Friday Photo #458 – Uttakleiv Storm

Photo: Waves flow over rocky shoreline at Uttakleiv beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 13, 2021. 08:15

The autumn weather cycles of wind and rain seem to be in full effect over the last weeks with mostly turbulent weather sweeping across the islands. But this is a good thing, or, at least when you don’t have to be outside too much! I’ve just finished my 3rd and final photo workshop of the autumn, and each group had quite a variety of weather to keep them busy: wind, rain, rainbows, northern lights, fiery sunsets and sunrises, and everything in-between. Weather wise, autumn is defiantly the most dynamic time of year on Lofoten.

I had been at Uttakleiv earlier in the week at both low and high tides – a medium to low tide is generally required for the ‘eye of Uttakleiv’ to be visible, while high tide is typically more dynamic for the rest of the beach itself. With a nearly new moon at the time and with a large swell out of the north, but tides were quite extreme. At low tide, it was nearly impossible to head out onto the slippery, algae covered rocks, while at high tide, the waves were breaking very high up the shoreline, not allowing safe passage down to the lower rocks that usually work well as a foreground.

On my third visit the sea was a bit calmer while the sky itself remained stormy and turbulent, as a cold and icy wind blew out of the north. At first there had been bright clouds and a bit of blue sky in what is the background of this image. But it wasn’t long until the next wave of rain, which actually turned out to be stinging hai, was beginning to approach from the distance and darkening the landscape.

This time, the waves weren’t so large, so I could get into a better position on the beach, without too much worry of being swept out to sea. Although I did eventually end up with wet feet, despite the fact I was in rubber boots.

The large rock in the center of the image is always a compositional difficulty when shooting at Uttakleiv. In this case, I felt that just keeping it in the center of the image worked best, especially as the background mountains were softening up slightly as the hail passed in front of them. The water flows were difficult to find a nice balance, and I wish there was a little more action happening in the large black area on the right side of the frame, which feels a bit empty and distracting to me. But overall, I think Uttakleiv works best on stormy days like this…

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 14-30 f/4
14mm
ISO 31
f 11
.6 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #457 – Light And Shadow

Photo: Sun rays shine over the mountains of Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 7, 2021. 16:36

October has been off to a mostly cloudy and rainy start this year. But in-between the grey, there has been some nice moments of light. Autumn is usually a time of dynamic and interesting weather here on Lofoten, and yesterday was one of those days.

I spent the morning and afternoon shooting around Uttakleiv with my Swiss group from Amazing Views tours. The (nearly) new moon meant quite extreme tides, with the AM having a super low tide like I rarely seen, while mid afternoon, combined with large swell, saw waves sweeping high across the rocks. The same location but two completely different moods just due to the tide.

When it came time to move on, we had decided to go to Unstad for the sunset. However, as a little more of the western horizon came into view, I changed plans and decided heading to the Vikten area would likely produce better results. As we descended into Nappstraumen tunnel, I could already see a hint of the light show that was happening in the far distance over Moskenesøy. Turning towards Vikten, the light rays were shining over the mountains. One of those moments where one has to be quick, as the light might not last long. But it lasted long enough…

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
200mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/800 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #456 – Unstad Wave

Photo: Sea spay from crashing wave at Unstad beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 15, 2021. 15:37

This weekend it is the annual Lofoten Masters surf competition at Unstad beach on Vestvågøy – Northern Norway’s most famous surf beach. I don’t have time to attend myself and shoot any images, unfortunately. Or rather, I should say fortunately, since I will be guiding my first Lofoten photo workshop since the Corona lockdowns began in March 2020 – And I’m actually just barely home from my first tour since then, on Senja with Amazing Views Tours, where all work ended for me a year and a half ago. So it is good to be back out guiding again!

Most years it is in the autumn that the swells pickup again and the heavy seas once again flow into Unstad bay. This day was a little over head high when I stopped by in the afternoon. A few surfers were out, but none of the local pros, so I found a little more interest in just the shape and texture of the waves themselves. Especially since the sun was shining bright and lighting up the sea spray blown up from the offshore wind.

