Friday Photo #391 – Kleivheia Mist

Photo: Clearing mist over Skrådalstind from Kleivheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 2, 2020. 23:13

After several days of misty grey clouds and wind the sky was finally filled with nice puffy white clouds yesterday. Actually one of the nicer looking days (photographically) in weeks, as it has either been fully blue sky, or fully grey; not much in between. Though it my preference for hiking at night still under the midnight sun, perhaps I waited a little too long.

Sometimes the hardest part about hiking on Lofoten is actually choosing where you want to go. Even more so when you’re trying to be produce and choose somewhere with the best chances of getting some decent photos. I can always choose the old reliable classics, but as I’m still attempting to work on a new hiking guide this summer – whether that ever happens is still to be decided, mostly because I can’t afford to be driving in circles every day while I’m essentially unemployed thanks to Corona – I’m at least trying to choose some areas which I haven’t visited in a while. Last night that was Kleivheia, a rarely visited peak on the north side of Unstad.

The hiking isn’t very fun for the ascent of the steep, grassy gully – and even worse for the descent. And so as I saw heavy grey clouds blocking out the sun before I was even half way up, I thought about just turning around. Luckily I had a good podcast in my earphones and really, what else was I going to do otherwise? Not much. So I continued.

I came up there originally hoping to get nice golden light shining across Unstad bay and village. But that was just grey. I continued to the other side of the ridge, where there was some nice light over the Eggum side of the coastline, but it’s not the best composition in the world. So I just continued on towards the top.

I could see the next wave of clouds approaching and felt the first drops of rain. A rainbow appeared to might right, but I wasn’t in a good location. But it was one of those nice moments as a photographer when the light is moving fast and you’re racing to get into position – somewhere! Anywhere!

After the rain passed and the sun emerged again the valley between me and Skrådalstind began to fill with a swirling mist. Again, running from my previous composition I tried to get somewhere with at least a decent composition. But all the elements were moving so quickly that there wasn’t really time to fine tune a composition and within a few minutes the mist concealed the summit and the moment was lost. But it was worth the effort.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/30 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #390 – Midsummer Sun

Photo: Midsummer’s eve: the sun’s lowest point on the year’s longest day. Offersøykammen, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 21, 2020, 01:04

Last Saturday night I hiked up Offersøykammen to watch shoot the sun on the summer solstice (which was Sunday). Hot and cloudless – like it had been for most of a week already – the endless blue skies were getting a little boring photographically. But I wanted to photograph the sun at its lowest point in the sky, which occurs just after 01:00.

Beyond just shooting a single photo, this image is actually taken out of a time-lapse sequence which I shot from about 22:30 – 03:00. If you follow me on Instagram (@Distant.North), you would have seen I posted that video already. I was using too cameras: one at 24mm and this one at 14mm. If I’me going to sit up on the mountain all night, I might as well be 2x as productive.

The night was quite warm and there was a surprising amount of mosquitos, something which generally aren’t a problem in west Lofoten – this was probably the worst I’ve experienced them, my legs and ankles are still itching!

It was a little difficult to choose the correct location, knowing that I would likely want to pull a still frame (this photo) out of the time-lapse sequence, where both products might have wildly different crops: 2:3 for this and maybe 16:9 or maybe 2.35:1 if I want something more cinematic looking. I also wanted to be relatively sure that the sun wouldn’t sink below any of the background mountains for too long – in this case it only disappeared behind Himmeltindan for a couple minutes when it was well on its way to rising again.

There were a couple mountains I had in mind, but Offersøykammen seemed the easiest and safest – though perhaps not the most spectacular. But it was hot and I was kinda lazy, so… Perhaps if there had been a bit more of a dynamic sky, I would have tried something better. But really, I can’t be too motivated for hiking hours in the heat for a cloudless blue sky.

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 13
1/125 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #389 – Midnight Zoom

Photo: Rays of the midnight sun shining from behind Skottind from Ballstadheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 15, 2020. 23:54

Photo: Hazy mountain layers in light of midnight sun from Ballstadheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 16, 00:19

The power of zoom – one location and two completely different photos: 14mm and 200mm. I had been a bit indecisive as to where to go on this night. We’ve now had over a week of nearly cloudless skies over Lofoten and there is only so much you can do with the sun in a clear sky.

