Friday Photo #378 – Uttakleiv Aurora

Photo: Northern lights reflect in the Eye of Uttakleiv, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 1, 2020. 23:40

I wasn’t planning to post another northern lights image today, but this was the only time I’ve been out shooting since last weeks image, so here you go. While it seems like the constant wind has continued, I also just don’t have much motivation to go out at the moment. I’ve look at the mountain out my window and tell myself, ‘Tomorrow I’ll go up there for sunset.’ That tomorrow has not come for two weeks so far…

In a small attempt to find a silver lining in our current situation, it feels live Ive been in a time machine and transported back 10 years in time to the Lofoten I remember from the old days: Empty and quiet. When winter was the season of fishermen and little more.

And so with this in mind and a rare clear sky Wednesday night, I headed to Uttakleiv and found myself pulling into a completely empty parking lot. Maybe only on a night in November or December is this possible these days while in February or March I won’t even go near the place anymore – too much chaos for me to enjoy. But in these strange corona times, I found myself alone for hours, like the Lofoten I first met decades ago…

In other fronts, I haven’t been completely idle. The 3rd edition of West Lofoten Hikes eBook should be published in a couple week. With 8 new mountain hikes added, as well as the beaches that I hadn’t previously included, it will now have 40 mountain hiking destinations in west Lofoten. So if you’re able to get here in summer, there’ll be plenty of mountains to keep you busy for a while!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 1600
f 2.5
8 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #377 – Equinox Aurora

Photo: Equinox Aurora over Storsandnes beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 20, 2020. 21:35

Last friday was a stormy and windy day with passing snow showers and storm force wind gusts throughout the day. Sometime in the early evening I randomly looked out the window and saw a faint green band of aurora high in the sky. Hmm, wasn’t expecting that.

The next wave of clouds and wind and snow shook my house. But after I looked out again and the aurora was beginning to dance a little. Hmm, better get moving!

So I headed down the road to Storsandnes beach, arriving just as the sky began to explode in light. Somehow I knocked my camera out of focus after a couple shots – Which I didn’t catch for another minute, and had to run back up to the road to focus on the lights of a distant house.

I often sound like a broken record on photo workshops, reminding people to zoom in and check focus on images every few minutes, and it’s good I follow my own advice as well! It’s easy in the dark with gloves on to accidentally hit a button or the lens when recomposing or adjusting settings. I missed a first good display because of this, even though I was only out of focus for a minute before I caught it. But no worries, there was plenty more to come this night!

Without any moonlight, you can see the effect of the light pollution from Leknes and Gravdal on the clouds on the right side of the image. Usually with would disturb me, but on this image I kinda like it. It ads a bit of a surreal look to the image. Luckily I caught this light flash of pink as the aurora picked up in speed and danced across the sky. Even at a relatively fast shutter speed of 2 seconds for northern lights, you can see they are still quite blurry.

There was no high KP forecast and the weather was mostly terrible as well. This was just one of those nights where you just have to be here and maybe you get lucky.

This year as been a tough year for northern lights here on Lofoten. I was lucky that each of my 5 winter workshops I guided this season had at least one night of northern lights, but on a couple occasions it wasn’t until the final night of the trip – the 2nd time was due to the trip with my Swiss group being cut short due to the sudden quarantine regulations here in Norway due to covid-19 and having to get them on the soonest possible flight out of Tromsø and back home before everything shut down.

The main difficulty this year was the weathe. It’s been endlessly windy and cloudy this year. It wasn’t even until March that I had seen the sun on 10 separate occasions. I’d say this was my least productive aurora season since moving here in February 2016. There’s still a few weeks left, so who knows what might happen…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 2500
f 1.8
2 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #376 – Storm

Photo: Hold fast, all storms pass. Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 20, 2020. 11:05

We bring in the spring equinox with the passing of another polar low pressure and gale force winds sweeping across Lofoten. But a bigger storm has already hit Norway and the rest of the world, something that will not pass so easily.

