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 #408 – Haugheia Tree

Photo: Changing perspective – Late autumn tree, Haugheia, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 24, 2020. 16:06

I had been waiting for the right light to head back to Haugheia to spend a little more time in the small grove of trees I posted about a few weeks ago – Friday Photo #405. Though by now it was no longer the warm days we had in early October the the whole 2 kilometer walk was along ice covered trails, making it a little slower going to ensure I stayed on my feet!

But while the air was cold, the light was nice and warm, with the sun low on the horizon. I spent a little time in the other grove of trees, but the sun wasn’t in the right location for them and they weren’t as interesting as I remembered. This lone tree caught my attention more, and so I spent a little time with it.

The image below is the first composition that caught my eye, shooting wide at 14mm. But it also felt a little boring. The area is full of twisted old trees, so I wanted to incorporate some of those somehow. I tried putting something in the foreground, but never got anything I was content with as it then often became to busy of a scene – perhaps after the first snow I’ll go try again. Or maybe it was actually the sun itself which was distracting – maybe I also need to try on a completely overcast or foggy day.

In the above image, which I like more, maybe just because of the warmer tones, I switched to a 70-200 lens. My goal was still to isolate the tree but in a slightly more abstract way. I thought the framing of the branches in the foreground looked interesting enough and isn’t something I normally do.

I also eventually took a shot focused on the foreground tree branches with the background tree out of focus, but that didn’t look as interesting. And I should say that I actually don’t like photographing trees very much, so not sure why I’m actually going out hiking to find some. Perhaps it’s just trying to hold on to the last of autumn before the long winter sets in and most my images will be of snow. But one of these image will also likely be part of a long term project for a new eBook I’m working on, and I’m attempting to show more of Lofoten than just ‘pretty mountain views.’ It will be a struggle, especially in the coming two months, but hopefully it pushes me to something new, as I feel my photography have stagnated for a while now and I’m generally not impressed by anything I return home with.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200 f/4
120mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/250 second
WB Daylight

Camera Info
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 14
1/60 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #407 – Ice Season

Photo: Frozen mountain pond, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 21, 2020. 17:16

The landscape has begun to settle into its winter freeze over the last week and many of the small mountain ponds are beginning to ice over. I went for a short hike on Wednesday up towards Solbjørnvatn, under the promise of a clear sky and good northern lights forecast – neither of which turned out to be true. Even the lower ground was mostly frozen and the hiking quite treacherous in places.

I had hiked higher into the mountains, where I was initially planning to wait for northern lights. But the route up over ice covered rock slabs required some tricky navigation, as I wasn’t entirely confident I could find my way down in the dark with the light of my headlamp, so I headed back to a lower spot just after sunset. By now the forecast showed a clear sky, while the scene before me was over ever thickening clouds in the fading light. My feet were wet from some of the bog which wasn’t yet frozen and a cold wind was blowing. It was barely 17:00.

So I took one last photo of this frozen pond, which I think ended up nicer than any of the sunset photos from earlier. I sat for a moment, glad to have my winter jacket on, as I took in the conditions. Should I stay and hope it clears? Or head down and try again another time. Had the evening been still, I probably would have cooked dinner and waited for a while. But as the conditions were, heading back to my van seemed like the better option. Which turned out to be the smarter choice in the end, as sky ended up fully cloudy and the aurora never arrived.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 9.5
1 second
WB Daylight
2 images – top, bottom

Friday Photo #406 – October Snow

Photo: October snow flurries over Moskenesøy and Sund, Nesland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 13, 2020. 16:32

The brief Indian Summer which I wrote about last week now seems to have come to an end and the normal cool-ish weather of mid October has now arrived. While no snow has made it down to sea level year, Himmeltindan is showing a light coating of snow in what is otherwise a cold, misty rain down below. It has been cloudy for the last week, but I think finally the sun is below my mountains for the year, not to return again until late February next year.

The trees have more of less lost their leaves for the year, and most of the small plants seem to be quickly turning to winter brown as well. But there are still hopefully some days left in the hiking season for the year – and by hiking, I mean in normal conditions and not winter hikes. So far over the summer I was able to get 5 new routes hiked for the next update of ‘West Lofoten Hikes’ ebook. There’s still a couple more mountains on the list, so maybe I’ll manage a few more.

I was a little late to hike on this day, last Tuesday. I can feel the days getting shorter, but somehow I haven’t realised that sunset is now at 17:30 already! After a few days of wind, the weather was finally a little calmer as I headed up Neslandsheia, overlooking my old home in Skjelfjord. Misty clouds were floating around and what initially was a light rain as I began the steep hike up an old sheep trail turned into a blowing snow as I reached 400+ meters elevation. Initially the sun was shining bright over the sea, but upon returning to one of the view points on my way down, it had moved to behind the mountains as another wave of autumn snow floated by.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
58mm
ISO 100
f 11
1/40 second
WB Daylight