STORIES FROM THE ROAD

Here you can find updates from Morten's tour through Norway with Olympus.
Back street food in Sandnes, Norway: An excellent bowl of home made pho from Loan Thi Kieu Phan at the appropriately named Pho Vietnam restaurant. And another example of how the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II face recognition system deals with difficult, mixed light. Here, there's overcast daylight through a window behind me, and various interesting light sources inside the room. The camera sets focus, exposure and white balance correctly anyway. 2.8/7-14mm @ 7mm, f/2.8 1/30 sec, ISO 200.

The Olympus Face and Food Recognition Systems

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The #OlympusBackRoads project has passed the 3000km mark, with many more stops to go. Riding the back roads of a sparsely populated country is fascinating, and sometimes frustrating. The search for food, other than petrol station fare, can be a challenge. But randomly riding around in the back streets of Sandnes between two stops was worth the mileage.

I found an excellent bowl of home made pho from Loan Thi Kieu Phan at the appropriately named Pho Vietnam restaurant. My excuse for attempted food-blogging? The photo is another example of how well the Olympus face recognition system deals with difficult, mixed light.

Back street food in Sandnes, Norway: An excellent bowl of home made pho from Loan Thi Kieu at the appropriately named Pho Vietnam restaurant. And another example of how the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II face recognition system deals with difficult, mixed light. Here', there's overcast daylight through a window behind me, and various interesting light sources inside the room. The camera sets focus, exposure and white balance correctly anyway. 2.8/7-14mm @ 7mm, f/2.8 1/30 sec, ISO 200.

Back street food in Sandnes, Norway: An excellent bowl of home made pho from Loan Thi Kieu Phan at the appropriately named Pho Vietnam restaurant. And another example of how well the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II face recognition system deals with difficult, mixed light. Here, there’s overcast daylight through a window behind me, and various interesting light sources inside the room. The camera sets focus, exposure and white balance correctly anyway. 2.8/7-14mm @ 7mm, f/2.8 1/30 sec, ISO 200.

Some Norwegian ferry crossings are so nice that I wish they would take much longer, no matter what the destination is. The M/F Bergensfjord had plenty of space for the #OlympusBackRoads Monsterbike Kawasaki.

57,600 Friendly Ferry Crossings

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Look at a map of Norway, and you’ll quickly realise that driving the coastline in a few weeks is not possible. There are unavoidable shortcuts, even on the #OlympusBackRoads project. Most of them involve ferries. Some are huge, and take you to and from populated areas, others only hold a few vehicles, and go to places I had never heard of. There’s always coffee and slightly strange local food such as the “svele”. And there’s always space for a motorcycle.

Of course I haven’t done 57,600 ferry crossings. But in the cafeteria on the M/F Bergensfjord I met and photographed the cheerful Vibekke Rabben, who has worked on ferries for so long I had to use a calculator to do the math: 180 working days for 40 years, 8 crossings every day. I was so impressed that Svele and coffee seemed the only appropriate meat. I forgot to ask how many times Vibekke has served that somewhat dubious delicacy.

57,600 ferry crossings in 40 years, and Vibekke Rabben still smiles and sells coffee and "svele" on board the M/F Bergensfjord. She was also an excellent subject for the face-recognition system in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II. This is technology that works, and makes even difficult light like this easier to handle. The camera "sees" one or more faces, and sets focus, exposure and white balance accordingly, so I could concentrate on capturing Vibekke's smile. 2.8/12-40mm @ 13mm, ISO 320, f/2.8, 1/30sec

57,600 ferry crossings in 40 years, and Vibekke Rabben still smiles and sells coffee and “svele” on board the M/F Bergensfjord. She was also an excellent subject for the face-recognition system in the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II. This is technology that works, and makes even difficult light like this easier to handle. The camera “sees” one or more faces, and sets focus, exposure and white balance accordingly, so I could concentrate on capturing Vibekke’s smile.
2.8/12-40mm @ 13mm, ISO 320, f/2.8, 1/30sec

