Friday Photo #276 – April Aurora

April Aurora - Friday Photo #276

Photo: April aurora over Myrland beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 13, 2018. 02:06

With bad weather on the way over the next days, the aurora season is finally over on Lofoten. And despite all the talk of the sun reaching a solar minimum, this has perhaps been the best aurora season I’ve ever experienced – Starting on September 1st, it has been 7 1/2 months of fantastic dancing skies on a weekly basis. Though this was also in part aided by the fantastic weather Lofoten has experienced this winter as well, with more clear nights than I can remember. Will things continue like this next year – Hopefully! But inreality, there is no way to know what the weather gods will bring to the north…

So this will probably be my last aurora image of the year – well, the image I posted last week (Friday Photo #275) was taken a bit after this – but the same night. I could see the aurora dancing over the next few nights, and Sunday´s show was pretty good too, but I had to be up early so didn’t get out.

One slight mistake I made this year was waiting to buy the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 lens. I should have picked it up in September (was it out yet?). It seemed something a bit specialized, and so I sat on the fence for a long while until I saw one of my fellow guides with one. And it might not seem like much, f/2.8 to f/1.8. But when shooting aurora, that 1 1/3 stops of light can make a real difference. Not all the time, such as this image, but when the aurora are dancing, the difference between going from say 8 seconds to 3 seconds is huge! Or alternatively, being able to lower the ISO a bit can help with image quality as well.

It is a heavy beast, so I doubt I´ll be carrying up too many mountains. But I have a feeling it will be on my camera many night in the next aurora season!

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

 

Friday Photo #275 – Night Becomes Day

Twilight Aurora - Friday Photo #275

Photo: Night becomes day. Twilight northern lights over Myrland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 13, 2018. 02:16

I originally had another photo from a few days ago to post today. But then this happened last night, err, early this morning. Depending on the weather, this might be my last aurora photo of the season.

April is a month of change on Lofoten. Though anything resembling ‘spring’ weather is still a long ways off – there is currently a meter+ of snow in parts of my yard – April is when one can feel the islands becoming light again, and that winter will soon be over.

The other night as clear skies arrived I wandered down to the beach at 01:00. Even though the sun is still below the horizon for 8+ hours, we have reached that time of year where the sky begins to glow in the north. Some northern lights were strong enough to show up as well, but they will soon be gone for the year as the northern horizon becomes light and lighter with each passing day.

And with the mountains still full of deep snow, it is a wonderful time of year for winter activities as I can almost, but not quite yet, begin to leave the headlamp at home and not have to worry about time constraints.

Spring as a season – fields turning green, birds singing, flowers blooming, passing storms, etc. – doesn’t really exist here on Lofoten. Winter still keeps a strong grip on the land well into May some years. But the arrival of the light is the special thing here. And also somewhat of an strange feeling, with your eyes telling you it should be summer as you’re putting on your down jacket. A feeling completely strange for someone who grew up in California. Which even now, the days here on Lofoten are longer than midsummer in California, yet the beaches here are covered in snow!

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

Friday Photo #273- Ryten Ski

Friday Photo #273 - Ryten Topptur

Photo: Ski tour till Ryten with Kvalvika in the background, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 2, 2017. 10:27

Between Monday and Friday I made 4 ski tours to the summit of Ryten. The weather was and light pretty dramatic some of the days, not sunny like this photo from last year. I actually wish I had brought my camera, but me skiing and photographing is not a safe combination yet.

Overall though, compared to making a similar amount of trips last year, I’m amazed at the amount of people on the mountain, both skiers and hikers. On Wednesday alone, I probably passed over 40 people on the mountain, and that was just in a 2 hour round trip. Only 3-4 years ago, I don’t think many people visited this mountain in winter at all. So now even in winter, there are issues with parking! And Kvalvika has been even more busy by appearance.

If you are heading out to the mountains of lofoten right now, make sure you are prepared. The Islands have quite a high avalanche risk at the moment: you can check the forecast at www.varsom.no. And fresh snow is falling every day, so all footprints will be erased by morning. And still below the snow, remains a lot of ice.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
16mm
ISO 160
f 9
1/500 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #272- Unstad Aurora

Unstad Aurora - Friday Photo #272

Photo: Northern lights over Unstad beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 14, 2018. 22:44

My final photo workshop of the winter season ended early Monday morning, it what was probably the worst weather of the entire winter thus far. Compared to last year, 2018 was a dream season – though a little more snow would have been nice. But weather wise, there were no ‘indoor weather’ days until this past weekend.

And good weather on Lofoten means lots of green at night. Every trip managed at least 2 nights of decent northern lights, while a couple tours got lucky with some solar storms – such as this photo from last week.

We started the night at Storsandnes, but as soon as I saw what the lights were doing, I made a quick decision to head over towards Vik beach, where we remained for some time until the sky grew quiet. Next was a quick stop at Uttakleiv, but the entire beach was fully of blinking camera, so we headed for a slightly long drive to Unstad – where we had the beach to ourself somehow.

Even as we were arriving, the aurora had picked up again. And as we made our way down to the the beach, the entire sky began to fill with light. Another one of those nights where you don’t know which direction to look.

Just before the last tour I had finally made some much needed equipment upgrades as well: Nikon D850 + Sigma 14mm f/1.8 lens. I should have bought this lens at the beginning of winter! It might not seem like much, but that extra 1.3 stops of light can make quite a difference. In this shot for example, I was at 4 seconds, where I would have been 8 seconds with a f/2.8 lens. Quite a difference! And I could have shot even faster had I raised the ISO beyond 1600.

Sadly, there is only a few more weeks left in the aurora season. So I will try to make the most of things in the days to come. Though the lens is a beast! So I’m not sure whether I will attempt to carry it up any mountains – and unfortunately, it doesn’t replace the 14-24.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 1600
f 2
4 seconds
WB Daylight
2 images – top, bottom

Friday Photo #271- Vik Aurora

Vik Aurora - Friday Photo #271

Photo: Northern lights over Vik beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 4, 2018. 00:25

I posted a similar image to this the other week – Friday Photo #268 – where the moon was directly over the beach. A couple weeks later, and the moon was more or less behind me, and out of the scene.

This night was quite amazing, with the aurora dancing with stunning speed and filling the sky from horizon to horizon! With nearly full moon lighting up the landscape, it was possible to shoot with a relatively fast shutter speed of 2 seconds, which for northern lights is pretty good!

On nights like this, 14mm is simply not wide enough. I want to show what is happening in the sky, yet I also want enough of a foreground to anchor the image and make it a decent composition. So I was shooting foreground and sky images in quick succession – it is important to be fast when the aurora is dancing so quickly, otherwise the reflections might not line up correctly if the aurora has moved between shots.

I wish Lofoten had more snow though, would have been a fantastic image with bright white mountains instead of a somewhat ugly brown on this night…

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
14mm
ISO 2000
f 3.2
2 seconds
WB Daylight
2 images – top, bottom

Friday Photo #270 – Ice

Ice - Friday Photo #270

Photo: Ice, Nedreheimredalsvatnet, Eggum, Vestvågøy, Lofoten islands, Norway. March 3, 2018. 17:34

I’m back with another detail shot this week. I originally headed out to Eggum for sunset, but soon the sun disappeared behind some clouds and the golden light was gone. So I headed over to lake Nedreheimredalsvatnet to see what I could find.

It has been a cold winter this year on Lofoten, and the whole of the islands are in a deep freeze – even the lakes in the west, which didn’t freeze at all last year. With only a short amount of daylight this time of year, everything at Eggum in frozen.

The lake can have some nice structures where the rocks crack through. Unfortunately though, I was not the first, and the light dusting of snow had been thoroughly walked through at most of the rock cracks. So I looked for something else.

I am still fascinated with ice, and the patterns that form. Maybe I will photograph a whole abstract series one of these days. Here, I simply liked the cracks with a light filling of snow to bring out some contrast. I knew that I would like this image as a 1:1, so I put on my 24mm tilt-shift lens and pointed the camera straight down, shifting the lens between shots.

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 160
f 6.7
.3 second
WB Daylight
3 images – top, middle, bottom

Friday Photo #269 – Rope

Rope - Friday Photo #269

Photo: Mooring rope coiled on pier, Toppøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 18, 2018. 14:59

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll have noticed that I normally don’t shoot too many detail type images. However with a busy tour season this winter, I have been returning again and again to the same areas with my guests – areas that I’ve already been to hundreds of times before as well. So unless there is some spectacular light or particularly unique conditions, I’ve more of less shot all the ‘big views’ already.

So sometimes I look for small details to fill in the gaps between the landscapes; stuff which helps tell the story about life on the islands.

I saw this rope on a previous day or two and and made a mental note that it might look more interesting if there was a bit of snow – the was none when I fist saw it. Luckily, a light snow did fall one evening and I rust randomly happened to be back at the location, so I went and took a look. I initially took another composition, with the mountain Olstind in the background and then went away.

It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that I was back again. The snow had been walked on by that point in time, ruining any wider shots. So I decided to go low, and close. Even with my tripod completely flattened out, it was still too high, so I took my camera off and held it on the ground.

I knew I would likely crop this 1:1, so I used my 24mm tilt-shift lens, shifting vertically, to shoot 3 images. I also knew I wanted a shallow depth of field and to focus just on the front coil of rope. Though I did use some other focal points, such as the pole, but this makes the house in the background too sharp and distracting.

[That was a lot of words about a boring rope on a pole…]

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 4
1/80 second
WB Daylight
3 images – top, middle, bottom

Friday Photo #268 – Vik Aurora

Vik Aurora - Friday Photo #268

Photo: Moonlit aurora over Vik beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 22, 2018. 22:32

The nighttime sky has been quit active over the last week, with impressive aurora on many nights, though also a quiet night or two. Last night the aurora came out early, before 19:00 with the sky barely even dark and 4 hours later it was still going!

While staying at Haukland for a small private workshop we first headed to Uttalkelv, as we hadn’t yet shot the northern lights there. But soon we figured it would be best to head elsewhere as car after photo tour van after car arrived. To be blunt, Uttakleiv is a total shit show these days, with groups just walking up and setting their tripods right in front of you and shining headlamps all over the place. It is unfortunate, but Lofoten’s popularity has killed the enjoyment of this location for me and I will no longer shoot there during the winter season.

Luckily, there still remains a few more peaceful options, for now, just around the corner. And so we relocated first to Haukland and then to Vik as the night progressed. Normally I like the moon to help illuminate the scene. But the quarter moon of the past few nights just always seemed to be in the wrong position and made getting a nice composition someone difficult.

If the moon was in the side of the frame, then it would pull your eye away from the aurora. Eventually I just figured it was best to put the moon in the middle of the image, and hopefully the aurora would cooperate and form a nice enough shape around it. Which in this image, I think worked out well enough.

As the whole sky was filled with dancing aurora, and you can see by my exposure how bright it was, I needed a wider field of view than just 14mm. So I composed the scene with a lower, foreground image, and an upper, sky image. I could have perhaps cropped to 4:5, but I feel 1:1 works a bit better with this one.

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
19mm
ISO 1600
f 3.2
4 seconds
WB Daylight
2 images – top, bottom

Friday Photo #267 – Narvtind

Narvtind Dawn - Friday Photo #267

Photo: Winter dawn over Narvtind, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 23, 2018. 9:39

Sometimes you get lucky. Guiding my first tour of the year in late January, we were actually on our way to a different location when I saw the sky over Narvtind looking like this. So of course I stopped! As a location I have photographed numerous times over the years, it is still a nice scene that can provide some nice light with the right timing.

The light of late January is still quite directional to the south. Which unfortunately, doesn’t actually provide too many compositions for many parts of Lofoten, as the mountains block much of the sun. But a few areas will get some morning light, and this is one of them. But conditions also need to cooperate, with a still wind, so the fjord can have the mountain reflections.

I took a few other compositions this morning, but this still remains the classic view from this location.

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
70mm
ISO 100
f 11
.3 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #265 – Ryten Aurora

Ryten Aurora - Friday Photo #265

Photo: Aurora over Fuglhuken from Ryten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 2, 2017. 20:03

I’ve already posted another image from this night: Friday Photo #218. So if you read that you already know that I was supposed to have gone skiing with some friends, but saw the aurora forecast and changed my mind at the last moment, eventually making my way up Ryten in the fading twilight.

While the main aurora display was off to the right of this image, it didn’t have the best composition. So after shooting that for a while, I looked for something else. Important tip – never get too focused on the aurora themselves that you forget to move and shoot different compositions. I see this happening a lot when I’m out, people just standing shooting the same image 1000 times. Yes, the aurora moves, but so should you!

So even without the brightest of the aurora, I felt this image had a stronger overall composition, and is something I likely would have photographed if the aurora were replaced with clouds. At 14mm, my lens still wasn’t wide enough to capture enough foreground the anchor the image, while also capturing enough of the sky. So shot two images, one for the foreground and one for the sky – same setting for each image. Later after merging, I cropped to 4:5, which I have become quite fond of over the last years. Perhaps it’s only memories from shooting film on a 4:5 camera back in the day.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
14mm
ISO 2000
f 3.2
10 seconds
WB Daylight
2 images – foreground, sky