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 #260 – Myrland Winter

Myrland Winter - Friday Photo #260

Photo: Myrland in white, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 23, 2017. 13:15

Lofoten was fortunate to have a wonderful white Christmas with northern lights dancing in the sky overhead this year. In the days prior to Christmas, winter storms out of the north were still sweeping over the islands.

I’ve been a bit lazy with hiking this month, as I’ve mostly been focused on other projects, and in truth, I’m not such a fan of the polar night, so my motivation has been quite low. But on this particular day, as the passing snow flurries seemed to separate themselves enough were I felt the effort was worth it, I headed up my local little hill, Hornet.

Leaving the house with clear were, I could see the next storefront approaching. About half way up the hill, as the winds were beginning to increase, I pulled out the camera for this quick photo. Within minutes I was in a complete white-out while being blasted by stinging icy snow. Knowing the route, I continued to the top, waiting just below on the sheltered side of the ridge for snow to pass. And soon enough the clouds cleared and the world went quiet again in the fading afternoon twilight.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
21mm
ISO 200
f 8
.3 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #259 – Polar Night

Polar Night - Firday Photo #259

Photo: Polar night, Skjelford, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Dec 11, 2016. 14:33

The winter solstice passed yesterday. That means the darkest days are behind us here in the north. Though it will still be some weeks until we finally see the sun again. But it brings hope, that it will be back again. Bad luck this year has meant that I haven’t actually seen any direct sunlight since early November. So those first rays of light next year will be most welcomed!

Entering my second full winter here on Lofoten, there is definitely a difference between visiting here for some days and living here full time. The polar night is a novelty. Something to experience once in life. But living it day to day, it takes its toll. I sleep a lot. I loose track of the days – especially when my road has been blocked by rockfall for weeks at a time. My world for the lasts months has existed in darkness. It is hard too keep track of the days, they just run together in some quiet silence. I guess it is the price we must pay for the joys of the midnight sun. Life must be in balance.

And though even if the sun doesn’t rise above the horizon, if the weather is clear, there is still some light. This photo is from last year, just out my old front door in Skjelfjord. Where we would get the light from the southern sun. One of the rare calm December days that year, the north was calm in the gentle glow of the mørketid.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
19mm
ISO 100
f 11
6 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #258 – Breakwater

Myrland Breakwater - Friday Photo #258

Photo: The old breakwater at Myrland, Flakdstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. November 26, 2017. 12:10

During the 2nd rockslide incident in November, which left us cutoff for 12 days, I decided to take a walk down to our old breakwater here in Myrland. Destroyed by a storm during the mid ’90’s (if memory serves me correct), it has remained a pile of fallen stones ever since.

With the latest rockfall, there has been some renewed talk to rebuild it. As in its current condition, it’s impossible to get a boat here. And if we are cutoff from land as well, then that doesn’t leave us in a very good position should any sort of emergency arrive.

However, I have also heard that there was some funding received to rebuild it some years ago, which never took place. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about living in Norway: There is a lot of talk about doing something, but little actual action resulting from all the talking. I have taken up a sort of, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ attitude to things around here. But I guess that is one of the costs for living at the end of the world.

About the photo itself. two images, vertical shift, with my beloved 24mm tilt-shift lens on a rainy November afternoon. Actually, after 8 years of hard use and abuse, and mostly due to a bad fall in October, I’ll be retiring this lens soon. I have ordered a new one, as it is one of my favorite lenses for coastal landscapes here on Lofoten. Though it was a bit of a tough decision, as it is quite an expensive lens, and I’m not entirely sure how much longer I’ll keep shooting with Nikons – as more or less all my other lenses/bodies are broken or falling apart and will need replacing soon. Which means it might be time for a switch to mirrorless, instead of buying the same gear over again. I also used a 6 stop ND filter – I’ve recently switched from using B+W to Breakthrough Photography, which I’m quite happy with so far.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24mm f/3.5
24mm
ISO 100
f 11
30 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter
Two images – top, bottom

Friday Photo #256 – Polar Night

Polar Night - Friday Photo #256

Photo: Twilight glow of winter’s polar night, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 11, 2016. 10:49

As December arrives the Lofoten is soon about to enter the mørketid, otherwise known as the polar night – the time in which the sun does not rise above the horizon here in the north.

It has already been dark for a while, and so the sun a little above, or a little below the horizon doesn’t make too much of a difference to the day during the last weeks. But as the sun finally drops into the sea, even that weak bit of direct light will be missed as we enter a month of twilight and darkness.

Last year, living in Skjelfjord, I think I noticed the change to the mørketid much more as the sun was visible over the southern horizon until it finally vanished into the sea. Where I live now, with mountains closing in my valley to the south, the sun hasn’t been visible from my house since mid October. And so if I don’t leave home, as when I was stuck for 5 days due to a rockslide, I can only see the sun shining on the distant mountains.

I took this image on my way home from Leknes one morning. After what had seemed like endless weeks of storms and wind, the Islands suddenly fell silent. With an hour to go till noon, the day would become a bit brighter, but not much.

For the time being, I still enjoy the experience of the darkness. But next year I’ll probably find myself in Spain or Portugal for a week or two to refill on the vitamin D!

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
32mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/4 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #255 – Winter Hiking

winter hiking - Friday Photo #255

Photo: Winter on Volandstind, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 13, 2017. 12:19

It is getting to be that time of year in which I’m receiving an increased amount of emails asking if it’s possible to hike such and such mountain on so and so day, what the weather will be, and what gear is needed.