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
500mm
ISO 250
f 5.6
1/4000 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #455 – First Autumn Storm

Photo: Waves from the year’s first autumn storm crash over the rocky coastline at Nesland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 22, 2021. 14:58

The year’s first autumn storm, or høststorm, in Norwegian, swept across Lofoten and most of the Norwegian coastline on Wednesday. Heavy rain and high winds brought both flooding and structural damage, including several washed out roads. Out driving around in the afternoon as the storm was beginning to subside, the mountains were absolutely flowing with water – I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many waterfalls before!

The morning was filled with heavy rainfall, but by mid afternoon I could see on the radar that the sky would dry up somewhat, and so I headed out looking for some photos. These storms always come out of the southwest, which is a semi-awkward direction on Lofoten to get the full visible effects of the storm, especially the crashing waves. The bridge between Flakstadøy and Moskenesøy was closed from high winds, so I decided to stay on Flakstadøy and not head west to Å, where the waves might have been hitting the strongest.

Luckily, the coastline near Nesland is also a good location for large swells coming up the Vestfjorden, and so I headed there to see what what happening. Although I should note that the several kilometres of dirt road below steep cliffs gave me a bit of hesitation, as with so heavy rain, rock and mudslides can often occur in the area – and I’m surprised my road remained open as well.

Rounding the last turn from Skjelfjord and out onto the exposed coast I could already see waves crashing high into the sky. Perfect! Arriving at the parking area and heading out to the cliffs, the air was full of mist and sea spray, giving me a constant soaking. The waves were breaking wildly and crashing high up the rocks. Almost too much chaos.

I experimented with several different shutter speeds, but in the wind and sea spray, it was a little hard to see what I was actually capturing. And between shots, it was nearly a full time job wiping off my lens. I wanted to capture some of the chaos and flow of the sea, while also showing some scale. Though I think this image is lacking on the later part, as looking at the image on my screen in no way represents what it was like standing there and feeling the crashing of the waves into the cliffs below me – and then the soaking of saltwater as the wind swept the mist over me. It was an absolutely tremendous amount of water which was moving around in a beautiful dance of chaos.

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
24mm
ISO 31
f 14
0.6 second
WB Daylight
3 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #454 – Early Autumn

Photo: Studalselva flowing through early autumn landscape below Tindstind, Sørvågen, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 12, 2021. 16:25

I woke up Monday morning to the first dusting of autumn snow across the higher peaks of Lofoten; A sure sign that we are now well into autumn. The snow seems early this year, which reinforced my observations that autumn itself seems to be a few weeks earlier than normal. Though this could also be a bit biased, as autumn was late to arrive last year. Either way, I think the wet summer, followed by an early cold spell, will hopefully lead to a colourful autumn this year on Lofoten. Just hope the storms stay away long enough!

With consistent rain through most of last week, on Sunday I headed west to Sørvågen to checkout the waterfalls and rivers of Studalselva which flow from Stuvdalsvatn. The autumn color was already quite mixed, with some trees already fully yellow/orange, while others have yet to turn at all. But I think the autumn color peak will be in late September this year – assuming weather conditions remain consistent – and not early October like most years.

The waterfalls were flowing nicely, but I ended up in the flatter part of the river first, with Tindstinden rising in the background. Even with my Wellies on and walking out into the river, I found it difficult to get a balance composition between the mountains in the background and the flowing river in the foreground. I just couldn’t (without wet feet) get to the right part of the river to balance out the scene properly. Especially because the mountain ridge to the right of Tindstind would become too strong and dominant if I showed to much of it.

Here are two versions of the scene in landscape and portrait format. I think the portrait format of this image works better in this case, as it avoids all the empty space of the upper left sky in the landscape image. I think I can spend a little more time working out the composition, but on this particular day, I was racing against the incoming rain, which eventually arrived and sent me back to my van.

With two Lofoten autumn workshops coming up in early October, I think I’ll have more time to spend in this location with the groups – just hoping the trees hold their color for another couple weeks!

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 14
1.6 seconds
WB Daylight
3 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #453 – First Aurora

Photo: First northern lights of the season, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 4, 2021. 01:18

After last weeks post (Friday Photo #452) wonder when I might see the northern lights for the first time this season, an unexpected clearing of the clouds occurred after midnight and I saw the first dancing aurora of the 2021-2022 season. Luckily I was still awake and quickly headed out the door and down to my beach.

