Friday Photo #364 – Christmas Aurora

Photo: Christmas northern lights, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 25, 2019. 23:09

364 ÷ 52 = 7 years of Friday photo posts – you can go checkout my first post from January 11, 2012 – Friday Photo #1. Some weeks I’m not quite sure how I continue, what more can I write about that hasn’t already been said?

When possible, I try to post as current of content as possible, or maybe some special conditions or something. That way I can at least keep it as a bit of a news feed. I’ve even thought of starting some sort of online news-ish report that maybe would come out once a month or so, as there is a lot of tourism related stuff which is discussed in the local news papers and such, but only in Norwegian – even though it is actually visitors who should know about it.

In the times coming up, when I’ll be away on photo workshops for extended periods of time and have to write multiple posts in advance I find myself running out of words more frequently. Though this is also do to ebook updates, which also remove my motivation for writing – my head only has so many words in it!

The posts will keep coming – but if anyone has any topics they’d like to hear about suggestions are appreciated!

I guess none of the above actually had anything to do with today’s photo – A small little aurora late on Christmas evening. Overall, it has been a pretty poor season for northern lights so far, with many quiet or low activity nights, even with clear skies. Though I am also a little pickier than I used to be, and if I only see a faint glow low on the horizon, I often don’t even find the motivation to walk down to my beach only a few minutes away. And truth be told for this photo, if It hadn’t been Christmas, I probably wouldn’t have gone out and stuck with Netflix for the evening instead.

I have made some updates to the northern lights page. There is more to come, but I want to get the information out to people who have bough the Seasons on Lofoten – Winter ebook first – with the 4th edition coming out in late January hopefully.

I want to try and provide a little more clarity about photographing the aurora and different levels of brightness, etc. Or that is to say, photographically, a 30 second exposure with a kp2 can make the sky look just as green and ‘full’ as a 1 second exposure with a kp5 – but this is just for the camera and the viewer of the finished photo – which for some people might be all that matters. For the person standing there, these will be wildly different experiences – perhaps even a bit anticlimactic and ‘ehh’ on the kp2 side, to shouting with joy at the sky dancing in a full solar storm as coronas swirl overhead of kp5.

I sometimes get a little annoyed reading online content and reporting about northern lights. First when some travel blogger spent a night in Tromsø and saw some crappy dull aurora and then writes half a book about the aurora not being that great or like in the photos. No! they just experienced a low activity aurora in a short period of time – the sky does not dance every night! If it did, then it wouldn’t be special anymore…

And there is the reverse of this is with the same experience, low level aurora, but making it seem like they had fantastic aurora’s night after night to fulfil some expectations that their trip was productive, or to impress followers or sell products or something. This story often comes from the ‘aurora chasers.’ Bragging about sleepless nights driving hundreds of kilometres through winter storms. Ya, thanks guys for making it look cool to drive sleep deprived on dark icy roads. I guess it’s not your family or friends who might meet one of you head on after you’ve drifted to the wrong side of the road.

But maybe the above is one of the reasons I keep writing these articles – And perhaps that is the root of this website – to describe Lofoten how it is. No marketing BS from tourism agencies looking to fill hotel rooms. No ’OMG! 10 BEST SECRETS!’ lists to get referral link sales from Youtubers who spent 2.5 days here flying their drone over Reine before darting off to the next destination for the next ‘OMG! 10 BEST!’ list. And no steepened and dramatised mountains with photoshopped auroras from Instagram influencers looking grow their followings just as they have done to the mountains to sell their Lightroom presets. Just plain Lofoten – the good and the bad…

Happy new year folks, see you in 2020!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
ISO 2500
f 1.8
8 seconds
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
ISO 50
f 11
0.8 second
WB Daylight

New 2020 Lofoten Photography Workshop Dates

I’ve just published the dates for four new photo workshops in 2020. 3 of the workshops are mountain hiking tours, occurring June, July and September.

For more info, head on over to the PHOTO TOURS PAGE

2020 Lofoten Mountain Photo Tour - Wild West
September 2020 Lofoten Mountain Photography Workshop - Exploring Autumn
Lofoten Photo Tour - Amazing Views Tours Autumn 2020
Lofoten Photo Tour – Amazing Views Tours Autumn 2020

Friday Photo #362 – Polar Night

Photo: No neutral density filters needed – Mørketiden – the polar night over December’s winter landscape, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 11, 2019. 14:15

The polar night has reached Lofoten – The sun will not shine on the islands again until the first weeks of January once it rises above the southern horizon again. December is the dark time of year here in the north. We live are lives in brief moments of twilight before the night covers the land again.

For those living on the southern side of the islands, noon can mean a horizon full of color in a continuous sunrise/sunset. For those of us on the north however, we live in perpetual twilight and darkness. A world of soft pastel pinks on a good day and blues and greys on the rest. The Christmas lights decorating my neighbors’ houses are the only colors I see in my valley now.

Lofoten has been getting hit with some heavy weather lately. It seems as soon as one storm ends, the wind switched directions and arrives from the other side. Luckily I decided to take a southern holiday this year at the end of November, and missed the worst of things. But this wind has been blowing strong since my return, and there is no doubt more to come during the next months – It is more common than I fall asleep to the sounds of my house shaking in the wind than not.

I photographed this from my hallway window. I had been down at the beach earlier in the day and would have likely posted one of those photos today. But once I was home, the light of my neighbour’s house caught my eye in the afternoon darkness – during a brief pause in the day’s snow and rain. While the beach photos were nice, they were just kinda normal winter photos. This, to me, was a better illustration of the polar night and the land I’ll live in until the sun returns.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
ISO 31
f 14
76 seconds
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
ISO 100
f 9.5
30 seconds
WB Daylight