Friday Photo #562 – Changing Seasons

Photo: October snow flurries pass over Veggen and Himmeltindan, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 8, 2023. 15:08

As I wrote in last weeks post, the weekend’s north wind brought winter like snow flurries across Lofoten and icy roads across much of northern Norway. The temperature has warmed up slightly since then and heavy rain has fallen this week, but with the sun ever lower in the sky, one can sense that winter is not far away.

On the icy roads of Leknes Monday afternoon I noticed quite a few European motorhomes and camper vans still around the islands, and almost all still with summer tires on. This is getting a little risky so late in the year, and snow is already starting to fill up the mountain passes required to exit Lofoten – unless one plans to take the Hurtigruten all the way down to Bergen. Though the official date for winter tires in Northern Norway is October 15, it is expected that one drives as the conditions demand. If Norwegians crash in wintry conditions with summer tires on, they will lose their driving license on the spot. The police are nicer to foreigners though, who won’t have their license confiscated.

For those on a road trip on Lofoten at this time of year and waiting to see when you need to drive south, the weather of Lofoten itself is deceptive, as the islands are quite mild compared to the mountain areas required to leave Lofoten and reach Europe. I can see on the webcams that it looks like full winter over Bjørnfjell – Riksgränsen pass on the E10 east to Sweden. The E6 south over Saltfjellet is maintaining below freezing temperatures as well. This only leaves the coastal FV 17 road as a possible route south avoiding winter conditions at the moment. Though one will still need to pass over the high mountains on the E6 south of Trondheim, where winter is also fast approaching.

If you plan to stick around the north, I would suggest picking up a pair of winter tires soon – which can be bought from most gas stations around Lofoten. Though be prepared for a bit of a price shock if you’re not used to Norwegian prices!

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

Camera Info:
Nikon z8
Nikon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
145mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/400 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #561 – October Snow

Photo: A dusting of autumn snow covers the summit of Blåtind, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 5, 2023. 11:20

A gusty north wind has brought a chill to Lofoten over the last days, and with it, the first mountain snows of the season. And the temperature will continue to drop over the weekend, bringing the snow line down to 200 meters or so – while it is currently at around 400m. Already driving around the last days snow and slush has been falling along the roads as well, with the temperature dropping to 2-3 ˚c at times. If I can manage to find a long enough gap between the snow showers it will be time to put on the winter tires in the next days.

I just finished my only autumn photo workshop this season. And it was a tough one weather wise – it seems like it has rained every days since the beginning of September! But with the shifting of the winds to the rainy and low clouds from the southwest, the more dynamic snow showers from the north at least brought interesting conditions – and some occasional 20+ m/s wind gusts. Today the wind has calmed, before more gales arrive in the next days. So the fairly typical and quickly changing autumn weather on Lofoten.

It is days like these where the mountains fade in and out of the clouds and the light moves quickly. One moment you can be in sideways snow and sleet, while in the next the warm sun is shining brightly overhead. Looking at the radar, it is usually pretty straightforward to see how much time you’ll spend in the snow before the clouds pass and you’re under (somewhat) blue sky again.

This image is from just after the passing of a 10-15 minute snow shower while on the old road above Unstad. I was mostly shooting the more interesting composition of the clearing clouds over the summit of Øst-Himmeltind, but once all the clouds had cleared, I put on my 100-400mm lens to shoot the view south across Vestvågøy to the distant peak of Blåtind, with a fresh dusting of snow. Looking at the northern side of the peak, it is easy to see exactly where the snow line sits across the mountain.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon z8
Nikon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
290mm
ISO 200
f 6.3
1/800 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #560 – Autumn Storms

Photo: Waves crash over the rocks at Nesland in September autumn storm, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 22, 2021. 15:15

Another storm has passed Lofoten this week with canceled ferries and my house shaking in the wind, making sounds I haven’t heard since the end of winter. It is evident that this year’s warm and dry summer is over and the September storms are making up for lost time and the lack of rain. No one knows what next week will bring, but it looks like there is storm after storm lined up across the north Atlantic, with the eventual destination of the Norwegian coast and Lofoten. Earlier in the month I had been over in Sweden for my usual autumn hiking, but even the wet weather reached across the border so I gave up my plans after just 40km – no point walking in the rain with a heavy backpack for 2 weeks if I can’t even see the mountain tops. I flew south to Spain instead.