It was last Thursday evening that I walked into the restaurant in Hamn on Senja with my workshop group. The hotel manager immediately walked up to us and said we were all on quarantine (Well, I technically wasn’t since I haven’t been outside of Norway since last year), and the message was clear. The world had changed.

Information was difficult to find. Were they allowed to leave? Would they get fined for leaving? Did they have to sit for 14 days alone in their cabins? With every hour the situation changed. Soon Denmark closed its borders entirely, in which Norway soon followed, then the rest of Europe and the world.

With the workshop already ending on Sunday, the hotel situation in Tromsø was uncertain, we decided that they should rebook flights back to Switzerland for Saturday morning. And thus in the 5:00 morning darkness and blowing snow showers we began a silent journey towards the airport and everyone got on the flight out of Norway.

I had to remain in Tromsø another night. And after the initial panic of the first days, things seemed to have calmed a bit and other than Tromsø feeling like a ghost town and new regulations for entering stores and disinfecting hands, one might not have noticed that anything was happening.

But getting home was just one step of the journey. The real struggle will be surviving the next weeks and months. The travel industry has been completely decimated across Europe (and I’m sure the rest of the world). Within a week, Norway now has the highest unemployment since the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the Kroner’s value has fallen off a cliff. What the future will be or how long this will last, no one can say.

Best of luck to everyone out there. Hold fast!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
24mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/60 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #375 – Stortind Waterfall

Photo: Mølnelva waterfall below Stortind, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 13, 2020. 15:24

It has been a strange winter photo season this year on Lofoten. The commonly popular places in former years – Uttakleiv, Haukland, Unstad, Reinehalsen overlook – seemed almost deserted at times, while more random and isolated places seem to have grown in popularity. Case in point, Mølnelva.

This small cascading river flowing across some slabby rocky just next to the E10 never seemed to popular in previous years. This year however, while I was out trying to take a couple last images for the update of Seasons on Lofoten: Winter ebook, it seemed to always have a crowd of photographers each time I drove by. It wasn’t until late on some stormy afternoon that I finally found the location deserted.

Perhaps it is a bit of confirmation bias – I was specifically looking at the river, so always noticed it was busy, while I’ve driven by it 1000’s of times before without paying much attention. But this wouldn’t be the only ‘lesser known’ location I’ve seen quite busy on Lofoten this winter photo season.

Maybe people are getting a little tired of the classic views and looking for something new. Maybe there’s some social media popularity about a certain location that I haven’t known about – though this mostly seems isolated to the Instagrammer drone flyers, who love to copy a shot once its been ‘found.’ As though it is some new discovery and hasn’t been there forever.

I don’t know…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14-24 f/2.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 16
0.6 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #374 – Wind

Photo: Windy ridges of Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 20, 2020. 12:39

Each winter here on Lofoten seems to have it’s own defining element. For 2020 it will be the wind, and maybe rain for 2nd place. Defiantly not on the list is sunlight, which at the time of my writing this text in late February, I’ve still only seen the sun on 5 days out of a possible 48. Maybe I’ve missed a couple chances here and there, but even doubling the days to 10, that’s still an 80% overcast rate so far this year. Pretty dismal, even for here.

Even with the bad weather, I try to keep my camera with me as much as possible when out and about on my daily life. I used to be kinda bad about this, but enough times of missing fantastic light while just going to the supermarket or gym in Leknes taught me the lesson to always be prepared.

This photo is one of those occasions. I had to drive to Svolvær to drop off my visa application and even with a bad weather forecast, I tossed my camera bag in the van. The entire drive was mostly uneventful until I was 5 minutes away from getting back home. Then, the sun peaked through the high clouds shining on the ridgeline of Haugheia. Comibined with the wind blowing of the light dusting of snow that had fallen, it created a cool back-lit scene.

Driving along the E10 I wished I could have stopped in the middle of the road, as that was the best angle for distant Skottind and the windy ridge lines. But I knew the parking area at Skreda would be pretty good as well, so I continued there. A quick lens change to the 70-200, and then I shot hand held.

After only a minute or two the sun had moved away and the ridge was in the shadow of clouds again. Lucky timing that I was even able to get a shot!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
200mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/1600 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #373 – Winter Twilight

Photo: Soft winter twilight the mountain peaks of Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 19, 2020. 16:46

This image is a prologue to last week’s post: Friday Photo #372.

There is always a bit of a balance of how much waiting around one wants to do if heading out to the mountains for northern lights without camping. Do you go up early, shoot sunset, and then wait around some undetermined amount of time in the cold and dark for the aurora to show up later in the evening. Or do you just head up sometime after dark – assuming you know the route, and give yourself a shorter wait.

On this day I did a bit of both. It was the first clear and calm day I can remember so far this winter. I hadn’t quite decided where I was going when I left my house in the late afternoon, only that it would be something around the Fredvang area. As I crossed the twin bridges, the mountains of Flakstad were glowing in the warm afternoon light. As I continued into Selfjord there were multiple places I would have liked to stop, as the reflections were perfect! But I had no time, unfortunately.

As I pulled into the parking area for my hike, I kicked myself for not leaving even 30 minutes earlier. And I had actually planned to leave a little later, but finished my projects for the day ahead of schedule. As I put on my crampons I headed up the flat ridgeline through the snow, racing the last sunlight quickly disappearing from the distant mountain peaks. I was too late.

Soon though, a cold winter twilight began to take over the landscape. I knew I would have a decent viewpoint a little higher up the ridge, so now it became another race. Would the twilight last long enough for me to arrive? Luckily it did! And the result is that I did not come away from the evening completely empty handed – waiting for northern lights that never appeared…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
48mm
ISO 100
f 10
.3 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #372 – Forecast Vs. Reality

Photo: Forecast: Clear sky and KP5 northern lights. Reality… Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 19, 2020. 19:15

Finally, after endless weeks (months really) of near constant clouds over Lofoten there was a forecast for clear sky on Wednesday night which also happened to coincide with KP5 aurora. Those that have read these posts for a while know that I’m skeptical of both. However, as Tuesday nights aurora was quite good – that of which I could see between the waves of clouds – I decided to be optimistic and take a hike, literally.

As late afternoon passed I hit the road for my destination, half way up Kitind with a view over the west side of Kvalvika beach. The light was fantastic and the sky perfectly clear. I kicked myself for not heading up earlier in the day and not being able to catch sunset, but at least I got some fantastic twilight glow half way up to my destination.

I slightly misjudged where I wanted to shoot from, which was past one final steep 100 meters of ridgeline. But in the fading light, I decided just to stay at a place that was good enough. A smart decision it would later turnout. And so around 17:00 in the fading light I pulled out my sleeping pad and had a cold dinner of Bunnpris pasta salad while waiting for that KP5 aurora to show up.

It never did. What did arrive was clouds. And then more clouds. I could see some clear spots in the sky at times, but the area north, which I needed to be clear, remained almost constantly cloudy. So I waited and waited a bit more. Some test shots showed a hit of green, but nothing more.

A little after 19:00 I used the last batter power on my phone to check the radar, a big wave of snow was due my way in around 30 minutes. Ikke bra!

Normally, under such circumstances I would have camped and weather would have been less of an issue. But as I had to drive to Svolvær relatively early Thursday morning, camping wasn’t an option. I might have already used this as an excuse to not even hike at all, but at the moment Lofoten is completely crowded with photographers, so the only way to be alone is to go up.

Not wanting to hike down with zero visibility and not have my tracks to follow, I made a quick descent off the mountain – much easier than the way up though the deep snow! The sky was fully overcast and a light snow falling when I finally reached my van. Driving home I could see most of the pull out spots filled with cars, patiently waiting for that clear sky and KP5.