 

Self-service "svele" and reality TV about farming on an otherwise fairly empty ferry late at night. The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II face-recognition program chose to focus on the TV rather than the food. I let it, but the svele was probably slightly more tasteful than "The Farm". 2.8/12-40mm @ 12mm, ISO 1000, f/2.8, 1/30sec

Self-service “svele” and reality TV about farming on an otherwise fairly empty ferry late at night. Here, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II face-recognition program chose to focus on the TV rather than the food. I let it, but the svele was probably slightly more tasteful than “The Farm”.
2.8/12-40mm @ 12mm, ISO 1000, f/2.8, 1/30sec

 

Some Norwegian ferry crossings are so nice that I wish they would take much longer, no matter what the destination is. The M/F Bergensfjord had plenty of space for the #OlympusBackRoads Monsterbike Kawasaki.

Some Norwegian ferry crossings are so nice that I wish they would take much longer, no matter what the destination is. The M/F Bergensfjord had plenty of space for the #OlympusBackRoads Monsterbike Kawasaki.

 

There are ferry ports in Norway that really are in the middle of - Norway. Arriving at night can really make you wonder if there's even a road in the darkness on shore. There usually is. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II, 2.8/12-40mm @ 12mm, ISO 2500, f/2.8, 1/30sec

There are ferry ports in Norway that really are in the middle of – Norway. Arriving at night can make you wonder if there’s even a road in the darkness on shore. There usually is. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk II, 2.8/12-40mm @ 12mm, ISO 2500, f/2.8, 1/30sec

 

The same horses, demonstrating how slowly they can walk back to a photographer who's been waiting in the rain for almost an hour since they ran away, hoping for a funny-ish "horsepower"-picture with a motorcycle and horses in it. Not very funny, is it. Olympus OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @ 12mm, f/4, 1/500sec, and yes I know that shutter speed is more than fast enough to freeze a horse that's moving slower than a snail.

Horsepower, Horses, and Rain

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After a great time with the good people of Skei i Jølster, the #OlympusBackRoads project headed for Bergen. Basically not a very long ride, with only one ferry. I asked Serena the GPS robot-woman for a more interesting route, and it immediately started to rain. Motorcycle helmets don’t have visor-wipers, so staying on the road takes priority over looking for photos. Hence, I almost missed the horses. Unfortunately, I spotted them just as I rode past, managed to turn around and stop the Kawasaki in a decent position.

Cameras don’t have viewfinder-wipers, so by the time I was half-ready, the horses ran away. I’m hoping the resulting blurry photo I grabbed will be accepted as arty, for lack of a better version. Which could have been the end of this story. But whilst I may be slow, I’m also stubborn. So I sat there for the better part of an hour, in the rain, on a motorcycle, waiting for the horses to come running back in a spectacular manner. Tractors drive by. Farmers stare at me. Then the horses come back. Walking. Slowly.

Equus ferus caballus, or Norwegian Fjord Horse, "Fjording", demonstrating the speed at which it can run away from a photographer. Olympus OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @ 30mm, f/3.5, 1/125sec, and yes I know that shutter speed is too slow to freeze running horses, but they were gone before I had time to change it.

Equus ferus caballus, or Norwegian Fjord Horse, “Fjording”, demonstrating the speed at which it can run away from a photographer. Olympus OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @ 30mm, f/3.5, 1/125sec, and yes I know that shutter speed is too slow to freeze running horses, but they were gone before I had time to change it.

The same horses, demonstrating how slowly they can walk back to a photographer who's been waiting in the rain for almost an hour since they ran away, hoping for a funny-ish "horsepower"-picture with a motorcycle and horses in it. Not very funny, is it. Olympus OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @ 12mm, f/4, 1/500sec, and yes I know that shutter speed is more than fast enough to freeze a horse that's moving slower than a snail.

