Friday Photo #494 – Arctic Skuas

Photo: Arctic Skuas under the midnight sun, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 18, 2022. 01:02

I am admittedly a terrible wildlife photographer and even worse when it comes to birds – probably because I don’t really have much interest in birds anyhow. But there is one coolish bird in my neighborhood – Arctic Skua.

I first encountered Great Skuas on Orkney in 2003 and then over several following trips. Last summer on Svalbard was my first encounter in Arctic Skuas. Much small than Great Skuas, they are equally aggressive when approaching too close to their nesting area and will repeatedly attack any trespassers. Given my mostly non-interest in birds, I never really noticed that they were also here on Lofoten, and a breeding pair is in my neighbourhood.

I’ve made a few attempts to photograph them, but have yet to return with anything very good. My 200-500mm lens seems too slow to focus while they are in flight – they are fast!. So I generally return with a whole card full of soft images. The surrounding mountains also make it difficult, mostly limiting my shooting direction north towards the open sea.

I’m not sure if I have to patience required for wildlife photography, but I’ll make a few more attempts over the summer months.

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 200-500mm f/5.6
ISO 500
f 6.3
1/800 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #493 – Summer Wildflowers

Photo: Summer house by the sea, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 17, 2022. 17:28

With midsummer less than a week away Lofoten is now reaching its peak summer lushness. The landscape is bright green and the fields filled with the endless colors of wildflowers (though mostly yellow). While the temperatures have been a little on the cooler side still, hovering around 10˚C, the sun provides plenty of warmth for an evening bbq.

I was out in the ‘myr’ – or boggy marshland of my valley this afternoon attempting to photograph the local pair or arctic Skuas. They are fast, and hard to photograph, and more so because the valley is surrounded on 3 sides by high mountains. So I can only really get clean shots while looking north towards the sea, but they never seem to be in that direction! And, they are fast. It was much easier to photograph them on Svalbard last summer, where the surrounding landscape was much more open.

Walking back, my neighbour’s house was looking quite ‘summery’ set against the distant mountains of Vestvågøy and surrounded by wildflowers. I would have like to go a little wider, but there is an old barn just off to the left which I didn’t want to include in the frame. It’s only a quick snapshot, but I think it sums up quite well a nice summer afternoon on Lofoten.

This look will only last a few more weeks at most after which any areas which are actually farm fields will be mowed for winter feed for Lofoten’s sheep and cows. While the wild areas still remain, quite a lot of the meadows are actually farm fields, especially on Vestvågøy and Flakstadøy.

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 24-200 f/4-6.3
ISO 100
f 8
1/400 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #492 – Summer Rainbow

Photo: Summer evening rainbow circles the sky over Haugheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 8, 2022. 21:51

After last weeks brief visit of summer – hitting 20˚c on June 1st, the temperature took a significant drop over the weekend for several days of wind and rain, and a fresh dusting of snow down to about 700m. With the sun emerging again on Wednesday, I headed out to Haugheia for an evening walk and just to get the legs moving a bit after several days stuck here in front of the computer. The evening sun was shining in the mostly blue sky as I left home for the 10 minute drive to Haugheia.

As soon as I crossed the tunnel to Vestvågøy I noticed a bit of rain begin to hit my windshield. Hmm, that wasn’t supposed to be there. Soon, I noticed a fain rainbow being to appear over the leknes area, brighting over time as I neared the trailhead. As I got out of my van and put on my backpack a heavy summer rain was falling and a bright rainbow was circling the sky.

Haugheia wasn’t really the best location for such an occurrence, especially since it was nearly 20:00, the rainbow was in the southern part of the sky over the ugly industrial parts of Gravdal and Leknes harbor. So I just continued up the trail, trying to ignore the rainbow as I didn’t think I could get much of a shot anyhow. But as the minutes passed by, now probably 10 minutes since the rainbow first formed, it just stayed there. After a few minutes of hiking I got to a higher area where I finally thought it might at least be worth a quick snapshot.

There still wasn’t much, if any, of a foreground, but standing on a bit of a higher rock, I could at least take a semi-interesting shadow-selfie. Nothing special, but it would have been a shame to let such a nice rainbow pass without a single photo. So this was probably the best I could have managed in the situation. Had I known how long the rainbow was going to last, I probably would have driven to some other nearby location. Maybe next time.

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 10
f 7.1
1/125 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #491 – Kvalvika Midnight Sun

Photo: Midnight sun over Kvalvika beach, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 31, 2022. 00:02

After what has been a cold and wet spring this year, the last week has brought the arrival of the midnight sun and full summer weather! The weather here can often be just like switching on a light, it changes that fast. And luckily, once it changed for the better, it has lasted the better part of a week with t-shirt weather – even while sitting on mountain tops at midnight.

The good weather of the last week has seen me exploring some new mountain areas, as well as visiting some familiar one, such as this image of Kvalvika beach, before the summer season kicks into full gear and the popular places become a bit to busy for my liking. So it is good when I can visit them in summer like conditions still in May. And this year is feeling like it will be a busy one after two years of covid as the roads are already filled with continental camper vans and motorhomes.

The weather forecast on this evening was for clear sky, which is actually not that good for photography during the midnight sun season. And as you can see, the light is kinda ‘boring.’ With a fully clear sky there is often enough sea haze to block much of the sunlight, causing a weak and soft light to shine over the landscape, while the sky overhead remains bright blue. In winter, with snow covered mountains, this would be perfect light, but in summer, it doesn’t work as well.

As you can also see in the photo, the mountains area already backlit by the sun, so I’m only looking at the shadow side of them. If I was looking for dramatic sunset light on the mountains themselves, I would have to have been here earlier or later in the year, when the sun would be setting to the west and shining onto the mountains. Although then, the sun would not be in the image either.

On this evening, with a forecast for little to no wind, I was actually out at Kvalvika to photograph a different scene – these mountains reflecting in a small lake which is on the edge of the beach. But as I arrived out there at about 20:00 and 4 km of hiking, the beach side of the valley I hiked up and a bit of a breeze blowing in off the mountains and disturbing the lake too much for a reflection. I waited around for a while – until after midnight – hoping the wind would subside, but it never did.

Hiking back after midnight, once I got to the other side of the small mountain pass I could feel the conditions immediately calm. The (somewhat large) lakes I had to pass on my hike back to my van were perfectly still, with mirror like reflections of the surrounding landscape. So I was just a bit unlikely with the particular wind direction only affecting the Kvalvika beach area.

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 80
f 14
2 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter