Friday Photo #431 – Orcas In Snow

Photo: Orcas in the snow on the coast outside Nusfjord, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 5, 2021. 17:20

For the last week I’ve been hearing various reports that the killer whales have returned to the Lofoten coast for their spring herring feeding. On Sunday, while planning to go out for a hike from Nesland, I finally spotted them in Skjelfjord – but they were on the far side and barely visible from land. I need a boat, I thought.

Monday I was out with some friends fishing near Stamsund when I got a text that the orcas were back in the bay at Nusfjord. Typical situation for me, that I’m usually occupied with some other activity when they are in a good location. But fortunately, there weren’t many fish to be found (I don’t eat fish myself anyhow, was just along for the ride), so we returned early to Stamsund, where I quickly said goodbye and headed to Nusfjord.

I arrived to the news that they had already left and were further along the coast. But, I was also informed that a boat would be coming, so I asked if I could join along. Having already been at sea outside of Stamsund, I knew it was going to be rough sailing in the choppy water. And even more difficult trying to photograph the orcas with a telephoto lens from a wildly bouncing boat. And soon enough, a large front of snow arrived, making photography even more difficult by limiting which direction we could shoot in.

But luckily enough, the orcas were just hanging around and feasting on the herring. As we drifted in the boat, occasionally they would surface nearby and swim around us. Then it is a matter to try and point the camera in the right direction and hope it focuses on the orcas and not the falling snow.

Hopefully this is just the first chance of the year and there are more times ahead as they hang around the coastline over the next couple months.

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
140mm
ISO 1000
f 4.5
1/1600 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #429 – After The Storm

Photo: Lost in the storm, broken row boat on the Unstad coast, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 25, 2021. 12:14

After a mostly calm winter, two back-to-back storms swept over Lofoten on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the 2nd one brining hurricane force winds to the islands. Wednesday was the first time this winter I saw 30+ meter/second wind gusts on my weather station, and in Stamsund wind was recoded at over 40 m/s (for note: over 33 m/s is hurricane force wind). While intense, luckily the storm seemed to pass by quickly, with the strong winds only lasting 8 hours or so. But that was enough to bring structural damage across the islands.

One of the losses was one of the red boat houses on the left side of the beach at Unstad, which you can see in the left background of the photo. It is strange to think of how many long winters and storms the buildings have witnessed, and then one day, it has been one storm too many. I guess that is one reason there aren’t too many old, or historic buildings around Lofoten, they just don’t last that long in the weather out here.

I had been sitting on the beach at Unstad on Thursday morning, a completely calm day compared to the previous 24 hours. It was actually the first day I have sat outside this year and noticed the warmth from the sun heating up my back as I watched the still slightly stormy waves in front of me. Sitting there, I noticed an unusually large amount of pained red wood broken apart across the rocks at the upper tide line. Usually storms bring in a lot of debris to the beaches, but this wood looked a little too clean to have been out at sea very long. Then, looking to the left, I noticed a few people walking around the boat houses, picking stuff up.

The old row boat here was lying a little ways away, just next to the road. I’m not sure if it had been blown here, or moved up from further down on the rocks. Either way, it is a piece of Lofoten history now lost to the storms.

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/250 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #428 – Kvalvika Sunset

Photo: Setting sun behind Kjerrina from Kvalvika beach, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 14, 2021. 17:37

Tomorrow, March 20th, is the vernal equinox and the sun will pass north of the equator for the first time since September – spring and summer are on the way! Even the first of the migratory birds have started to find their places along the beaches and coastline of Lofoten, and the evenings are finally feeling a little lighter after the long dark months of winter.

From a photographic point of view, this means the sun is finally leaving the southern part of the sky and reaching into more northern facing locations. Today’s photo, of the setting sun at Kvalvika beach from last Sunday would not have been possible just 2 weeks ago, as the sun would have set just behind the mountain and not been visible from the beach. Over the coming weeks, the setting sun will move further the the right (north) of this scene until it reaches true north in late May – the beginning of the midnight sun season here on Lofoten.

As the sun rises and sets further to the north, more and more locations on Lofoten will emerge from the long shadows of winter. Especially important for this are the beaches, most of which are on the northern sides of the islands and surrounded by steep mountains.

