Photo: Northern lights fill the sky over Skagsanden beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 11, 2021. 19:06
It was not even dark yet on Monday afternoon when I thought I noticed faint hints of northern lights dancing in the twilight sky. at 16:15 I took a test photo from my backyard just to see if my eyes were playing tricks on me or not. Nope, it was aurora! By 16:30 I was taking my first photos at Storsandnes beach. What followed was an aurora that lasted the entire night over Lofoten and probably the best show of the last two winters.
Around 18:00 the northern lights calmed down for a little while – which is normal, the northern lights often fluctuates in levels of activity/brightness throughout the night. The beach I was at wasn’t the best, as the aurora were too far overhead and towards the south, so I took the chance to relocate, this time to Skagsanden beach.
Covid has kept the tourists away, but even so, I’m always somewhat hesitant about Skagsanden these days, as it can get crowded with tripods! To my surprise, I arrived to an empty parking lot! I got down to the beach and was focusing my camera just as the sky exploded with light. I didn’t even have time to adjust my shutter speed before I was taking the first shot just to make sure my camera was in focus. Then I took a couple seconds to actually find a better composition.
This photo is from about 20 minutes later, after the aurora had calmed slightly, but still filling much of the sky. This is generally slightly easier to photograph anyhow, as the highly active aurora can be moving so fast through the sky, that it can be difficult to compose into a shot. What can also occur on active nights is that the aurora moves ‘beyond’ the location your at. I.e. If the best composition is is facing northwest to north, but the aurora moves to the west or southwest, often times then becoming obscured by mountains as well. This can often happen at several of Lofoten’s beaches – sometime the aurora is just too high in the sky to work with the location.
But luckily, this wasn’t the case on Monday and Skagsanden works well as a location for active northern lights. A car or two would occasionally pull into the parking lot, but despite my fears of seeing 20 vans show up and a line of headlamps marching across the beach in front of me, only two other photographers eventually showed up in the hour or so I was there.
Winter tourism on Lofoten has been steadily increasing since 2015 or so, to the point where it has felt busy and crowded at times in recent years – especially in the popular destinations. But this winter will be quiet – I’ve had to cancel all my winter photo tours, and I image most others have as well – Norway currently requires 10 day quarantine + a covid test on entry. So this winter will likely feel like the old days, where I could wander around and hardly ever see another tripod. If the idea of the winter crowds has been putting you off of visiting Lofoten, then this year might be the one chance you have to experience the winters as they used to be and to find yourself alone at Skagsanden beach while the northern lights dance in the sky overhead…
Sigma 14mm f/1.8