Friday Photo #525 – Winter Full Moon

Photo: Winter full moon over Ristind, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 5, 2023. 11:58

After the storms of the new year passed the weather of early January calmed just in time for the return of the sun, which I first saw on January 4th this year. At the same time was also a bright full moon filling the sky over Lofoten. And while I was happy to see the sun, I found it more interesting to shoot the moon.

Part of this is due to the fact that January sun is ‘south’ of Lofoten, barely rising over the water of Vestfjorden. So there’s not really too much you can do while shooting the sun, as its in an awkward location. The full moon offers much more variety in early winter, and being opposite the sun, if often in a more photogenic location during the midday twilight.

I wrote last month in Friday Photo #518, how I tried to shoot the full moon over Kirkefjord from Reinebringen, but didn’t quite succeed on the only day with suitable weather for that attempt. Conditions in January were no longer suitable for hiking Reinebringen, so I didn’t put in the effort for anything special. Though I knew the moon would shine over the mountains on the northern side of Vestvågøy during the day, so I kept an eye out for this.

I shot the moon here over two days. This first day produced slightly nicer light as the southern horizon was clear, allowing for a hint of alpenglow to shine over the mountains, Ristind in this image. Compositionally, with the multiple jagged peaks of Himmeltindene and Ristind, I found it easier for a long telephoto image, than a medium wide shot showing more of the landscape, as it was hard to light up all the mountains with the moon also in a location which felt balanced.

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 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
350mm
ISO 100
f 5.6
1/80 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #524 – Stortind Winter

Photo: Stortind mountain peak rises over snow covered sand during low tide in inner Flakstadpollen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 16, 2022. 11:16

By ‘normal’ weather standards, this past December was a good one. Starting out dry and cold, a couple passing storms put down a good layer of snow before quickly clearing to calm and cold weather again. It wasn’t until the holidays when a warm spell arrived, bringing windy rain across the islands.

Looking at the weather data below for 2022, you can see the last two Decembers have been abnormally dry, receiving only about 50% of expected precipitation. However, within the two Decembers themselves, 2021 was largely better during the 2nd half of the month, while 2022 was better during the beginning and middle of the month. This is more or less a small look at what happens throughout the year as well.

If one were to seek advice online about when its best to visit Lofoten, summer often gets the top choice – especially among non-photographers. This is sometimes true and sometimes not. Looking at 2022 you can see several spikes of warm weather, but an overall cool summer. You can also see the June and July had slightly above rainfall. And then August, which turned out to be the second wettest month of the year, with nearly triple the normal rainfall. And following with the normally wet and rainy September, it seems like the year1s quota of rain must have fallen in August, making September one of the driest months of the year.

What’s my point to all this? Nothing really. Or simply to illustrate the difference between what the weather should do, and what the weather actually does. Like everywhere else in the world, sometimes the weather is better than average, and sometimes worse. But you won’t know which until you get here and look out the windows.

Though a tip, mostly for those on road trips with a planned stop to Lofoten. Keep an eye on the weather before your planned visit, and this applies to the rest of Norway as well. If you can seen just a constant flow of rain and storms sweeping across Lofoten, try to adjust your plans if possible, or potentially skip Lofoten overall for a destination with improved weather. And the reverse can also be true, with southern Norway having the bad weather and then you should race north to Lofoten’s sun.

I myself use this tactic when planning short road trips around (northern) Norway or longer hiking trips over in Sweden. I generally try to give myself a rough timeframe of when I was to visit a place, and then keep an eye on the weather until the time seems right. In the last years I’ve tried to spend a bit more time down along the Helgeland coast south of Bodø. But the summer’s have left me checking the weather forecasts daily, hoping for a week of good weather. In the last years, I’ve had to settle for maybe 2-3 days of hopefully not terrible weather, between otherwise seemingly endless weeks of rain. Hopefully summer 2023 turn out better!