It was still pretty cloudy overall and the ocean was stormy from the days of wind – which means my boots eventually got flooded by a crashing wave. But the aurora itself was quite active were I could see it. If the sky had been perfectly clear, then it probably would have been quite a nice show!

Since then, it’s been back to wind and rain for the rest of this past week. Although it looks like there might be a clear night or two coming up on the weekend, so maybe that will be my second chance for the season. Fingers crossed.

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

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

Friday Photo #452 – Two Summers

Photo: Autumn rain showers over Selfjorden, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 2, 2020

There generally always seems to be a north – south divide with the weather in Norway. When the media reports Norway is having a good summer, this can be translated to, ‘Oslo and the southern coast of Norway is having a good summer.’ This year the opposite weather effect seems to have been particularly strong, as Oslo has now having set a new record for the most summer days from June to August – 79 days over 20˚c this year. The previous record was from 2006 with 78 days.

Moving north to Lofoten. Leknes has had 11 days over 20˚c this summer, or what has been called summer. Now Lofoten is a long ways north, and obviously not a tropical destination. But the islands have had a particularly bad summer this year, to the point where even my old neighbours are commenting how grey and windy it has been. Basically the the entire coast of Norway north of Trondheim has been in an endless cycle of wind, rain, and clouds; with only a few redeeming days here or there.

And even as I write this, Nordland and Troms-Finnmark have already received the first snowfall (across the border in Sweden as well), while southern Norway is potentially setting more heat records.

There is never a particular day when one can say summer has ended up here in the north, but I think we’ve now made our way into autumn.

Beyond sitting at the beach, we are also now two weeks into the northern lights season, and I have yet to see them so far this season even as several large solar storms have already hit the earth (though they were seen in east Lofoten last week). Cloudy and windy days turn into cloudy and windy nights, which is not good for aurora photography, unfortunately. Last year was a wet and grey autumn, so I hope there is not a repeat of the same. Otherwise I will just sit around on rainy nights dreaming of Spanish sunshine…

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
62mm
ISO 100
f 9
1/800 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #451 – Kvalvika Reflection

Photo: Reflection of Ryten and Fuglhuken mountain peaks in small lake at Kvalvika beach, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 15, 2021. 20:35

Aurora season has finally begun on Lofoten. While last night was the first fully clear, a faint aurora only visible to camera was all the appeared. Tonight, will full cloud cover, a strong solar wind is hitting the earth, and no doubt there will be a dancing sky above the clouds. With the weather forecast not looking the best at the moment, it will probably be well into September before I see the first aurora of the season this year.

Today’s photo is where I had planned to hike yesterday evening to hopefully capture the first aurora of the season. Although laziness eventually got the best of me and I stayed hope, at least I didn’t miss anything. There are still plenty of weeks ahead for another attempt anyhow. Though this year, I’m not quite as excited about northern lights as I usually am. I feel a bit more like I do towards the end of the season, ‘ehh, just a bit of green stuff in the sky…’ I guess after 5 full winters living on Lofoten, the northern lights are actually more common than a nice colourful sunrise or sunset. Like everything, they just become familiar. I guess I should count myself lucky – that northern lights now feel normal to me.

What I’m missing the most is a warm summer afternoon, which we never had many of this year. Or, a break from the winter’s long darkness. Hopefully I can finally get south this winter – something I’ve been saying to myself for the last several years, but never managed to achieve yet. Since moving to Lofoten in early 2016, I’ve only been south of Lofoten for a total of 3 weeks between October – April. Too many long winters for this California dude.

But even as I ramble on about northern lights and long winters, there’s still always images I have planned. Maybe they happen this year, maybe next, maybe in 5 years, or perhaps never… There is a lot of talk in photography about pre-visualization vs. being open to the moment and seeing what happens. Both I think are valid methods to be used under varying circumstances. But when you live in a place full time, even such a dynamic place like Lofoten, I think it is important to have some imagination for scenes or moments that would make a good photo.

This image, with northern lights over Ryten and Fuglhuken and reflected in the lake is one of my pre-visualized images. It will probably take multiple attempts, while also requiring 2 hours of hiking (round trip), so not overly difficult, but very dependent of a multitude of conditions to occur at once. The main difficulty I think will be the wind, or lack there of, as having a still lake and clean reflection is an important part of the image I have in my head. And then me being out there when something magical happens. Fingers crossed.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
38mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/80 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #450 – Silence

Photo: Misty clouds blow over Stortinden mountain peak, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 19, 2021. 21:17

A cold wind has been blowing out of the north for the last week. And while the sun has emerged from time to time, the mountains have mostly been concealed behind the clouds, like most of this summer has been. But there is a change in the air, subtle, but there. That our short arctic summer is slowly fading away to the first signs of autumn color among the blueberry bushes and birch trees.

But beyond the blowing wind, the crashing waves, the sideways rain, the return of the northern lights; there is another sign that summer is soon over. Silence.

It is a subtle change and not always one I immediately pick up on, but one day I notice something missing; the sounds and liveliness of summer. The chirping, screeching, cawing birds that keep me up on summer nights are suddenly gone. The fields around my house are silent.

This is the opposite of spring, where one day in late march I will see the first pair of oystercatchers sitting on a rock during my drive to Leknes. But perhaps I’m looking out for this more as it is a sign that winter will (hopefully!) soon be over. But in late summer I’m not even sure when I last saw an oystercatcher. Was it 1 week, 2 weeks, more? It is just sometime around now that I notice my garden has gone quiet, save for a crow or two circling around at random. And so as the migratory birds have gone south, the sun is slowly doing so as well.

It wasn’t until late evening that I headed out yesterday. The north side of Lofoten was covered in a heavy, low clouds, but things were breaking up on the southern side of the islands, eventually with fully clear sky over the Vestfjord. I wasn’t heading anywhere in particular, just maybe looking for something interesting when I saw the clouds blowing over Stortinden. The scene wasn’t ideal, as the river is barely flowing at the moment – it is better in spring, or after a heavy rain. But the scene was dynamic enough for me to put in at least the minimal effort to walk a little to a familiar location. Luckily I got there just in time, as within a few minutes the summit was completely concealed in clouds and the moment was gone.

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 13
8 seconds
WB Daylight
3 stop neutral density filter

Friday Photo #449 – Elusive Sun

Photo: An elusive sun of summer 2021 peaks out from behind Breiflogtind, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 7, 202. 16:59

The weather finally cleared last weekend and I caught the ferry to Kirkefjord and hiked out to Horseid beach for a night of camping – only my 2nd night in a tent this summer. I was slightly fearful the beach was going to be crowded, as after extended periods of bad weather, the mountains are always extra full from all the people who have been patiently waiting around for the weather to improve. And I had seen what the ferry line looked like Friday morning and decided to wait an extra day. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that no one else of the several dozen people on the ferry exited at Kirkefjord, the rest remaining on the boat for Vindstad and the more popular Bunes beach.

The weather was hot and still, the sun shining brightly overhead for the hike over the low mountain pass between the village of Kirkefjord and the beach on the outside coast. Normally, I would hike along the (much drier) west side of the like pictured here. But in the perfect calm I could see the nice reflection of Breiflogtind and the sun soon to set behind it, so I put on my crocs and headed down the boggy trail along the east side of the lake as quickly as possible before the sun disappeared. I just made it.

As a 750 meter high wall of near vertical granite, Breiflogtind is one of the more impressive mountain faces on Lofoten. Even at 14mm, it was impossible to capture the scene in one image, and thus this image composed of 4 vertical images to capture the full scale of the scene. I also have some over versions with the lake shore in the foreground, but this introduces a bit too much distortion for my tastes, though maybe I will eventually process one of them as well. I like the clean look of this image anyhow.

The original plan had been to camp for 2 nights, but in the early morning hours I found myself having to go outside and guy out my tent as a strong gusting wind had arrived. It wasn’t in the forecast, but as with the weather on Lofoten, one never knows. And especially in narrow mountain valleys, the wind can bounce off the mountains and do other weird things. Walking back across the beach into the wind and sand blowing 100’s of meters into the sky felt like a Death Valley sand storm. Unfortunately, I should have been a little more patient, as that evening turned out to be the best sunset in months, followed by low grey clouds for the entirety of this week…

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
15.5mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/100 second
WB Daylight
4 image panoramic