Friday Photo #391 – Kleivheia Mist

Photo: Clearing mist over Skrådalstind from Kleivheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 2, 2020. 23:13

After several days of misty grey clouds and wind the sky was finally filled with nice puffy white clouds yesterday. Actually one of the nicer looking days (photographically) in weeks, as it has either been fully blue sky, or fully grey; not much in between. Though it my preference for hiking at night still under the midnight sun, perhaps I waited a little too long.

Sometimes the hardest part about hiking on Lofoten is actually choosing where you want to go. Even more so when you’re trying to be produce and choose somewhere with the best chances of getting some decent photos. I can always choose the old reliable classics, but as I’m still attempting to work on a new hiking guide this summer – whether that ever happens is still to be decided, mostly because I can’t afford to be driving in circles every day while I’m essentially unemployed thanks to Corona – I’m at least trying to choose some areas which I haven’t visited in a while. Last night that was Kleivheia, a rarely visited peak on the north side of Unstad.

The hiking isn’t very fun for the ascent of the steep, grassy gully – and even worse for the descent. And so as I saw heavy grey clouds blocking out the sun before I was even half way up, I thought about just turning around. Luckily I had a good podcast in my earphones and really, what else was I going to do otherwise? Not much. So I continued.

I came up there originally hoping to get nice golden light shining across Unstad bay and village. But that was just grey. I continued to the other side of the ridge, where there was some nice light over the Eggum side of the coastline, but it’s not the best composition in the world. So I just continued on towards the top.

I could see the next wave of clouds approaching and felt the first drops of rain. A rainbow appeared to might right, but I wasn’t in a good location. But it was one of those nice moments as a photographer when the light is moving fast and you’re racing to get into position – somewhere! Anywhere!

After the rain passed and the sun emerged again the valley between me and Skrådalstind began to fill with a swirling mist. Again, running from my previous composition I tried to get somewhere with at least a decent composition. But all the elements were moving so quickly that there wasn’t really time to fine tune a composition and within a few minutes the mist concealed the summit and the moment was lost. But it was worth the effort.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/30 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #390 – Midsummer Sun

Photo: Midsummer’s eve: the sun’s lowest point on the year’s longest day. Offersøykammen, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 21, 2020, 01:04

Last Saturday night I hiked up Offersøykammen to watch shoot the sun on the summer solstice (which was Sunday). Hot and cloudless – like it had been for most of a week already – the endless blue skies were getting a little boring photographically. But I wanted to photograph the sun at its lowest point in the sky, which occurs just after 01:00.

Beyond just shooting a single photo, this image is actually taken out of a time-lapse sequence which I shot from about 22:30 – 03:00. If you follow me on Instagram (@Distant.North), you would have seen I posted that video already. I was using too cameras: one at 24mm and this one at 14mm. If I’me going to sit up on the mountain all night, I might as well be 2x as productive.

The night was quite warm and there was a surprising amount of mosquitos, something which generally aren’t a problem in west Lofoten – this was probably the worst I’ve experienced them, my legs and ankles are still itching!

It was a little difficult to choose the correct location, knowing that I would likely want to pull a still frame (this photo) out of the time-lapse sequence, where both products might have wildly different crops: 2:3 for this and maybe 16:9 or maybe 2.35:1 if I want something more cinematic looking. I also wanted to be relatively sure that the sun wouldn’t sink below any of the background mountains for too long – in this case it only disappeared behind Himmeltindan for a couple minutes when it was well on its way to rising again.

There were a couple mountains I had in mind, but Offersøykammen seemed the easiest and safest – though perhaps not the most spectacular. But it was hot and I was kinda lazy, so… Perhaps if there had been a bit more of a dynamic sky, I would have tried something better. But really, I can’t be too motivated for hiking hours in the heat for a cloudless blue sky.

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 13
1/125 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #389 – Midnight Zoom

Photo: Rays of the midnight sun shining from behind Skottind from Ballstadheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 15, 2020. 23:54

Photo: Hazy mountain layers in light of midnight sun from Ballstadheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 16, 00:19

The power of zoom – one location and two completely different photos: 14mm and 200mm. I had been a bit indecisive as to where to go on this night. We’ve now had over a week of nearly cloudless skies over Lofoten and there is only so much you can do with the sun in a clear sky.

