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 #347 – Reinebringen Rescue

Photo: Sea King rescue helicopter pickup up injured hiker from summit of Reinebringen, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 21, 2019. 18:29

I was sitting in my cabin at Sakrisøy when I heard the sounds of the helicopter, not something too common on Lofoten. Hmm, hope it’s not the Sea King – it was. As I looked outside, I could see the helicopter hovering over the ridge of Reinebringen in the grey misty sky. It had been a day of heavy rain and not really a day for hiking – especially on Reinebringen. And so a hiker had to be rescued after breaking a foot. I imagine the over eroded ridge had turned into quite a slippery mess of mud after all the rain. A slip could have been easy.

The Sherpa steps on Reinebringen, built to improve the safety of the previously heavily eroded trail due to overuse, have actually had the opposite effect, and turned Reinebringen into a place of regular helicopter rescues – 3 in August 2019 alone, and 4 since work was completed in mid July.

Part of this is just a numbers game, with 700-800 hiking the mountain each day. And part is probably because the steps give an illusion of safety, and so people who would not normally find themselves in mountains now suddenly are. This creates dangerous situations.

On August 23rd, two days after this photo, another rescue took place on Reinebringen. This time is was due to rockfall hitting a woman in the head – the 2nd incidence of this in August – and the reason why Reinebringen is now more dangerous than ever – too many people are on the mountain. More people = more falling rocks…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
200mm
ISO 200
f 5
1/160 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #345 – Mountains Of The West

Setting summer sun behind the rugged mountain peaks of Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Summer sunset over the mountains of the west from Lilandstind, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 31, 2018. 22:10

Just a mountain sunset. The summer of 2018 was pretty bad photographically for me. It was either grey and rain, or clear, cloudless blue sky. Almost nothing in between – that came later in the autumn which, though wet, was one of the most colorful in recent memory.

And so the last day in July, on a wind still and hot day I found myself sweating my way up Lilandstind with some friends. As the sun sank lower in the sky, it eventually hid itself behind the steep summit of Klokktind before slowly emerging again. While originally shooting a little wider, I liked the appearance of the depth of the mountain ridges fading into the distance in various layers of light. Moskenesøy is Lofoten at its best and so even with relatively boring light, there is almost always something to be found.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
42mm
ISO 250
f 14
1/60second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #344 – Lost Control

Photo: Out of control parking in west Lofoten, Moskenesøy and Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

The new stairs on Reinebringen have become more popular than expected since opening again in mid July and have been causing quite a bit of traffic chaos in the Reine area. A few days after I went up on the evening of July 15th, passing around 60-70 people in total, it was reported that nearly 1000 people ascended the mountain on a single day, and has likely continued at a similar pace in the weeks since.

This led to parking chaos with cars parked all along the road next to what had become an unofficial parking area on the west side of the tunnel. In response, Statens Vegvesen closed off this parking area. But instead of fixing the situation, it has now led to people parking along the road on the Reine side of the tunnel, as all the other parking areas quickly overflow – and people are unwilling to use the paid parking at the outer harbor in Reine. I went yesterday to check things out and there were about 20 cars parked along the road, though I had heard there was 40 the previous day.

So of course, new sings will now have to be paid for and installed by the already severely indebted Moskenes Kommune to keep people from parking in places they already should not be parking at – as has already had to be done at the Kvalvika beach parking area, and Haukland beach, and other places that have lost control of tourism.

And I can sense the frustration amongst my friends living in the area. It seems that a large enough portion of tourists these days are acting in quite a selfish and reckless manner, only taking from Lofoten for themselves and leaving a negative experience of their actions.

And for me, it is almost becoming a full time job to keep up with the changes. And so I ask: If you would not park in such a way at home, don’t do so as a tourist on Lofoten. You are overwhelming the 1,100 residents of Moskenesøy. So please behave as friendly guests, not an invading barbarian horde pillaging the islands for your entertainment.

And despite the nearly completed stairway the daytime crowds on Reinebringen have already showed their danger this week. On Tuesday afternoon a man was severely injured and had to be rescued by helicopter and flown first to Bodø and then Tromsø after being struck in the head by a loose rock, most likely dislodged by a hiker above.

With such crowds on the mountain, many of which are likely inexperienced hikers, I will not go there during the daytime. It is far too dangerous to be 50-100 meters directly below people descending the loose rocks of the unfinished upper trail. If you must hike Reinebringen, then I suggest at least to go during the evening, when there is less traffic. And after the extended dry period that Lofoten has had these past weeks, when the next rains come, the rocks will be flying down the mountain…

Friday Photo #343 – Bunes Sunset

Summer fog conceals Bunes beach at sunset, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Sunset over Bunes beach, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 26, 2018. 22:49

The weather had mostly been clear and somewhat boring up until this point. I wasn’t expecting much of a sunset, but suddenly I found clouds swirling around me. Somehow I picked the only mountain to be in clouds in all of west Lofoten on this evening.

And so while I was expecting some nice evening light to shine over the 600m face of Helvetestind, I found myself struggling to have any view at all. At times the clouds became so thick that I couldn’t even see my tent anymore, just 20 meters away. But from time to time the clouds would thin for just a brief moment, providing a glimpse of the landscape beyond.

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

Friday Photo #342 – Tourist Overload

Photo: No camping or camping? Skagsanden beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 16, 2019. 00:58

It is July in year XXXX and once again the newspapers of Lofoten and Norway are filled with stories of the tourism overload which occurs each summer as the motorhome armies of the continent head north to fill every single parking space available for the whole of the summer. Somehow they seem shocked each year, but it is nothing new. Though with each year the numbers grow, and yet little is done on the Norwegian side.

And so each summer, there comes a point of frustration among the locals. This year they have added a few new ‘no camping’ signs to some of the popular parking areas and supposedly the parking lot which turns into a de-facto campground in Å will have an 18 hour parking limit (in the fjord region down south they are now limiting the parking to 2 hours in some popular destinations). But as you can see in this photo taken at 01:00, where there were around two dozen motorhomes/campers in the parking lot, just 200 meters from an official (paid) campground, little seems to be done to enforce the few rules. And so the locals continue to grow frustrated.

But such is the cycle of life here in the North, the free playground for Europe. Nothing will change soon, only more restrictions mostly affecting us that live here, not the occasional visitor for a few days each summer. And next July I’ll be writing another similar post…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
110mm
ISO 800
f 5
1/100 second
WB Daylight