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
14mm
ISO 100
f 10
0.4 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #523 – Reinebringen Winter

Photo: Winter view over Reine from Reinebringen, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 11, 2022. 11:58

Late last week a pair of hikers required helicopter rescue from the summit of Reinebringen as they were unsure of their ability to descend from the summit. It was a cold and windy-ish day, but nothing too extreme by Lofoten standards, though the short days of early winter makes hiking a bit more risky simply due to the limited hours of light and reduced margin of error should a rescue be required; The Sea King helicopter is located in Bodø, while the alpine rescue team is located in Svolvær.

At a modest 448 meters high, it is easy to underestimate Reinebringen – and even more so since there is a stone stairway all the way to the top, making it perhaps Lofoten’s most popular hike in summer. Winter, however, is a different story.

Under usual winter conditions on Lofoten, Reinebringen is not a safe hike to attempt. And there are multiple signs at the base of the mountain warning so.

The upper 1/3rd of the mountain, below which much of the time hiking is spent, consists mostly of steep rocks slabs which release frequent avalanches, even well into the spring – when rockfall also becomes an increased danger. The steps themselves will be covered in snow in most places, if not entirely, especially on the upper portion of the mountain where wind blows deep snow into the gully where the steps are located. The wind also means the snow on the upper, steepest part of the mountain can often be hard and icy, much more so than lower down.

On Friday Photo #518’s post with an image taken from this same day, I wrote that the storms passing at the time meant Reinebringen would probably not be a safe hike for the rest of the winter. A warm-ish and rainy holiday season, followed by multiple days with a cold south-east wind blowing straight into the mountain has also added to the danger, as most of the upper mountain snow is probably quite icy and hard by now. Any new falling snow will likely be quite avalanche prone for the foreseeable future.

Beyond the avalanche risk of the mountain, the hike itself is quite steep and exposed. Once crossing into the upper half of the route, there are many places where one would not want to fall. And tragically, the mountain has taken two young lives in the last year alone: December 2021 and June 2022. Reinebringen’s 448 meters and popularity should not be underestimated.

So, with all of the above saying Reinebringen is a danger hike in winter and should be avoided, how am I posting a photo of a winter view from Reinebringen? Well, specific winter conditions and very little actual snow meant the hike was less risky than usual for winter. One benefit of living on Lofoten full time is that I can observe the changes in weather and the mountains. I knew this was the first snow of the winter and only a small amount had fallen, while the weather remained cold and stable after the storm had passed. So this was a rare opportunity for a winter visit to Reinebringen in conditions that were fairly predictable and safe.

And importantly, never be afraid to turn around. I had actually made a visit to Reinebringen in late November. There was no snow present, but Lofoten had been in a deep freeze of clear, windless days. A thin layer of frost was covering everything from sea to summit. I started up the steps, which felt fine. But around step 30-40 I turned around to test the feeling of the steps on decent. Even with spikes on my shoes, they were quite slippery and caution was needed. The thought of having to descend 2000 steps in such manner seemed like a difficult and dangerous task. And so I continued down the 30-40 steps and back to my van. A cappuccino at Bringen cafe was a better idea than Reinebringen on this day.

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 24-120mm f/4
27mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/20 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #522 – First Sun

Photo: My first sunlight of 2023 as the sun partially rises over the Vestfjord, Hamnøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 4, 2023. 12:25

After a stormy holiday season with lots of wind and rain, the weather has finally cleared just in time for the return of the sun to Lofoten! Wednesday I headed towards Reine to try and catch a glimpse and there she was, shining over the southern horizon of the Vestfjord.

This winter season has been the shortest polar night since I moved to Lofoten in early 2016. My last sun sighting was December 11th (Friday Photo #519) from the summit of Reinebringen – which you should no longer hike this winter season, and there was a helicopter rescue there yesterday of stranded hikers. And the return of the sun on Wednesday, January 4. So 23 days between sightings of the sun. Not too bad, as I’ve periods of up to two months some years.

