Friday Photo #8 – Unstad Winter

Snow covered Unstad Beach in Winter, Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: Snow covers Unstad Beach in the day’s last light, Unstad, Vestvågøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Jan 7, 2010.  16:30

A second composition following on the footsteps of Weekly Photo #1, Winter at Unstad Beach.  You can read more of the overall story of the day HERE.

When shooting in winter, and especially with fresh snow, it’s always important to take a moment to scan the overall scene and possible compositions and then proceed to work your way ‘into’ the scene.  IE, don’t immediately rush to the water’s edge and start shooting, as you’ll now have footprints over what previously would have been an untouched beach.  I often almost walk in a circle on my way to a scene, being careful to avoid spoiling future compositions.  If it’s one thing I’m annoyed by, it is footprints in an otherwise unspoiled landscape (applies to sandy beaches as well).

So, after feeling I had gotten the most of of the rocky areas of the beach (weekly photo #1 HERE), I proceeded to move to the sandy part of the beach.  Here is where good timing and luck also came to my aid: the combination of clearing winter storm with an incoming tide.  The incoming tide part is important.  If the tide had been outgoing, then there would have been a section of the beach already cleared of snow.  It would still look nice, but not as nice as this image, where the tide runs directly to the snow line.  Though maybe this is just a matter of personal opinion on my behalf.

I like the blank, almost abstract nature of the scene.  I have other compositions, including ‘normal’ 2/3 crops, but I think the 1:1 format helps create some tension between foreground and sky.

Technical info:  The 1:1 format is from two images, shifted vertically.  Ie: a top image and bottom image.  I don’t like to crop to 1:1, shooting two images provides a bigger file and more info to work with.  When moving elements are present in a scene, it’s best to try and keep them within a single frame, such as the sea in this image.  Otherwise it can sometimes present difficulties later.  Thus my choice to shift vertically and not horizontally.  [When using a long exposure such as this, it really isn’t too important.  But it’s a good thing to keep in mind for other scenes.]

Also, I again kept my WB on ‘shade’ setting to keep the blue channels from clipping, allowing for a better overall exposure.

Camera Info:
Nikon D700
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 200
f 5.6
25 sec
WB shade
Two Images – top, bottom. For square format
No Filters

Friday Photo #6 – Maervoll Autumn

Dramatic light over mountains and coast, Maervoll, Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: Afternoon light shines over Mærvoll and Himmeltindan, Vestvågøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Oct 7, 2011.  17:17

Thus far the day had consisted of flat, misty light and I’d only taken a couple boring photos.  As evening approached I headed out to Unstad to see if there might be some clearing on the horizon.  There was, but it was out of alignment with any photogenic composition.  And the wind, it was a bit too windy for my small little tripod to have any hopes of a sharp photo.  So at that, I packed up my gear and started heading back to Stamsund for the night.

Emerging on the other side of the tunnel, this scene came into view.  A light mistily rain was minutes away from falling on me and the sun had just started shining through a hole in the clouds, casting a soft golden light across the land.  So I stopped the car on the side of the road and raced to get a few photos before the rain arrived.

While I find the symmetry of this scene pleasing, there are also some distractions that can make a good composition a bit difficult.  Just out of frame to the right is a sit of power lines on the hillside.  And along the bottom of the fjord is the village of Maervoll.  Keeping the foreground dark helps reduce the impact of the village, while a tighter framing keeps out the power lines, although I think the scene would be a bit better if I could go a bit wider.

Camera Info:
Nikon D700
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
42mm
ISO 200
f 8
1/400 sec
WB Daylight
Single Image
No Filters

Friday Photo #5 – Ytterpollen Ice Flower

Ice formation of frozen coast of Ytterpollen, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Ice flower on Ytterpollen, Vestvågøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 8, 2012. 09:39

This image is a product of the highly changeable weather of the Lofoten Islands.  Two days prior, February 6, the temperature was -10.7˚C, the coldest day for the whole of 2012, and the islands were covered in a light dusting of fresh snow.  Two days later, when this photo was taken, the temperature had risen to over 4˚C and a night of rain had melted nearly all the snow covering the lower elevations, including the snow that had been covering the frozen sea ice here at Ytterpollen, between Borg and Eggum.

I had been mostly been sleeping in my rental car out at Eggum and had been eyeing this section of coast as I drove by, knowing there would be possibilities of something interesting.  The previous day, as the last light was disappearing from the sky I stopped near here, while there was still a covering of snow, and took a few photos of patterns in the ice cracks.  But as I drove by the following morning I noticed the nights rain had melted the remaining snow, and these ‘ice flowers,’ where rocks cracked through the sea ice, took on surreal in interesting shapes.  So of course, I parked on the side of the road and headed out for some photos.

First step onto the ice and I was immediately on my ass.  Good that I hadn’t yet taken my camera out.  To say that rain covered ice is slippery would be an understatement.  Any minor gradation in the ice and I would slide, and slide until I reached a low point.  I finally resorted to extending my tripod as using it as a makeshift walker along the lines of what old people use as I sort of skated and slid over the ice in a rather comical fashion.  The ice creaked and cracked under my bodyweight and I thought it possible that I might break through at anytime (I was safe and wouldn’t have fallen in any deep water, just maybe some when feet, though still not desirable.).

