Friday Photo #435 – Midnight Rain

Photo: Soft rain showers fall into the sea after midnight in May’s twilight light, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 5, 2021. 00:40

With the arrival of the midnight sun less than 3 weeks away, there is already no more darkness during the nights on Lofoten and I’ve already found myself transitioning to ‘midnight sun’ mode: ie. stay up until 02:00-03:00 and sleep til noon-ish. Though part of this is also because I should probably get curtains that block more light, as mine basically do nothing.

But it is also that my mind can’t settle. It is possible to shoot 24 hours a day now, so even when I know it’s time to sleep, I’m thinking about what photo possibilities might happen over the next hours. It is a similar restlessness to big aurora nights, where even once home after being out for hours, I still can’t settle, and constantly look out the windows, wondering if I should go back out again.

This photo here is from one of those situations. I had already been out hiking for sunset for several hours. But on my way home, a layer a cloud cam in from the south, leaving a small band of the glowing horizon in the north. I stopped along the road and shot a few photos, but once home, I couldn’t ignore the light for much longer – eventually ending up shooting a time-lapse sequence as the gentle clouds floated over the sea. This photo is from my bathroom window.

While this is a pretty simple, and dare I say, boring image, what is special for me is the time it was taken. If this was just 19:00 in the evening, then ehhh, no big deal. But this is almost 01:00, the darkest hour of the night. I think I’m just looking forward to summer! And the glowing nights are the first sign of the magical summer months here on Lofoten.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
200mm
ISO 100
f 8
3 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #434 – Rype

Photo: Male Ptarmigan in winter plumage in spring field, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 16, 2021. 18:42

I make to claims to be any sort of even near competent wildlife photographer, and in general, I’ll only pursue any soft of animals should the opportunity basically present itself before me – ie, a moose standing on the side of the road, etc. The one small exception to this is in the spring time when the fields around my house fill with various birds. Then, I’ll bring out the telephoto lens and make various, usually failed, attempts at getting some images.

I think this is also because I don’t find the brown fields and melting snow that attractive for landscape photography. Everything just feels a bit ‘ehh’ looking to me at this time of year. And in only a few weeks the trees will be green and the fields full of flowers. This is also one of the reason why I don’t really offer any photo workshops at this time of year, unless by special request, as it is not the most scenic time on Lofoten.

Of all the animal and birds cruising around, the mountain hares are probably the easiest to photograph, with the ptarmigan – rype in Norwegian, probably being the next easiest to get near enough to. Everything else just flies away as I attempt to approach, and i’m way too lazy to sit out in a hide for several hours just for a picture of a bird. Although there might be one exception, as there is an eagle that semi-regularly sits on a small lump of grass overlooking the ocean, which might be worth a proper attempt at wildlife photography one of these years.

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
500mm
ISO 320
f 5.6
1/1250 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #433 – Aurora Season Finale

Photo: Aurora Corona fills the southern sky over Stornappstind just before midnight, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 16, 2021. 23:40

My prediction for the weekend in last weeks post (Friday Photo #432) of maybe 1-2 more last nights of northern lights of the season more than came true, turning into 4 consecutive nights of aurora from Friday to Monday. The best display by far though, was Friday night and into the early morning hours of Saturday, with multiple KP5 coronas appearing well into the southern half of the sky.

I’m posting multiple photos this week, as these will be the last northern lights photos I’ll have until the sky begins to darken again in late August. But this was a good finish to the year, and now the latest I have taken northern lights images into April, with the last night being Monday/Tuesday the 19/20th – where previously it had been the night of 13/14th. So almost a week later this year.

Really though, it is just pure luck after the beginning of April, as it needs to be a large enough aurora display to appear overhead or in the southern sky which remains dark enough. Any small northerner lights along the northern horizon would not likely have been visible. But I think there is something unique and special about these spring auroras, with the horizon glowing which adds depths and color to the image.