With the sun now having crossed the horizon, the days will begin to feel much lighter. Though the rising of the sun is still somewhat slow, roughly 0.1˚ per day. It will be another week, January 13th, before the sun is fully 1˚ above the horizon at its highest when viewed from Reine. So this is the time of year when Lofoten’s snow covered mountains glow red and pink throughout the day in one continuous motion from sunrise to sunset.

There has also been a wonderful full-ish moon filling the twilight sky over Lofoten the last days, of which I have much better images than a boring closeup of the sun – which could have been taken anywhere, at anytime of day, really. But I was happy to see the sun again, so pictures of the moon can wait, as they are not as time sensitive. So perhaps next week’s post will be a nice picture of the moon over some mountains. If nothing else more interesting occurs between now and then…

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 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
400mm
ISO 100
f 5.6
1/1000 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #521 – Calm Between Storms

Photo: Winter blues of the polar night on Christmas day, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 25, 2022. 12:56

The peaks of Himmeltindan rise into the pastel blues of twilight on Christmas afternoon in a rare moment of calm weather in the last week. Lofoten has been in full winter mode for several weeks now, and with that has been near daily storms and the usual flight and ferry cancelations. Even all the local buses were canceled this morning.

Although I miss the calm weather of the first half of December, the current storms are actually much more normal at this time of year. The holidays have seen Lofoten briefly filled with tourists and I see many of them walking the streets of Leknes in the noon twilight and blowing snow wondering what they have gotten themselves into. Although there has also been brief moments of dancing northern lights if one looked out the window at th right time.

The weather systems look like they will continue blowing across Lofoten over the weekend and into the new year. A friend and I had discussed plans for a midnight hike on new year’s eve to watch to fireworks from the mountains, but looking at the current forecast, a warm fire and whisky will probably be a better idea!

Now over a week past the winter solstice, I can slowly sense the days lasting longer – still not that long though! But soon it will be time to wait for the correct weather and head out for my fist glimpse of sunlight of the year. Although as I’ve previously written (Friday Photo #519), my last sighting of the sun this year was December 11th, so it not that long ago, and better than many years.

With the storms also usually come slightly warmer temperatures, and that is how the current forecast looks for the next week. Though with the existing snow base currently on Lofoten, it will take a prolonged period of heavy rain before most of the sea level snow even melts. So I’m cautiously optimistic that 2023 will be a good winter on Lofoten – both visually for my photo workshops and physically for lots of skiing. But of course like all things weather related in northern Norway, only time will tell…

Happy New Year from Lofoten! See you in 2023 and year 10(!!) of Friday Photo weekly ramblings.

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 24-120mm f/4
53mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/5 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #520 – Moonlight Aurora

Photo: Moonlight and aurora over Nappstraumen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 11, 2022. 16:31

While the sun remains below the horizon during the polar night of December, the opposite effect can happen with the moon, which may remain completely above the horizon through its orbit. Often times I can forget about the moon during winter due to the cloudy weather, but this year the weather has been abnormally nice thus far, so in early December a bright moon was shining in the sky over Lofoten.

In very simplified terms, a full moon occurs when the moon is 180˚ opposite the sun. In sub arctic locations, a full moon typically rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. North of the arctic circle, the orbit of the sun and moon is flattened out. And with the sun below the horizon in for most of December, the moon’s orbit may allow it to remain slightly above the horizon at its lowest point. On the day of this image, the lowest position of the moon was 3.15˚ above the northern horizon at 11:45. At the time this image was taken at 16:31, the moon had risen to 4.8˚ degrees.

I generally quite like moonlight in my aurora images. Though this year, the full moon seemed somewhat intent on disturbing me during several northern lights shoots as it was high in the southern sky, which resulted in my shadow being cast northwards onto the foreground of a couple locations I tried to shoot from. Not a big deal, but it sometimes happens and I can’t move the aurora to another part of the sky!

On this day though, the aurora already started quite early in the afternoon. And instead of the moon being behind me, it was directly in the aurora itself. With the bright reflection shining across the dark water of Nappstraumen, I thought this was actually a somewhat interesting image that I’ve never taken before.