With the summer solstice tomorrow, when the sun it’s at its lowest at 01:00, it still remains well above the horizon during this period. So going to the coastal peaks on the yttersia can be a little boring – with just the sun sitting over the ocean – though maybe I try and shoot a time lapse of this in the next few days. Otherwise, finding something to put in front of the sun is the best in such good weather.

initially I drove to Justadtind, but I didn’t quite feel up to that long hike. Next I drove to Skottind, but again, something just felt off. Almost thinking of going home and being lazy, I finally drove to Ballstad and decided to go up the little hill of Ballstadheia so I would at least do something!

I took my time, wandering around the maze of trails to several different overlooks before making my way to the high point of the hill. Just as I arrived, I could see the sun emerging from around Skottind as well. This sent me into a slight panic for a moment thinking I might have missed my timing by only 1-2 minutes. But luckily its possible to walk down the mountain ridge, back into the shadow, find a new composition, and wait for the sun to emerge around the mountain again. Actually pretty perfect and much better than I had planned! I repeated this for several shots.

But also in the distance I could see the sea haze glowing in the sunlight. Switching to 200mm, I shot several compositions of this as well before the sun moved too far into the scene causing too much lens flare. again, I just had lucky timing and luck for the conditions – I wasn’t expecting such cool haze.

Looking at the two images next to each other, you can seen the area in the first photo where I then zoomed in and shot for the second image. But if you looked at each image individually, it would be easy to think they were shot at different locations at different times and not more of less from the same location within less than 30 minutes.

One of the most frequent questions during my photo workshops is, ‘What lens should I use?’ And my common response is, ‘What do you want to photograph?’ (with further detailed explanations of course…) This is a perfect illustration of that: You’re standing on a mountain watching the sun emerge from around another mountain. What lens should you use? There isn’t just one answer…

Camera Info Photo 1:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 13
1/10 second
WB Daylight

Camera Info Photo 2:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
200mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/500 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #385 – Midnight Sun Season

Photo: A sun that never sets – beginning of the midnight sun season, Unstad beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 22, 2020. 02:03

Last night was the first night the sun set after midnight for the year – and still a full month ahead of the summer solstice. Luckily this coincided with a perfect blue sky, perhaps even a bit boring photographically, but at least the horizon was clear. And so I headed up Helligberget – the Holy Mountain – above Unstad to see.

I should note that on Lofoten, the term ‘Midnight Sun’ is generally used to describe the period in which the sun is above the horizon 24 hours a day: i.e. never setting. Other locations might use the term a little more loosely to mean setting after midnight, but not necessary 24 hour sunlight, which only occurs north of the Arctic Circle.

However, since I was a few hundred meters up a mountain, I essentially transported myself into the future with my elevation. And so from my vantage point, the sun remained about 1/3 above the horizon at its lowest point around 01:00. Had I been down on the beach, the sun would have been fully below the horizon.

This photo is actually just a single frame from part of a time lapse I was shooting – which may or may not ever see the light of day, but I captured the full sequence of the sun drifting across the horizon from a little before it set until after it began to rise again – which is this image here, from just after 02:00. I didn’t use a photo from earlier in the night as it wasn’t as photogenic for a single still image – as at midnight the sun was in the far left of the frame, and felt somewhat out of balance to use here. The overall composition is also not the best, as capturing the full movement of the sun for the time lapse was my purpose, so my composition was constrained by the sun’s movement.

Today, the sun is shining again and it’s 13 degrees out! Feels like summer and time for a bbq – so I’ll watch the sun from by yard…

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/100 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #379 – Uttakleiv Twilight

Photo: Himmeltindan rises over Uttakleiv in April twilight, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 10, 2019. 21:57

Last year on this evening, April 10th, I headed up Veggen with a forecast of clear sky to try and catch my last northern lights of the season, which I did – Friday Photo 327. This year has been a completely different story. I don’t think I’ve been camping at all – although Covid-19 is a little responsible for that, but the weather has been equally uncooperative. I can barely remember any calm days, though there were a few luckily, but camping weather there hasn’t been much of at all. The wind seems to have never stopped blowing this year.

Even this past Wednesday a quick to strong storm passed Lofoten, taking several barn roofs with it. But outside of the bigger storms this winter, was just a constant, never ending wind. Stronger wind than I’d like to test my tent against on a mountain top – and I’ve already broken a tent here over Easter 2017.

And so I spend most my days staring out the window and watching the rain, or today, snow clouds sweep over Himmeltind which sits across the sea from my village. One minute I can see the mountain, the next its gone. And repeat…

The northern lights will leave Lofoten’s sky next week. And soon after that the winter storms hopefully! I’ve had enough for this year – words I write as my house is whistling and shaking in the wind on this Friday afternoon as the next snow flurry arrives.

But despite the weather, these ever brightening twilight nights of the next weeks are a sight that summer is on its way. Even now in mid April the horizon glows at night. Soon the sun will hang over the sea in the north at midnight, and shine over Lofoten 24 hours a day. I can’t wait!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
18mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
8 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #378 – Uttakleiv Aurora

Photo: Northern lights reflect in the Eye of Uttakleiv, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 1, 2020. 23:40

I wasn’t planning to post another northern lights image today, but this was the only time I’ve been out shooting since last weeks image, so here you go. While it seems like the constant wind has continued, I also just don’t have much motivation to go out at the moment. I’ve look at the mountain out my window and tell myself, ‘Tomorrow I’ll go up there for sunset.’ That tomorrow has not come for two weeks so far…

In a small attempt to find a silver lining in our current situation, it feels live Ive been in a time machine and transported back 10 years in time to the Lofoten I remember from the old days: Empty and quiet. When winter was the season of fishermen and little more.

And so with this in mind and a rare clear sky Wednesday night, I headed to Uttakleiv and found myself pulling into a completely empty parking lot. Maybe only on a night in November or December is this possible these days while in February or March I won’t even go near the place anymore – too much chaos for me to enjoy. But in these strange corona times, I found myself alone for hours, like the Lofoten I first met decades ago…

In other fronts, I haven’t been completely idle. The 3rd edition of West Lofoten Hikes eBook should be published in a couple week. With 8 new mountain hikes added, as well as the beaches that I hadn’t previously included, it will now have 40 mountain hiking destinations in west Lofoten. So if you’re able to get here in summer, there’ll be plenty of mountains to keep you busy for a while!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 1600
f 2.5
8 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #374 – Wind

Photo: Windy ridges of Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 20, 2020. 12:39

Each winter here on Lofoten seems to have it’s own defining element. For 2020 it will be the wind, and maybe rain for 2nd place. Defiantly not on the list is sunlight, which at the time of my writing this text in late February, I’ve still only seen the sun on 5 days out of a possible 48. Maybe I’ve missed a couple chances here and there, but even doubling the days to 10, that’s still an 80% overcast rate so far this year. Pretty dismal, even for here.

Even with the bad weather, I try to keep my camera with me as much as possible when out and about on my daily life. I used to be kinda bad about this, but enough times of missing fantastic light while just going to the supermarket or gym in Leknes taught me the lesson to always be prepared.

This photo is one of those occasions. I had to drive to Svolvær to drop off my visa application and even with a bad weather forecast, I tossed my camera bag in the van. The entire drive was mostly uneventful until I was 5 minutes away from getting back home. Then, the sun peaked through the high clouds shining on the ridgeline of Haugheia. Comibined with the wind blowing of the light dusting of snow that had fallen, it created a cool back-lit scene.

Driving along the E10 I wished I could have stopped in the middle of the road, as that was the best angle for distant Skottind and the windy ridge lines. But I knew the parking area at Skreda would be pretty good as well, so I continued there. A quick lens change to the 70-200, and then I shot hand held.

After only a minute or two the sun had moved away and the ridge was in the shadow of clouds again. Lucky timing that I was even able to get a shot!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
200mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/1600 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #368 – First Sun

Photo: Skottind rises over Ballstad in the soft January twilight, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 18, 2020. 13:35

And just like that, after weeks of bad weather, the sun returned to Lofoten both on Saturday and Sunday. Though this didn’t last long and by Sunday night 30 m/s winds were shaking my house again as another low pressure system swept over the islands.

