Friday Photo #486 – Return Of Winter

Photo: Late April beach snow, Myrland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 28, 2022. 23:25

Winter has returned to Lofoten! After a period of mild weather that saw most of the low level and a fair amount of high level snow melted away with the promise of an early spring, a cold north wind has brought snow showers across the Islands in the last days April.

By last weekend, I had finally managed to clear the last of the winter snow drifts out of my yard and even some of the trees were beginning to bud. And I spent the evenings on two separate hikes in mild weather, though Sunday was a bit on the rainy side, on snow free trails. However, the weather has now shifted and winter has returned. Lofoten’s landscape is once again while from sea to summit.

Last night I wandered down to the beach a little before midnight. The sun is only about 7˚ below the horizon at the moment, so as the clouds clear, the night is brighter and brighter with each passing week. I’m not sure where I put my headlamp last, but I won’t need it again until late August.

There has been enough snow that even some of the beaches are covered in white, which isn’t even a regular occurrence in winter these days anymore. I wasn’t looking to shoot much, more to just record the conditions for future memory. The tide was incoming and one large wave swept across the beach – ruining the snow in the composition I was shooing, but forming this interesting pattern across the now revealed sand. I actually found the clouds somewhat distracting, and competing against the rocks and other elements of the foreground, and the sky was clearer overhead, but in an awkward position for where I should put the horizon. I would have liked to have the melt pattern a bit more centered, but it ended in a rock that didn’t work for the composition, so this diagonal was kinda the best I could do, though it leaves quite a bit of blank space on the left side of the image. I suppose I could always crop in tighter…

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon Z7 II
Nikon 14-30mm f/4
ISO 100
f 9
8 seconds
WB Daylight

Spring Cleaning and Updates

Haugheia | Lofoten Hiking Guide

Photo: Last light over Haugheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

With the midnight sun and the summer hiking season just over a month away, I’ve begun a bit of a spring cleaning of the website to get everything updated as much as possible. Truth be told, I’ve been a bit lazy over these last couple years as I didn’t see much need to follow up on things when no one was really traveling anyhow. But I guess with things getting back to normal, its time for a refresh!

It is actually a pretty difficult job to try and keep up with the changes on Lofoten. Even living here full time and reading the local newspapers and websites, there is lots of stuff which happens without me knowing unless I travel to a particular area. Most of this revolves around changes in parking – and unfortunately, an increasing amount of paid parking is required for many hiking locations. Or parking areas are closed or moved, or shuttle buses are going to run, they kinda do, then they stop – such as for Kvalvika and Ryten in the Fredvang area, where it seems like the on the ground logistics change almost monthly. I try to keep things as accurate as possible, but I do fall behind, especially these last two years.

So whats coming up?

I spent most of today separating the hikes into their own page and menu location: Hiking Lofoten, now separate from the previous, and somewhat confusingly named Outdoors. This process took a while, and hopefully I caught all the broken links, but if you come across anything I might have missed, please let me know!

I never intended for this website to be about hiking, but more just Lofoten travel in general. But as it turned out over the last 12 years, it seems to be mostly about hiking. So I guess its better to have hikes in a separate category. Additionally though, I have a series of articles mostly about being a good user of the outdoors and nature that are waiting to be added, so having all of this combined with hiking guides made things begin to feel a little crowded. So look for more informative articles coming in the future.

A large majority of the content here was published between 2014 – 2017. For the hikes in particular, I’ve probably visited most the mountains more times in the follow years, but have been slow to update new photos. So I’ll begin to add some new images to already existing hikes.

There is also a pretty large backlogs of hikes to add as well. For some locations I’m waiting until they will be published first in an ebook or elsewhere – and there are some hikes that I’ll only list in ebooks and not here on the website. But there are a fair amount of hikes I’ve done over the last couple summers that don’t really belong to any particular project I have in mind, so they’ll get published as time allows.

There’s probably some more stuff on the to do list as well…

New Mountain Hikes – Haugheia and Helligberbet

I’ve added two new hiking guides for some easy small mountains on Vestvågøy: Haugheia (145m), located near Leknes, and Helligberget (238m), located in Unstad.

Haugheia - Lofoten Hiking Guide

Haugheia hiking guide

Haugheia is an easy family (and child) friendly low, flat ridge rising to the north of Gravdal on Vestvågøy. Popular with locals for an afternoon jog or Sunday walk, the path is well worn and easy to follow. While there are more spectacular views to be found in the area, Haugheia does have a nice overview across Nappstraumen to the mountains of Flakstadøy. For the photographer, the most interesting subject might be the small grove of twisted mountain birch trees about 2km into the walk.

Helligberget | Lofoten Hiking Guide

Helligberget hiking guide

Helligberget, meaning ‘the holy mountain,’ is a small hill on the west side of Unstad bay. While not necessarily a destination itself and more often seen in the background of images taken from the beach, it is a nice short hike with scenic views if you are looking for something fairly easy or a place to watch the midnight sun after an evening surf session.