Last Sunday, I decided to head to Kvalvika with a pair of journalism students who are including me in one of their university projects. Knowing it was one of the first days with the setting sun on the beach, it seemed like a pretty good option. Although leaving the parking lot for the short 1 hour hike, it was one of those days where the weather forecast was more optimistic than reality, as heavy clouds cloaked most of Lofoten. Arriving at the beach in mid afternoon I could see some small areas of clear sky along the lower horizon. I gave it a 50/50 chance of seeing a sunset vs. having a grey set.

Time seemed to pass slowly, and even the surrounding mountains where not receiving any light and with the sun behind the mountain Kjerringa, I couldn’t see what was going to happen, we could only wait. But finally, I could see the steep cliffs of Ryten begin to lighten, and then glow bright in direct light! As the minutes passed the sunlight moved towards us, eventually shining across the northern half of the beach. Luck was on our side.

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 13
120 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #427 – Winter Fog

Photo: Soft winter twilight over Himmeltindan, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 8, 2021. 17:23

After a windy weekend, Monday arrived with near absolute stillness. Slow, almost ghost like snow showers were gently floating across the islands throughout the day, bringing the mountains in and out of the clouds from time to time.

My original plan had been to go skiing, as the wind was forecast to increase during the week, blowing away the already thin layer of snow western Lofoten has at the moment. But as I arrived at the parking lot, I noticed I managed to forget my ski boots at home! Doh!!!

I also had my cross-county ski gear in my van, so I eventually made my way to Leknes after photographing a bit in the Fredvang area. In the late afternoon I took a quick lap on the Leknes skiløypa, not wanting to miss out on any movement for the day. This turned out to be a good choice anyhow, as it kept me in town later than I otherwise would have been and so I found myself driving home a little before sunset.

In the low areas west of Leknes, I noticed some thin wisps of fog floating over the frozen landscape. Usually this is more common in autumn, but not so much in winter. A little further and I noticed on of the lakes had a thick layer of fog, with barely visible trees on the far shore. I was already content with the photos I had shot for the day, but this was potentially not something to miss, so I turned around and parked nearby the lake.

While this lake had been well frozen back in February, the weather has been mild for the last weeks, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I got to the edge, I could see that I was breaking through the ice and into boggy ground underneath. I should note, that I know this area, and that the edge of the lake is not deep. If it was another, deeper lake or with a steeper drop off at the shoreline, I would not have continued.

I could barely see the trees on the far side, looking like ghosts in the thick mist. I tried to get a little closer, but still mostly breaking through the ice and sinking into the boggy terrain with each step. Finally I took one step too far and sank past my knees, completely flooding my boots with water and soaking my pants. Ok, that is far enough, and I went slightly back onto shallower terrain.

Ideally, I would have liked to go out to the middle of the lake so the trees in the foreground would be a bit more visible, but I defiantly was not going to risk that! So I had to be content to remain close to the shore where it wasn’t deep. Even with my lower half soaking wet, I took photos for another 20 minutes or so, as the fog was drifting back on forth on occasion.

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
165mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/60 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #426 – Winter Is Back

Photo: Snow covered birch copse on Haugheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 5, 2021. 13:35

Winter is back! After a rainy finish to February the temperatures have finally dropped again and the typical March snow flurries have been blowing across the islands for the last few days. Today though, the wind finally calmed and so I headed out into the snowy weather to Haugheia to see if the snow added any character to the small copses of wind twisted birch trees that sit along the ridge. You might recognize these trees from Friday Photo #405, during autumn last year.

Conditions were slightly more difficult today than on a sunny autumn afternoon, but I kind of like the starkness of the winter look a bit better. I had been hoping for heavier snow flakes, and while the forecast showed rain, it was a thin, light snow that was falling as I reached the trees.

I spent a couple hours shooting various compositions. It is really a place one can get lost in, especially in the larger grove, which I find the chaos of to be slightly intimidating for my general preference of clean and simple compositions. Even this image, with plenty of negative space, is already feeling on the busy side for me, especially the thick cluster of branches on the left side.

Though as an easy 20 minute walk from the parking lot, I should put in a bit more effort to explore the area, as they are some of the cooler looking trees in the western half of Lofoten.

