Friday Photo #402 – Purple Heather

Photo: Late summer heather bloom, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 25, 2020. 21:01

The purple heather flowers of late August are a sign that summer is soon over. Even the bright fireweed will mostly have faded and soon it will be autumn’s yellows and reds that fill the landscape. While 2020 seems to have sent the world into chaos – and a disaster for me as well with 90% of my income revolving around tourism – we at least had the best summer here on Lofoten since I moved here in the early winter of 2016. So it is ok for it now to be over, I’m content and looking forward to what the autumn will bring.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’m kinda working on a special ebook project. Not a Seasons on Lofoten – Autumn/Spring, which I’ll probably finally get around to over the winter. But something new and more ambitious.

The weather wasn’t the best this day, so I waited until early evening to finally head out – though there was little chance for a sunset in the heavily clouded sky. There are a few places on Lofoten that I kinda keep as a backup for when I’m both lazy and the conditions aren’t ideal. I shot in this area a lot in the spring during the snowmelt when the rivers were flowing. And now in the last days of summer, I was back again, looking for some composition which might work.

Despite the recent rain, the rivers and lakes weren’t particularly interesting. What caught my eye more was the blooming heather covering the landscape.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
38mm
ISO 400
f 5.6
1/30 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #399 – Aurora Season

Photo: First sighting of aurora borealis – northern lights in the sky over Lofoten of the 2020/2021 aurora season, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 23, 2020. 00:50

Anytime after around August 20th the wait for the first aurora of the season begins. The weather has generally been cloudy for the last week and so even with the forecast of a possible incoming solar storm, I didn’t put much effort into looking – as I generally just saw clouds in the night sky.

And so Saturday night I was on my way to bed a bit after midnight and took one last look at the sky while brushing my teeth. Hmm, that could be aurora! I thought as I saw a light streak high overhead in the now somewhat clear sky – though the clouds were quickly incoming from behind the mountains. I ran and grabbed my camera to take a test shot. Green! Yep, northern lights!

Like a rehearsed fireman off to a fire, I was out the door and heading down to my local beach, anxiously watching the sky overhead. The aurora was still there. The clouds were moving in quickly so I didn’t have too much time to think or look for the best foreground composition. I just wanted to get something at all. Luckily the aurora increased for a couple minutes once I began shooting – even forming into this green heart in the sky.

Even at nearly 01:00, the darkest time of the night, you can see the horizon was still glowing bright. I actually think the surrounding clouds in this image help make it better by darkening what might have been an otherwise overly bright horizon.

I saw a dancing corona directly overhead the following night as well, but the hole in the clouds was too small for me to make the effort to go out. But the season has begun! And hopefully it turns out a little better than last year.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 1250
f 2
2.5 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #398 – Changing Seasons

Photo: Changing seasons – low August clouds sweep across the summit of Olstind, Hamnøy, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 22, 2019. 11:58

Every year in late August there comes a shift from summer to autumn. That’s not to say summer cannot have weeks of grey and dismal weather, which most years there is plenty. But in summer there is alway hope that the sun and warmth will come back again. By mid to late August, that hope begins to fade with each passing day. And as the sun circles lower and lower in the sky, the winds become a little more frequent until that first autumn storm arrives, letting us know summer is really over.

But with the changing weather comes more interesting conditions and the beginning of rainbow season with the more frequent passing rain showers. Though on other days, like it has mostly been since last weekend here, the clouds can be low and dark, and full of a misty rain which coats everything. But at times, even these clouds clear, giving you a hint of the mountains rising above.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
58mm
ISO 64
f 11
30 seconds
WB Daylight
B+W 10 stop ND filter
2 images – top, bottom

Friday Photo #397 – The Sunsets Continue

Photo: The sunsets continue, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 11, 2020. 22:23

The nights are getting darker, but the fantastic sunsets continue. This has been the most colorful summer that I can remember in recent years. Usually 2-3 sunsets like this would be good. But they have been continuing for weeks this year. Luckily I can just wander down to my neighbourhood beach when I’m lazy, so at least I have some photos of what occurred this year, otherwise I might not believe it myself!

But now, midway into August, I can feel the usual shift in the weather. It is nothing specific, more a sense that the sun is lower in the sky and summer will soon be replaced by autumn. Although the typical August weather here on Lofoten might already be considered autumn weather for countries further south. In today’s image you can see the moody sky which was overhead – luckily the northern horizon remained clear though!

Soon though, my attention will shift from sunsets to auroras, which might become visible anytime within the next week. We are loosing 1 hour of daylight per week here on Lofoten, so the nights are steadily growing longer. On last weekends hiking trip was the first time I brought my headlamp again this season. Last years aurora season was pretty poor, mostly due to the near constant cloud cover. So far this summer, northern Norway has received the most hours of sunshine in the whole country. Will this continue over the next months, with endless clear night skies and dancing northern lights like in September 2017? Or will the clouds return again? No one knows. But with the world locking down again, it’s not like I’ll be going anywhere, so I guess I’ll eventually find out…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 11
1 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #396 – The Maelstrom

Photo: The Maelstrom – Mosken and Very rise in the distance across Moskstraumen, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 1, 2020. 22:32

Until last weekend I had only visited Lofotodden – The very western tip of Moskenesøy once before during a sailing trip in 2014 where we moored in Buvågen bay for a night. So when a friend informed my that they had a boat ride lined up for the weekend, I was excited to join in!

The Original plan had been to hike to both Refsvika and Hellsegga, but in typical Lofoten fashion, a heavy layer of summer fog enveloped the islands of Friday and well into Saturday. So we skipped Refsvika and just decided on a night camping on Hellsegga, a 600 meter high flat mountain rising over the southern end of Lofoten – basically the end of Lofoten.

From the southern side of Hellsegga one has fantastic views over Moskstraumen, one of the worlds strongest currents, and the islands of Mosken and Værøy. There is lots of folklore in Norway about Moskstraumen and whirlpools swallowing ships and sailors. But un this particular evening it looked quite calm in the fading summer twilight.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
92mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/50 second
WB Daylight
2 images – top, bottom for 4:5 ratio

Friday Photo #395 – Sunset Season

Photo: Bright sunset/sunrise at Uttakleiv beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 26, 2020. 02:43

With the sun finally sinking below the sea again in late July the sunset season on Lofoten begins – with potential for hours-long shows of the slow transition between sunset and sunrise in the northern sky. Some years can be better than others however, and for the previous couple summers, nice colorful nights seemed to be few and far between. This you though is making up for that! For the past week it’s been impossible to sleep as the sky has been exploding with color each night!

The sunsets have been good enough even for me to battle to summer crowds and parking fees at Uttakleiv on several occasions – they were still out collecting money at midnight this week! Though for this photo taken in the early morning hours, I was the only one up and photographing – with everyone else fast asleep in the 40+ tents on the grassy dunes above the beach. And I’ve found that to be true for most of the nights this week. There are few ‘photographers’ around and most ‘normal’ tourists seem to keep regular 9-5 travel hours – or to say, the days can feel quite crowded at times, but the nights are almost completely empty of people. Twice now at Uttakleiv I’ve been the only tripod out for fantastic sunsets.

If this light had occurred in winter, there would no doubt been a hundred tripods lined up across the beach. I do find it strange that Lofoten is largely ignored as a summer photography destination – maybe it is just the northern lights of autumn/winter that is the biggest draw? Or maybe since most photographers live at moderate latitudes they asocial summer with 03:00 alarm clocks? I don’t know. But as far as light goes – I’m not sure any other time of year can beat the potential of late July’s twilight nights.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 8
8 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop Breakthrough Photography ND filter
2 images – top, bottom for 1:1 composition

Friday Photo #394 – Flakstadtind

Photo: Golden summer light over Flakstadøy from Flakstadtind, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 9, 2020. 22:34

It has been a good summer this year. Actually for photography it has almost been too good! After the long and almostly constantly cloudy winter it seems we have switched to the opposite and now have endless days of blue sky. It’s seems like more of less every photo I’ve taken since the start of the midnight sun season has just been of the sun low on the horizon in a perfectly clear blue sky. I’ve been slowly working away, photographing new mountains for future hiking guides. But I must say it’s all starting to look the same by now and its hard to maintain motivation to go hiking vs. sit in my yard and have a bbq.

While there have been some cool cloudy days, by the evenings when I typically go out, it seems to sky is always clear again. But the other week finally it seemed like there could be something interesting and so I headed up Flakstadtind, which I haven’t hiked in a couple years anyhow. Conditions were looking good as I neared the summer, planning to wait a few more hours and hopefully get lucky.

But then I got a phone call. Orcas were in the area and my friends were going out with their boat… (Friday Photo #392)

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
28mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/80 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #393 – Summer Harvest

Photo: Norwegian marshmallows under the last of summer’s midnight sun, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 19, 2019. 01:03

Every year in mid July comes the crass cutting season. Having spent six weeks of so under the midnight sun, what appears like flower filled meadows are actually the winter feed for the local sheep and cows. In most places across Lofoten, anytime you see a field of grass, it is cultivated land that was turned that way from generations of farming and also likely some efforts at draining the land to keep it from becoming bog. Otherwise, most of the ‘wild’ land of Lofoten will be heath and heather moorlands, too boggy for much to grow.

This does mean that you only have a few weeks to photograph the flowery fields in some areas, especially on Gimsøy and around Flakstadøy. Otherwise, you might drive by one day and find its all gone as every farmer seems to be out with their tractor on the same day in mid July.

Like so much else of Lofoten, it is one of the signs of how quickly the seasons pass here. With the fields cut and the midnight sun ending, it is really only one month until the northern lights return to the late August sky.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
24mm
ISO 800
f 13
1/50 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #392 – Midnight Orca

Photo: Midnight orca in Vestfjord off the coast of Nesland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 10, 2020. 00:20

Over the years I’ve noticed a pattern on Lofoten: Nothing happens, and then everything happens. It can be with events, where there’s nothing going on for weeks and weeks, then suddenly 3-4 things to choose from on a single weekend, before going back to weeks and weeks of nothing again. Last night as I was hiking the final few meters to the summit of Flakstadtind with nice golden light shining over the landscape my phone rang. A friend called to say the orcas had been spotted and they were going out with their boat. I wouldn’t be writing this if it was only the first time it has happened – I’ve missed some good orca sightings while up on a mountain somewhere.

This time though, I decided the orca were more important. And luckily, I was just down the road from where they were anyhow, off the coast of Nesland. So after a few photos of the nice light and clouds, I headed down the mountain as quickly and safely as possible – it’s steep and loose up there!

Getting back to my van I headed to the coast, where my friends were watching them from the boat. I shot from shore for a bit, they were almost just on the rocks, feeding on a large school of hearing. But once they headed out to sea a bit, I found an impromptu harbor and got on the boat. While I’ve see the orca multiple times on Lofoten, and photographed them from boats up on Vesterålen, I’ve never had the chance to be on a boat here in Lofoten.

When I left my house at 21:00, kinda bored and just going hiking because I had nothing better to do, I never thought I’d have nice mountain light and orca from the water on the same evening!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 200-500 f/5.6
200mm
ISO 1600
f 5.6
1/1000 second
WB Daylight

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