Waking up Saturday I could see blue sky overhead. I wasn’t sure where to go, my original idea had to been to head west and hike something on Flakstadøy, but as soon as I drove around the corner to Napp I could see a fair amount of clouds in that direction. I could also see there was a layer of cloud low on the southern horizon that was blocking the sun.

The weather was still the nicest it had been in weeks, and so with little expectations I headed for an easy hike up Ballstadheia as at least the mountains were covered in a nice layer of snow. Getting higher up the mountain I could see the cloud layer was thiner to the west and there might be a chance that the sun would get out of it before setting. And eventually it did.

The sun is still low on the horizon and the light soft, but I saw my shadow for the first time in 6 weeks! Actually I had to struggle with a few shots as the shadows of my tripod legs interrupted several compositions I was attempting. Nothing too complain too much about though!

I also wanted to show this winder image so you could see that while the mountains have snow, the low ground remains almost completely snow free in west Lofoten. It is such a fine balance of only a few degrees here between a complete white winter wonderland landscape or a brown and soggy one. Just 2-3 degrees cooler and we’d be skiing in epic powder with all the precipitation we’ve had in the last month.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14-24 f/2.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 13
1/10 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #363 – Noon Sunset

Photo: Fire in the December sky, Nappstraumen, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 13, 2019. 12:39

Despite being fully cloudy over all of northern Lofoten for as far as I could see from home, the strong southern near-gale of the day led me to believe that there would maybe be a chance of clear sky visible from the southern side. So I threw my camera bag in my van as I headed to Leknes in the late morning. As I drove along Nappstraumen and could see the clear southern horizon over the Vestfjord, with heavy clouds over Lofoten, hmm, something interesting might happen…

After finishing my errands and getting a coffee to go, I could see the sky was already lighting up just before noon. If it had been a purely photographic day, then I would have already been in place somewhere – As my location in the center of Leknes, and needing to get somewhere with a open view towards the south meant I was at least 20-30 minutes from most places. The quickest location, though not ideal, would be to park near Skreda, with views over Nappstraumen.

The sky was even brighter when I arrived 10 minutes later. And the wind was blowing! I immediately headed out to one of the rock outcroppings – I was also wearing my rubber boots – but I could see the water was coming in quickly. A quick check to the tides and yep, high tide was in about an hour. So I didn’t want to hang out there too long!

In the crazy winds, it took me a bit of wandering along the shoreline before I found an interesting enough foreground, and a place were I wasn’t getting completely soaked in crashing waves and spray – though as you can see in the photo, I bit of water got me.

It took me a while before I eventually arrived at this final location, though still not entirely happy with the composition – and by now the sky was beginning to fade a bit. And while I have many photos with more color in the sky – also due to shooting a tighter composition, I think this image works a little nicer. I actually found a final composition that I liked even more, but by then too much of the sky had faded.

Now, this image could just be a normal sunset anywhere in the world. The difference here being that I’m facing almost 180˚ south, and it’s 12:39 in the afternoon. The sun remained below the horizon the entire time, Yet just high enough for about an hour of sunrise – sunset color in the clouds. And in only 6 months time, I’ll have to be looking the opposite direction, face due north, to watch the midnight sun gently floating above the sea…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
17mm
ISO 50
f 11
0.8 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #361 – Unstad Winter

Photo: Unstad beach covered in a dusting of light snow, Unstad, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 10, 2019. 08:52

Unstad in white. It was a strange snow on this morning, falling almost like ash and just dusting the landscape. The light was flat and almost contrast-less, but that fit the mood of the scene and turned the landscape almost colorless. If I did any black and white photography, this would have been a perfect morning for it.

I shot elsewhere on the beach first, going for a cleaner images of just snow, sand, sea, and sky. But further down the beach was this pile of seaweed washed ashore by one of the numerous winter storms of 2019.

If there had been less snow I would not have taken the image, nor if there had been more snow. But somehow, with this sugar coating of white on the beach and seaweed, it seemed interesting. A pile of seaweed should be boring and ugly. But on this day, in this light, it worked I think.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 9.5
30 seconds
WB Daylight