Friday Photo #392 – Midnight Orca

Photo: Midnight orca in Vestfjord off the coast of Nesland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 10, 2020. 00:20

Over the years I’ve noticed a pattern on Lofoten: Nothing happens, and then everything happens. It can be with events, where there’s nothing going on for weeks and weeks, then suddenly 3-4 things to choose from on a single weekend, before going back to weeks and weeks of nothing again. Last night as I was hiking the final few meters to the summit of Flakstadtind with nice golden light shining over the landscape my phone rang. A friend called to say the orcas had been spotted and they were going out with their boat. I wouldn’t be writing this if it was only the first time it has happened – I’ve missed some good orca sightings while up on a mountain somewhere.

This time though, I decided the orca were more important. And luckily, I was just down the road from where they were anyhow, off the coast of Nesland. So after a few photos of the nice light and clouds, I headed down the mountain as quickly and safely as possible – it’s steep and loose up there!

Getting back to my van I headed to the coast, where my friends were watching them from the boat. I shot from shore for a bit, they were almost just on the rocks, feeding on a large school of hearing. But once they headed out to sea a bit, I found an impromptu harbor and got on the boat. While I’ve see the orca multiple times on Lofoten, and photographed them from boats up on Vesterålen, I’ve never had the chance to be on a boat here in Lofoten.

When I left my house at 21:00, kinda bored and just going hiking because I had nothing better to do, I never thought I’d have nice mountain light and orca from the water on the same evening!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 200-500 f/5.6
200mm
ISO 1600
f 5.6
1/1000 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #388 – Nesheia Desert

Photo: Desert-like mountain highlands over Nappstraumen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 6, 2020. 23:55

Summer seems to have fully arrived here on Lofoten during the last week, and despite a couple cold misty days we’ve mostly experienced blue sky and endless sunlight. Tomorrow we might even hit 20˚c for the first time this year! I guess its time to work on my summer sunburn.

With such good weather, I actually haven’t been camping and have been saving most of my hiking for the evening hours. While the days are nice to be outside, a solid blue sky isn’t the most productive photographically, so it’s better I put my energy towards the most productive time of day, which is the night. And there’s not really any point in spending the night in 24 hour sunlight for a hike that is only 3-4 hours in length anyhow.

But with the full summer ahead, it is time to begin exploring some new mountains, and revisiting places I haven’t been to for some years. The main work for summer will be to cover Vestvågøy and Austvågøy in the east. But there’s still some new places in the west that I’ve never been to for whatever reason. This photo from Nesheia being one of them.

I’ve driven by and looked at the rocky mountain landscape hundreds if not thousands of times, but for sum reason until last weekend I never ventured up there. It is kind of a unique landscape which feels more like the deserts of California than anything found on Lofoten. I think this will be a cool place to visit again in autumn with a fresh dusting of light snow, so I’ll provably be back again before the year is over.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
27mm
ISO 100
f 13
1/15 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #387 – Rockfall

Photo: Rockfall over Myrlandsveien which hit mail man and closed road for 24 hours, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 3, 2020. 11:38

Summer seems to have arrived with June this year as the temperatures have warmed up over the last week to 15 degree and sunny t-shirt weather. May was much colder than average here and so the spring greening of the islands feels a couple weeks late this year. But as always with the melting of the snow comes rockfall.

All across Lofoten you can see dark brown streaks of rockfall across sections of remaining snow. And when out and about in mountain area photographing, even at midnight after the day has cooled, you can hear numerous rockslides and snow/ice avalanches falling from the peaks. I posted video of a bigger one on my instagram story the other day that lasted long enough for me to hear it, see where it was, pull my phone out of my pocket and start recording.

Yesterday, Thursday, a large rock/snow fall occurred on Reinebringen in the late afternoon, covering a section of the steps in a layer of debris. Numerous people have already been hiking the mountain in the nice weather of the last days, but luckily tourism is off to a slow start this year and no one was present when the rockfall occurred.

I myself had even been planning on hiking Reinebringen yesterday, and likely would have been in the area near the time when the rockfall occurred. Luckily as I was driving there in the early evening I could see the evening sun would go into a layer of clouds, so I decided to go elsewhere last night.