The second image, taken just after midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning might be my favorite of this group. Too bad I hadn’t been in Reine on Friday, that would have been a show! But I kind of like the subtlety of this image, with the aurora almost interacting with the moon, which itself was also nicely situated over the landscape. Normally I try and avoid including city lights in my aurora photos, but here, I think they add to the sense of place to the image. The aurora didn’t last long this night, but eventually some really cool lenticular clouds began floating over the fjord (you can see a time lapse of if you follow me on Instagram) which eventually took over my attention – Perhaps only a photographer living on Lofoten can be more interested in clouds than northern lights!

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
40mm
ISO 1250
f 2
2 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #432 – Last Aurora

Photo: Northern Lights in sky over glowing April horizon, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 13, 2021. 01:10

It is mid April and the northern horizon is growing lighter with each passing night as the sun continues on it’s northern journey over the next two months. And so, it is time to say goodbye to the northern lights until they return again in late August.

Every year it is always a question of when I will see the last aurora, doing it’s best to shine brighter than the midnight April sky. So far, the night of April 12/13 is the latest I have photographed northern lights here on Lofoten. Today’s image is also of that night. It won’t be until next week when the sky will definitely be too bright, that I will know if this was this years last aurora image or not.

However, the weather forecast is showing clear skies this weekend and there is also some solar energy hitting earth, which means there is a good change I might get one or two more nights of northern lights in the coming nights. And it really is a light night event at this time of year, usually becoming visible around midnight.

While the northern lights often get stereotyped as a winter event, from the Lofoten Islands, and in a strictly astrological sense of light and darkness, they are potentially visible for about 8 months of the year – about August 20-25 – April 15-20. So about 2/3rds of the year they are visible! I guess that is why I always lose a bit of motivation during the last month or so and don’t put too much effort to get out unless conditions seem ideal. The exception being, to try and get the last aurora dance of the season.

This year was a strange northern lights season, and defiantly not the best of the 5 winters I have now lived full time on Lofoten. It was much better than the 2019/2020 season, which simply had terrible weather overall. This season we had a pretty rainy and gray start to the season and it wasn’t until January that the weather improved somewhat. And while we were lucky to have some large aurora displays on a few perfectly clear nights, they were still somewhat few and far between. And frustratingly, there were also multiple clear but aurora-less nights this season. I guess that is why northern lights photography is usually referred to as, ‘chasing’ or ‘hunting,’ or some other verb to describe the pursuit – as even in otherwise perfect conditions, you never know if they will show up or not…

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
140mm
ISO 1000
f 4.5
1/1600 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #431 – Orcas In Snow

Photo: Orcas in the snow on the coast outside Nusfjord, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 5, 2021. 17:20

For the last week I’ve been hearing various reports that the killer whales have returned to the Lofoten coast for their spring herring feeding. On Sunday, while planning to go out for a hike from Nesland, I finally spotted them in Skjelfjord – but they were on the far side and barely visible from land. I need a boat, I thought.

Monday I was out with some friends fishing near Stamsund when I got a text that the orcas were back in the bay at Nusfjord. Typical situation for me, that I’m usually occupied with some other activity when they are in a good location. But fortunately, there weren’t many fish to be found (I don’t eat fish myself anyhow, was just along for the ride), so we returned early to Stamsund, where I quickly said goodbye and headed to Nusfjord.

I arrived to the news that they had already left and were further along the coast. But, I was also informed that a boat would be coming, so I asked if I could join along. Having already been at sea outside of Stamsund, I knew it was going to be rough sailing in the choppy water. And even more difficult trying to photograph the orcas with a telephoto lens from a wildly bouncing boat. And soon enough, a large front of snow arrived, making photography even more difficult by limiting which direction we could shoot in.

But luckily enough, the orcas were just hanging around and feasting on the herring. As we drifted in the boat, occasionally they would surface nearby and swim around us. Then it is a matter to try and point the camera in the right direction and hope it focuses on the orcas and not the falling snow.

Hopefully this is just the first chance of the year and there are more times ahead as they hang around the coastline over the next couple months.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
140mm
ISO 1000
f 4.5
1/1600 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #430 – Between Seasons

Photo: Clearing rain showers over Medskolmen at sunset, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 31, 2021. 19:31

After last weeks big storms the weather has remained wet and blustery most days, with passing rain showers sweeping across the islands. With clocks changing to summer time over the past weekend, sunset is now after 20:00 and the days are feeling suddenly long – It is strange to eat dinner while it is still light out.

