Mythical Sweden

August 1, 2021

After having lived in Sweden for two years to study at the local university in Växjö,I visited many beautiful places in Sweden. From big cities to beautiful stretching forests and idyllic villages. Yet, nothing was quite like the final trip I made to uncover the true Swedish nature and beauty. Our trip was set to reach far in the North and to ascend along the beautiful coasts or Västkust ofSweden. After having reached our highest point, we would descend to places near the Norwegian border, large settlements that grew out to important cities and finally arrive back home in Växjö.

Stockholm & Uppsala – City strolls and Impressions

With the coastline as our guide, we set out for Stockholm as our first destination. We drove 400km to arrive late at night and ready ourselves for the next day in the historic city centre or Gamla Stan (old town) of Stockholm. We parked our RV right in the centre of Södermalm, one of the 14 island in the archipelago.

~ Photographer's Note
It was a perfectly sunny day which made carrying a full backpack a little hard. I preferred to have my usual Canon 5D out with the 24-70mm F2.8L so that I could capture every corner of the city in perfect detail. The 24-70mm offers a great range for city photography with a wide angle which is particularly handy in narrow streets. The low aperture of F2.8 allows to still capture stunning shots with lower light or in darker alleys in the city. Occasionally I would grab my wide angle (14-24mm) or zoomlens (70-200mm) to capture a certain detail, yet I mostly worked with this light and versatile setup.

After along day of walking in the city centre and emerging ourselves in Swedish metropole culture, we were greeted one last time by a beautiful sunset dawning in on the beautiful skyline of Stockholm. Normally we select specific spots and special places to keep in mind for a mesmerising setting like this. It’s important to keep an eye on any place that might offer the best view or just aspecial kind of setting under certain conditions, like nightfall, the last sunrays of the golden hour or sunrise/sunset. That’s how we got to thisbeautiful view up in Ivar Los Parken on Södermalm. From there it was also ashort walk back to our RV. The next morning we prepared for our leave after a mesmerising nightfall.

Stockholm Skyline ~ Canon 24-70 - 3,2 sec - F/13 - ISO 640

Our next destination would be Uppsala, where a great part of the rich viking history of Sweden takes place. Uppsala furthermore holds one of the most renowned Universities of Sweden and offers a green, quiet, yet surprisingly vivid city centre. After having visited the city centre, we went to visit gamla Uppsala, where traces of the old settlements of the Vikings are still visible. A short hike around the burial grounds and the old church gave a fulfilling impression of the rich history. This historic site was obviously related to the runes that were displayed at the main church of Uppsala, a beautiful display.

Härnösand –Beach and Nature’s Beauty

From Uppsala, we continued our trip towards the coastal roads of Sweden. We stayed the night in Gävle, an old fisherman’s settlement. From there we ascended the next morning towards Härnösand, following the coastal road. We expected a nice view from the beach , but instead we arrived at a mesmerising bay with white sand and untamed nature right at our doorstep. We went hiking around the shore and tried to explore some of the caves around the area. Our hike ended up in a rather intense climbing adventure to find some of the caves, but the views in the middle of the cliffs were priceless.

~ Photographer's Note
The low light made it harder to shoot any photos in the forests and of the caves, but with a lower aperture (F2.8), longer shutter speed (between 1/20 and 1/200) and higher ISO (above 4000), the lack of light could still be compensated. It was nice to walk around with my lighter setup, so I made my 5D as compact as possible before venturing out on the cliffs. I often remember how much of a help my camera clip is to me when climbing impassable terrain. I use my Peak Design Capture to holdmy camera solidly in place when climbing obstacles or hiking on tough terrain.

Seeing what the area had to offer, we decided to stay for one more day at Härnösand beach before we would further climb up the coastal road, because of the many options for activities. Swedish summer was generous to us and we could spend a day at the beach swimming and diving. We were even able to take a midnight dip with the last light of dusk before the night fell.

Härnösand houses ~ DJI Mavick - 1/500 - F/6.3 - ISO 100

Höga Kusten – An Endless Archipelago

After a relaxing day it was time to continue our trip further up North. We were halfway Sweden, but not halfway our trip yet. So there was still a lot of travelling to do. The day before we received a tip from a local in the village to follow the sideroads when travelling up North to the area called ‘Höga Kusten’ (the highcoast). “It takes a little longer, but it’s worth it,” I remember those words when I think of the views that we arrived at on the road. It was hard to manoeuvre through some of the dirtroads on the islands in the archipelago, but we made it through and captured some amazing shots!

