Monthly Archives: May 2010


All images by Pepper Key Stacie
This stone features the Norwegian coat of arms, the golden crowned lion with ax, an insignia from the High Middle Ages

Kvinnherad church is one of the oldest stone churches in western Norway.  It was completed in a mixture of Romanesque and gothic styles in 1250.  It was subject to the Barony Rosendal until 1910 and the first families lie embalmed in a separate sepulchre.

The Barony Rosendal, the smallest castle in Scandinavia, was built by Danish nobleman Ludwig Rosenkrantz.  When he married Karen Mowatt, Norway’s richest heiress at the time, the farmland was given as a wedding gift.  The castle was completed in 1665 but the English renaissance gardens were not  planted until the 1850’s.  Famous author Henrik Ibsen, Jonas Lie, Alexander Kielland and painters Hans Gude and Anders Askvoll visited often and musicians such as Edvard Grieg and Ole Bull were guests. Today there are still concerts played here, as there were centuries ago, and new additions include a bed and breakfast and an adorable greenhoused restaurant on site.

May 17th, Norway’s National Day

All images by Pepper Key Stacie
The large parade in Odda and a tiny cemetery in Sand
The constitution of Norway was signed on May 17, 1814 which declared Norway an independent nation.  It is a very non military national day, marked with childrens parades and most attendees wearing the traditional Bunad.

I pulled up to the Roldal stave church luckily just moments before the parade marched to it’s front wall.   I stayed for mass, which I understood not a word but enjoyed the candlelight chandeliers casting light on the richly painted wall paintings that had been finished in the Middle Ages.  Many pilgrims visited this church, originally built in the 1300’s, as it was said to have a crucifix which drops of water emerged every Midsummer Night that had healing properties.  This church was reconstructed in the 1900’s where a dispute occurred due to it’s construction whether it classified as a stave or post church. 

Many scenic stops along the way from Sand to Rosendal


All images by Pepper Key Stacie
My great grandfather Jacob Aanen Steensland was born September 26, 1879 in Hjelmeland, Rogaland County, Norway.  Although I wish I would have been able to find more information on the exact place of his birth or the family farm, it was remarkable just to lay eyes on the region of our roots.  Jacobs father was Aenen Jorgensen Stensland, and mother was Borghild Larsdatter Tuntlandsvikane (how’s that for a name!) and they, like many Stenslands or Steinslands, changed their spellings to Steensland after moving to America.  I have always found the Norwegian pronunciation easier on the tongue and the ears. 
Hjelmeland is known for it’s fruit production; apples, plums, pears, strawberries, and cherries but salmon, cod, and halibut have been important to the fishing industry.  The coat of arms depicts a red shield with plaits of straw, based on the local tradition of furniture making, symbolising the strength and solidarity of the municipality.  These famous chairs with seats of woven twigs, jaerstolen, are still being produced today. 
Reading Summer Light I found a treasure chest of personal parallels.  I grew up in Wyoming; the mountainous and mineral rich equality state, the 10th largest in square mileage but the least populated, and a racially undiverse population at that. Norway, like the rest of Scandinavia, is large but relatively sparsely populated, mountainous and rich in natural resources.  It is a notably egalitarian country, most likely stemming from the Viking days when the farms and communities would be managed by the women while the men were off to sea. Norway is slowly changing but very recently was the most racially homogeneous nation in the world after Japan.  Wyoming has often been termed rough terrain and as the author writes “I ponder the fact that Norway’s character has emerged from it’s rugged terrain and fragmented coastline, and that the isolation imposed by it’s mountains and fjords strenthened it’s traditions.” (p.66) I think it’s fair to say Wyoming’s isolation from metropolitan areas has given it an identity all it’s own.  With the comparisons of geography and economy I caught myself comparing myself to the average Norwegian and discovered my bad habit of bartering down is classically Norwegian.   Farmers would start at a price lower than they wanted and wait for the buyer to suggest a higher price they would then agree on.  (if only I sold my works to other Norwegians:)  I found out the Steensland’s do it yourself nature is inherent; “Norwegians, probably because of their enforced isolation in many of the valleys and on the coastline, have developed a talent for being independent and this quality is reflected in their aptitude in building their own homes, putting on additions, restoring furniture, tending to a vegetable garden, making handicrafts, knitting, weaving, carving wood, and just about any other handyman pursuit.” (p. 177)  We share a distaste of plastic surgery, drunk driving, television, and the exploitation of women, and a reverence for fairness, reading, the great outdoors, and gender equality in the workplace and in the home!  The author clearly holds a great deal of respect for Norwegians, describing them as idealistic, good natured, earthy, and wholesome.  In a study a few years back, researchers left wallets with cash unattended in various countries in public places.  Norway was the only country that all five wallets were returned.


What my hike looked like:

Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock, is one of the most famous destinations in Norway.  The cliff juts out creating a plateu 82 feet by 82 feet,  resting 1,982 feet above the Lysefjorden, the “light fjord” so named by the light colored rocks making up the cliffs. The fjord is not only long and narrow, in some places it is as deep as the mountains are high (the fjord stops at a depth of 1300 feet below Preikestolen) On the opposite side of the fjord lies the Kjerag mountian, and the famous kjeragbolton, a boulder wedged between a mountain crevice where many hikers stop for a very brave photo. 
  I stayed overnight at a small campground about a 20 minute drive away from the base.  Slovik Campground was a real treat as there was internet access and a bathroom located within the cabin, a heated luxury with a fantastically hot shower I happily utilised after my hike!  I began climbing at 6am and made it to the pulpit just before 8am.  Despite the cloud covered view it was a beautiful trek and I crossed paths with not another soul until 30 minutes before I was back at the base.  I walked into the Fjelstue (mountain lodge) rain soaked, surprised to find the breakfast area jam packed with couples and families enjoying the typical breakfast spread; freshly baked breads, sliced cheeses, meats, cucumbers, and tomatoes, smoked salmon, hard and soft boiled eggs and a small selection of cereals.  After finishing off a second cup of hot tea, it still appeared as if the others were not in a big hurry to get on the hike, perhaps many decide not to do it at all with the near guarantee that the climax will be met with white fog versus the gorgeous scene one would find on a clear day.  I chose to experience the diluted version versus not experiencing it at all and I am very happy I did.

All images by Pepper Key Stacie
last three images from the Preikestolen Fjellstue

Stalheim and Surrounds

All images by Pepper Key Stacie
The original Stalheim hotel was built in 1885 but only a short decade later had expanded to accommodate up to 150 guests due to it’s immense popularity.   As one can see from the top photo, the view is unparalleled.  My favorite feature was the open air museum, a very peaceful place for an early morning walk.  This felt like stepping directly into the old Stalheim community; the coaching inn from 1750, the memorial stone to Emperor Wilhelm’s visits to Stalheim, the schoolhouse from 1881, and the manor house.  The interior of the hotel is also a virtual museum with it’s many artifacts, antiques, and art works, many of which feature Stalheim in it’s depictions.  The fireplaces were always ablaze by dinner time, an open invitation for all guests to congregate and socialize over coffee, hot tea, or a cocktail.  Our young crew were put to shame with the golden agers, who far outlasted us in the evenings.  While we were saying our good nights and heading to bed between 10 and 11pm (which always felt strange considering there was still plenty of daylight at those hours), they were just getting warmed up in their card games and conversations. 

 So while the evenings were spent in the cozy atmosphere of the above pictures, the days were spent working in some of the most incredible locations I have ever seen.   The photo shoot was for the performance line of ECCO, a global leader in innovative comfort footwear.  The company was founded in 1963 in Denmark by Karl Toosbuy who vowed that the foot should lead the shoe and that comfort should not be a luxury.  The small Danish company has now grown to the 7th largest shoe brand in the world but continues to stay true to it’s roots and admirable mission statement

Meet the crew:
Photographer Michael Dwornik
Video Director Scott Fredette of light-borne
Art Director Ron Pushkar
Photo Assistants Shane Mccauley and James Loveday
Producer Cindi Blair
Big thanks to everyone who made this shoot a success; Mogen, Patti, Rob, Pal, Christian, Erik, and Bernadette, everyone was great!