The same horses, demonstrating how slowly they can walk back to a photographer who’s been waiting in the rain for almost an hour since they ran away, hoping for a funny-ish “horsepower”-picture with a motorcycle and horses in it. Not very funny, is it. Olympus OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @ 12mm, f/4, 1/500sec, and yes I know that shutter speed is more than fast enough to freeze a horse that’s moving slower than a snail.

 

With Reidar Helgheim, second generation proprietor of camera store Alf Helgheim & Co in Skei i Jølster, one of the more than 50 stops on the #OlympusBackRoads roadtrip. I had an excellent evening with Randi and Reidar, only missing out on meeting Alf himself, who at 94 still comes by the store every day.

50 Shops in the Middle of Norway

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Make 50 stops on a road trip through Norway, and not every one is going to be in a major metropolis. The country is 385,252 square kilometres large, with only five million people. Riding the backroads here often brings to mind the question “where is everyone?”. On Monday in Skei i Jølster, home to 438 people, the answer was “at Alf Helgheim & Co.” A family business since 1946, Randi and Reidar are the second generation running the shop, but Alf himself, now 94, comes by every day to keep an eye on things.

How do you stay in business for 70 years? Get people to come to the shop, obviously. Which is what they did on the decidedly chilly autumn evening when I was in town. More than two dozen serious amateur photographers turned up and stayed to the bitter end of a long presentation on the finer points of Olympus camera technology. There was coffee and food, though. Even the fire department came. He’s also the school teacher. And the bus driver. Don’t ask me when he has time to take pictures.

With Reidar Helgheim, second generation proprietor of camera store Alf Helgheim & Co in Skei i Jølster, one of the more that 50 stops on the #OlympusBackRoads roadtrip.

With Reidar Helgheim, second generation proprietor of camera shop Alf Helgheim & Co in Skei i Jølster, one of the more than 50 stops on the #OlympusBackRoads roadtrip. I had an excellent evening with Randi and Reidar, only missing out on meeting Alf himself, who at 94 still comes by the store every day.

 

A large percentage of the population in Skei i Jølster watching my "look how small it is"-presentation. Photo: Helgheim & Co.

A large percentage of the population in Skei i Jølster watching my “look how small it is”-presentation. Photo: Helgheim & Co.

Don't try this at home without securing the screen. A little further up the road the inevitable OM-D touchdown happened. The E-M5II continued to work, but not without a few scratches and a broken hinge. And I didn't even get a photo of a troll.
Olympus E-M5II, M.Zuiko 2.8/7-14mm @7mm, 1/2000, f/2.8 ISO800

Trollstigen: Chasing Trolls up the Ladder.

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Obviously, trolls have right of way on Trollstigen - the Trolls' Ladder. Unfortunately, this is the only photo I got of one, after hours of searching. Then again, trolls supposedly don't like daylight very much. Olympus E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @21mm, 1/45, f/8 ISO400

Obviously, trolls have right of way on Trollstigen – the Trolls’ Ladder. Unfortunately, this is the only photo I got of one, after hours of searching. Then again, trolls supposedly don’t like daylight very much.
Olympus E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @21mm, 1/45, f/8 ISO400

 

“Trollstigen”, the Trolls’ ladder, in western Norway, is high on the list of must-ride roads for motorcyclists and photographers. 11 narrow hairpin bends on a 10% incline up a mountain complete with waterfall and old bridges sounds brilliant. It’s also bonkers. During the tourist season it’s basically a very scenic traffic jam, but when the #OlympusBackRoads road trip arrived, it looked quiet, perfect for hunting trolls with cameras.

I stopped for several minutes at the foot of the mountain to rig three Olympus E-M5IIs on the Kawasaki, each programmed to shoot every few seconds. The OM-Ds don’t have a T mode, for trolls, so Shutter Priority and 1/2000sec was the obvious choice, given the combination of bumpy road and motorcycle acceleration. I should have noticed that it was a bit too quiet, even for October. I also should have noticed that I had left the screen on a backwards-facing E-M5II flipped out. That camera, with a 1.8/8mm fisheye, was mounted on the front wheel axle – very close to the ground..