~ Photographer's Note
One of the largest bridges of Sweden, which forms the entrance to Höga Kusten ~ DJI Mavick - 1/500 - F/6.3 - ISO 100
For the vast sceneries that unfolded before us at Höga Kusten, I preferred to use my regular 24-70mm F2.8 lens. To capture every detail of the landscapes, I tried to keep up with a higher aperture of around F4.0. And for the moments I didn’t tempted to switch to my 12-24mm (which I occasionally did), I used the widest angles of 24mm and sometimes used 70mm zoom to capture certain details or compositions. As could be expected I also switched to my 12-24mm to capture the true vastness of beauty of the area.
We stopped at several places to repeat the same routine and captured amazing shots that dothe area justice. We decided to take out our drones to get the right shots and uncover the area even more, which led to incredible shots to begin with. We are experimenting with both aerial videography and photography, which, in my case,also led to some curiosity for regular videography to make great montages. Nevertheless, our captions still fail to do the area just. It is truly a sight you have to see for yourself. It’s one of the largest green coastal areas in Sweden and it’s archipelago spreads for kilometres offering small villages and nature combined on the small islands around.
Höga Kusten ~ DJI Mavick - 1/120 - F/4.5 - ISO 100
Höga Kusten ~ DJI Mavick - 1/125 - F/4 - ISO 100

Hornefors Beach (Umeå), Piteå Beach and Jokkmokk – The far North

Once we finally got through Höga kusten it was our goal to get to another beautiful beach area in Sweden near Umeå. We arrived later at night at Hornefors beach farup north, where we met some local swedes right away. We were the only two campers staying on the parking, so we decided to set up a campfire and spend the night sharing stories over a beer. We took a look at the beach by nightfall and went to sleep. The next day we decided to continue right away to reach Piteå, the most famous beach of Sweden, also the point where we would leave the coastal roads and move towards Lapland and the untamed parts of Sweden.

We stayed one night in Piteå and decided to resume our travels to the Northern most destination of our trip; Jokkmokk. This city is bursting with culture and customs from the indigenous tribes of Sweden, the Sami. That’s why we visited the Sami museum in Jokkmokk to get a complete view of this indigenous culture and how these people live nowadays. We stayed around in Jokkmokk for the afternoon and got some dinner with a local speciality; reindeer. A very unique experience. At the end of the day, we went on with our journey and drove down to Vilhelmina. At Höga Kusten we were pointed to this area as it contains numerous waterfalls and rapids which offer an amazing sight. But before we got there, we were in for an amazing trip under the midnight sun. We started driving late, but there was still enough light to see everything for the rest of the trip. We were able to see incredible mountains separating the forests of Lapland and we were even lucky enough to cross paths with several deer and two moose on the road! Though quite common for Swedes, to us this was the cherry on top of our incredible trip.

Wild Deer On the Road
The Mountain Views in Lapland

Vilhelmina – Wild Rapids and Waterfalls

But as I said, more was yet to come in the beautiful area around Vilhelmina. The locals call it Vildmarksvägen (the wilderness road), and it certainly lives up to it’s name. We arrived at Vilhelmina late at night and after some sleep and breakfast, we continued to uncover what this road was about. Already soon after we left, we struck the first rapids, mountain ranges, large lakes and waterfalls! The road crosses right through the mountain range and follows theriver up from lake to lake. The cascading water from the lakes up north flows through this area down to the lakes in the South and Norway, causing the many rapids and waterfalls to occur. We decided to follow only about 100km of this road, hitting the most highlighted waterfalls of this road. We had a couple of stops to see the rapids and finally arrived at the waterfalls.

