool!  We have read your website.’

Sometimes, by the lack of comments I get on my posts I figure no one reads my words or sees my photos.  But for the second year in a row now, I’ve unexpectedly met people on the trail who have read my guides for the Kungsleden.  Feels good to know that I can be a bit of help or inspiration for people heading up to these beautiful, yet somewhat udocumented, parts of the world.

As twilight arrived I wandered down to the shores of the lake to make a few images.  Little did I know, these would be my camera’s final moments of life.  Perhaps I would have put in a little more effort otherwise.  When the sky was finally black I returned to the hut and curled up in my sleeping bag for the night.  Thoughts now turned to my boat journey in the morning and hoping the lake would not be too foggy for me to navigate the 4km I would have to row to the other side.

Now, normally during this season, there is a water taxi, for the steep fee of 200 SEK, that can take you across the lake; typically running twice a day.  In a change from my normal cheapness, I figured it would be nice to take it so as to save some effort.  And perhaps I could get some cool footage as well.  But upon my inquiring with the hut warden, I was informed that the boat driver man would be off early in the morning to help with the autumn reindeer herding, and thus there would be no boat.

The alternative to the water taxi are the row boats.  Each lake, which can’t be hiked around, along the Kungsleden trail has 3 row boats.  The system is that there must always be 1 boat on each side of the lake.  If you are lucky and there are 2 boats on your side of the lake, you will only have to make the journey once.  If you arrive and find only 1 boat, it means you will have to row to the other side, pickup the 2nd boat and tow it back to where you came from, leave it there, then row back again.  Crossing the lake 3 times in total.  Fortunately for me, I had the 2 row boats on my side of the lake, meaning I only had to make the journey once.  The thought of 12km of rowing on fresh arms was something I didn’t want to think about, and thankfully didn’t have to.

I rose with arrival of the sun to a frozen autumn day, but also a cloudless blue sky and hardly a hint of wind.  The lake was like a mirror, perfectly reflecting the surrounding landscape.  I took my time with breakfast, giving the land a bit of time to thaw out before I would begin my journey.  And so finally, shortly before 9:00am I said my goodbyes and made my way to the boats.  I would be the only one heading south this day.

Now in my brilliance, and in an effort to document my journey along the trail, I figured I would shoot a time-lapse sequence of me rowing across the lake.  So I setup my camera and tripod towards the back of the boat and began shooting the sequence.  Only the boat was still somewhat pulled up on the shore, so as I returned to the front of the boat, I had to lean out the side a bit to push myself off and out into the water.

As the boat inched it’s way into the water, it suddenly slipped from a rock that was underneath and lurched towards the right as it became fully afloat.  Out of the corner of my eye I caught my tripod (and camera) lean towards the right, balance against the edge of the boat for a split second, and then topple over, upside down into the water.  The water was shallow and my reaction was fast as I grabbed hold of one of the tripod legs, which was left sticking up out of the water, and pulled my camera out.  I quickly grabbed my fleece and tried to dry it off, but I could tell I was likely too late as water distorted the view finder and fogged the lens.

For several moment, I sat there in silence, contemplating what I had done.  I could have cried, where I not so angry with myself.

I went back to the hut and started the fire in the kitchen and did my best to take the camera apart with what screws could be loosened with the my pocket knife – pretty much only the viewfinder cover, if you’re wondering.  I alternated between the fire and some time outside in the sun for the next hour, but I could tell it wasn’t likely to come back to life, especially not out there.

And so I made the decision to call off the hike.  What would I do out there if I couldn’t take photos?  Not to mention the now dead weight of all my camera gear.

I left behind a bit of food, which I now no longer needed, so as to at least lighten my backpack by a few kilos and began retracing my all too fresh steps back north again.  My frustration and the desire to hopefully catch the afternoon ferry from Saltoluokta fueled a frantic pace.  In just over 3 hours I was descending into the forest and towards the shores of the lake.  Though I was not fast enough and missed the ferry by 20 minutes.  One more night in the mountains for me.