With the summer solstice tomorrow, when the sun it’s at its lowest at 01:00, it still remains well above the horizon during this period. So going to the coastal peaks on the yttersia can be a little boring – with just the sun sitting over the ocean – though maybe I try and shoot a time lapse of this in the next few days. Otherwise, finding something to put in front of the sun is the best in such good weather.

initially I drove to Justadtind, but I didn’t quite feel up to that long hike. Next I drove to Skottind, but again, something just felt off. Almost thinking of going home and being lazy, I finally drove to Ballstad and decided to go up the little hill of Ballstadheia so I would at least do something!

I took my time, wandering around the maze of trails to several different overlooks before making my way to the high point of the hill. Just as I arrived, I could see the sun emerging from around Skottind as well. This sent me into a slight panic for a moment thinking I might have missed my timing by only 1-2 minutes. But luckily its possible to walk down the mountain ridge, back into the shadow, find a new composition, and wait for the sun to emerge around the mountain again. Actually pretty perfect and much better than I had planned! I repeated this for several shots.

But also in the distance I could see the sea haze glowing in the sunlight. Switching to 200mm, I shot several compositions of this as well before the sun moved too far into the scene causing too much lens flare. again, I just had lucky timing and luck for the conditions – I wasn’t expecting such cool haze.

Looking at the two images next to each other, you can seen the area in the first photo where I then zoomed in and shot for the second image. But if you looked at each image individually, it would be easy to think they were shot at different locations at different times and not more of less from the same location within less than 30 minutes.

One of the most frequent questions during my photo workshops is, ‘What lens should I use?’ And my common response is, ‘What do you want to photograph?’ (with further detailed explanations of course…) This is a perfect illustration of that: You’re standing on a mountain watching the sun emerge from around another mountain. What lens should you use? There isn’t just one answer…

Camera Info Photo 1:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 13
1/10 second
WB Daylight

Camera Info Photo 2:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
200mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/500 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #388 – Nesheia Desert

Photo: Desert-like mountain highlands over Nappstraumen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 6, 2020. 23:55

Summer seems to have fully arrived here on Lofoten during the last week, and despite a couple cold misty days we’ve mostly experienced blue sky and endless sunlight. Tomorrow we might even hit 20˚c for the first time this year! I guess its time to work on my summer sunburn.

With such good weather, I actually haven’t been camping and have been saving most of my hiking for the evening hours. While the days are nice to be outside, a solid blue sky isn’t the most productive photographically, so it’s better I put my energy towards the most productive time of day, which is the night. And there’s not really any point in spending the night in 24 hour sunlight for a hike that is only 3-4 hours in length anyhow.

But with the full summer ahead, it is time to begin exploring some new mountains, and revisiting places I haven’t been to for some years. The main work for summer will be to cover Vestvågøy and Austvågøy in the east. But there’s still some new places in the west that I’ve never been to for whatever reason. This photo from Nesheia being one of them.

I’ve driven by and looked at the rocky mountain landscape hundreds if not thousands of times, but for sum reason until last weekend I never ventured up there. It is kind of a unique landscape which feels more like the deserts of California than anything found on Lofoten. I think this will be a cool place to visit again in autumn with a fresh dusting of light snow, so I’ll provably be back again before the year is over.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
27mm
ISO 100
f 13
1/15 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #387 – Rockfall

Photo: Rockfall over Myrlandsveien which hit mail man and closed road for 24 hours, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 3, 2020. 11:38

Summer seems to have arrived with June this year as the temperatures have warmed up over the last week to 15 degree and sunny t-shirt weather. May was much colder than average here and so the spring greening of the islands feels a couple weeks late this year. But as always with the melting of the snow comes rockfall.

All across Lofoten you can see dark brown streaks of rockfall across sections of remaining snow. And when out and about in mountain area photographing, even at midnight after the day has cooled, you can hear numerous rockslides and snow/ice avalanches falling from the peaks. I posted video of a bigger one on my instagram story the other day that lasted long enough for me to hear it, see where it was, pull my phone out of my pocket and start recording.

Yesterday, Thursday, a large rock/snow fall occurred on Reinebringen in the late afternoon, covering a section of the steps in a layer of debris. Numerous people have already been hiking the mountain in the nice weather of the last days, but luckily tourism is off to a slow start this year and no one was present when the rockfall occurred.

I myself had even been planning on hiking Reinebringen yesterday, and likely would have been in the area near the time when the rockfall occurred. Luckily as I was driving there in the early evening I could see the evening sun would go into a layer of clouds, so I decided to go elsewhere last night.

But that is two reminders in two days for me that this is always a dangerous time of year in the mountains of Lofoten – though that’s not saying you can just relax the rest of the year – but the melting of the mountains in spring and early summer is always a period of elevated rockfall.

