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

Friday Photo #381 – Grey Spring

Photo: Grey skies over Myrlandsfjellet, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 23, 2020. 18:23

I saw an article yesterday on NRK that Bodø has had the cloudiest April since 1977. And it has been no different out here on Lofoten. In fact, it seems like it’s been continuously cloudy over Lofoten since last year. I can only remember a few clear days or nights – one reason it was also a difficult aurora season this year for my photo workshops – although every tour still managed at least one night of northern lights, it was hard work and quite a lot of stress for me this year.

While the winter winds seem to have calmed themselves a bit, the last week Lofoten has been covered in low, misty grey clouds and 4-6 degree temperatures. And there has been some amount of precipitation on 26 of the last 30 days. All while watching the stories about summer sun and temperatures down in Oslo and the southern coast. They are promising us several days of sunshine after the weekend, but I won’t believe it until I see it – as should always be the case with weather forecasting here.

Even with the uncooperative weather, the seasons still move forward. Sunset is now after 21:30 and sunrise earlier than I want to think about. The next time the sky is clear, the sun will have moved far enough north now that I’ll see it setting over the sea from my house, no longer blocked by the mountains to the west. And while a cold spell can return anytime, the spring thaw in well under way and the first signs of green are begging to appear. Whatever new snow which may fall now won’t last long on any sun exposed terrain.

Eventually summer will arrive…

Speaking of summer. I have made the decision to cancel all summer photo workshops. I also had several private tours for early June which I was holding out hope for, but it is not looking likely. Hopefully the autumn can continue as normal, but I am unsure on that as well. If the borders do open before then, then I will only take bookings for private tours during summer.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 11
1/30 second
WB Daylight


Friday Photo #380 – Spring Storms

Photo: Storm over coast of Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 8, 2020. 13:06

Last week during one of the big storms I waited for a pause in the rain before walking down to the coast to checkout some of the action. The wind was blowing strongly – and actually blew me over/made me slip in the mud on my way back home. Out at the coast all I could do was sit, as it wasn’t safe to stand – especially for my camera!

This past weekend another big storm arrived, though it was a north wind, blowing the waves onshore, so not really possible to photograph from my area. And even the last days, which now feel almost calm, the wind has been blowing at near gale force. The wind seems endless this year.

I always find it difficult to photograph a stormy sea. When the big wind gusts arrive, everything turns into chaos and any composition I thought I might have had either disappears or just doesn’t look nearly as dramatic as the moment was. Especially shooting from sea level into a mostly grey sky, the scene looses all the contrast of the sea spray blowing off the waves.

In this scene I tried to put the distant mountain (Veggen) into the background for a little contrast to the flat grey sky. But even then, it is mostly just waiting and hoping that the wind gust arrives at the right time with the wave in the right location, etc. Just luck mostly. But even then, it’s also hard to give a sense of scale to such a scene.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
78mm
ISO 250
f 5.6
1/1000 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #379 – Uttakleiv Twilight

Photo: Himmeltindan rises over Uttakleiv in April twilight, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 10, 2019. 21:57

Last year on this evening, April 10th, I headed up Veggen with a forecast of clear sky to try and catch my last northern lights of the season, which I did – Friday Photo 327. This year has been a completely different story. I don’t think I’ve been camping at all – although Covid-19 is a little responsible for that, but the weather has been equally uncooperative. I can barely remember any calm days, though there were a few luckily, but camping weather there hasn’t been much of at all. The wind seems to have never stopped blowing this year.

Even this past Wednesday a quick to strong storm passed Lofoten, taking several barn roofs with it. But outside of the bigger storms this winter, was just a constant, never ending wind. Stronger wind than I’d like to test my tent against on a mountain top – and I’ve already broken a tent here over Easter 2017.

And so I spend most my days staring out the window and watching the rain, or today, snow clouds sweep over Himmeltind which sits across the sea from my village. One minute I can see the mountain, the next its gone. And repeat…

The northern lights will leave Lofoten’s sky next week. And soon after that the winter storms hopefully! I’ve had enough for this year – words I write as my house is whistling and shaking in the wind on this Friday afternoon as the next snow flurry arrives.

But despite the weather, these ever brightening twilight nights of the next weeks are a sight that summer is on its way. Even now in mid April the horizon glows at night. Soon the sun will hang over the sea in the north at midnight, and shine over Lofoten 24 hours a day. I can’t wait!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
18mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
8 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #332 – Syttende Mai

Syttende Mai - Friday Photo #332

Photo: 17th of May parade through Ramberg, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 17, 2019. 11:30

Syttende mai – 17th of May is Norway’s constitution day, when in 1814 Norway declared its independence from Denmark.

All over Norway flags will be flying and music playing today. The biggest celebration will be in Oslo of course. But even here on Lofoten, even many of the smaller villages across the islands will have their own parades and celebrations. I headed to Ramberg, the capital of Flakstadøy where several hundred people were gathered.

Down south they have temps over 20 degrees and sunshine, summer. Here 17th of May usually has a bit trickier weather, and while it was forecast to be sunny, a low heavy cloud hangs over Lofoten. Though at least its not snowing or hailing like in previous years!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
200mm
ISO 320
f 5.6
1/500 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #331 – Spring Flowers

Photo: Early wildflowers and a dusting of May snow, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 4, 2019. 21:02

After the unusual warm at the end of April, the weather corrected itself back to normal patterns and once again snow was falling in the first days of may. The warmth though already sent the spring ‘greening’ of Lofoten into motion much earlier that normal. So even in the first days of May the fields had already begun to turn green and fill with flowers in some areas.

So when the fresh snow fell, I though it would be an interesting juxtaposition that we don’t often see here – snow and flowers. Usually it’s plenty of one or the other, on their own.

And while working on the update to the Seasons on Lofoten: Summer ebook, I was also planning on what I need for a possible Spring/Autumn edition – Though I’m still not wholly convinced there is enough demand for one. Even though website traffic here is so high these days I had to move servers and hosting the other week, ebook sales have been going down over the last year – I guess more access to free information that ever, even here, and more competition as well. But I am still out shooting when possible, trying to answer the question visually: what is spring on Lofoten?

I think I could have executed this image slightly better. While I wanted to isolate the flowers against the mountain, I think the mountain is perhaps a bit too abstract. I should have stopped down a little perhaps. On the bright side, the flowers and mountain are only a stone’s throw from my front door, so new attempts will be easy. Though I’m not sure if we’ll get much more snow this year – it already almost feels like summer here again…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
70mm
ISO 160
f 5.6
1/160 second
WB Daylight