The exposure was slightly tricky, to balance out the reflection of the moon, northern lights, and the almost black sea. Luckily the moon was still fairly low on the horizon and dimmed a bit from some distant haze so the image was still possible with a single exposure. A little later I went to one of my nearby beaches, but by then the moon had moved to a somewhat awkward position compositionally, and was now far too bright, blowing out the reflections on the waves and wet beach.

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 20mm f/1.8
20mm
ISO 1000
f 2.2
2 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #519 – Last Sun

Photo: My last visible sun of 2022 from Reinebringen, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 11, 2022. 12:04

On Sunday I made a second trip up Reinebringen again. I figured since I had already put in the effort of breaking trail all the way to the summit on the previous Friday, I might as well take advantage of my own path!

Another reason for a second trip is that Reinebringen is generally a dangerous and risky hike in winter, so it is rare that I am there for a winter view. It is only since I live in Lofoten and monitor the conditions every day that I felt it was safe enough to head up in winter conditions. And this is mainly because there wasn’t that much snow – What looks like full winter is actually only about 20cm of snow in most places, and less so higher up as the storm which brought the snow was quite windy. Luckily after the storm last week, the temperatures remained well below freezing, which, combined with the lack of sunlight of the polar night, means the little snow hasn’t melted away like normal.

Currently another storm is passing over Lofoten and there is considerable avalanche risk. I will not go anywhere near the mountain in such conditions as most of the route is below slabby rock cliffs rising high overhead which are prone to frequent avalanches. It is likely now that Reinebringen won’t be safe-ish to hike again until later in the spring.

Today’s post in not about Reinebringen though, but the sun instead. And more specifically, the December sun around the first days of the polar night on Lofoten. When I was on the mountain I posted an Instagram story showing the few and a few people commented that they were surprised I could see the sun, as shouldn’t it be the polar night already? The answer is yes and yes.

The polar night is really just a sunrise that never quite arrives. So instead of continuing to rise above the horizon higher and higher until solar noon, when the sun begins to loose elevation again. During the polar night, sun sun simply begins so set, at solar noon, before it has even risen above the horizon.

The sun’s ‘high point’ will be lower and lower below the horizon each day until it reaches its lowest point on the winter solstice, December 21st this year. Below the arctic circle, this movement of the sun is visible. For Lofoten, northern of the arctic circle, all of this takes place below the horizon, until the sun returns again in the first week of January.

If I had been standing in Reine on Sunday, I would not have seen the sun. But, like mountains peaks get the sunrise before lower elevations anywhere in the world, being on Reinebringen allowed me to see the sunrise. The only difference is this was the sun’s highest altitude of the day, so it never rose high enough to be visible at sea level.

This was also my record for latest visible sun of the year. The previous one being December 8th. It’s been a fantastic winter so far, so hopefully I get an early sun as well after the new year!

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
14mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/50 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #518 – Winter Moon

Photo: Winter full moon over Kirkefjord from Reinebringen, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 9, 2022. 11:26

Winter has finally arrived on Lofoten! After what was a calm and ‘dry’ November, the first proper storm of winter finally swept across the islands on Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving about 30-ish cm of snow from sea to summit. Luckily, the storm was a quick one and the calm and clear weather has returned. Combined with the full moon of the last days, the fresh snow now makes it possible to walk around at night without much need for a headlamp – which is good, because Lofoten is now in the period of the Polar night.

Seeing the full moon the last few days, I had ideas of a photo in mind. I missed it a couple years ago because I was too late to begin hiking, but this time I (kinda) planned a little better, or at least one part of the image I wanted! The full moon over Kirkefjord.

I only 1/2 succeeded. I got the left/right placement of the moon correct. Thanks to PhotoPills I knew the moon would be over Kirkefjord at about 11:30, and so I planned to be at the summit of Reinebringen before that. Only thing I didn’t get right is that the moon was way too high in the sky – But that part of the images is out of my control anyhow – I can’t move the moon down! Though some might use photoshop for an assist in that regard, I don’t. I saw what I saw. Better planning next time…

The weather had also been clear yesterday, so I had hoped a few people would have gone up Reinebringen before me. But as I arrived at the bottom of the 1978 steps which lead to the summit ridge, there were no footprints. So I cleared a nice trail to the top, at times though thigh deep snow drifts. Luckily I planned to arrive early, so I reached the summit in time, despite the slow progress.