Tomorrow the first proper storm of the winter is forecast to hit Lofoten after what has been a pretty calm and sunny winter overall – much better than last year! So I don’t think I’ll be back then, but hopefully all the snow doesn’t get blown away!

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 200
f 8
1/250 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #425 – February Rain

Photo: Flowing river below Stornappstind after a week of rain and mild temperatures, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 26, 2021.16:47

The long period of Cold and settled weather since the beginning of the year ended this week with the arrival of a series of mild and wet weather from the south. Though it is not just us on Lofoten, most of continental Europe has gone through the same shift this week – from ice skating to the first flowers of spring – although flowers are still a few months away for us up here in the north.

As I’ve already written, we’ve been lucky so far this winter on Lofoten. So, as disappointing as it is to see, it is quite common for shifts in the weather and a week of snow-melting rain to arrive. There are still more or less two months of winter lefter here, so hopefully March fills the mountains with snow and there is still planting of skiing left this season!

The river here just down the road from my house, and which I pass daily on my way to/from Leknes had been frozen solid for most of the last month. But this weeks rain and warm temperatures, up to 8˚C on Wednesday, has turned the river into a flowing torrent. Well, maybe that’s an overstatement! But even during the spring thaw, this is about as big as this small little creek ever flows. So at the moment it is both a combination of a lot of rain combined with the snowmelt.

I had actually planned for myself to take a road trip to Senja this past week. But already looking at the weather forecast last weekend, I knew it would have been a mostly pointless and unproductive trip – and it’s no fun to spend a week in my van when it’s 3-5˚C and raining all day long. There’s only so much reading I can do per day while hurried in my sleeping bag to keep warm!

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

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

Friday Photo #424 – Skagsanden Aurora

Photo: February northern lights – aurora borealis fill the sky over Skagsanden beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 15, 2021. 22:12

After a weekend of clouds over Lofoten and a high aurora activity that wasn’t visible, Monday night brought a cloudless sky and a low aurora forecast. Looking at one of the space weather websites, it was stated that the solar wind had now passed earth. And yes, at 19:00 I could already see the first glow of green in the fading twilight. This turned into an all night show, still visible at 06:00 Tuesday morning. KP 2 they said…

I began the night shooting just down the road from home at one of the my local beaches. The sky produced a couple good outbreaks during that time. But finally during a calm period, I took the chance to make the 20 minute drive to Skagsanden. The temperatures where mild and the roads slippery. I passed and slowed to check on one person crashed into the ditch on the side of the road, which were fine, but unfortunately the Nappstaumen tunnel was closed for hour long periods, so the tow truck would take a while.

Most years it can be a little risky to move from a location you have to yourself to somewhere else, which might be overly crowded and impossible to shoot from. Corona has made this year different. There are only a handful of photographers actually living on Lofoten (or even overall in Norway as a whole), so as I pulled into the parking lot at Skagsanden, there was only 1 other car there.

Lucky again, the tide was cooperating, with low tide around 22:00 or so, which is perfect condition for Skagsanden – with about 100 meters from the high tide line to the low tide area across the flat sandy beach – perfect for reflections! The upper section of the beach was actually somewhat frozen, resulting in somewhat ‘dull’ reflections, so I walked down to the tide line, gentle waves crashing over my boots and the aurora shining bright in the wet sand.

Soon after my arrival the aurora increased in activity, dancing across the sky from east to west, with lots of pink highlights among the green. Despite the moonless night, the aurora was bright enough at times for me to have a shadow. Shooting in manual in the camera, one has to take care to pay attention to exposure. When I arrived at the beach, I was shooting around 4 second exposures, but when the aurora got bright, I was even down to 0.6 second for some periods of time! KP 2 they said…

I’m probably a slightly broken record with how many times I’ve said the aurora forecast doesn’t really matter. Even with all the technology and aurora apps, etc, there is still always an aura of mystery in which you never quite know what will happen. Like Monday night, which the fantastic show was the result of the earth’s magnetic sphere allowing the slow solar wind to enter. So no need for a forecast for a X-class flare and a geomagnetic storm for an amazing night of northern lights! Sometimes it just happens…

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten – and of nights like this when it happens: @distant.north

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

Friday Photo #423 – Winter

Photo: Winter clouds hang low over mountains of Vestvågøy from Nappstraumen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 11, 2021. 14:30

After an unusually calm and snow-less start to 2021 the weather seems to have finally shifted to more normal storminess (is that a word?) over the last week – bringing some days of wind and new snow across Lofoten. Enough so that my road was closed from an avalanche for the first time this winter – though I suspect this was more to do with the wind, as there still isn’t that much snow in the mountains.