~ Photographer's Note
Once again the area was perfectly fit for photography and even drone photography. We setup our drones and explored the area a bit while capturing some incredible shots. Especially with these sceneries, we try to capture a landscape from above for an optimal impression. We normally also try to capture various shots with specific motions which complement the feeling and setting. Often a feeling of uncovering or exploring or even being overwhelmed are leading themes in these shots. A panning motion that uncovers the scenery gradually or a risingmotion to increase sight on the horizon are therefore our favourite (and go-to) shots.
Soon after that, I followed up with my tripod and camera. I was aiming to capture the waterfalls with a slower shutter speed, which causes the water to become smooth in the picture rather than high detail. This led to some beautiful shots invarious locations with waterfalls. I ended up using shutter speeds between 3 and 15 seconds, depending on how smooth and highlighted I wanted the water. In combination I used a lower aperture to allow some depth-of-field in my pictures, as this makes them less flat. I preferred to use my 24-70mm or12-24mm, depending on how wide the scenery was. I know my 24-70mm offers more sharpness, that’s why I tend to shoot more with this lens. My 12-24mm nevertheless offers stunning sights with the wide angle and really offers an immersive impression of the surroundings.
The Waterfalls at Vilhelmina ~ Canon 24-70 - 8,0 sec - F/10 - ISO 320

Tännforsen (Åre) – Sweden’s Largest Waterfall

Thewaterfalls near Vilhelmina weren’t the last waterfall we would see this trip. Once we finished our detour on Vildmarksvägen, we continued to drive towards Åre, a famous skiing location for Swedes. This area borders with Norway and is located in the middle of the mountains. The views there were amazing from the moment we drove into the valley late at night. We parked our RV at a place called Tännforsen, our last set destination. Earlier, we had discovered that Tännforsen is Sweden’s largest waterfall. So naturally, there was an amazing view waiting for us the next morning. After already taking a little peek at the waterfall on a midnight hike, we decided to go to bed and wait for the morning.

After some sleep, we could already hear the waterfall from our parking spot. We prepared our gear and went out for a hike along the waterfall shore. The hike didn’t turn out to be very long, though the view was amazing. In several places you could admire the waterfall from a different angle.

~ Photographer's Note
It was, of course, tempting enough to try long-exposure photography with such a sight. With similar settings, though a lot more lens cleaning due to the fog of the waterfall, I attempted to capture the beauty of the scenery. Once we captured the waterfallwe finished our hike around and shot some more footage with our drones in orderto really capture the size of this waterfall.
Tännforsen Waterfall ~ Canon 24-70 - 15,0 sec - F/10 - ISO 320

Örebro – A Successful Settlement’s History

To end our trip, we needed to get back to Växjö, where my friends would drop me at home again and continue driving back to The Netherlands. We knew already that we wouldn’t make that distance in one day, since we would have to cross roughly a 1000km. Instead we decided to spend the night in Örebro, where we would visit the beautiful and historic city centre. Since it was a sunny day, I could generally keep my camera set to the same settings as in Stockholm and walk around with alight setup (my camera body and the 24-70mm) for long city walks. Soon we found out Örebro had a lot to offer in terms of history. We visited the old settlement and castle frow where the city continued to develop over several ages. We could enjoy the evening sun after that with some dinner, even though the evenings were significantly shorter than high up North. But we could still enjoy the luxury of sitting in the sun until almost 10:30pm. Though the midnight sun was only there in the North, we enjoyed our stay in the long evenings before heading back South.

City Sight of Örebro from the Market Place ~ Canon 24-70 - 1/250 sec - F/4 - ISO 400
Along the Canals ~ Canon 24-70 - 1/250 sec - F/4 - ISO 400

Back Home in Växjö

Eventually,it was time to descend further South and reach the last stop in Sweden; Växjö. After a long drive down we arrived once more at the place where our trip started. We managed the last things and parted ways for another time to return. The roadtrip through Sweden has brought us many experiences; from the midnightsun, the untamed North, to the cultural and historic beauty found in Sweden’s cities. It was definitely a unique experience which is unmatched by any other. The beauty, serenity, and vastness of Sweden’s landscapes is endless, like it’s sun in the summer. I know we will all return to Sweden sooner or later to try to match this trip, and I know we would all recommend to visit Sweden in summertime. Even if it is just to experience Midsommar!

For now; vi ses Sverige!
Julian van der Zwet

Hi There! My name is Julian and I am a passionate photographer and student. On this site I keep track of my trips, advantures and most beautiful photo's. While doing so, I love to inform you about these trips and advantures in my Blog as well. Check out my posts and portfolio and indulge on some beautiful shots and stories!

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