Lofoten Islands · Norway
What started off as a simple treasure hunt for a photographic jewel turned into a surreal search and rescue mission for a missing tripmate. It was Day 4 of our sleep-deprived tour of Lofoten, and by now the bulk of our adrenaline that had kept us going through all hours of the dark was starting to wane. Still, five out of our group of eight managed to rouse from our slumbers in the wee hours of the morning, tempted by the prospects of shooting Arild and Stian’s horseshoe bend, whose lazily flowing waters offer sublime reflections of the sky, beset in a grassy meadow and backed by a spine of dramatic coastal peaks in the distance.
My soporific brain sloshed wildly in my cranium on the winding drive to the meadow near the beach, but once we exited the van and the cool coastal air hit my face, the drowsiness instantly lifted. Off we went into the morning darkness, venturing down off the road and into the grassy field on the heels of our fearless leader Hot Rod Thomas, whom we logically presumed had been to the horseshoe bend before.
After several minutes of fruitless searching in the damp meadow, though, it became evident that this was in fact Rod's maiden quest for the landmark, too. Fortunately the skies were fairly lackluster at that point so we didn’t really feel like we struck out on some grand photographic opportunity, and Rod gave us some time to explore the area a bit on our own. Some nice mist slowly sauntered in over the meadow as if someone had suddenly flipped on a fog machine, serving up nice opportunities for some atmospheric pastoral shots as a nice consolation prize even if that hadn't been the morning’s original intent.
After a time Rod started to round us up (a cat-herding effort if there ever was one): “All right, let’s head to the beach. Have any of you seen Ron? I told him we were going to head to the beach soon and try shooting there.” We looked around for Ron's conspicuous puffy blue down jacket that we were sure would stick out like an ischemic sore thumb against the subdued greens and yellows of the grasses, but no such luck.
We returned to the road near the van, hoping that the elevated vantage point would help us spot him more easily. But with the mist rolling in, it was entirely possible that we could miss seeing him if he happened to be out farther off in the distance. Thinking it might aid the search, I set up my camera and trained my telephoto lens at maximum focal length across the misty landscape looking for any signs of animate life, channeling my inner Boba Fett in relentless pursuit of his prey...except that in this particular incarnation of the iconic sci-fi bounty hunter, he happened to be a photographer who really wanted to take lots and lots of pictures while on vacation. So I surreptitiously flipped my camera into silent mode--which, fortunately, lives up to its billing--and covertly fired off a shot or two (or eight) before pangs of shame and remorse got the better of me. I mean, not enough that I openly fessed up about it to the others, but my sense of civic duty and basic human decency eventually (if belatedly) superseded my own self interests, and I rededicated myself to the manhunt in earnest. Besides, the shots I was getting were pretty much crap...
By now we were resigned to conclude that one of only a handful of possibilities had happened. The first was that he’d misheard Rod and thought that he was to rendezvous with us at the beach rather than return to the van to go as a group--not inconceivable given that that would’ve entailed a fairly straightforward 200 or 300-meter stroll through the meadow and that Australians talk kind of funny (nyuk, nyuk). The second was that he’d suffered a massive stroke or heart attack and had fallen down somewhere, hidden amongst the tall grass--likewise not an inconceivable scenario given that we knew absolutely nothing about the guy’s medical issues, eating habits, or substance abuse history (now that I think about it, we really should’ve done some sort of icebreaker get-to-know-you type of activity when we all first met at the airport…). And of course there was at least one more possibility...one that I chose to keep to myself but that I'm sure the others were thinking, too. Now I'm not saying it could've been aliens...but it could've been aliens.
Hoping, of course, that Scenario 1 was exactly what had unfolded, the rest of us hopped into the van and rode the short distance to the beach. We got out and scanned the shores from the end of the public road, but alas there was no trace of human soul nor soleprint that we could detect. Dutifully, Rod got back in the van and headed back toward the grassy meadow to search the inbound road in case Ron had wondered off the other way instead. Given that there was little else we could do about the situation at that point, Kris, Tyler, and I turned our attentions toward the beach, and man--what a breathtaking sight we were treated to there! The sun had just breached the rugged mountains to the east, its warm amber light spilling over a saddle between the peaks and highlighting the concentric lines of waves surging into the sweeping shoreline.
After snapping this photo I headed down from the road and onto the beach to look for more compositions, but before I could pull the camera out of the bag, Rod and the van came roaring back up the road...sans passenger, I noticed, much to my chagrin and growing trepidation. We piled back into the van and headed back to the meadow, this time with the intent of transecting the field on foot systematically (more or less) to assure ourselves that we'd adequately scoured the area before contacting the Norwegian authorities to report that Ron had been abducted by aliens, best as we could tell.
So off we went, trudging through the dewy thigh-high grass, taking care not to misstep into a hidden stream or ditch. I followed the banks of the main stream meandering through the meadow, thinking maybe he’d found some composition with it that he wanted to shoot (perhaps even the elusive horseshoe bend) before he hypothetically keeled over in extremis. Geez, I really, really, REALLY didn’t want to have to deal with a dead body on this trip… :/
Fortunately no corpses turned up, and after several minutes of searching Tyler finally spotted our straggling tripmate far off in the distance, nearly three-fourths of the way to the beach, shooting merrily away with his camera and completely oblivious to the mild panic he’d manage to induce in us (photographers can be funny people when we get in our 'zone'...). We beckoned Ron back, and upon his arrival Rod gave him a halfway-joking, halfway-serious piece of his Australian profanity-laden mind for his wayward wanderings.
Needless to say, Ron suffered aptly for his sins as we needled him mercilessly on the ride home for his lack of discretion, but he took it all like a trouper with the good humor in which it was intended. Obviously, we were all just relieved that no tragedy had befallen him.
Though given his crazy antics during this whole trip, I still say we should’ve frisked him for drug paraphernalia when we had the chance.