I don’t know.

I will reiterate some things here, but if you are thinking about coming here in winter for some hiking, then you should first read my article:

Winter Hiking on Lofoten

When I get an email about hiking some mountain – and unfortunately, Reinebringein is the most commonly referenced one – I always struggle with what to reply. Should I be blunt, and simply say it’s impossible? Should I give some advice about gear? But if you don’t know what gear to use, then you probably don’t have the proper experience for hiking here in winter. Do I remind people that there is little to no daylight in January? Or do I just say: Sure, everything is possible. Which it is – given the correct experience.

From an email, I don’t know anything about you. Have you hiked before? Have you seen snow before? Do you know how to judge avalanche risk? Can you navigate in a whiteout? Are you going to go hiking in a full storm because you only have 2 days on Lofoten and need that photo for Instagram? And a million other things…

So it is more or less an impossible question to answer: If _you_ can hike something.

There are some relatively easy mountains during winter on Lofoten. The locals are out all year round and the same with myself. However, as a whole, Lofoten in winter is not for the inexperienced and the mountains here need to be respected.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
27mm
ISO 400
f 10
1/50 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #254 – Isolated

landslide - Friday Photo #254

Photo: Large rock-slide blocks the road to Myrland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. November 17, 2017. 12:14

Thursday evening sometime between 20:00 and 22:00 nature send a reminder of who is in charge. A friend and come over for a short visit to checkup on a project we are working on, leaving after a couple hours. But soon I heard a knock on my door and she had come back, saying there were some rocks in the road. There had been a large rock in the road earlier in the day, but it had been cleared, so maybe she though it was just the darkness that made it look like more. So we hopped in my van to check things out.

Approaching the scene in the darkness, my headlamps lit up the first initially small boulders – which hadn’t been there when I passed by in the late afternoon, before illuminating large blocks in the distance, completely covering the road. Hmm, no one is getting by that this night…

In the morning I returned to checkout the scene again. It was indeed the largest rockslide I’ve seen since moving here. As information spread, I was interviewed by the news agency NRK, and we began to find out that my little village, of merely a dozen residents, would be cut off for a while – The original estimate of a Saturday opening being extended to Monday.

And so I sit at home, with unexpected guests and glad I generally keep enough food on the shelves for just this type of situation. Saturday I will miss an event I was hoping to attend, but that is life up here…

As a bit of a side note. Despite the fact that there are clearly posted ‘no stopping’ (not just the ‘no parking’) and rockfall signs for this section of the road, many people car/van/motorhome camp along there all summer long. If it is not too late in the evening and I see people out and about, I will often stop and give them a bit of a warning that they might not be in the best place. On any given night it is not likely that something will happen, and it makes me feel like an asshole, possibly interrupting some romantic moment or ruining their perfect camping spot with the midnight sun shining in the north. But I drive this road on an almost daily basis and see what falls from above. It would be nice if people listened the signs, but they don’t. So I’ll probably have to be an asshole next summer as well, telling people that they should move along…

And in fact, along with some friends, I remember telling a van to move which was parked in this exact spot of the avalanche sometime in July. The amount of fresh small rockfall and debris present there should have already indicated that it was a poor camping location. Had they been there this Thursday evening, they would now be buried under tons of rubble.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
200mm
ISO 320
f 5
1/125 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #250 – Aurora Campfire

Campfire and Northern Lights - Friday Photo #250

Photo: Campfire below northern lights, Storsandnes, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 28, 2017. 22:33

Sometimes life is best enjoyed simply by being there. The final evening of my 2017 Exploring Autumn photo tour, this was the 4th night (of 6) where we had northern lights in the sky overhead.

We had already spent sunset this evening in the mountains above Unstad, returning to my van by headlamp. And already on the way down, the aurora had begun dancing in the fading twilight. A quick stop for pizza in Leknes, we hurried to another beach, eating on the way.

Normally, this night alone would have been good and everyone would have been shooting as much as possible. But they had been slightly spoiled by the previous night, which was one of the best aurora shows that I have ever seen!

And so I did what I might do had I been on my own or with a few friends – build a campfire! From time to time, when the lights got strong, we would go wander off and take some photos, only quickly to return to the warmth of the fire. As the hours passed, the photography time lessened and the fire time grew. Until finally we decided to call it a night.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
14mm
ISO 2000
f 2.8
5 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #246 – Tønsåsheia Camp

Tønsåsheia camp - Friday Photo #246

Photo: Autumn camping on the summit of Tønsåsheia, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 22, 2016. 18:40

The forecast had been better than reality – A common occurrence on Lofoten. What I thought would be fairly clear skies was filled with a layer of high cloud. I was a bit disappointed upon reaching the summit of Tønsåsheia and finding a place to setup the tent for the night. But as normal on Lofoten, the light changed…

As evening arrived, a soft twilight light fell over the Islands. There is always something special about standing on the edge of Lofoten, with the view across endless mountain peaks fading into the distance. The mountains here might not be that high, but they are as visually stunning as anywhere else in the world. A perfect combination of sea and summit.

I still maintained hopes for northern lights on this night, but alas, the clouds came in too thick. And so it was a night of sleep for me. Maybe next time.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
116mm
ISO 200
f 7.1
1/40 second
WB Daylight