With the sun now moving towards the northern part of the sky, the distant mountains from my house often catch interesting light in the evenings. It’s even cooler when there’s the passing rain or snow showers which come sweeping across the mountains. For this image, I was actually in the middle of a Zoom call, but the light was too good to miss, so I just had to keep shooting photos out the window while trying to pay attention to the conference I was in. Not too difficult. I would have liked to have setup a time-lapse instead, but that wasn’t possible unfortunately, as I left my tripod in my van. Next time maybe…

It has cooled down today with a bit of snow falling, but it is already feeling like it will be an early spring this year – as opposed to last year where there was still deep snow in the middle of May. I’ve even spotted the first budding trees over the last days. The weather can always change dramatically at any moment, but an early and mild spring would be nice this year – I’m waiting for the first day of t-shirt weather!

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
200mm
ISO 100
f 5.6
1/160 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #429 – After The Storm

Photo: Lost in the storm, broken row boat on the Unstad coast, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 25, 2021. 12:14

After a mostly calm winter, two back-to-back storms swept over Lofoten on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the 2nd one brining hurricane force winds to the islands. Wednesday was the first time this winter I saw 30+ meter/second wind gusts on my weather station, and in Stamsund wind was recoded at over 40 m/s (for note: over 33 m/s is hurricane force wind). While intense, luckily the storm seemed to pass by quickly, with the strong winds only lasting 8 hours or so. But that was enough to bring structural damage across the islands.

One of the losses was one of the red boat houses on the left side of the beach at Unstad, which you can see in the left background of the photo. It is strange to think of how many long winters and storms the buildings have witnessed, and then one day, it has been one storm too many. I guess that is one reason there aren’t too many old, or historic buildings around Lofoten, they just don’t last that long in the weather out here.

I had been sitting on the beach at Unstad on Thursday morning, a completely calm day compared to the previous 24 hours. It was actually the first day I have sat outside this year and noticed the warmth from the sun heating up my back as I watched the still slightly stormy waves in front of me. Sitting there, I noticed an unusually large amount of pained red wood broken apart across the rocks at the upper tide line. Usually storms bring in a lot of debris to the beaches, but this wood looked a little too clean to have been out at sea very long. Then, looking to the left, I noticed a few people walking around the boat houses, picking stuff up.

The old row boat here was lying a little ways away, just next to the road. I’m not sure if it had been blown here, or moved up from further down on the rocks. Either way, it is a piece of Lofoten history now lost to the storms.

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 100
f 7.1
1/250 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #428 – Kvalvika Sunset

Photo: Setting sun behind Kjerrina from Kvalvika beach, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 14, 2021. 17:37

Tomorrow, March 20th, is the vernal equinox and the sun will pass north of the equator for the first time since September – spring and summer are on the way! Even the first of the migratory birds have started to find their places along the beaches and coastline of Lofoten, and the evenings are finally feeling a little lighter after the long dark months of winter.

From a photographic point of view, this means the sun is finally leaving the southern part of the sky and reaching into more northern facing locations. Today’s photo, of the setting sun at Kvalvika beach from last Sunday would not have been possible just 2 weeks ago, as the sun would have set just behind the mountain and not been visible from the beach. Over the coming weeks, the setting sun will move further the the right (north) of this scene until it reaches true north in late May – the beginning of the midnight sun season here on Lofoten.

As the sun rises and sets further to the north, more and more locations on Lofoten will emerge from the long shadows of winter. Especially important for this are the beaches, most of which are on the northern sides of the islands and surrounded by steep mountains.

Last Sunday, I decided to head to Kvalvika with a pair of journalism students who are including me in one of their university projects. Knowing it was one of the first days with the setting sun on the beach, it seemed like a pretty good option. Although leaving the parking lot for the short 1 hour hike, it was one of those days where the weather forecast was more optimistic than reality, as heavy clouds cloaked most of Lofoten. Arriving at the beach in mid afternoon I could see some small areas of clear sky along the lower horizon. I gave it a 50/50 chance of seeing a sunset vs. having a grey set.

Time seemed to pass slowly, and even the surrounding mountains where not receiving any light and with the sun behind the mountain Kjerringa, I couldn’t see what was going to happen, we could only wait. But finally, I could see the steep cliffs of Ryten begin to lighten, and then glow bright in direct light! As the minutes passed the sunlight moved towards us, eventually shining across the northern half of the beach. Luck was on our side.

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 31
f 13
120 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #427 – Winter Fog

Photo: Soft winter twilight over Himmeltindan, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 8, 2021. 17:23

After a windy weekend, Monday arrived with near absolute stillness. Slow, almost ghost like snow showers were gently floating across the islands throughout the day, bringing the mountains in and out of the clouds from time to time.

My original plan had been to go skiing, as the wind was forecast to increase during the week, blowing away the already thin layer of snow western Lofoten has at the moment. But as I arrived at the parking lot, I noticed I managed to forget my ski boots at home! Doh!!!

I also had my cross-county ski gear in my van, so I eventually made my way to Leknes after photographing a bit in the Fredvang area. In the late afternoon I took a quick lap on the Leknes skiløypa, not wanting to miss out on any movement for the day. This turned out to be a good choice anyhow, as it kept me in town later than I otherwise would have been and so I found myself driving home a little before sunset.

In the low areas west of Leknes, I noticed some thin wisps of fog floating over the frozen landscape. Usually this is more common in autumn, but not so much in winter. A little further and I noticed on of the lakes had a thick layer of fog, with barely visible trees on the far shore. I was already content with the photos I had shot for the day, but this was potentially not something to miss, so I turned around and parked nearby the lake.

While this lake had been well frozen back in February, the weather has been mild for the last weeks, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As I got to the edge, I could see that I was breaking through the ice and into boggy ground underneath. I should note, that I know this area, and that the edge of the lake is not deep. If it was another, deeper lake or with a steeper drop off at the shoreline, I would not have continued.

I could barely see the trees on the far side, looking like ghosts in the thick mist. I tried to get a little closer, but still mostly breaking through the ice and sinking into the boggy terrain with each step. Finally I took one step too far and sank past my knees, completely flooding my boots with water and soaking my pants. Ok, that is far enough, and I went slightly back onto shallower terrain.

Ideally, I would have liked to go out to the middle of the lake so the trees in the foreground would be a bit more visible, but I defiantly was not going to risk that! So I had to be content to remain close to the shore where it wasn’t deep. Even with my lower half soaking wet, I took photos for another 20 minutes or so, as the fog was drifting back on forth on occasion.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
165mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/60 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #426 – Winter Is Back

Photo: Snow covered birch copse on Haugheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 5, 2021. 13:35

Winter is back! After a rainy finish to February the temperatures have finally dropped again and the typical March snow flurries have been blowing across the islands for the last few days. Today though, the wind finally calmed and so I headed out into the snowy weather to Haugheia to see if the snow added any character to the small copses of wind twisted birch trees that sit along the ridge. You might recognize these trees from Friday Photo #405, during autumn last year.

Conditions were slightly more difficult today than on a sunny autumn afternoon, but I kind of like the starkness of the winter look a bit better. I had been hoping for heavier snow flakes, and while the forecast showed rain, it was a thin, light snow that was falling as I reached the trees.

I spent a couple hours shooting various compositions. It is really a place one can get lost in, especially in the larger grove, which I find the chaos of to be slightly intimidating for my general preference of clean and simple compositions. Even this image, with plenty of negative space, is already feeling on the busy side for me, especially the thick cluster of branches on the left side.

Though as an easy 20 minute walk from the parking lot, I should put in a bit more effort to explore the area, as they are some of the cooler looking trees in the western half of Lofoten.

Tomorrow the first proper storm of the winter is forecast to hit Lofoten after what has been a pretty calm and sunny winter overall – much better than last year! So I don’t think I’ll be back then, but hopefully all the snow doesn’t get blown away!

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 200
f 8
1/250 second
WB Daylight