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 #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

Friday Photo #360 – Winter Parking

Photo: Be careful where you try to turn around or park – it is not flat! Olenilsøy, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 6, 2019. 07:25

The winter tourism season is just around the corner here on Lofoten so this week is a public service announcement to watch where you attempt to turn around or park. What looks like a flat area on the side of the road most likely is a ditch, even if there is a parking area on the other side, such as this photo outside the fish factory at Olenisøy – near the Instagram popular ‘Sakrisøy cabin’ view point.

If you’ve driven on Lofoten in summer, then you’d see that nearly all sections of road have a 1 meter or so deep ditch just outside the roadway. This is to keep things from flooding most of the year. However in winter, this often becomes filled with snow and gives the illusion that is flat and safe to drive across. It is not!

As a general rule, you should never drive outside the border of the snow poles unless you are 100% sure what lies beneath. Even parking areas or driveways will often have just a small entrance, with ditches on either side.

And as you can see in this photo, there is nearly no contrast in the flat grey light. If not for the snow poles, it would be impossible to even see where the road was. Difficult driving conditions for sure, which require extra caution.

Luckily these girls, to quote, ‘We’re from Canada and should have known better!’ Didn’t have to wait too long before a tractor from a nearby factory drove by and could pull them out. But there aren’t many tow trucks on Lofoten, and some days become compete chaos on the roads, so it can be a long wait at times. I always carry a tow strap in my van and usually pull out 6-7 people each winter myself. And I usually get stuck at least once as well, usually from trying to get though too deep of a snowbank on my way home – good my neighbor has a tractor!

For a more detailed article about winter on the roads in Lofoten, see: WINTER DRIVING

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
42mm
ISO 250
f 5.6
1/100 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #357 – November Winter

Photo: It’s beginning to look a lot like winter – the classic Olstind view over Reine, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. November 8, 2019. 13:09

Is this November or February? In near complete opposite of last November’s non-stop rain, this year we are rewarded with a cold and calm November – so far! Usually I consider November to pretty much be the worst month of the year here, but this year we’ve been given an early start to winter.

I had meant to go hiking, but in the short days I was too late to leave the house and make the hour + drive. After heading a little bit into the mountains I figured I wouldn’t get to any summits before the sun was gone. So I returned to my van and just made a couple quick stops at the normal tourist view points.

I’ll be standing here and looking at this view a lot in the next coming months once my photo tour season begins in mid January. But I kinda think this might be the winter’s best version of this view – or at least it will take something quite special to improve on it I think.

Now I just need to set my alarm a little earlier so I can get up a mountain tomorrow!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
44mm
ISO 31
f 14
8 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #354 – Autumn tones

Photo: Autumn colors over Djurpfjord from the summit of Merraflestind, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 3, 2019. 16:16

Even though September is my favorite month for hiking on Lofoten, I have been a bit lazy this year. Actually, I only shot photos 2 days in September this year: once at the Lofoten Masters in Unstad, and one night of northern lights. A bit of a waste I guess. But this year I actually had slightly bigger plans.

After my summer twilight tour in late August, I had a couple nights at home before flying to Greenland for a workshop there (2020 dates to be announced soon), after which I was home for 1 night before driving to Sweden for 190km on the Kungsleden trail. When I finally got home in late September, I was exhausted. I know I missed some nice conditions this year, but that is ok. I have more years in the future, there is no rush.

Once home, I was mainly stuck behind the computer, save for a few days surfing, to put all my hiking into words. But finally after too many days of idleness, I needed to move the legs again. As usual, I headed west. I’m planning a fairly big update to my West Lofoten Hikes ebook, and while I was fairly productive in the summer, there are still a few peaks on the list which I hope to check off before winter sets in. Merraflestind was one of them.

And so I departed Flakstadøy under a nice October sun only to arrive on Moskenesøy under a layer of clouds – despite the forecast for sun! Oh well. It’s a short hike and I was there. So I headed up the mountain in the late afternoon and found myself alone on the summit for a few hours. I could tell sunset wasn’t going to do much, so headed down while there was still some light.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14-24 f/2.8
19mm
ISO 100
f 4.5
1/5200 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #352 – Olstind Rainbow

Autumn rainbow fills sky over Reine and surrounding mountains, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Rainbow over Olstind mountain peak, Sakrisøy, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 10, 2018. 08:45

With rain comes rainbows. And there was plenty of both last October – during one of the wettest autumns Lofoten has experienced for a while. But who wants to photograph boring blue skies anyhow? A little October rain is generally good for photography up here – Just as long as it’s not the flat grey, can’t see any mountains kind – which is more common in summer anyhow…

I could see the waves of rain flowing out of the back of the fjord with the sun at our backs – perfect rainbow weather. So I took my tour group up the small hill overlooking Sakrisøy, which is a nice place for sunrise anyhow, rainbows or not.

Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long before the first hints of color appeared, before forming into a 180˚ rainbow that seemed so close that one could almost touch it – I still haven’t found my pot of cold yet though.

With the rain blowing directly into us, it was a bit of effort to keep lenses dry, having to take a few quick shots, turn around to dry off, then repeat again. But the effort was well worth it. And the rainbows were just getting started on this day…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14-24 f/2.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/50 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #349 – October Snow

Photo: October snow flurries over Kirkefjord from Reinebringen, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 7, 2018. 10:41

Passing mid September the aurora season is well underway and any last trace of summer has faded away. But not all autumns are equal. While some years September has a higher average temperature than June, in others we get an early hint of winter.

2018 was a cold and wet autumn and during my workshop season I didn’t wear full rain gear on only 2 days out of 25 or so. The 2017 autumn had more days of sunny weather then the entirety of that summer – and night after night of dancing auroras. What will come in 2019 we will only find out as it arrives. But so far what had been a relatively dry summer has turned wet, making up for lost time perhaps.

And while snow can fall anytime from mid September or so, it is not that common anymore. So last year’s relatively early snowfall arriving while the land was still full of color was a nice treat. On this day in early October, I headed up Reinebringen on a blustery and cold day. What had been rain at sea level turned to snow by the summit as it swept across the landscape.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
58mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/50 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #347 – Reinebringen Rescue

Photo: Sea King rescue helicopter pickup up injured hiker from summit of Reinebringen, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 21, 2019. 18:29

I was sitting in my cabin at Sakrisøy when I heard the sounds of the helicopter, not something too common on Lofoten. Hmm, hope it’s not the Sea King – it was. As I looked outside, I could see the helicopter hovering over the ridge of Reinebringen in the grey misty sky. It had been a day of heavy rain and not really a day for hiking – especially on Reinebringen. And so a hiker had to be rescued after breaking a foot. I imagine the over eroded ridge had turned into quite a slippery mess of mud after all the rain. A slip could have been easy.

The Sherpa steps on Reinebringen, built to improve the safety of the previously heavily eroded trail due to overuse, have actually had the opposite effect, and turned Reinebringen into a place of regular helicopter rescues – 3 in August 2019 alone, and 4 since work was completed in mid July.

Part of this is just a numbers game, with 700-800 hiking the mountain each day. And part is probably because the steps give an illusion of safety, and so people who would not normally find themselves in mountains now suddenly are. This creates dangerous situations.

On August 23rd, two days after this photo, another rescue took place on Reinebringen. This time is was due to rockfall hitting a woman in the head – the 2nd incidence of this in August – and the reason why Reinebringen is now more dangerous than ever – too many people are on the mountain. More people = more falling rocks…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
200mm
ISO 200
f 5
1/160 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #346 – Aurora Season

Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis fill sky over yellow tent, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Camping below autumn northern lights on the summit of Andstabben, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September, 14, 2017. 22:11

With the growing nights of late August we can now begin the wait for the first northern lights appear in the sky over Lofoten. I often write that the autumn is a quite overlooked time of year for northern lights watching – many people having the false assumption that it is only a winter activity. But for camping below a sky of dancing green, September and October are the best months in my opinion with mostly mild temperatures and the mountains usually free of snow. Kinda the best of both worlds between summer and winter.

But like waiting for the return of the sun in January, you never quite know when that first faint bit of green will appear above the glowing horizon during the white night period of late summer – early autumn. But after around the 20th of August, if the sky is clear, it’s worth going out. These nights are wonderfully atmospheric anyhow, so even with no aurora, they are the best for camping – just dark long enough to make it worth carrying the tent all the way up the mountain.

So hopefully we have a good season this year. Last year was a little on the rainy side, but so far this summer has been good this year, so lets hope it continues. And as I’m guiding my last tour of the summer right now and had to write these words last weekend – Summer Twilight – I may have already seen the first aurora. Fingers crossed!

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
14mm
ISO 1000
f 3.2
6 seconds
WB Daylight