Friday Photo #296 – Autumn Aurora

Autumn Aurora - Friday Photo #296

Photo: Northern lights and twilight glow of late August, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 31, 2018. 23:40

The final night of August brought the third aurora of the 2018/2019 season. Not a bad way to say goodbye to summer and hello to autumn – I had already seen the first yellow leaves, so I think it’s safe to say that autumn had started…

One of the things I like about the start/end of the aurora season is the twilight glow which remains on the horizon throughout the night. Beyond the fact that it keeps the overall scene brighter and adds light to the landscape, I find it nice to have a separation on the horizon, with the sky fading to a deep blue the higher it gets.

And even though the sun is spotless at the moment and the KP index was only a 1 or so at the time, never rely on this too much. I see so much talk online about KP this or that, but the reality is, it doesn’t matter all that much. And just like the weather forecast up here, the aurora forecast is mostly a suggestion of what will likely happen, but there is still a fair amount of unknown. So tip of the day: If the sky is clear – go out!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 800
f 2
3 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #295 – Aurora Season Begins

August Aurora - Friday Photo #295

Photo: Return of the northern lights season, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 27, 2018. 23:49

The northern lights are back over Lofoten! This image is actually from my second sighting, but conditions were a bit better this night. The previous night they were visible as well, but the sky was fairly cloudy and the aurora weren’t in the most photogenic location from the beach.

The sky is still not fully dark, but a solar storm brought high aurora activity over the north. Luckily, this coincided with a rare clear night in the last month, so more or less perfect timing for the first couple nights of aurora for the 2018/2019 aurora season. With the sky still relatively light, the aurora was faint, but still visible to the eye and still moving quite a bit. Had this show occurred only a few weeks later, then it would have been a fantastic night! But there are still 7 months ahead of northern lights here in the north, so I’m sure I’ll grow spoiled by April. For now though, It’s nice to see a return of the green dancing sky in this transition between summer and autumn.

I often get questions and sometimes read the false statement that northern lights are only a winter phenomenon. They are not! In reality, the aurora occur all year long. But during summer, it’s just not dark enough to see them. Only during these last days of August does the sky finally grow dark enough for the northern lights to overpower the summer twilight. But for the next weeks still, only strong aurora will be visible, as the northern horizon still glows throughout the night. Soon though, the night will be dark, and all aurora will be visible.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 400
f 2
2.5 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #294 – August Rainbow

August Rainbow - Friday Photo #294

Photo: Rainbow over Nappstraumen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 20, 2018. 18:34

Usually I think of autumn as the season of rainbows here on Lofoten, with the turbulent weather and sun, rain, sun, rain, sun, type weather passing over the islands. But this year, summer seems to have ended with a nice sunset on the last day of July and immediately after, autumn began! To say that August has been rainy and windy would be an understatement.

I’ve barely gone to the mountains much lately, preferring to take up my old childhood activity of surfing in this wet and unpredictable weather. After more than 10 years away from surfing, I’m thoroughly hooked again. To the point that I’m looking at water housings for my camera. But I think they are beyond my budget for some years to come, unfortunately. Really not sure how people afford all this stuff. Perhaps I just need more followers on Instagram like all the cool people who take the same pictures from the same locations? Anyone got a yellow jacket, one of those woven blankets, and a drone I can borrow? Adventure and exploring…

So without bringing the camera out with me much lately, the only photos I seem to take are from by bathroom or office windows. Luckily, the views seem to be better than average lately, so I have a good excuse to be lazy!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
55mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/200 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #290- Summer Fog

Summer Fog - Friday Photo #290

Photo: Summer fog flows from the north over the mountains of Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 12, 2018. 23:35

When the summer wind blows out of the north, the outer side of Lofoten can become concealed in a blanket of fog approaching from the sea. And what might look like a dreary day down below can become almost a dreamlike world up high, above the fog.

The other week we had a few days of fog covering the northern side of the islands – Typically the southern, Vestfjord side, of Lofoten remains fog free and sunny. I decided to head up one of the local mountains near my house to get some sunlight and see what might happen.

Initially the fog was quite low and remind on the north, left, side of the mountains. But as the hours passed, it grew thicker and flowed further inland, until almost all of Vestvågøy was hidden, only the peaks above 500 meters rising into the sunlight. At my location at about 700 meters, I was safe.