I found the symmetrical nature of this ‘ice flower’ to be the most appealing of them all, or at least the ones I was willing to risk getting to.  I made several compositions, with this extremely wide angle one, emphasising the foreground being the most appealing to me.

Technical info: The light was extremely flat so I had to increase the contrast in the image quite a bit in the foreground.  And As I was in the shade, while there was some sunlight on the clouds in the background, I brought down the sky a bit to give a bit more balance to the image.

Camera Info:
Nikon D700
Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0
16mm
ISO 200
f 13
1/13 sec
WB Daylight
Single Image
No Filters

Friday Photo #2 – Autumn on Offersoykammen

Offersoykammen lofoten islands hiking

Photo: Autumn sunset from summit of Offersøykammen, Vestvågøya, Lofoten Islands.  October 3, 2012

To coincide with this weeks new hiking guide, here’s a photo from the summit of Offersøykammen, a small, isolated mountain peak on the western most edge of Vestvågøya.

Autumn on Offersøykammen: The day so far had been a typical blustery Autumn day on Lofoten; clouds and rain, light and shadow.  But as late afternoon approached, and having nearly driven around the whole of Vestvågøya, I knew I had yet to capture an image that would represent the day, and more importantly, the brilliance of Autumn on the Lofoten Islands.  The previous day I had also hiked up Himmentindan, the highest peak on Vestvågøya, so I was telling my legs I’d give them a rest day.  And so with that in mind, I figured I might as well make the easy hike up Offersøykammen and see what the light would provide.

I reached the summit as the sun was hanging low over the mountains of Flakstadøya in the west, casting a brilliant golden light over the colourful Autumn foliage on the relatively flat summit.  I shot several compositions including various rocks as a foreground element, but this scene seemed the most balanced to me.

As I waited around for the sun to lower, I noticed a mist begin to form around the mountain below me.  This soon turned into light clouds blowing over the ridge, climbing higher and higher until the summit was surrounded by a sea of clouds.  I went back to the rocks and made this image, as I like the way the mist had a softening effect on the light.  10 minutes later, I was in a complete whiteout, the sun now invisible.  And so my hopes of sunset were gone.

As I left the summit and descended back below the clouds I soon discovered that I had pretty much chosen the only peak to be covered in clouds, nearly everything else remained free and clear in the softening evening light.  But looking back, I think the clouds had near perfect timing for the creation of this image, something maybe a bit more special than I would have seen had it not arrived.

Technical notes: Image is from a single RAW file processed twice: once for foreground and once for background.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
24mm
ISO 100
f 13
1/10 sec
WB Daylight
Single Image
No Filters

Friday Photo #1 – Unstad Winter

Winter storm over snow covered beach, Unstad, Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: Clearing winter storm, Unstad beach, Vestvågøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.   January 7, 2010

For me, photography on the Lofoten Islands is more than just pointing your camera at something scenic and pressing the shutter.  This is the first photo in my new ‘weekly photo’ series I’ll be posting every Friday.  For the most part I’ll be selecting from Images already appearing on this site, but from time to time I’ll also post some photos that didn’t make it here for some reason which I still find interesting.  In these posts I hope to go beyond simple descriptions of each photo and talk more about why I made the image, how I made the image, and other elements I think are of note.

Clearing storm at Unstad:  It had been snowing heavily since the night before.  I was now halfway through a short 5 day trip January trip to the islands.  A trip that so far had shown me the islands in a way I’d never seen, nor photographed before; and which produced some of my all time favourite images.

By the afternoon on this day I was beginning to grow frustrated with having spent the day driving in circles without finding any scenes to shoot.  Finally, as the light was fading I headed out along the snow covered road to Unstad to see if by chance the storm would have been deflected around the mountains. [note: Unstad can often have weather isolated from the rest of the islands.  It can be extremely windy while most other places are relatively calm.  Alternatively, Unstad can escape any detrimental weather hitting the rest of the islands.] Emerging at the far side of the tunnel, I found the snow had ceased falling, although it must have happened recently as the entire village and beach was completely covered and some of the residents had just pulled out their snow shovels and tractors.

I probably drove a little to fast in my excitement and desire to spend as much time as possible in the ever darkening light.  The road to the parking lot on the right side of the beach hadn’t yet been cleared, so I drove as far as I could until I got stuck. I got out and walked down to the sea from there.  Light is more important than a stuck car!

I spent the next hour shooting, until it was completely dark.  This image, produced sometime about halfway though, remains one of my favourites.  Something about snow covered rocks leading into the sea seem totally surreal for someone who grew up on the beach in southern California.

A few technical notes:  With few exceptions, I always keep my camera white balance set to daylight.  Firstly, because I learned photography on film, so I more of less know what I’m going to get in different lighting conditions.  And Secondly, since I often combine multiple images for panoramics or square crops, it’s best to have a consistent white balance; and if I leave my camera on auto, I’d forget to change it 90% of the time.  But, when shooting in dark, winter conditions like this, daylight white balance doesn’t work very well.  The reason is that there is so much blue light present in the scene, that you will clip the blue channels while red and green remain underexposed.  By switching to shade white balance, a more neutral exposure is produced, and thus you can make a properly exposed photo without clipping the blue channels.

Camera Info:
Nikon D700
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
ISO 200
f 16
25 sec
WB shade
Single Image
No Filters