Accidental Tourist

When holiday photo ops cause strops

Jessica Evans and her mom go on a Norway cruise, hoping to capture the perfect shot of the Northern Lights

12 November 2017 - 00:00 By Jessica Evans

For the first time in a long time, we were going on an overseas trip, my parents and I. It started when my mom sat us down and asked: "If we could go anywhere, where would it be?"
I didn't believe she was seriously planning a holiday until we were sitting at the desk of a travel agent.
Norway was the decided place. A fascination with the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights had started in my mom a few weeks prior to this sit-down.
She had made it her quest to photograph them.
After the planning began, we all started stocking up on camera lenses and tripods.
We read up on the towns of Norway and the best camera settings to photograph the lights.
It was winter there when we went so I bought a new green beanie that reminded me of the Grinch. We called it my greenie.
We were due to hop onto the ferry at Bergen, a colourful fishing town. As we flew in, it looked as though the sea was frozen.
I was so excited, more for the experience than the photo-ops.
The ferry stopped at all the coastal settlements as we travelled north and our charismatic host, Hans, told us about the history over the intercom in English, German, and Norwegian before each landing.Our first glimpse of the lights was on a bus. We'd signed up for a ridiculous exploitation of tourists where you get to experience an old Viking feast in a recreation of a chieftain's home.
We drank mead and ate too much and danced around a fire singing some Norse song.Most of our time on board was spent reading next to a window taking in the perpetual dusk of the Norwegian fjords in winter.
Something about it being dark at 3pm and that sleep-inducing holiday feeling meant we went to bed at 6.30pm, absolutely exhausted.
One night at about 11pm, the alarm sounded for the lights.
I rushed out of bed and got into my big jacket and thermal pants. Then I ran to the viewing deck with tripod and camera in hand, scouring the sky for that green brush mark.I got four good photos. Not National-Geographic-good, but good for an amateur. My mom was green. She'd missed out on her chance because I'd been in such a rush.
In the following days, I did much praying to all the Norse gods that they would show us another light display as fantastic as that one - then perhaps my mom would speak to me again.They answered and there was another instance when the lights danced above us and my mom got a few pictures, but I am yet to get her forgiveness.
I guess the lesson here is to focus on the moment, not the picture.
• Do you have a funny or quirky story about your travels? Send 600 words to and include a recent photograph of yourself for publication with the column.

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