It never came. Sometime after midnight, long after I had gone to bed, I could see on one of the webcams that there was some aurora activity into the late morning hours, but nothing worth (for me) waiting up that late for, but I’m sure many did – the benefit of being on holiday…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 2500
f 2
8 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #371 – Winter Grey

Photo: Rocks and ocean, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 13, 2020. 12:49

It has been a grey winter this year. So far, half way into February, I’ve seen the sun four times. Ikke bra! (as one would say in Norwegian). I’ve maybe missed it a couple other times as when not guiding I’m almost entirely stuck behind the computer trying to get the 4th edition of Seasons On Lofoten – Winter ebook finally published. But anything I missed would have only been short moments of light between the seemingly ever preset clouds of 2020.

This week will be a short post. All my brain power is on book editing and design. Frankly, I’m exhausted. What was just meant to be a small updated to some info turned into an additional 130+ pages and images for a new detailed destination guide section in what is basically an entirely new ebook. And, since I’m not the best businessperson in the world, all this work will be a free update for anyone who’s bought the previous editions, even going back to first edition for $5 in 2015 – The new version will be $18, just FYI. This project has been a burden on me since Christmas, so I’m looking for it to be finished soon! Hopefully by this weekend – something I’ve said since mid January…

And yet, as much as I want to be finished, I want it to be good. So even yesterday and today I’ve been out photographing a couple locations to be included in the destination guide, having had to wait for the right conditions – which this year means, ‘not rain.’

This image is one of the new photos from yesterday, taken on a quiet section of Flakstadøy. To find out more, you’ll have to get the 4th edition of the ebook. 🙂

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
40mm
ISO 100
f 10
8 seconds
WB Daylight
6 Stop ND filter

Friday Photo #370 – January Grey

Photo: Heavy grey sky over Flakstadøy, Vareid, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 24, 2020. 14:15

I only saw the sun twice in January this year – Once on Lofoten and once on Senja. The rest of the time the sky has mostly been filled with heavy clouds so far this year. Though last Friday there was a fantastic pink sunrise, I just couldn’t get anywhere before the light was gone. But overall, it has been a wet and grey start to the year – almost complete opposite to least year which had fantastic light much of the time.

A few days before this photo I was driving by and saw a photographer get completely soaked by a huge wave and the on shore north wind. I decided against stopping there with my group, as an ocean shower didn’t seem like the best welcome to Lofoten on their first day. But later in the week the weather calmed slightly and it was ok to shoot without killing cameras or getting washed to sea. The light was flat with heavy snow approaching in the distance – but at least it was snow! As the forecast had called for rain much of the week.

Initially I had been shooting a shorter exposure to capture the crashing waves. But as the sea was a bit too stormy, the image felt too busy to me – too much white of the water in the foreground, just chaos. So I stuck on a 6 stop ND filter and tried something longer. It lost the energy of the sea, but produced a slightly more abstract look to the foreground which seemed to work better with the flat grey light of the day.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
24mm
ISO 64
f 11
30 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #369 – Polar Stratospheric Clouds

Photo: Polar Stratospheric clouds in the sky over Lofoten. January 24, 2020. 10:13

Lofoten and Norway have have multiple displays of Polar Strastopheric clouds this January. But until last week, I was never in a situation to photograph them as I was usually just driving somewhere without my camera. But as the winter photo workshop season has begun for me – back home from the first tour of the year with Muench Workshops – I’m out with my camera almost daily now for the next two months.

This was the last morning with our group in the Reine area. We hiked up the hill on Toppøy for the overlook over Sakrisøy on the first day of mostly clear sky of the trip. Most of the group had their cameras pointed towards Olstind and Sakrisøy, but as I’ve shot that scene dozens of times, I pointed in the opposite direction; south, towards the Polar Stratospheric clouds. While conditions weren’t perfect, I finally got a photo of them.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
155mm
ISO 100
f 5
1/1250 second
WB Daylight