That night bright auroras filled the sky for hours.  I couldn’t watch.  I should have been in my tent, camped above Rapadalen.  Yet there I was, a camera-less photographer.  Helpless.

It took me two full days of travel, including a rainy night in Narvik, for me to get back to Stamsund on the Lofoten Islands, where I knew I would have a comfortable place and good company to wait out the days until I received a new camera.  All and all it took two weeks before I had a camera in my hands again.  Thankfully, the weather gods must have felt some sympathy for me.  Once reunited with a camera the weather remained calm and clear.  I headed into the mountains day after day in a furious pace to make up for lost time, now with only six days left in the north.  And I did my best to make the most of them…


Lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden trail, Sweden

Photo: Lone tree in autumn, lake Sitojaure, Kungsleden Trail, Lapland, Sweden.  September 2013

Kungsleden Row boat

Photo: Image #19,521, the last my Nikon D800 would ever take. Lake Sitojaure, Sweden.  September 2013

Evening light over mountain landscape from rocky summit of Hermannsdalstinden, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Lofoten Mountain Hikes


Evening light over mountain landscape from rocky summit of Hermannsdalstinden, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: View across Lofoten from the summit of Hermannsdalstinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013

As I mentioned yesterday, here are some links to the new mountain pages I’ve added in the last weeks over at 68 North.

Hermannsdalstind – 1029m – Moskenesøy

Helvetestind – 602m – Moskenesøy

Holandsmelen – 434m – Vestvågøy

If you want to see the complete list of mountain hiking and beach guides, you can do so HERE.

Of all the hikes I’ve completed on Lofoten now (only a small percentage of what the islands have to offer), Hermannsdalstinden is by far the highlight.  I’m not sure any other peak on the islands can have equal views.  Of course this is also somewhat dependent on weather, and I happened to have near perfect timing for Hermannsdalstinden.  But what a fantastic mountain!

I don’t know why it took me so many years to finally get up there.  Though I think in previous years I have been a bit more focused on getting a variety of shots, so spending a whole day or two on one mountain didn’t make as much sense to me.  But now that I have pretty much photographed all the low hanging fruit the islands have to offer, the only way I can get new work out of the islands is to head up into the hills, which seems to be paying off thus far.  My ‘to do’ list grows ever larger…

Holandsmelen Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Vik and Haukland beaches from the summit of Holandsmelen, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  September 2013

Bunes Beach from Helvetestinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Bunes beach from the summit of Helvetestinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway


Hermannsdalstinden Lofoten Islands Norway

Travel Updates

Hermannsdalstinden Lofoten Islands Norway


Photo: Moonlight bivy on the summit of Hermannsdalstinden, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013


Well, it’s been a while since my last post.  Mostly this is due to my working in the chronological order of my travels during the last few months, and as my trip began with two+ weeks on Lofoten, I’ve mainly been adding content over at as I get through the images and write a few mountain hiking guides.

There were also some major setbacks to my travel plans in which I’ve been waiting to write about.  The most affected was my planned hike along the Kungsleden trail and into Sarek national park, Sweden.  I only managed one day – 20 km of hiking before disaster stuck, and I was forced/reluctantly chose, to cancel that part of the trip and return to Lofoten.  And it was such fantastic weather! There was more sun in those two days than my previous two trips combined.  I’ll write more on this later.

Anyhow, here is a short overview of the last few months.  More extensive write-ups will come soon as I get ready to head home to California next week where I’ll hopefully be a bit more productive.

Lofoten – Part 1:  I sometimes wonder why I don’t run into many fellow Americans on Lofoten.  That is until I walkout the door in California and don’t see a stop in motion for the next 40, where I can finally setup my tent and close my eyes in someplace more comfortable than an airport, airplane, ferry station, or bus stop.

With an overall trend of rain lasting from Monday to Friday, I did manage to photograph what will probably be my best single set of images from Lofoten to date.  And then, after two weeks on the islands, with one more still to go, I decided to sprain my ankle while coming down from Ryten in the evening while camping at Kvalvika, which effectively took me out of business for the next days.