Even though it wasn’t quite a success, for the image I had planned, it was still absolutely perfect winter conditions in the twilight light of December.

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 24-120mm f/4
61mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/40 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #517 – Last Light

Photo: Last December light over the summit of Skottind, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 2, 2022. 11:48

November has been fantastic this year! It turned out to be the 2nd driest month after September – and that’s only by 0.5mm of rain. But it looks like the weather if finally beginning to shift in the next days and Lofoten might finally receive its first proper snowfall of the year. So even with the polar night still a week-ish away, today’s clear sky will likely be my last time to see the sun for the year.

With the sun low on the horizon, if you actually want to hike in sunlight at this time of year you are mostly limited to mountains on the southern side of Lofoten. While higher peaks on the north side still also receive a bit of light, most of the way up/down will be in shade. I wanted as much sun as I could find today, so I headed to Nonstind – Ballstadheia which I knew would have all the sun Lofoten was to get.

Leaving home, I was initially worried about a quite a few low clouds hanging over many of the peaks of Vestvågøy and Flakstadøy. Yesterday and last night had also been forecast for clear sky, but in the cold and stillness, a low cloud formed over all the islands. It seems it took the arrival of a bit of wind to blow the clouds away and I was happy to see Skottind rising into the late morning twilight as I rounded the corner near Napp.

I was already partially up the mountain when the sun first peaked over the distant mountains of the mainland, at 10:46. A could wind was blowing from the south as the sun and I ascended in tandem, but the low low does little to warm you at this time of year.

Reaching the summit, clouds were blowing across the summit of Skottind. It’s already tripod light at noon these days, but I decided to add a 10 stop ND filter to capture the moving clouds, which looked slightly boring otherwise. I only brought my light hiking tripod, but finding a bit of a sheltered rock and keeping it fairly low, it seemed to hand 60 second exposures on the cold and windy summit of Nonstind better than expected.

I don’t know when/where I will see the sun again, but perhaps it will be here on Nonstind again in the first weeks of January when the sun returns to Lofoten again…

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
14mm
ISO 100
f 8
60 seconds
WB Daylight
10 Stop ND filter

Friday Photo #516 – November Twilight

Photo: Gentle waves flow over Myrland beach in soft pastel twilight light of afternoon in November, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. November 16, 2022. 14:41

Now with over 500 Friday photo posts going back nearly 10 years, I’m sure I’m repeating myself again when I say the current year often seems to have opposite weather from the previous. Often this involves worse weather (this July/August), but sometimes we do get lucky, and so far for November this year, that is holding out. It seems it rained so much up north this summer that the sky finally ran out.

I’ve actually only been back on Lofoten about a week now after a trip over to Scotland for the last few weeks. But in these few, and short, days, I’ve already seen more sun than the previous two Novembers combined! Lofoten has been lucky with clear and calm days this week, which if the forecast is correct, will (mostly) carry on for at least a little while longer.

With the sun low on the southern horizon, much of the day is filled with pastel twilight colors, especially so on the northern side of Lofoten where the sun doesn’t quite reach anymore. In a couple more weeks, as Lofoten enters the Polar Night, twilight is all we will have – similar to this image, taken about a half hour after sunset.

I unfortunately haven’t had much time for hiking as I’m busy catching up with work after what has been a busy autumn with me mostly out of the house since the middle of August. Normally I spend most of this time of year working on writing projects and hiking guide updates on the website. And normally the sideways November rain and wind is an aid to that process. But at the moment looking out the window is quite distracting! At least I can manage to wander down to the beach for a couple images between emails and Excel spreadsheets and image keywording…

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
14mm
ISO 31
f 10
1 second
WB Daylight