Friday Photo #425 – February Rain

Photo: Flowing river below Stornappstind after a week of rain and mild temperatures, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 26, 2021.16:47

The long period of Cold and settled weather since the beginning of the year ended this week with the arrival of a series of mild and wet weather from the south. Though it is not just us on Lofoten, most of continental Europe has gone through the same shift this week – from ice skating to the first flowers of spring – although flowers are still a few months away for us up here in the north.

As I’ve already written, we’ve been lucky so far this winter on Lofoten. So, as disappointing as it is to see, it is quite common for shifts in the weather and a week of snow-melting rain to arrive. There are still more or less two months of winter lefter here, so hopefully March fills the mountains with snow and there is still planting of skiing left this season!

The river here just down the road from my house, and which I pass daily on my way to/from Leknes had been frozen solid for most of the last month. But this weeks rain and warm temperatures, up to 8˚C on Wednesday, has turned the river into a flowing torrent. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement! But even during the spring thaw, this is about as big as this small little creek ever flows. So at the moment it is both a combination of a lot of rain combined with the snowmelt.

I had actually planned for myself to take a road trip to Senja this past week. But already looking at the weather forecast last weekend, I knew it would have been a mostly pointless and unproductive trip – and it’s no fun to spend a week in my van when it’s 3-5˚C and raining all day long. There’s only so much reading I can do per day while hurried in my sleeping bag to keep warm!

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 14
0.6 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #424 – Skagsanden Aurora

Photo: February northern lights – aurora borealis fill the sky over Skagsanden beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 15, 2021. 22:12

After a weekend of clouds over Lofoten and a high aurora activity that wasn’t visible, Monday night brought a cloudless sky and a low aurora forecast. Looking at one of the space weather websites, it was stated that the solar wind had now passed earth. And yes, at 19:00 I could already see the first glow of green in the fading twilight. This turned into an all night show, still visible at 06:00 Tuesday morning. KP 2 they said…

I began the night shooting just down the road from home at one of the my local beaches. The sky produced a couple good outbreaks during that time. But finally during a calm period, I took the chance to make the 20 minute drive to Skagsanden. The temperatures where mild and the roads slippery. I passed and slowed to check on one person crashed into the ditch on the side of the road, which were fine, but unfortunately the Nappstaumen tunnel was closed for hour long periods, so the tow truck would take a while.

Most years it can be a little risky to move from a location you have to yourself to somewhere else, which might be overly crowded and impossible to shoot from. Corona has made this year different. There are only a handful of photographers actually living on Lofoten (or even overall in Norway as a whole), so as I pulled into the parking lot at Skagsanden, there was only 1 other car there.

Lucky again, the tide was cooperating, with low tide around 22:00 or so, which is perfect condition for Skagsanden – with about 100 meters from the high tide line to the low tide area across the flat sandy beach – perfect for reflections! The upper section of the beach was actually somewhat frozen, resulting in somewhat ‘dull’ reflections, so I walked down to the tide line, gentle waves crashing over my boots and the aurora shining bright in the wet sand.

Soon after my arrival the aurora increased in activity, dancing across the sky from east to west, with lots of pink highlights among the green. Despite the moonless night, the aurora was bright enough at times for me to have a shadow. Shooting in manual in the camera, one has to take care to pay attention to exposure. When I arrived at the beach, I was shooting around 4 second exposures, but when the aurora got bright, I was even down to 0.6 second for some periods of time! KP 2 they said…

I’m probably a slightly broken record with how many times I’ve said the aurora forecast doesn’t really matter. Even with all the technology and aurora apps, etc, there is still always an aura of mystery in which you never quite know what will happen. Like Monday night, which the fantastic show was the result of the earth’s magnetic sphere allowing the slow solar wind to enter. So no need for a forecast for a X-class flare and a geomagnetic storm for an amazing night of northern lights! Sometimes it just happens…

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten – and of nights like this when it happens: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 1600
f 2
1.3 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #423 – Winter

Photo: Winter clouds hang low over mountains of Vestvågøy from Nappstraumen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 11, 2021. 14:30

After an unusually calm and snow-less start to 2021 the weather seems to have finally shifted to more normal storminess (is that a word?) over the last week – bringing some days of wind and new snow across Lofoten. Enough so that my road was closed from an avalanche for the first time this winter – though I suspect this was more to do with the wind, as there still isn’t that much snow in the mountains.