Germany – Festival Mediaval in Selb: Like last year, I headed down to Germany for a weekend of music and food.  And fortunately, I managed to keep onto my wallet, unlike last year.  And even more fortunately, I got to see one of my favourite bands, Garmarna, play live, which they haven’t done in around a decade or so.  A night in Berlin and then I was on my back back north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden.

Sweden – Kungsleden:  After sitting around all afternoon in Stockholm’s Arlanda airport, I caught the night train north to Gällivare where I then caught a bus to the beginning of my hike at the Saltoluokta hut.  Arriving in the late morning as the rain cleared to a brilliant blue sky I bought a few supplies and then was on my way for the 20km hike south to the next hut on the shores of Lake Sitojaure.

I was a bit worried about my ankle, but was happy see that it managed the trail with only a little pain towards the end, though still quite sensitive of any ‘wrong’ steps.  I inquired about taking the water taxi across the lake in the morning, but learned the boat driver would be away reindeer hunting for the day so I would have to row across the lake myself.  No problem I though as I headed to bed, at least two boats are on my side, so I won’t have to row the lake three times!

Getting into the boat the following morning, my camera decided to go for a swim.  It died.

I sat around for another hour of so, doing my best to dry it out and see if I could salvage anything, but it was gone for good.  And so, I emptied out a bit of the heavier food and the hut and made my way the 20km back north from where I had come the day before.

Lofoten – Part 2:  It took me two days of travel before I was back in Stamsund, where I quickly put a new camera on order and began the wait.  Days of brilliant weather and nights of Northern Lights passed, yet I remained camera-less.  Finally, after 12 days, I got the news that it had been delivered around the corner and was waiting for me at the post office inside the Joker market.

with six full days now left on the islands combined with the thankful cooperation of the weather I hit the hills with a furious pace.  Day after day I found myself high in the mountains under a bright shining sun until finally the rain returned on the 5th day.

Dublin – TBEX conference: Leaving Norway on the 1st of October I next traveled to Dublin (my first visit to Ireland!) where I would attend the TBEX – Travel Blogger Exchange conference over the following days.  I had a really good time, learned so useful info and met some nice people.  I will definitely do my best to attend the next one as well.  Although I did feel out of place at times and sometimes received something of a blank look when I said I was a photographer and that my website is and not some  Something to work on for next time I guess.  And it was nice to learn that I looked as if I had ‘just come from the mountains,’ being slightly under dressed to the more upscale looking and successful attendees of the conference.  Though in my defence, I had just come from the mountains…

Scotland – Orkney:  I made the somewhat unwise decision of leaving Dublin at 6:00am on a Saturday.  But I had places to go, namely, Scotland!  Even as we were heading north from Manchester airport, the exact destination for the next week was still unknown.  Scotland, yes, but where in Scotland had yet to be decided.  The weather forecast was somewhat bleak, so instead of heading somewhere to the mountains, it was decided Orkney would be the destination; it was the top of the list anyhow, so not a hard choice.

As I won’t be around for the New Year this year, I was provided with my mandatory dose of gale force winds to hold me over for the next few months.  Nearly lost a second camera over the cliffs at the Old Man of Hoy as a sudden, severe gust of wind nearly took my whole backpack over the edge!  But over all, I was glad to be back in Orkney again after 4 years and the week passed all too quickly.

Wales: I’m now counting down my last days here in Wales.  The weather has been somewhat dismal and I haven’t even made it out to the hills at all, but that’s how it goes.

Inspired by TBEX in Dublin, I’m heading to London on Wednesday for the World Travel Market.  Followed by a concert up north on Saturday for my final weekend here before flying home next week.

Until next time…


Ryten Hiking Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: Enjoying the view of Kvalvika beach from Ryten, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013


Northern Lights Kvalvika beach Lofoten Islands

Photo: Northern Lights over camp at Kvalvika beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 2013