But that is two reminders in two days for me that this is always a dangerous time of year in the mountains of Lofoten – though that’s not saying you can just relax the rest of the year – but the melting of the mountains in spring and early summer is always a period of elevated rockfall.

So, when you’re planning your hikes in the next weeks, be sure to know what your route is like and try to avoid areas traveling below steep cliffs.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
44mm
ISO 200
f 9
1/500 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #386 – Spring Thaw

Photo: Stortind rising into the midnight sky above flowing waters of the spring snowmelt, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 25, 2020. 23:29

Finally, after a seemingly never ending winter the thermometer broke into double digits again last weekend and gave us the hottest day of the year so far – 16˚C! Well, I’m sure for most of you reading this, that doesn’t sound like much, but for us here on Lofoten, this was only the 2nd time above 10˚C this year, the previous time being on January 2nd during a strange warm period. Otherwise, we’d have to go back to late October to find 2 more days above 10˚C.

Though unfortunately this was just a quick teaser of what’s hopefully to come. As the rest of the week since Tuesday has fallen back to a pattern of heavy grey skies and cool rain. But At least we had a few days to sit outside while not in a down jacket and remember what the warmth of the sun felt like – I don’t think my arms have seen sunlight since September…

Thus far in May, most of the precipitation arrived as snow. And while it has mostly since melted away from the coastal areas, the inland mountains still have significant snow coverage, even here in west Lofoten. Last year I was already hiking up snow free trails on moderately hight peaks by now. I might have to wait a little longer this year.

The mountain snow combined with the sun and warm temperatures quickly set the spring thaw into motion. All over Lofoten the often quiet little streams were flowing high and fast. Driving by this location on my way to somewhere else I noticed the river flowing across a section of rocks that for whatever reason I’ve never photographed before – I usually only visit the lower waterfalls here.

I first made a stop in the late afternoon and hiked a little ways up the valley to where the river was flowing across the flat, slabby rocks. But the sun was in the wrong part of the sky, so after a little while exploring and observing the conditions, I made the plan to come back later in the evening.

As the hours passed the winds picked up into quite some gusts out on the exposed coastal areas. Luckily, this valley was mostly sheltered, though at times the wind gusted strong enough to blow water across my lens. The sky was nearly completely cloudy, yet luckily enough there was a hole somewhere in the northern sky to allow a ray of light to shine across the upper half of Stordind – without that, I don’t think the image would have worked as well.

Camera Info:
Nikon D885
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 16
1 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #383 – Midnight Hjell

Photo: Midnight Hjell, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 8, 2020. 00:05

Winter on Lofoten. Well, no, this is mid May 2020. After several nice days of sunshine last weekend, the thermostat has dropped and snow showers have been falling across the Islands over the last days. And the long term forecast seems to show that we’ll have the same cold conditions for the next week or more. In the one year where’d I’d just want even 10˚ on a calm afternoon. Nope!

It is not that snow is unusual in May. It’s actually to be expected here in the north, which is why we can keep our winter tires on a little longer than the Oslo city people in the south – who have already been sitting in the sunshine for weeks. It just seems this year the weather has remained extra stormy, with few days of sunshine and even cooler temperatures overall. A day or two of snow is no problem in May when you have some sunny 10˚ degrees in between. But this year, the thermostat has been struggling even to reach 5˚ over the last month.

I could have pretended this was a winter photo. And by the look of it, I could have said it was taken any time between November and March and for most people it would seem out of place. But there are some clues which show it’s not a winter image. The first, and easiest to pick up is the time the photo was taken: 00:05, five minutes after midnight. Though the sky is mostly overcast, you can see the warm light glowing on the horizon. This would not happen in winter. The second clue, and really only for those who know the area, is that the glowing horizon is in the north. Definitely not something which happens in winter. In December, this image could have been taken facing south at noon for a similar result.