As stormy as the sea in Lofoten often is, one thing the landscape here is missing is a good set of sea cliffs. Cliffs where the winter swells pound into a wall of rock, sending the sea high into the air – and often completely soaking my if I’m out photographing. Scotland, or even Spain is better for this, and I have much more impressive stormy seascape images from these countries. On Lofoten, the coastline is slightly sloping for the most part – at least the easily accessible areas. And so while there are plenty of days where the waves are crashing over the rocks and high up the shoreline, it doesn’t quite have the same dramatic affect of a huge open ocean swell running into a vertical wall of rock. But I guess one location can’t have everything!

If you are traveling to Lofoten from now until the springtime, it is always a good idea to check the weather on any travel days, as ferries, planes, buses, bridges, and roads can be canceled or closed whenever the wind blows a little too much.

For more information on road safety, you can see my article: Winter Driving

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
27mm
ISO 31
f 14
1 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #559 – Vaeroy

Photo: View over Gjerdheia and Nordlandshagen from Nordlandsnupen, Værøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 18, 2023. 21:04

Despite looking over towards the mountains of Værøy rising across the distant sea on a fairly regular basis, it is now only twice that I’ve been out there, an island that is quickly becoming one of my favorite places for a long weekend getaway form ‘mainland’ Lofoten. Part of the reason for this is that the ferry schedule between Moskenes – Værøy only really works during the summer. In the off season, it is a bit more complicated and problematic to get there from Lofoten, unfortunately. So summer it is, though I’ve scouted some nice locations I’d like to be back to for the northern lights season.

In my previous trip last year, I hiked Håen, Hornet, and Måhornet. I missed the highest peak on the island though, 450m Nordlandsnupen, and so that was the first hike on my recent trip. While there was a good weather forecast, the summits of all the mountains were in a layer of heavy cloud as I made my way up the mountain. Soon enough though, the clouds cleared and I had a nice view of the surrounding landscape and across to the Lofoten mainland.

While I usually like to wait on the summit of mountains for sunset, it seamed the weather and sun location for my hike of Nordlandsnupen would mean it wasn’t the ideal location for sunset on this day. So after sitting around for an hour or two I made my way back down the mountain towards this view – looking towards the plateau of Gjerdheia. On the way up, the upper half of the mountain had been in the clouds, but I knew it would likely be a nice view, and better than the view I eventually found at the summit.

There was still a fairly thick layer of clouds along the northern horizon, so I headed down from the mountain a bit earlier than I might otherwise have done, knowing that I was looking for a view like this somewhere along the ridge on my descent still with a bit of direct light. The further I descended, the more dramatic the cliffs began to appear, but I think this image is a nice balance and view over the surrounding landscape.

I’m already looking forward to my next trip out to this tiny little islands of so many photographic possibilities…

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

Camera Info:
Nikon z8
Nikon 14-30mm f/4
25mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/30 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #558 – Aurora Light Pollution

Photo: Northern lights shine over low clouds and light pollution from nearby village, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 4, 2021. 01:01

In the image from a couple weeks ago (Friday Photo #556) I spoke about the still bright northern horizon of late August in the early part of the aurora season. This week’s photo is another type of light pollution typically found during the rest of the aurora season – low clouds and city light pollution. Personally, I prefer a clear sky and glowing horizon like in the previous image, vs. the image here today, which I just find frustrating.

This was a strong aurora, pushing beyond overhead and down towards the southeast part of the sky. Unfortunately, from my location at Storsandnes beach, it meant I was also looking directly towards Leknes. On clear nights, the light pollution would be fairly minimal, especially with such a strong aurora. But on this night, with low rain clouds passing over the islands, the city lights of Leknes illuminate the clouds over a wide area. It doesn’t look good.

Ideal would have been to pick a better location in this type of weather, where I could avoid looking towards any distant city lights. But that can also be easier said than done when there is significant cloud cover and you are sometimes lucky just to find a hole in the clouds anyhow. From this photo, I can see that I likely wouldn’t have seen anything had I gone to Haukland or Uttakeliv beaches, as the cloud cover looks more significant over there. So perhaps even with the light pollution from Leknes, I was at least in a decent location to see the northern lights in a mostly cloudy sky.