So, when you’re planning your hikes in the next weeks, be sure to know what your route is like and try to avoid areas traveling below steep cliffs.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
44mm
ISO 200
f 9
1/500 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #386 – Spring Thaw

Photo: Stortind rising into the midnight sky above flowing waters of the spring snowmelt, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 25, 2020. 23:29

Finally, after a seemingly never ending winter the thermometer broke into double digits again last weekend and gave us the hottest day of the year so far – 16˚C! Well, I’m sure for most of you reading this, that doesn’t sound like much, but for us here on Lofoten, this was only the 2nd time above 10˚C this year, the previous time being on January 2nd during a strange warm period. Otherwise, we’d have to go back to late October to find 2 more days above 10˚C.

Though unfortunately this was just a quick teaser of what’s hopefully to come. As the rest of the week since Tuesday has fallen back to a pattern of heavy grey skies and cool rain. But At least we had a few days to sit outside while not in a down jacket and remember what the warmth of the sun felt like – I don’t think my arms have seen sunlight since September…

Thus far in May, most of the precipitation arrived as snow. And while it has mostly since melted away from the coastal areas, the inland mountains still have significant snow coverage, even here in west Lofoten. Last year I was already hiking up snow free trails on moderately hight peaks by now. I might have to wait a little longer this year.

The mountain snow combined with the sun and warm temperatures quickly set the spring thaw into motion. All over Lofoten the often quiet little streams were flowing high and fast. Driving by this location on my way to somewhere else I noticed the river flowing across a section of rocks that for whatever reason I’ve never photographed before – I usually only visit the lower waterfalls here.

I first made a stop in the late afternoon and hiked a little ways up the valley to where the river was flowing across the flat, slabby rocks. But the sun was in the wrong part of the sky, so after a little while exploring and observing the conditions, I made the plan to come back later in the evening.

As the hours passed the winds picked up into quite some gusts out on the exposed coastal areas. Luckily, this valley was mostly sheltered, though at times the wind gusted strong enough to blow water across my lens. The sky was nearly completely cloudy, yet luckily enough there was a hole somewhere in the northern sky to allow a ray of light to shine across the upper half of Stordind – without that, I don’t think the image would have worked as well.

Camera Info:
Nikon D885
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 16
1 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #385 – Midnight Sun Season

Photo: A sun that never sets – beginning of the midnight sun season, Unstad beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 22, 2020. 02:03

Last night was the first night the sun set after midnight for the year – and still a full month ahead of the summer solstice. Luckily this coincided with a perfect blue sky, perhaps even a bit boring photographically, but at least the horizon was clear. And so I headed up Helligberget – the Holy Mountain – above Unstad to see.

I should note that on Lofoten, the term ‘Midnight Sun’ is generally used to describe the period in which the sun is above the horizon 24 hours a day: i.e. never setting. Other locations might use the term a little more loosely to mean setting after midnight, but not necessary 24 hour sunlight, which only occurs north of the Arctic Circle.

However, since I was a few hundred meters up a mountain, I essentially transported myself into the future with my elevation. And so from my vantage point, the sun remained about 1/3 above the horizon at its lowest point around 01:00. Had I been down on the beach, the sun would have been fully below the horizon.

This photo is actually just a single frame from part of a time lapse I was shooting – which may or may not ever see the light of day, but I captured the full sequence of the sun drifting across the horizon from a little before it set until after it began to rise again – which is this image here, from just after 02:00. I didn’t use a photo from earlier in the night as it wasn’t as photogenic for a single still image – as at midnight the sun was in the far left of the frame, and felt somewhat out of balance to use here. The overall composition is also not the best, as capturing the full movement of the sun for the time lapse was my purpose, so my composition was constrained by the sun’s movement.

Today, the sun is shining again and it’s 13 degrees out! Feels like summer and time for a bbq – so I’ll watch the sun from by yard…

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/100 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #384 – The Long Winter

Photo: Winter without end – sea to summit snow over Kvalvika beach, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 14, 2020. 21:45

It has snowed for the last 10 days straight and it is currently snowing outside my window as I type this. I think May has had more winter weather than this year’s winter! I’m semi joking, but actually, the warmest day of the year was 10˚c on January 2nd. We’ve reached 8˚c a couple times since then, but the last weeks have remained cold. And with the long term forecast (as unreliable as that is anyhow) only showing up to 8˚c by the 24th of May, I’m not sure we’ll break the 10 degree boundary this month at all. And the one year were a calm, sunny spring is needed for us here in the north…

I attempted to head up Ryten on Wednesday evening, but having gotten a late start, I made terribly slow progress through the often knee deep snow. And so I made a detour to a side peak to at least catch some sunset light before returning to my van mostly empty handed.

