Having just purchased a new motorbike, and with a little spare time on his hands, Dave Williams embarked on a journey that would take him from England to Norway. As world a renowned travel photographer, he’s no stranger to travel — in fact, he’s ventured far and wide, capturing the world around him through his photographs musings.
Hoping to learn more about this particular 3000-mile (4,800-kilometer) ride along some of the most beautiful roads in the world, we sat down to ask Dave a few questions.
What was it that first drew you to photography?
I got into photography when I was a teenager and was given a Nikon SLR for my birthday, but the true passion didn’t come until my early 20s. When I got my first DSLR, I tinkered around with Photoshop and made all of the usual terrible edits: selective coloring, severely over-processed HDR, insane toning — it was all there. Despite how bad those photos and edits were, they steered me in the right direction by making me realize what was wrong and, simultaneously, how much I wanted to make it right. I persevered through all manner of failures until I grasped the “rules,” and then I took it a step further by understanding them well enough to know how and when to break them. This combined with another passion of mine, the natural world, led me down the path of travel photography, and it’s a path I’ve not looked back on since.
How did travel become a part of your photographic practice?
I see travel photography as two things. Firstly, it’s telling a story. I love to share experiences and knowledge, so this one is no issue. Secondly, it’s making the viewer want to be there in the picture. It’s this passion for sharing, along with the creativity I used to think I didn’t have, that has guided me and kept me on this path — and I absolutely love it.
To arrive there I — as most people do — shot anything and everything I could to find out what I really enjoyed. I even shot weddings for a few years in places as far off as Los Angeles, Germany, and the west coast of Australia. It was all a part of the journey.
What inspired such an epic trip from London to Norway?
Circumstances! I love adventure, as you’ll see from my blog, and earlier in the year, I was hit with a change in circumstances that led me to rekindle my love of motorcycles. I’d always had sports bikes, but now, being in my 30s, I figured it was about time I got a “big boy bike,” where I could sit up rather than be hunched over.
My intention was to take a more sensible trip on my new wheels, perhaps to France to revisit Mont St. Michel or traverse the Alps, but I’d always had a niggling desire to go and see the Atlantic Highway. So, in the middle of the night, between wrapping up projects and ensuring deadlines were met, I took a quick look at my schedule and booked Eurostar and ferry tickets from Denmark to Norway. The trip was secured in my mind, though the finer details would be worked out later. With a new bike comes the need to put it through its paces, and the desire to see the Atlantic Highway — which is rated one of the top five driving roads in the world — was the inspiration I needed to ride it its first 3,000 miles.
What was your route, and how did you decide where to go?
I decided on a route that took me through the beautiful tulip fields of the Netherlands, just before they vanished for the season, and that led to some pretty awesome off-road riding. The fields are basically sand, so in order to get myself to the prime spots, I had to ride through that sandy terrain, testing my riding abilities and balance! From there, I plotted out some nice locations to stop in, aiming to spend about the same amount of time on the bike each day. The “key” stops were Lillehammer in Norway and Luxembourg City, which allowed me to tick off a country I’d never visited from my bucket list, despite it being essentially just around the corner from my home in London.
It was hard to plan a route that struck the balance between scenic stops and progressive riding, though. But after very careful planning, I managed to find what I needed. The ride took me from London down into France via the Channel Tunnel, then up through Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark, across the ferry to Norway, and finally back the other way, though I also included a ride through Luxembourg on the return. In total, the trip covered nine days, eight countries, and over 3,000 miles.
Did you face any challenges along the way?
At the time, the cold weather in Norway was what I thought was the toughest part of my journey. Riding through ice and snow, and even setting up camp, was pretty cold, but little did I know that the biggest challenge, both mentally and physically, would throw itself at me on my return journey.
As I entered Denmark, the sun was shining, and I watched it set beautifully as I arrived at a B&B in Aalborg, where I was going to spend the night. The next morning, I woke up to a very light rain and — thinking nothing of it — secured my panniers and all my gear to the bike, wiped off the seat, and got on my way. It was an hour later that the drizzle turned to the most torrential rain I’d ever experienced. It went on for two days and continued all the way through Denmark and most of Germany.
I was riding slowly due to the limited visibility, and was soaked through to the skin — so much so that when I took off my boot, having noticed that it felt a little squelchy, water literally poured from it! I was forced to cancel my camping plans in order to secure radiator space in a hotel to dry my gear, and though at the time I hated it, now it’s just a part of the larger story!
What were some of the highlights of your experience on the road?
The Norway portion of the ride was spectacular. They say Norway was put there by god for photographers, and I don’t think that’s far from the mark! Starting from the port of Kristiansand at the far south of the country, where the landscape is somewhat urban and industrious, I watched the countryside turn to rolling hills with farms of grazing livestock and forests of lush green before transforming into majestic fjords, jagged rocks, and sheer cliff faces toward the Atlantic Highway. Seeing the change of climate, too, where that lush green was devoured by ice and snow still remaining at the changing of the seasons, was spectacular. The difference between sitting outside and really feeling the ride and the environment rather than hopping in and out of a rental car really amplified and honed the experience, making it a little extra special.
Was there something specific you were looking to capture or achieve with this journey?
Though the journey was over 3,000 miles, my main purpose was to experience the five miles (eight kilometers) of Atlantic Highway that’s known to the locals as Atlanterhavsvegen. This road was voted Norway’s engineering feat of the century, as it traverses islands and archipelagos with bridges, causeways, and viaducts. Let’s just say that it sits high on most “best roads in the world” lists for good reason.
Photographing this portion of the ride was a challenge, as I was both the photographer and the model. I essentially had to capture a series of selfies with a remote camera and a drone, but I made sure to ride the road a few times first so that I could get a good feel for it.
There’s a shot is of me just coming over a crest in a forest about 100 kilometers south of Lillehammer. The weather was great, the skies were blue, the forest was somewhat rustic and rugged, and that part of the ride was where I was just starting to realize that I’d made the right decision in putting some serious mileage on my bike and some serious pressure on my body!
It was hands down the best ride of my life, and one of the best parts of the trip.
What kind of photography would you like to see more of in the world?
It’s not a type of photography that I want to see more of; it’s more a result of the photography. I want to see more people printing! Having something tangible that you can hold in your hands and really feel is so special, and it’s the origin and root of photography, but something that is now becoming lost. There is something really valuable and important about the power of print. We’ve learned about our own history, particularly that of my own family in the past 150 or so years, from photography. Our family photo albums, which sit in the attic waiting for the dust to be occasionally blown off, should continue to be maintained. Posting on social media is a fantastic way to share our images, but the audience is nowhere near as captive as an audience in front of print.
Where’s your next journey taking you?
I’ve just returned from the U.S., where I attended an industry conference called Photoshop World. While in the country, I also pursued several projects, from an open-door helicopter shoot in Miami to a sunrise lighthouse shoot in Portland, Maine. Next up, I’m on the bike again for a trip up to the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where I’ll be shooting the Storr as my main project. And then, the following week, I’m headed to Iceland to shoot landscapes and feel the Midnight Sun.
People keeping track of my trips call me lucky, but it’s important to remember that luck happens when preparation meets opportunity. Anyone can be lucky, but you have to remember that you control your own luck — so, get out there and make the preparations so that when the opportunities arise, you’re ready to take them!