Yesterday afternoon a wave of snow was concealing the mountains in the image. I headed outside to shoot a time lapse, as I could see that the low clouds would soon pass and the mountains would emerge again. Though I shoot this scene a lot, once I went back to collect my camera I took a few more photos, as it seemed to be looking extra-moody. Though by this time, Himmeltind had already disappeared behind the clouds again. Yet I still like the mostly empty and abstract nature of the scene.

If you head over to my Instagram account: @distant.north – you will also see what the time-lapse looked like.

Camera Info
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
48mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/40 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #422 – Beach Day

Photo: Waves flowing over frozen sand at Myrland beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 1, 2021. 14:15

I was driving home Monday afternoon as some cool looking snow clouds were passing by just out to sea to the north and catching the low afternoon sunlight. I took a few shots from up on the road, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for – though this was also partially because my 14-24mm lens has been broken for almost a year now, and the scene probably needed something in the 18-22mm range. 24mm was not quite wide enough, and 14mm was way too wide. It’s a bit frustrating when you don’t have the tools you need, but with a full year of workshops canceled thanks to Corona, and least I’m still around to complain at the moment…

Lofoten, and most of northern Norway has had a cold but dry start to 2021. But finally, on Monday, Jan 25th, the middle parts of Lofoten received about 20-30cm of snow, including my valley. Ordinarily in most years, one day of snowfall would have quickly been tracked up by all the winter photography workshops that should be here right now. So it’s always a race to get to a beach with fresh snow and enjoy it while you can.

This year, with Lofoten completely empty, I was the first person to walk down to the beach this past Monday, a full week after the snow fell! Crazy! Even Storsandnes beach down the road has remained largely footprint free as well for a week and a half now. It’s like the old days when I was sleeping in a rental car and pretty much the only photographer around in winter.

The cold of the last weeks in addition to the snow fall means the sand on the beaches can often freeze, basically turning to ice. Then when the tide come in and waves wash against it, it can form cool patterns and structures that wouldn’t otherwise exist. And then when larger waves come and crash against this frozen line, cool stuff can happen.

I spent about an hour of the beach until the light faded to blue. Myrland beach can sometimes be difficult to shoot, as the large boulders in the tide line, one of the nice things about the beach, can sometimes become distracting as well, and require careful placement within the frame – making some compositions not really ideal, compared to if the boulders were gone – and more so on days like this when the water itself is already quite dynamic.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 16
1/100 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #421 – Himmeltindan

Photo: Last light over the peaks of Himmeltindan and Ristind, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 29, 2021. 14:35

I don’t post panos very often because I think they’re too small on the computer screen, but for this image from today’s sunset, a pano was the best representation of the scene.

After a dry winter, the the central and western islands of Lofoten received around 20-30cm of snow on Monday night, immediately turning the islands into a winter wonderland which has so far been missing this season. And even better, the temperatures have remained cold and the wind has mostly been calm all while the weather has been fantastic.

It is unfortunate that this winters photo workshops have been canceled, as compared with the struggles of last years terrible weather and the struggle to find light, this year would be a dream for guiding, as there is literally light everywhere! But I’ve been out enjoying it for myself, and hunting for new locations which might work for future workshops.

I had passed by this scene yesterday with a completely clear sky. The full moon had already risen but was too far to the right of Ristind for any sort of useable composition. So I made plans to return today. However, the weather had other plans and a layer of clouds on the northern horizon blocked any possibility of me getting the moonrise photo I was looking for. Luckily, the light itself was fantastic, much better than the previous day. So, moon or not, I still ended up with something nice I think!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
130mm
ISO 100
f 5.6
1/100 second
WB Daylight
6 image panoramic