Friday Photo #485 – April Twilight

Photo: The northern sky glowing at midnight in the white nights of spring, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 20, 2022. 00:35

Only a month after the spring equinox in March the nights of mid april are no longer fully dark. Though it can be somewhat deceptive just looking at the sunrise and sunset numbers themselves, which at the moment are about 04:50 and 21:15, which seem to afford plenty of time for darkness. But the arctic sun rotates on a much flatter orbit than lower latitudes, so even though it is below the horizon for 6-7 hours, it is not actually that far below. And with each passing week the sky will continue to brighten until the midnight sun arrives in just over a month. The sun moves fast here in the north!

Just after midnight I wandered down to the beach. Partly to have something to write about this week, but really hoping for a last aurora image of the season – which this year, is April 10th for me. Kind of an anticlimactic end this year compared to last year (friday Photo #433 ), when the sky was dancing every night until the very end. The weather and sun were not so cooperative this year it seems.

Now to look forward for the landscape to turn green over the next month and a summer in the mountains!

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon Z7 II
Nikon 14-30mm f/4
ISO 1600
f 4.5
3 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #484 – Spring Ptarmigan

Photo: Male Ptarmigan in mix of winter and summer moulting sitting on fence post, Myrland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 11, 2022. 15:11

With the long and (hopefully) sunny days of April comes the ever increasing activity among Lofoten’s birdlife. With the oystercatchers some of the first arrivals in mid March, many of the other migratory bird species have arrived over the last few weeks. Bridging with them a near round the clock flurry of activity in the skies over Lofoten as they fight for mates and territory for the summer breeding season.

The Ptarmigans, while year round residents of Lofoten, also join in with the activity and become much more active an visible than during the winter as their mating calls ring out through the air. One benefit of living in a rural setting such as mine, is that much of the area surrounding my house is filled with frequent activity, making for somewhat easy photography from my yard. Although in a few more weeks, the noise level on some nights will reach an irritatingly high volume, that I have to wear earplugs some nights to get a full sleep!

The Ptarmigan are also some of the easiest of the birds to photograph, and usually allow one to slowly approach without flying off – though a 500mm lens also helps in this process! If I’m lucky, I can catch them in my backyard and sneak around my house before they notice me. Maybe I should build a hide one of these days, but truthfully, I’m not that into bird photography. Only when an easy opportunity presents itself, such as these April days around the neighbourhood.

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon Z7 II
Nikon 200-500 F/5.6
ISO 1000
f 6.3
1/2000 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #483 – Aurora Season Ending

Photo: April northern light shine over glowing northern horizon in final days of aurora season, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 10, 2021. 01:06

With the ever lightening nighttime sky of April comes the inevitable end of Lofoten’s aurora season. Last year (Friday Photo #433) brought a fantastic finale to the season with 5 consecutive nights of dancing northern lights, including the latest aurora I’ve seen, occurring on the night of April 19/20.

What this year will bring, I don’t know yet. There is still time for a little more, but once April arrives, the sun seems to go into hyperdrive and the night time sky quickly fades away. But the last aurora is kinda like the last sunlight before the polar night in December; you never quite know when it will be until its already gone.

The last weeks have brought several major solar storms, some of which where even too far south to be visible on Lofoten – one reason why bigger is not always better in regards to northern lights and KP index. But for these late season auroras, there generally needs to be a good level of activity, pushing the aurora into the darker overhead sky and further towards the south.

For this image from 01:00 on April 10th, even a fairly moderate aurora is able to shine though the glowing northern horizon. However, a week later, this would probably barely be visible as the horizon would already be glowing significantly brighter.

I’ve written previously, but I personally think the last week of March and first weeks of April is one of the best times for northern lights as I find the white nights to add nice contrast to the images. Of course, it is also a bit more risky at this time of year as the nighttime hours are greatly reduced compared with earlier in the winter. But even so, I think my favourite aurora images of the season generally occur in April.

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

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

Friday Photo #482 – Slippery Roads

Photo: Snowy traffic jam as rental car is pulled from ditch after sliding off the road near Vareid, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 29, 2022. 15:47

After an unusually warm and mild first half of March which saw Lofoten looking more like spring than winter, the snow finally returned in a series of passing storms. Along with the snow, an unusually high amount of road chaos also occurred, mainly in the form of cars in ditches and semi-trucks stuck on inclines. It must be the combination of sun shining on the snowy roads, as even to me, they seemed to be slipperier than normal winter roads.

Tuesday afternoon, on my way to Reine for a conference I didn’t get far from Leknes before I encountered the first car off the road. The weather was pretty terrible, and I even though of turning around myself, but there was a large amount of traffic on the roads, about 1/2 of which being rental cars. It wasn’t fun driving conditions, even for a local, so I don’t understand why so many people were out…

A short while later, I passed another car in the ditch just after the Fredvang bridges. Just before departing the conference in the evening, I saw that the E10 at Nappskaret was closed, as 3 semi-trucks had gotten stuck. And finally just before getting home there was a van sitting deep in the ditch at Kilan – where 2 semi-trucks found themselves partially off the road on Thursday, closing the E10 for several hours. Busy days for the tow truck drivers…

Head over to my Instagram account for (almost) daily postings of the local conditions here on Lofoten: @distant.north

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6
ISO 640
f 5.6
1/1250 second
WB Daylight