Yesterday afternoon a wave of snow was concealing the mountains in the image. I headed outside to shoot a time lapse, as I could see that the low clouds would soon pass and the mountains would emerge again. Though I shoot this scene a lot, once I went back to collect my camera I took a few more photos, as it seemed to be looking extra-moody. Though by this time, Himmeltind had already disappeared behind the clouds again. Yet I still like the mostly empty and abstract nature of the scene.

If you head over to my Instagram account: @distant.north – you will also see what the time-lapse looked like.

Camera Info
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
48mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/40 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #422 – Beach Day

Photo: Waves flowing over frozen sand at Myrland beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 1, 2021. 14:15

I was driving home Monday afternoon as some cool looking snow clouds were passing by just out to sea to the north and catching the low afternoon sunlight. I took a few shots from up on the road, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for – though this was also partially because my 14-24mm lens has been broken for almost a year now, and the scene probably needed something in the 18-22mm range. 24mm was not quite wide enough, and 14mm was way too wide. It’s a bit frustrating when you don’t have the tools you need, but with a full year of workshops canceled thanks to Corona, and least I’m still around to complain at the moment…

Lofoten, and most of northern Norway has had a cold but dry start to 2021. But finally, on Monday, Jan 25th, the middle parts of Lofoten received about 20-30cm of snow, including my valley. Ordinarily in most years, one day of snowfall would have quickly been tracked up by all the winter photography workshops that should be here right now. So it’s always a race to get to a beach with fresh snow and enjoy it while you can.

This year, with Lofoten completely empty, I was the first person to walk down to the beach this past Monday, a full week after the snow fell! Crazy! Even Storsandnes beach down the road has remained largely footprint free as well for a week and a half now. It’s like the old days when I was sleeping in a rental car and pretty much the only photographer around in winter.

The cold of the last weeks in addition to the snow fall means the sand on the beaches can often freeze, basically turning to ice. Then when the tide come in and waves wash against it, it can form cool patterns and structures that wouldn’t otherwise exist. And then when larger waves come and crash against this frozen line, cool stuff can happen.

I spent about an hour of the beach until the light faded to blue. Myrland beach can sometimes be difficult to shoot, as the large boulders in the tide line, one of the nice things about the beach, can sometimes become distracting as well, and require careful placement within the frame – making some compositions not really ideal, compared to if the boulders were gone – and more so on days like this when the water itself is already quite dynamic.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 16
1/100 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #421 – Himmeltindan

Photo: Last light over the peaks of Himmeltindan and Ristind, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 29, 2021. 14:35

I don’t post panos very often because I think they’re too small on the computer screen, but for this image from today’s sunset, a pano was the best representation of the scene.

After a dry winter, the the central and western islands of Lofoten received around 20-30cm of snow on Monday night, immediately turning the islands into a winter wonderland which has so far been missing this season. And even better, the temperatures have remained cold and the wind has mostly been calm all while the weather has been fantastic.

It is unfortunate that this winters photo workshops have been canceled, as compared with the struggles of last years terrible weather and the struggle to find light, this year would be a dream for guiding, as there is literally light everywhere! But I’ve been out enjoying it for myself, and hunting for new locations which might work for future workshops.

I had passed by this scene yesterday with a completely clear sky. The full moon had already risen but was too far to the right of Ristind for any sort of useable composition. So I made plans to return today. However, the weather had other plans and a layer of clouds on the northern horizon blocked any possibility of me getting the moonrise photo I was looking for. Luckily, the light itself was fantastic, much better than the previous day. So, moon or not, I still ended up with something nice I think!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
130mm
ISO 100
f 5.6
1/100 second
WB Daylight
6 image panoramic

Friday Photo #420 – Thin Ice

Photo: Cracks in the thin ice on lake Storvatnet, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 19, 2021. 14:13

Just after getting back to my van on Tuesday afternoon from a hike up around Nesheia, what had been a previously mostly grey sky erupted in color. Luckily, lake Storvatnet was just around the corner and had had some cool looking lines running across the surface. So I headed there in a rush.

