Friday Photo #421 – Himmeltindan

Photo: Last light over the peaks of Himmeltindan and Ristind, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 29, 2021. 14:35

I don’t post panos very often because I think they’re too small on the computer screen, but for this image from today’s sunset, a pano was the best representation of the scene.

After a dry winter, the the central and western islands of Lofoten received around 20-30cm of snow on Monday night, immediately turning the islands into a winter wonderland which has so far been missing this season. And even better, the temperatures have remained cold and the wind has mostly been calm all while the weather has been fantastic.

It is unfortunate that this winters photo workshops have been canceled, as compared with the struggles of last years terrible weather and the struggle to find light, this year would be a dream for guiding, as there is literally light everywhere! But I’ve been out enjoying it for myself, and hunting for new locations which might work for future workshops.

I had passed by this scene yesterday with a completely clear sky. The full moon had already risen but was too far to the right of Ristind for any sort of useable composition. So I made plans to return today. However, the weather had other plans and a layer of clouds on the northern horizon blocked any possibility of me getting the moonrise photo I was looking for. Luckily, the light itself was fantastic, much better than the previous day. So, moon or not, I still ended up with something nice I think!

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
ISO 100
f 5.6
1/100 second
WB Daylight
6 image panoramic

Friday Photo #420 – Thin Ice

Photo: Cracks in the thin ice on lake Storvatnet, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 19, 2021. 14:13

Just after getting back to my van on Tuesday afternoon from a hike up around Nesheia, what had been a previously mostly grey sky erupted in color. Luckily, lake Storvatnet was just around the corner and had had some cool looking lines running across the surface. So I headed there in a rush.

The lines and patterns on the lake were some of the coolest Ive seen here for a while. Just a perfect light dusting of snow contrasting with the long cracks formed from the freezing surface. It was nearly perfect except for one thing: The ice was too thin to safely walk on.

I scrambled around the lake shore looking for a nice leading line from one of the cracks, but just couldn’t find anything. If only I could have walked 2-3 meters onto the lake to fine the perfect line, I probably would have gotten one of my best ever photos of the lake. But no. I had to painfully watch from the rocks on the shoreline as the light eventually began to fade. So close, but breaking through thin ice is not something I want to experience in this life.

And so I tried to shoot what photos I could. But nothing quite worked. So close…

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

Friday Photo #419 – Northern Lights

Photo: Northern lights fill the sky over Skagsanden beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 11, 2021. 19:06

It was not even dark yet on Monday afternoon when I thought I noticed faint hints of northern lights dancing in the twilight sky. at 16:15 I took a test photo from my backyard just to see if my eyes were playing tricks on me or not. Nope, it was aurora! By 16:30 I was taking my first photos at Storsandnes beach. What followed was an aurora that lasted the entire night over Lofoten and probably the best show of the last two winters.

Around 18:00 the northern lights calmed down for a little while – which is normal, the northern lights often fluctuates in levels of activity/brightness throughout the night. The beach I was at wasn’t the best, as the aurora were too far overhead and towards the south, so I took the chance to relocate, this time to Skagsanden beach.

Covid has kept the tourists away, but even so, I’m always somewhat hesitant about Skagsanden these days, as it can get crowded with tripods! To my surprise, I arrived to an empty parking lot! I got down to the beach and was focusing my camera just as the sky exploded with light. I didn’t even have time to adjust my shutter speed before I was taking the first shot just to make sure my camera was in focus. Then I took a couple seconds to actually find a better composition.

This photo is from about 20 minutes later, after the aurora had calmed slightly, but still filling much of the sky. This is generally slightly easier to photograph anyhow, as the highly active aurora can be moving so fast through the sky, that it can be difficult to compose into a shot. What can also occur on active nights is that the aurora moves ‘beyond’ the location your at. I.e. If the best composition is is facing northwest to north, but the aurora moves to the west or southwest, often times then becoming obscured by mountains as well. This can often happen at several of Lofoten’s beaches – sometime the aurora is just too high in the sky to work with the location.

But luckily, this wasn’t the case on Monday and Skagsanden works well as a location for active northern lights. A car or two would occasionally pull into the parking lot, but despite my fears of seeing 20 vans show up and a line of headlamps marching across the beach in front of me, only two other photographers eventually showed up in the hour or so I was there.

Winter tourism on Lofoten has been steadily increasing since 2015 or so, to the point where it has felt busy and crowded at times in recent years – especially in the popular destinations. But this winter will be quiet – I’ve had to cancel all my winter photo tours, and I image most others have as well – Norway currently requires 10 day quarantine + a covid test on entry. So this winter will likely feel like the old days, where I could wander around and hardly ever see another tripod. If the idea of the winter crowds has been putting you off of visiting Lofoten, then this year might be the one chance you have to experience the winters as they used to be and to find yourself alone at Skagsanden beach while the northern lights dance in the sky overhead…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
ISO 2000
f 2
3 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #418 – Second Sun

Photo: January sunrise/sunset over Nappstraumen, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 8, 2021. 12:39

The sun has returned to Lofoten! For the last two days, the sun has been visible again across the whole of Lofoten. Yesterday, Jan 7, was even better, with a perfectly clear sky and the sun floating along the southern horizon. But I was lazy and didn’t take any photos of it – the lack of snow in the mountains has left me somewhat uninspired for hiking lately.

Today, the sun returned again, but this time with a fiery sky. I was a again a bit slow to start my day, but on the way to Leknes I stopped by Nappstraumen for a couple images – I couldn’t completely ignore light like this.

Though with the sun still low on the horizon, and a fair amount of clouds around, the light was mostly focused in the direct south, not leaving me too many compositional possibilities. I shot a few wider images, but I couldn’t quite get the feeling I was looking for out of the foreground – the wave were quite small and the tide was low, forcing me out onto the seaweed, which I don’t think looks very nice.

So instead, once the sun popped around the bottom of Skottind, I put on the telephoto lens for a closer detail shot. By now the illuminated clouds had also pulled back quite a bit, leaving much of the sky a flat grey. Perhaps I should have also shot an image at 14mm to use as a reference. Not the best composition in the world here and I would have rather shot wider with a more dynamic foreground if there had been one. But at least it was a nice colorful sunrise over this part of Lofoten.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
ISO 100
f 8
1/60 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #417 – A New Year

Photo: New Year twilight at the eye of Uttakleiv, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 1, 2021. 12:43

The new year has arrived with the soft pastels of winter twilight. Cold and clear, perfect weather for the first day of 2021 and a slightly slow start. Feeling lazy, I headed for a Lofoten classic, the Eye of Uttakleiv.

Lots of locals were out and about enjoying the weather, but at will likely be the trend for most of the winter and probably the first half of the year, no other photographers were around. Though had I not been lazy, I should have probably used the nice weather to head up a mountain. But there are still 4 months of winter left, so plenty of time for that in the days and weeks ahead.

You can see in the photo that the snow is still quite thin on Lofoten. It’s nice for driving, having the roads clear and mostly dry. But for photography, a little more white in the mountains would be nice! Soon hopefully.

The moon has been shining bright the last days, though in this photo it’s just a small spot above the rock on the left. It would have gone blurry from the 30 second exposure anyhow. I used a dark polarizer filter to actually bring out the reflection in the foreground water to add contrast against the dark rocks – though this did slightly make the ‘eye’ less visible, I liked the overall feel of the image better this way.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
ISO 100
f 14
30 seconds
WB Daylight
Breakthrough Photography 6 stop dark polarizer