Yesterday evening was attempt number two. I took a different route, the more direct one which I normally just use for skiing, not hiking. and though the snow was thinner, the spongy bushes underfoot made me wish I was on my skis – and once I was post holing through the beautiful 20cm powder on the upper slopes, I was even more depressed I wasn’t on my skis – it was better snow than I had skied on the mountain all year.

But I was there for photography, not recreation unfortunately, and my skiing abilities aren’t such that I can carry two camera, two tripods, and several lenses without severe risk of damage – and as Corona has made me unemployed for the summer, I can’t go breaking stuff at the moment, though that is already too late for my 14-24 lens which broke in April…

It is always windy on Ryten, and last night was no exception. I made sure to get an early start, knowing the snow would add some time to my normal hiking pace. I reached the summit around 19:00 – 4 hours before sunset. Maybe a little early!

Timing is everything for Ryten and Kvalvika. And at this time of year, the setting sun shines directly into the bay and across the beach, generally providing the best lighting conditions. Luckily, the snow actually makes this look like a winter image, but it’s not actually an image that can be taken in winter due to where the sun needs to be.

After several hours changing light – I was really up there to work on another project which may or may not ever see the light of day – and with cold feet, I headed down just before 23:00 as a large wave of snow was approaching from sea.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 40
f 11
60 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #383 – Midnight Hjell

Photo: Midnight Hjell, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 8, 2020. 00:05

Winter on Lofoten. Well, no, this is mid May 2020. After several nice days of sunshine last weekend, the thermostat has dropped and snow showers have been falling across the Islands over the last days. And the long term forecast seems to show that we’ll have the same cold conditions for the next week or more. In the one year where’d I’d just want even 10˚ on a calm afternoon. Nope!

It is not that snow is unusual in May. It’s actually to be expected here in the north, which is why we can keep our winter tires on a little longer than the Oslo city people in the south – who have already been sitting in the sunshine for weeks. It just seems this year the weather has remained extra stormy, with few days of sunshine and even cooler temperatures overall. A day or two of snow is no problem in May when you have some sunny 10˚ degrees in between. But this year, the thermostat has been struggling even to reach 5˚ over the last month.

I could have pretended this was a winter photo. And by the look of it, I could have said it was taken any time between November and March and for most people it would seem out of place. But there are some clues which show it’s not a winter image. The first, and easiest to pick up is the time the photo was taken: 00:05, five minutes after midnight. Though the sky is mostly overcast, you can see the warm light glowing on the horizon. This would not happen in winter. The second clue, and really only for those who know the area, is that the glowing horizon is in the north. Definitely not something which happens in winter. In December, this image could have been taken facing south at noon for a similar result.

But I’m tired of snow. It’s been a long winter this year. Hopefully I can start posting some sunny images soon! I need to for myself…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 31
f 16
30 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #382 – Spring Twilight

Photo: Evening twilight glow over northern coast of Lofoten Islands from Flakstadøy. April 29, 2020. 22:32

For the first time in a month there was a cloudless sky over Lofoten on Wednesday. While there have been some moments of sun here and there at times, never in the whole of April have we had a clear and calm day. So I decided to head up to the mountains for sunset.

Normally I love this time of year, with the ever lightening horizons each night. But this year, the night sky has been almost entirely cloudy, especially lower on the horizon. So I haven’t really been able to observe the change, since it all looks the same when cloudy. So with a clear sky it felt like a jump in time, suddenly it was so light!

The snow was too icy – and I brought my light crampons – for the mountain I wanted to climb, so I headed over to a section of ridge overlooking the coast above Vikten. The clear sky didn’t provide the most dramatic sunset, but it was nice to just sit and watch the sun sink into the calm sea, even if it was a little on the cold side. Normally I would have had the setting sun visible from my house for about two weeks now, but last night from the mountain was the first time I saw it happen this year.

I headed down a little before 23:00, making my journey through a mostly snow filled valley until a short steep descent to the lake and the muddy trail home. I brought my headlamp, it it remained in my backpack, probably the last time I will carry it until late August. Only a few more weeks until the sun is here for the summer and the sleepless nights begin…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 9
1/5 second
WB Daylight