There were no trolls on the mountain; the sound of a boisterous Balkan Akrapovic exhaust attached to a 1000cc engine from Kawasaki Heavy Industries must have warned them, and any other pedestrians in the area. But the temperature dropped as the altitude increased, and about half way up the trolls’ ladder I ran into something rather more unpleasant than mythical monsters. The spray from the waterfall was freezing on the shady parts of the road. Those bits tend to be in corners. In this case, the ice made a sharp right-hand bend a lot sharper, with a lean-angle that resulted in OM-D touchdown. Amazingly, only the hinge broke, leaving the still functioning screen dangling from the cable. The trolls must have been laughing.

 

Two E-M5IIs ready to shoot each other going up Trollstigen, the Trolls' Ladder, in western Norway. The setup worked really well, except for me forgetting to flip that LCD back in.. Olympus E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @12mm, 1/60, f/3.5 ISO200

Two E-M5IIs ready to shoot each other going up Trollstigen, the Trolls’ Ladder, in western Norway. The setup worked really well, except for me forgetting to flip that LCD back in..
Olympus E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @12mm, 1/60, f/3.5 ISO200

 

Trolls are supposedly not very quick, so a 1000cc Kawasaki is perhaps slight overkill for hunting them up Trollstigen, the Trolls' Ladder, in western Norway. Even so, and with three OM-Ds mounted on the bike, there were no trolls to be seen. Olympus E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @14mm, 1/60, f/3.5 ISO200

Trolls are supposedly not very quick, so a 1000cc Kawasaki is perhaps slight overkill for hunting them up Trollstigen, the Trolls’ Ladder, in western Norway. Even so, and with three OM-Ds mounted on the bike, there were no trolls to be seen.
Olympus E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @14mm, 1/60, f/3.5 ISO200

 

The view from the front wheel-mounted OM-D. Don't try this at home without securing the screen. A little further up the road the inevitable OM-D touchdown happened. The E-M5II continued to work, but not without a few scratches and a broken hinge. And I didn't even get a photo of a troll. Olympus E-M5II, M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm, 1/2000, f/1.8 ISO3200

The view from the front wheel-mounted OM-D. Don’t try this at home without securing the screen. A little further up the road the inevitable OM-D touchdown happened. The E-M5II continued to work, but not without a few scratches and a broken hinge. And I didn’t even get a photo of a troll.
Olympus E-M5II, M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm, 1/2000, f/1.8 ISO3200

 

Don't try this at home without securing the screen. A little further up the road the inevitable OM-D touchdown happened. The E-M5II continued to work, but not without a few scratches and a broken hinge. And I didn't even get a photo of a troll. Olympus E-M5II, M.Zuiko 2.8/7-14mm @7mm, 1/2000, f/2.8 ISO800

Don’t try this at home without securing the screen. A little further up the road the inevitable OM-D touchdown happened. The E-M5II continued to work, but not without a few scratches and a broken hinge. And I didn’t even get a photo of a troll.
Olympus E-M5II, M.Zuiko 2.8/7-14mm @7mm, 1/2000, f/2.8 ISO800

 

At the top of Trollstigen, the Trolls' Ladder, the wheel-mounted OM-D was still shooting, in spite of a rather serious case of tarmac rash and a dislocated LCD screen. Olympus E-M5II, M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm, 1/2000, f/1.8 ISO400

At the top of Trollstigen, the Trolls’ Ladder, the wheel-mounted OM-D was still shooting, in spite of a rather serious case of tarmac rash and a dislocated LCD screen.
Olympus E-M5II, M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm, 1/2000, f/1.8 ISO400

 

11 tight, narrow hairpin bends up a 10% incline in western Norway makes Trollstigen, the Trolls' Ladder, a very interesting ride for photographers on motorcycles. No sign of trolls, though.. Olympus E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @40mm, 1/90, f/2.8 ISO200

11 tight, narrow hairpin bends up a 10% incline in western Norway makes Trollstigen, the Trolls’ Ladder, a very interesting ride for photographers on motorcycles. No sign of trolls, though..
Olympus E-M1, M.Zuiko 2.8/12-40mm @40mm, 1/90, f/2.8 ISO200

 

Lucky shots come to those who wait, sometimes. E-M5 MkII, 2.8/12-40mm @40mm, f/4, 1/180.