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 1.8
5 Seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #557 – Last Nights Of Summer

Photo: Mountains of Vestvågøy rise into late summer twilight, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 28, 2023. 00:02

What a summer Lofoten has had this year! Only a few days of rain and dream weather throughout August. One of these days the first autumn storm will arrive, but even with the fading twilight it feels like this summer might never end.

This night was after last week’s aurora photo (Friday Photo #556), another clear evening but no aurora. The day had been warm, over 20˚, but as the evening came the temperature dropped as normal. Until midnight, when a warm summer breeze arrived and the temperature rose to around 16-18˚c in the middle of the night. It almost felt like the Santa Ana winds of California which would warm up the autumn evenings. I thought about going down to the beach to wait for northern lights, but I opted for my backyard instead. I don’t know how many more evenings I’ll be able to sit outside this year, but this night was a nice one to do so!

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

Camera Info:
Nikon z8
Nikon 14-30mm f/4
30mm
ISO 320
f 4
20 Seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #556 – Twilight Aurora

Photo: Late August twilight and northern lights – aurora borealis, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 27, 2023. 00:15

After a week of mostly cloudy skies from last weeks first northern lights sighting of the year (Friday Photo #555), they were once again dancing in the sky last Saturday night. I was a warm summer evening, and so after a bbq with some neighbours I headed down to my beach to shoot a few images.

The evening sky is growing noticeably darker with each passing day, yet even in the midnight hours the glow of the sun just below the northern horizon is still quite strong. While I typically like these early/late season auroras with a twilight horizon, it is still a week or so early when shooting these images as the horizon was a little too bright – Especially if looking north towards the open sea as I was. And even with a moderately active aurora, the sky will not be sufficiently dark until around midnight, so this time of year misses all of the evenings early aurora activity.

The tide at the beach was in an awkward location, and I struggled to find a good foreground – with the the bright horizon not helping much either. At one point a small corona began dancing across the sky. I first tried to shoot it with more of a foreground, but as it passed directly to the north, I to a couple of images just pointing towards the sky and the horizon just out of frame. While a bit boring, I kinda like the abstract look of the image and the shift of warm to cool tones. It actually captures what it feels like standing out there, alone by the sea, in these last days of summer.

The image below is from when I first arrived at the beach and was still trying to work with a foreground composition to the scene. The sea was nearly flat and the rocks were perfectly in the middle of the tide line. If the tide had been a little higher, or the waves bigger, it would have been better to have the sea washing past to rock to give a little more balance to the dark sand and foreground.

It is not even September and I’ve already photographed the aurora multiple times. A good start to what will hopefully be a good aurora season!

For a bit of self promotion: there are still a few spots open on some of my winter photography workshops here on Lofoten.

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

Camera Info: Photo 1
Nikon z8
Nikon 20mm f/1.8
20mm
ISO 640
f 2.2
1.6 Second
WB Daylight

Camera Info: Photo 2
Nikon z8
Nikon 20mm f/1.8
20mm
ISO 640
f 2
2.5 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #555 – August Aurora

Photo: Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis shine in twilight sky of late August, Nordland, Værøy, Norway. August 19, 2023. 01:29

My prediction from last week (Friday Photo #554) came true and I saw my first northern lights of the 2023-2024 aurora season while over on Værøy for the weekend. I actually had two nights in a row of aurora, both Friday and Saturday nights. This image is from Friday night 18/19 of August and is both my first aurora of the season and also the earliest I’ve ever seen the northern lights on Lofoten – though I have also seen it on this night while floating off the east coast of Greenland in 2015.

Usually my first aurora sighting depends more on weather than the activity of the sun and I usually begin to keep an eye on the night sky beginning around August 20th. So I got a little lucky this year. And after some grey skies this week, it is looking like the weekend is going to clear up again, so hopefully there is a chance for more!

Every year with my first and last aurora sighting posts I comment a little about the still pervasive misinformation of the northern lights being solely a winter phenomenon. They are not! In fact, the northern lights are visible 8 of 12 months, or 2/3rds of the year here on Lofoten. Roughly: August 20 – April 20 – so about a month before/after the equinoxes.