With the fog flowing over the mountain pass below me, I knew I wanted to capture something more than a static shot – which looked a little boring, actually. So I used a 10 stop ND filter for an exposure of 30 seconds. I could have gone longer as well, but my phone had died, and I didn’t feel like counting. But 30 seconds was enough to both capture the movement of the fog and to soften it, creating a better separation with the mountains.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
27mm
ISO 125
f 10
30 seconds
WB Daylight
10 stop B+W neutral density filter

Friday Photo #289- Summer Sunset

Summer Sunset - Friday Photo #289

Photo: A sun that now sets, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 20, 2018. 00:27

After almost two months circling the sky over Lofoten, the sun is beginning it’s slow journey towards the south. Over the next months, the nights on Lofoten will grow longer by around one hour per week, until the sun sets for the last time in early December and the polar night arrives in the north.

Partially because I was traveling until mid June and also because of so much bad weather, it feels too early for the sun to be leaving! A few more weeks would be nice. But now, for me as a photographer, the wonderful twilight nights begin, during which there is wonderful light to be found! And my headlamp can still stay in the closet for a little while longer.

One of the things that keeps lofoten interesting for me is the constant change. As soon as I’m getting used to a season, it’s gone. To be replaced by something new. And now it is only a short countdown until the aurora season begins! Another type of light in the night!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
200mm
ISO 320
f 5.0
1/400 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #279 – May Evening Light

May Light - Friday Photo #279

Photo: Evening light over Storsandnes beach from summit of Slettind. Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 13, 2017. 22:18

May is the month were the snow melts, the midnight sun arrives, the trees turn green, and the islands prepare for summer. It is also a month, like November, that I mostly stay out of the mountains and seek out other activities. I find it a weird transition, no longer winter while not quite summer. And to tell the truth, I don’t really find the brown grass, tired looking and matted from snow, to be all that scenic, especially in the higher mountains.

So I take May as a bit of a rest month, so rest the legs and save them for summer´s green mountains and fields of flowers. Alternately, it is also a good month to travel and leave Lofoten. And so while I wrote these words back in April, I’m currently sitting somewhere in Scotland – or better yet, heading out into the mountains somewhere.

In 2017 I didn’t leave Norway (unless Svalbard technically counts) and was only off Lofoten for a few weeks total. I just kinda got stuck, which isn’t bad. But for someone who traveled more or less non-stop for 10 years, it is an abrupt change. And while I love Lofoten and am nowhere close to getting bored yet, I’m actually afraid if I leave that I´ll miss something really cool that happens, I can recognize that I need to get away a bit, sometimes. And so why not Scotland, one of the only places with possibly worse weather than here!

But Lofoten can be a bit isolating as well; not much happens here. So beyond the mountains, I have to go elsewhere for more cultural type entertainment, which I finally realized over the winter that I’ve been missing a bit. Be it music in some pub on a rainy night, Glühwein at a German Christmas market, or a weekend at a music festival. I know I need to do a bit more this year, and so I will…

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70mm f/1.8
38mm
ISO 100
f 11
1/20 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #278 – Life in Norway Podcast

Life In Norway Podcast - Friday Photo #278

Photo: Interview on Life in Norway Podcast.

Today is something a bit different. Instead of reading some words here, you can hear some.

A while back, November 2017, actually, I recored and interview with David from the Life in Norway website. We had first met at TBEX in Stockholm in 2016, where it was nice to have someone else from Norway talking about how cheap everything was, while everyone else was saying Sweden was so expensive! Only for a Norwegian is Sweden cheap, ha!

Anyhow, a while later he started up a podcast series, mostly interview other people like myself who have moved to Norway and how we find life here. So, go give it a listen HERE!

April Storms – Friday Photo #277

April Storms - Friday Photo #277

Photo: Mountains of Vestvågøy disappear into storm clouds across Nappstraumen. Maryland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 7, 2018. 14:23

While the south of Norway, and the rest of Europe, is beginning to transition into Spring, April on Lofoten is still mostly a month of winter. And while the sun is now high in the sky and the final days of the aurora season are approaching, large winter storms still pass over the islands and paint the mountains white with snow.

I went as far as my backyard to get this image. Not because I was lazy, well a bit maybe, but because my road was closed by avalanche, again. I had actually be locked out on the far side the previous day as the road closed while I was in Leknes. So I had to part at Storsandnes beach and walk home.

But even the storms are not enough to resist the warm April sun, and snow that would have stuck around in February begins to melt away quicker from ridges and steep cliffs. So one has to act quick to capture the fresh snow before it becomes faded and the brown grasses are exposed.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
75mm
ISO 200
f 8
1/500 second
WB Daylight

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