What a Difference a Bird Makes

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Half a dozen ferries in one day. A lot of waiting around in mostly mundane ferry ports. Try to shoot a few photos anyway. Found this slightly gloomy landscape, but whatever I tried it looked off-balance. Then the seagull did one pass through the frame, lifted the composition, and I got lucky.

Lucky shots come to those who wait, sometimes. E-M5 MkII, 2.8/12-40mm @40mm, f/4, 1/180.

Lucky shots come to those who wait, sometimes. E-M5 MkII, 2.8/12-40mm @40mm, f/4, 1/180.

 

 

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights, seen from a dark back road in Lofoten, Norway. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with an M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm on a small tripod on the back of the Kawasaki. Live Composite exposure mode to balance the constant light from the bike with the unpredictable Aurora. Base exposure 4 seconds, f5.6 at ISO 3200. A few minutes later the magic was gone.

Magical Dancing Aurora Borealis

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This evening the #OlympusBackRoads trip turned a corner on a dark road in Lofoten, and became the Magical Mystery Tour starring the Amazing Aurora.  I first spotted her in the rear-view mirrors, and realised the entire night sky was alive with dancing green light

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights, are not uncommon at this time of year in the north of Norway, but one certainly can’t take them for granted. I didn’t, and stopped the bike immediately. The beautiful Aurora is an unreliable mistress, with a nasty habit of vanishing just as you get ready to photograph, and literally playing tricks with light to fool your camera’s meter. The Olympus Live Composite exposure mode makes it easier to control her, and this time she didn’t get away.

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights, seen from a dark back road in Lofoten, Norway. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with an M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm on a small tripod on the back of the Kawasaki. Live Composite exposure mode to balance the constant light from the bike with the unpredictable Aurora. Base exposure 4 seconds, f5.6 at ISO 3200. A few minutes later the magic was gone.

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights, seen from a dark back road in Lofoten, Norway. Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with an M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm on a small tripod on the back of the Kawasaki. Live Composite exposure mode to balance the constant light from the bike with the unpredictable Aurora. Base exposure 4 seconds, f5.6 at ISO 3200. A few minutes later the magic was gone.

 

 

Serena the robot woman in my GPS tends not to agree that my choice of scenic shortcuts are actual shortcuts. Here, in Helgeland, the detour was worth every extra mile and minute. E-M5 MkII, 2.8/12-40mm @12mm, f/5.6, 1/125

Turn Around When Possible

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Serena the robot woman in my GPS tends not to agree that my choice of scenic shortcuts are actual shortcuts. Here, in Helgeland, the detour was worth every extra mile and minute. E-M5 MkII, 2.8/12-40mm @12mm, f/5.6, 1/125

Serena the robot woman in my GPS tends not to agree that my choice of scenic shortcuts are actual shortcuts. Here, in Helgeland, the detour was worth every extra mile and minute. E-M5 MkII, 2.8/12-40mm @12mm, f/5.6, 1/125

 

Sometimes I hear voices in my head when I’m riding down unknown roads on the #OlympusBackRoads tour. It’s usually Serena, the robot woman in my GPS, through the speakers in my helmet. Her attempts at pronouncing names of Norwegian places can be amusingly confusing, but she’s perfectly politely clear when I head down what looks like a photogenic shortcut: “Turn around when possible”. I tend to ignore her, and she tends to be right.

With very few exceptions, motorcycles don’t have reverse gears. When that appealingly scenic road becomes an appallingly narrow path of half-frozen mud, turning around can become an interesting exercise. Chances are, sooner or later I’ll drop the bike on one of these excursions into the unknown; chances are the fun will be worth the hassle; and chances are I’ll never admit it.