While it was only a brief show that appears in the darkest hour of the night at this time of year, the quickly darkening sky will soon allow the northern lights to appear earlier in the evening with each passing week. And while there were a dozen or so other motorhomes/vans parked on the old airport runway on Værøy this night, I was the only one out enjoying the show…

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

Camera Info:
Nikon z8
Nikon 14-30mm f/4
14mm
ISO 1250
f 4
1.6 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #554 – Vaeroy

Photo: Misty clouds swirls around the steep mountain peaks of Værøy. June 24, 2022. 22:13

Unlike this photo, the weather forecast for this weekend is looking quite nice so I’ll be catching the ferry over to Værøy to finish up a few more hikes which I never managed on last year’s trip – such as the mountain ridge in the background of this image. I’ve already added a few of the hikes to the website: Håen, Hornet, Måhornet. But as I get a couple missing routes in, then I’ll add everything to the West Lofoten Hikes ebook sometime later in the year when I updated things.

I wrote last week’s post a few days in advance as I was traveling down along the Helgeland coast. But the temperature broke 29˚c in Leknes – Hot! The hottest day for the last couple years, if I remember correctly. I was lucky with mostly good weather down on the Helgeland coast as well, and was able to visit some new areas for a bit more research. But good weather was to be expected, as checking the weather forecasts and looking for a decent weather window are a primary deciding factor in when and where I might travel when I’m on a short road trip out of Lofoten.

Standing in a t-shirt in the bright morning sun while waiting for a ferry to cross the lake to the east side of the Svartisen glacier a British couple and German couple were having a conversation about their travels. The British had been mostly in northern Norway the last weeks and were complimenting on how nice the weather had been, hot even for them. While the Germans had recently driven up from the south and were complaining that this was the first day without rain since their trip started a week ago. They sounded skeptical about ever coming back to Norway again, as they experienced so much bad weather.

While there is always some luck involved, looking at the weather forecasts and maybe altering your plans a bit, especially if you are in a motorhome/camper van and don’t need to rely on pre-booked accommodation, can be the difference between a sunny or soggy trip to Norway. To put it another way – travel to where the nice weather is! There is also somewhat of a north – south divide to the weather in Norway. Rarely does the whole country experience the same conditions for any continuous amount of time. The last couple years Lofoten has experienced rainy summers while the south has been warm and dry. This year was the opposite, with northern Norway having endless amounts of sunshine while there have been torrential rains and floods in southern/central Norway.

So off to Værøy I go. The sky looks perfectly clear on Sunday, and I have already heard that the first aurora of the year were seen Wednesday night, so maybe I get lucky and will have my first sighting of the 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 24-200mm f/4-6.3
70mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/20 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #553 – Last Days Of Summer

Photo: Evening light shines over the mountains of Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August, 6, 2023. 21:52

It is that time of year when I begin to remind myself to put a headlamp in my backpack – which of course will take me several weeks and multiple evenings wandering dawn from mountains in an ever darkening sky to actually do so. And despite a late summer heat wave this week, the signs are already here that the best of summer is over for this year. I’m looking forward to autumn, and have some big hiking plans, but I still wish summer would last a little longer here in the north. Despite the return of the northern lights in a couple weeks, I’m not ready for the long, cold nights yet.

Lofoten had a fantastic summer this year. Warm, dry, and calm, it was the best summer for a while. Even so, I found myself lacking motivation for much hiking and generally only visited my local ‘exercise’ mountains of Haugheia or Smordalskammen just to keep up a bit of fitness. This was also the first summer where I’ve felt a bit overcrowded. It was as busy with tourism as ever. But more so, local changes like new, expensive parking fees, and the closing of previously existing parking areas, have made it more difficult to visit my favorite areas. For example, it is cheaper for me to take my van to Værøy for a weekend than it now is to camp at Bunes or Horseid beach due the near extortion level of the parking cost in Reine – which is even more expensive than parking at the airport or in Tromsø or Bodø. If one enjoys hiking, it is getting expensive to visit many areas of Lofoten these days.

I also find myself looking beyond Lofoten much more these days, to other areas of Norway and beyond. I’m 3/4th through my biggest ebook project yet – more info once things come closer to completion early next year hopefully, as well as a new 200km hike which I’ll hopefully complete this autumn. So I’ve actually been taking a lot of photos, just not that much of Lofoten, and even less so of Lofoten’s mountains. Maybe once these two big projects (hopefully) are completed next year, I’ll feel a bit less pressure and will be out and about around Lofoten again. There are still plenty of new mountains for me to hike, even on nearby Vestvågøy, such as this image from Blåtind from last Sunday.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon Z8
Nikon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
125mm
ISO 200
f 7.1
1/500 Second
WB Daylight