But I’m tired of snow. It’s been a long winter this year. Hopefully I can start posting some sunny images soon! I need to for myself…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 31
f 16
30 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #382 – Spring Twilight

Photo: Evening twilight glow over northern coast of Lofoten Islands from Flakstadøy. April 29, 2020. 22:32

For the first time in a month there was a cloudless sky over Lofoten on Wednesday. While there have been some moments of sun here and there at times, never in the whole of April have we had a clear and calm day. So I decided to head up to the mountains for sunset.

Normally I love this time of year, with the ever lightening horizons each night. But this year, the night sky has been almost entirely cloudy, especially lower on the horizon. So I haven’t really been able to observe the change, since it all looks the same when cloudy. So with a clear sky it felt like a jump in time, suddenly it was so light!

The snow was too icy – and I brought my light crampons – for the mountain I wanted to climb, so I headed over to a section of ridge overlooking the coast above Vikten. The clear sky didn’t provide the most dramatic sunset, but it was nice to just sit and watch the sun sink into the calm sea, even if it was a little on the cold side. Normally I would have had the setting sun visible from my house for about two weeks now, but last night from the mountain was the first time I saw it happen this year.

I headed down a little before 23:00, making my journey through a mostly snow filled valley until a short steep descent to the lake and the muddy trail home. I brought my headlamp, it it remained in my backpack, probably the last time I will carry it until late August. Only a few more weeks until the sun is here for the summer and the sleepless nights begin…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 9
1/5 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #381 – Grey Spring

Photo: Grey skies over Myrlandsfjellet, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 23, 2020. 18:23

I saw an article yesterday on NRK that Bodø has had the cloudiest April since 1977. And it has been no different out here on Lofoten. In fact, it seems like it’s been continuously cloudy over Lofoten since last year. I can only remember a few clear days or nights – one reason it was also a difficult aurora season this year for my photo workshops – although every tour still managed at least one night of northern lights, it was hard work and quite a lot of stress for me this year.

While the winter winds seem to have calmed themselves a bit, the last week Lofoten has been covered in low, misty grey clouds and 4-6 degree temperatures. And there has been some amount of precipitation on 26 of the last 30 days. All while watching the stories about summer sun and temperatures down in Oslo and the southern coast. They are promising us several days of sunshine after the weekend, but I won’t believe it until I see it – as should always be the case with weather forecasting here.

Even with the uncooperative weather, the seasons still move forward. Sunset is now after 21:30 and sunrise earlier than I want to think about. The next time the sky is clear, the sun will have moved far enough north now that I’ll see it setting over the sea from my house, no longer blocked by the mountains to the west. And while a cold spell can return anytime, the spring thaw in well under way and the first signs of green are begging to appear. Whatever new snow which may fall now won’t last long on any sun exposed terrain.

Eventually summer will arrive…

Speaking of summer. I have made the decision to cancel all summer photo workshops. I also had several private tours for early June which I was holding out hope for, but it is not looking likely. Hopefully the autumn can continue as normal, but I am unsure on that as well. If the borders do open before then, then I will only take bookings for private tours during summer.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 11
1/30 second
WB Daylight


Friday Photo #380 – Spring Storms

Photo: Storm over coast of Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 8, 2020. 13:06

Last week during one of the big storms I waited for a pause in the rain before walking down to the coast to checkout some of the action. The wind was blowing strongly – and actually blew me over/made me slip in the mud on my way back home. Out at the coast all I could do was sit, as it wasn’t safe to stand – especially for my camera!

This past weekend another big storm arrived, though it was a north wind, blowing the waves onshore, so not really possible to photograph from my area. And even the last days, which now feel almost calm, the wind has been blowing at near gale force. The wind seems endless this year.

I always find it difficult to photograph a stormy sea. When the big wind gusts arrive, everything turns into chaos and any composition I thought I might have had either disappears or just doesn’t look nearly as dramatic as the moment was. Especially shooting from sea level into a mostly grey sky, the scene looses all the contrast of the sea spray blowing off the waves.

In this scene I tried to put the distant mountain (Veggen) into the background for a little contrast to the flat grey sky. But even then, it is mostly just waiting and hoping that the wind gust arrives at the right time with the wave in the right location, etc. Just luck mostly. But even then, it’s also hard to give a sense of scale to such a scene.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
78mm
ISO 250
f 5.6
1/1000 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