Friday Photo #401 – Kirkefjord Rain

Photo: Merraflestind rising into the rain over Kirkefjord, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 28, 2020. 14:34

The weather forecast was more promising than reality. What showed mostly sun and some clouds turned into mostly clouds and rain. Such is the weather on Lofoten. Even so, I found myself on the ferry from Reine on a Friday afternoon heading out to one of the beaches for the weekend – the ferry has now switched to the winter schedule now, so there are no Saturday departures.

As the boat approached Kirkefjord the next wave of rain arrived. Off to the right was a nice rainbow, but not it any photographic position. More interesting to me was the layer of sunlight shining across the shoreline village with the mountains rising into the dark rainy sky. As the ferry got closer, Merraflestind seemed to rise over the village like some ancient castle. I’ve been here dozens of times over the years, but never quite seen the scene like this before. Worth a quick snapshot from the front of the boat before an afternoon hiking in the rain!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
ISO 200
f 8
1/400 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #398 – Changing Seasons

Photo: Changing seasons – low August clouds sweep across the summit of Olstind, Hamnøy, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 22, 2019. 11:58

Every year in late August there comes a shift from summer to autumn. That’s not to say summer cannot have weeks of grey and dismal weather, which most years there is plenty. But in summer there is alway hope that the sun and warmth will come back again. By mid to late August, that hope begins to fade with each passing day. And as the sun circles lower and lower in the sky, the winds become a little more frequent until that first autumn storm arrives, letting us know summer is really over.

But with the changing weather comes more interesting conditions and the beginning of rainbow season with the more frequent passing rain showers. Though on other days, like it has mostly been since last weekend here, the clouds can be low and dark, and full of a misty rain which coats everything. But at times, even these clouds clear, giving you a hint of the mountains rising above.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
ISO 64
f 11
30 seconds
WB Daylight
B+W 10 stop ND filter
2 images – top, bottom

Friday Photo #396 – The Maelstrom

Photo: The Maelstrom – Mosken and Very rise in the distance across Moskstraumen, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 1, 2020. 22:32

Until last weekend I had only visited Lofotodden – The very western tip of Moskenesøy once before during a sailing trip in 2014 where we moored in Buvågen bay for a night. So when a friend informed my that they had a boat ride lined up for the weekend, I was excited to join in!

The Original plan had been to hike to both Refsvika and Hellsegga, but in typical Lofoten fashion, a heavy layer of summer fog enveloped the islands of Friday and well into Saturday. So we skipped Refsvika and just decided on a night camping on Hellsegga, a 600 meter high flat mountain rising over the southern end of Lofoten – basically the end of Lofoten.

From the southern side of Hellsegga one has fantastic views over Moskstraumen, one of the worlds strongest currents, and the islands of Mosken and Værøy. There is lots of folklore in Norway about Moskstraumen and whirlpools swallowing ships and sailors. But un this particular evening it looked quite calm in the fading summer twilight.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/50 second
WB Daylight
2 images – top, bottom for 4:5 ratio

Friday Photo #384 – The Long Winter

Photo: Winter without end – sea to summit snow over Kvalvika beach, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 14, 2020. 21:45

It has snowed for the last 10 days straight and it is currently snowing outside my window as I type this. I think May has had more winter weather than this year’s winter! I’m semi joking, but actually, the warmest day of the year was 10˚c on January 2nd. We’ve reached 8˚c a couple times since then, but the last weeks have remained cold. And with the long term forecast (as unreliable as that is anyhow) only showing up to 8˚c by the 24th of May, I’m not sure we’ll break the 10 degree boundary this month at all. And the one year were a calm, sunny spring is needed for us here in the north…

I attempted to head up Ryten on Wednesday evening, but having gotten a late start, I made terribly slow progress through the often knee deep snow. And so I made a detour to a side peak to at least catch some sunset light before returning to my van mostly empty handed.

Yesterday evening was attempt number two. I took a different route, the more direct one which I normally just use for skiing, not hiking. and though the snow was thinner, the spongy bushes underfoot made me wish I was on my skis – and once I was post holing through the beautiful 20cm powder on the upper slopes, I was even more depressed I wasn’t on my skis – it was better snow than I had skied on the mountain all year.

But I was there for photography, not recreation unfortunately, and my skiing abilities aren’t such that I can carry two camera, two tripods, and several lenses without severe risk of damage – and as Corona has made me unemployed for the summer, I can’t go breaking stuff at the moment, though that is already too late for my 14-24 lens which broke in April…

It is always windy on Ryten, and last night was no exception. I made sure to get an early start, knowing the snow would add some time to my normal hiking pace. I reached the summit around 19:00 – 4 hours before sunset. Maybe a little early!

Timing is everything for Ryten and Kvalvika. And at this time of year, the setting sun shines directly into the bay and across the beach, generally providing the best lighting conditions. Luckily, the snow actually makes this look like a winter image, but it’s not actually an image that can be taken in winter due to where the sun needs to be.

After several hours changing light – I was really up there to work on another project which may or may not ever see the light of day – and with cold feet, I headed down just before 23:00 as a large wave of snow was approaching from sea.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
ISO 40
f 11
60 seconds
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
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
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
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
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
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
ISO 100
f 4.5
1/5200 second
WB Daylight