The lines and patterns on the lake were some of the coolest Ive seen here for a while. Just a perfect light dusting of snow contrasting with the long cracks formed from the freezing surface. It was nearly perfect except for one thing: The ice was too thin to safely walk on.

I scrambled around the lake shore looking for a nice leading line from one of the cracks, but just couldn’t find anything. If only I could have walked 2-3 meters onto the lake to fine the perfect line, I probably would have gotten one of my best ever photos of the lake. But no. I had to painfully watch from the rocks on the shoreline as the light eventually began to fade. So close, but breaking through thin ice is not something I want to experience in this life.

And so I tried to shoot what photos I could. But nothing quite worked. So close…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
24mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/10 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #419 – Northern Lights

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…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 2000
f 2
3 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #418 – Second Sun

Photo: January sunrise/sunset over Nappstraumen, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 8, 2021. 12:39

The sun has returned to Lofoten! For the last two days, the sun has been visible again across the whole of Lofoten. Yesterday, Jan 7, was even better, with a perfectly clear sky and the sun floating along the southern horizon. But I was lazy and didn’t take any photos of it – the lack of snow in the mountains has left me somewhat uninspired for hiking lately.

Today, the sun returned again, but this time with a fiery sky. I was a again a bit slow to start my day, but on the way to Leknes I stopped by Nappstraumen for a couple images – I couldn’t completely ignore light like this.

Though with the sun still low on the horizon, and a fair amount of clouds around, the light was mostly focused in the direct south, not leaving me too many compositional possibilities. I shot a few wider images, but I couldn’t quite get the feeling I was looking for out of the foreground – the wave were quite small and the tide was low, forcing me out onto the seaweed, which I don’t think looks very nice.

So instead, once the sun popped around the bottom of Skottind, I put on the telephoto lens for a closer detail shot. By now the illuminated clouds had also pulled back quite a bit, leaving much of the sky a flat grey. Perhaps I should have also shot an image at 14mm to use as a reference. Not the best composition in the world here and I would have rather shot wider with a more dynamic foreground if there had been one. But at least it was a nice colorful sunrise over this part of Lofoten.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
125mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/60 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #417 – A New Year

Photo: New Year twilight at the eye of Uttakleiv, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 1, 2021. 12:43

The new year has arrived with the soft pastels of winter twilight. Cold and clear, perfect weather for the first day of 2021 and a slightly slow start. Feeling lazy, I headed for a Lofoten classic, the Eye of Uttakleiv.

Lots of locals were out and about enjoying the weather, but at will likely be the trend for most of the winter and probably the first half of the year, no other photographers were around. Though had I not been lazy, I should have probably used the nice weather to head up a mountain. But there are still 4 months of winter left, so plenty of time for that in the days and weeks ahead.

You can see in the photo that the snow is still quite thin on Lofoten. It’s nice for driving, having the roads clear and mostly dry. But for photography, a little more white in the mountains would be nice! Soon hopefully.

The moon has been shining bright the last days, though in this photo it’s just a small spot above the rock on the left. It would have gone blurry from the 30 second exposure anyhow. I used a dark polarizer filter to actually bring out the reflection in the foreground water to add contrast against the dark rocks – though this did slightly make the ‘eye’ less visible, I liked the overall feel of the image better this way.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
24mm
ISO 100
f 14
30 seconds
WB Daylight
Breakthrough Photography 6 stop dark polarizer

Friday Photo #416 – Christmas Moon

Photo: Christmas moon in December’s twilight light over mountains of Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 25, 2020. 13:06

Driving home from Stamsund this afternoon I saw the moon sitting low over the mountains along the southern side of Vestvågøy. I was actually looking for a better angle of Vågakallen, which was rising nicely into the mid-day twilight. But unfortunately I was slightly too slow for that and by the time I got to a decent angle, a lay of clouds had drifted into the scene.

The moon looked quite cool, however, and was a good backup shot. Unfortunately again for me, since I had slept in my van, I put my 200-500mm lens into the house yesterday. Probably would have been a more interesting shot at 500mm, but I’ll never know…

God Jul from Lofoten!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
120mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
.6 second
WB Daylight