Friday Photo #377 – Equinox Aurora

Photo: Equinox Aurora over Storsandnes beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 20, 2020. 21:35

Last friday was a stormy and windy day with passing snow showers and storm force wind gusts throughout the day. Sometime in the early evening I randomly looked out the window and saw a faint green band of aurora high in the sky. Hmm, wasn’t expecting that.

The next wave of clouds and wind and snow shook my house. But after I looked out again and the aurora was beginning to dance a little. Hmm, better get moving!

So I headed down the road to Storsandnes beach, arriving just as the sky began to explode in light. Somehow I knocked my camera out of focus after a couple shots – Which I didn’t catch for another minute, and had to run back up to the road to focus on the lights of a distant house.

I often sound like a broken record on photo workshops, reminding people to zoom in and check focus on images every few minutes, and it’s good I follow my own advice as well! It’s easy in the dark with gloves on to accidentally hit a button or the lens when recomposing or adjusting settings. I missed a first good display because of this, even though I was only out of focus for a minute before I caught it. But no worries, there was plenty more to come this night!

Without any moonlight, you can see the effect of the light pollution from Leknes and Gravdal on the clouds on the right side of the image. Usually with would disturb me, but on this image I kinda like it. It ads a bit of a surreal look to the image. Luckily I caught this light flash of pink as the aurora picked up in speed and danced across the sky. Even at a relatively fast shutter speed of 2 seconds for northern lights, you can see they are still quite blurry.

There was no high KP forecast and the weather was mostly terrible as well. This was just one of those nights where you just have to be here and maybe you get lucky.

This year as been a tough year for northern lights here on Lofoten. I was lucky that each of my 5 winter workshops I guided this season had at least one night of northern lights, but on a couple occasions it wasn’t until the final night of the trip – the 2nd time was due to the trip with my Swiss group being cut short due to the sudden quarantine regulations here in Norway due to covid-19 and having to get them on the soonest possible flight out of Tromsø and back home before everything shut down.

The main difficulty this year was the weathe. It’s been endlessly windy and cloudy this year. It wasn’t even until March that I had seen the sun on 10 separate occasions. I’d say this was my least productive aurora season since moving here in February 2016. There’s still a few weeks left, so who knows what might happen…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
ISO 2500
f 1.8
2 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #376 – Storm

Photo: Hold fast, all storms pass. Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 20, 2020. 11:05

We bring in the spring equinox with the passing of another polar low pressure and gale force winds sweeping across Lofoten. But a bigger storm has already hit Norway and the rest of the world, something that will not pass so easily.

It was last Thursday evening that I walked into the restaurant in Hamn on Senja with my workshop group. The hotel manager immediately walked up to us and said we were all on quarantine (Well, I technically wasn’t since I haven’t been outside of Norway since last year), and the message was clear. The world had changed.

Information was difficult to find. Were they allowed to leave? Would they get fined for leaving? Did they have to sit for 14 days alone in their cabins? With every hour the situation changed. Soon Denmark closed its borders entirely, in which Norway soon followed, then the rest of Europe and the world.

With the workshop already ending on Sunday, the hotel situation in Tromsø was uncertain, we decided that they should rebook flights back to Switzerland for Saturday morning. And thus in the 5:00 morning darkness and blowing snow showers we began a silent journey towards the airport and everyone got on the flight out of Norway.

I had to remain in Tromsø another night. And after the initial panic of the first days, things seemed to have calmed a bit and other than Tromsø feeling like a ghost town and new regulations for entering stores and disinfecting hands, one might not have noticed that anything was happening.

But getting home was just one step of the journey. The real struggle will be surviving the next weeks and months. The travel industry has been completely decimated across Europe (and I’m sure the rest of the world). Within a week, Norway now has the highest unemployment since the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the Kroner’s value has fallen off a cliff. What the future will be or how long this will last, no one can say.

Best of luck to everyone out there. Hold fast!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
ISO 100
f 10
1/60 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #375 – Stortind Waterfall

Photo: Mølnelva waterfall below Stortind, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 13, 2020. 15:24

It has been a strange winter photo season this year on Lofoten. The commonly popular places in former years – Uttakleiv, Haukland, Unstad, Reinehalsen overlook – seemed almost deserted at times, while more random and isolated places seem to have grown in popularity. Case in point, Mølnelva.

This small cascading river flowing across some slabby rocky just next to the E10 never seemed to popular in previous years. This year however, while I was out trying to take a couple last images for the update of Seasons on Lofoten: Winter ebook, it seemed to always have a crowd of photographers each time I drove by. It wasn’t until late on some stormy afternoon that I finally found the location deserted.

Perhaps it is a bit of confirmation bias – I was specifically looking at the river, so always noticed it was busy, while I’ve driven by it 1000’s of times before without paying much attention. But this wouldn’t be the only ‘lesser known’ location I’ve seen quite busy on Lofoten this winter photo season.

Maybe people are getting a little tired of the classic views and looking for something new. Maybe there’s some social media popularity about a certain location that I haven’t known about – though this mostly seems isolated to the Instagrammer drone flyers, who love to copy a shot once its been ‘found.’ As though it is some new discovery and hasn’t been there forever.

I don’t know…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14-24 f/2.8
ISO 31
f 16
0.6 second
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
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/1600 second
WB Daylight