Some places, the end of the road looks a bit like the end of the world. In Borgvåg, Lofoten, the next stop is the Atlantic ocean. E-M5 MkII, 2.8/12-40mm @27mm, f/6.7, 1/350

Some places, the end of the road looks a bit like the end of the world. In Borgvåg, Lofoten, the next stop is the Atlantic ocean. E-M5 MkII, 2.8/12-40mm @27mm, f/6.7, 1/350

 

 

 

This is it. #OlympusBackRoads is on the road. Heading south from Tromsø towards Lofoten today, in clear, crisp beautiful autumn weather. Snow on the mountains, but dry roads. A good day for selfies with the Olympus M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm fisheye lens.

#OlympusBackRoads is on the Road

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Okay. This is it. The #OlympusBackRoads project is on the road. The concept is simple: ride a motorcycle down Norway from north to south using back roads as much as possible. Take lots of photographs, and visit 50 camera stores and photography clubs along the route. How long will it take? Weeks. How many kilometres will I ride? Thousands.

So far, so good. I’m heading south from Tromsø towards Lofoten in perfect conditions, shooting fisheye selfies on the move. Follow this page, Instagram @mortenhvaal, @olympusnorge for updates and photos of more interesting subjects than yours truly.

This is it. #OlympusBackRoads is on the road. Heading south from Tromsø towards Lofoten today, in clear, crisp beautiful autumn weather. Snow on the mountains, but dry roads. A good day for selfies with the Olympus M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm fisheye lens.

Heading south from Tromsø towards Lofoten today, in clear, crisp beautiful autumn weather. Snow on the mountains, but dry roads. A good day for selfies with the Olympus M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm fisheye lens.

 

There's an expression in Norwegian about slow local buses which translates into something like "stopping at every milk stand (melkerampe)". I'll be making around 50 stops at camera stores and photography clubs during the #OlympusBackRoads road trip, and hopefully at a few milk stands. I certainly couldn't resist doing a fisheye selfie with this neatly decorated example. Cool light effect on my face is courtesy of the sun reflecting in the Kawasaki mirror.

There’s an expression in Norwegian about slow local buses which translates into something like “stopping at every milk stand (melkerampe)”. I’ll be making around 50 stops at camera stores and photography clubs during the #OlympusBackRoads road trip, and hopefully at a few milk stands. I certainly couldn’t resist doing a fisheye selfie with this neatly decorated example. Cool light effect on my face is courtesy of the sun reflecting in the Kawasaki mirror.

 

Here's the setup for shooting somewhat fishy fisheye-selfies whilst on the move on the Kawasaki: an Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with an M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm mounted to the handlebars. The camera LCD screen is rotated so I can quickly check composition, and an RM‑UC1 remote control mounted so I can shoot with my left thumb without moving my hand from the bike handgrip.

Here’s the setup for shooting somewhat fishy fisheye-selfies whilst on the move on the Kawasaki: an Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII with an M.Zuiko 1.8/8mm mounted to the handlebars. The camera LCD screen is rotated so I can quickly check composition, and an RM‑UC1 remote control mounted so I can shoot with my left thumb without moving my hand from the bike handgrip.

 

Heading north to Tromsø, and the start of the #OlympusBackRoads project.

Heading North

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Norway is a very long country, even when you follow the main roads. Heading north from Oslo towards Tromsø, and the start of the #OlympusBackRoads project, I’ve already covered more than 1000km. Now, over Saltfjellet mountain, temperatures are dropping well below freezing  That means cool photos, but cold hands. Unlike the Kawasaki, the Olympus cameras don’t have heated grips. Follow this page, Instagram @mortenhvaal, @olympusnorge for updates and photos.

Heading north to Tromsø, and the start of the #OlympusBackRoads project.

Heading north to Tromsø, and the start of the #OlympusBackRoads project. Here, over Saltfjellet mountain, temperatures drop to minus 8 centigrade. Warm thoughts to motorcycle specialists Monsterbike for fitting the Kawasaki with heated grips.