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 #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 #386 – Spring Thaw

Photo: Stortind rising into the midnight sky above flowing waters of the spring snowmelt, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 25, 2020. 23:29

Finally, after a seemingly never ending winter the thermometer broke into double digits again last weekend and gave us the hottest day of the year so far – 16˚C! Well, I’m sure for most of you reading this, that doesn’t sound like much, but for us here on Lofoten, this was only the 2nd time above 10˚C this year, the previous time being on January 2nd during a strange warm period. Otherwise, we’d have to go back to late October to find 2 more days above 10˚C.

Though unfortunately this was just a quick teaser of what’s hopefully to come. As the rest of the week since Tuesday has fallen back to a pattern of heavy grey skies and cool rain. But At least we had a few days to sit outside while not in a down jacket and remember what the warmth of the sun felt like – I don’t think my arms have seen sunlight since September…

Thus far in May, most of the precipitation arrived as snow. And while it has mostly since melted away from the coastal areas, the inland mountains still have significant snow coverage, even here in west Lofoten. Last year I was already hiking up snow free trails on moderately hight peaks by now. I might have to wait a little longer this year.

The mountain snow combined with the sun and warm temperatures quickly set the spring thaw into motion. All over Lofoten the often quiet little streams were flowing high and fast. Driving by this location on my way to somewhere else I noticed the river flowing across a section of rocks that for whatever reason I’ve never photographed before – I usually only visit the lower waterfalls here.

I first made a stop in the late afternoon and hiked a little ways up the valley to where the river was flowing across the flat, slabby rocks. But the sun was in the wrong part of the sky, so after a little while exploring and observing the conditions, I made the plan to come back later in the evening.

As the hours passed the winds picked up into quite some gusts out on the exposed coastal areas. Luckily, this valley was mostly sheltered, though at times the wind gusted strong enough to blow water across my lens. The sky was nearly completely cloudy, yet luckily enough there was a hole somewhere in the northern sky to allow a ray of light to shine across the upper half of Stordind – without that, I don’t think the image would have worked as well.

Camera Info:
Nikon D885
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 16
1 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #385 – Midnight Sun Season

Photo: A sun that never sets – beginning of the midnight sun season, Unstad beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 22, 2020. 02:03

Last night was the first night the sun set after midnight for the year – and still a full month ahead of the summer solstice. Luckily this coincided with a perfect blue sky, perhaps even a bit boring photographically, but at least the horizon was clear. And so I headed up Helligberget – the Holy Mountain – above Unstad to see.

I should note that on Lofoten, the term ‘Midnight Sun’ is generally used to describe the period in which the sun is above the horizon 24 hours a day: i.e. never setting. Other locations might use the term a little more loosely to mean setting after midnight, but not necessary 24 hour sunlight, which only occurs north of the Arctic Circle.

However, since I was a few hundred meters up a mountain, I essentially transported myself into the future with my elevation. And so from my vantage point, the sun remained about 1/3 above the horizon at its lowest point around 01:00. Had I been down on the beach, the sun would have been fully below the horizon.

This photo is actually just a single frame from part of a time lapse I was shooting – which may or may not ever see the light of day, but I captured the full sequence of the sun drifting across the horizon from a little before it set until after it began to rise again – which is this image here, from just after 02:00. I didn’t use a photo from earlier in the night as it wasn’t as photogenic for a single still image – as at midnight the sun was in the far left of the frame, and felt somewhat out of balance to use here. The overall composition is also not the best, as capturing the full movement of the sun for the time lapse was my purpose, so my composition was constrained by the sun’s movement.

Today, the sun is shining again and it’s 13 degrees out! Feels like summer and time for a bbq – so I’ll watch the sun from by yard…

Camera Info:
Nikon D810
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/100 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #384 – The Long Winter

Photo: Winter without end – sea to summit snow over Kvalvika beach, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 14, 2020. 21:45

It has snowed for the last 10 days straight and it is currently snowing outside my window as I type this. I think May has had more winter weather than this year’s winter! I’m semi joking, but actually, the warmest day of the year was 10˚c on January 2nd. We’ve reached 8˚c a couple times since then, but the last weeks have remained cold. And with the long term forecast (as unreliable as that is anyhow) only showing up to 8˚c by the 24th of May, I’m not sure we’ll break the 10 degree boundary this month at all. And the one year were a calm, sunny spring is needed for us here in the north…

I attempted to head up Ryten on Wednesday evening, but having gotten a late start, I made terribly slow progress through the often knee deep snow. And so I made a detour to a side peak to at least catch some sunset light before returning to my van mostly empty handed.

Yesterday evening was attempt number two. I took a different route, the more direct one which I normally just use for skiing, not hiking. and though the snow was thinner, the spongy bushes underfoot made me wish I was on my skis – and once I was post holing through the beautiful 20cm powder on the upper slopes, I was even more depressed I wasn’t on my skis – it was better snow than I had skied on the mountain all year.

But I was there for photography, not recreation unfortunately, and my skiing abilities aren’t such that I can carry two camera, two tripods, and several lenses without severe risk of damage – and as Corona has made me unemployed for the summer, I can’t go breaking stuff at the moment, though that is already too late for my 14-24 lens which broke in April…

It is always windy on Ryten, and last night was no exception. I made sure to get an early start, knowing the snow would add some time to my normal hiking pace. I reached the summit around 19:00 – 4 hours before sunset. Maybe a little early!

Timing is everything for Ryten and Kvalvika. And at this time of year, the setting sun shines directly into the bay and across the beach, generally providing the best lighting conditions. Luckily, the snow actually makes this look like a winter image, but it’s not actually an image that can be taken in winter due to where the sun needs to be.

After several hours changing light – I was really up there to work on another project which may or may not ever see the light of day – and with cold feet, I headed down just before 23:00 as a large wave of snow was approaching from sea.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 40
f 11
60 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #383 – Midnight Hjell

Photo: Midnight Hjell, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 8, 2020. 00:05

Winter on Lofoten. Well, no, this is mid May 2020. After several nice days of sunshine last weekend, the thermostat has dropped and snow showers have been falling across the Islands over the last days. And the long term forecast seems to show that we’ll have the same cold conditions for the next week or more. In the one year where’d I’d just want even 10˚ on a calm afternoon. Nope!

It is not that snow is unusual in May. It’s actually to be expected here in the north, which is why we can keep our winter tires on a little longer than the Oslo city people in the south – who have already been sitting in the sunshine for weeks. It just seems this year the weather has remained extra stormy, with few days of sunshine and even cooler temperatures overall. A day or two of snow is no problem in May when you have some sunny 10˚ degrees in between. But this year, the thermostat has been struggling even to reach 5˚ over the last month.

I could have pretended this was a winter photo. And by the look of it, I could have said it was taken any time between November and March and for most people it would seem out of place. But there are some clues which show it’s not a winter image. The first, and easiest to pick up is the time the photo was taken: 00:05, five minutes after midnight. Though the sky is mostly overcast, you can see the warm light glowing on the horizon. This would not happen in winter. The second clue, and really only for those who know the area, is that the glowing horizon is in the north. Definitely not something which happens in winter. In December, this image could have been taken facing south at noon for a similar result.

But I’m tired of snow. It’s been a long winter this year. Hopefully I can start posting some sunny images soon! I need to for myself…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 31
f 16
30 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #382 – Spring Twilight

Photo: Evening twilight glow over northern coast of Lofoten Islands from Flakstadøy. April 29, 2020. 22:32

For the first time in a month there was a cloudless sky over Lofoten on Wednesday. While there have been some moments of sun here and there at times, never in the whole of April have we had a clear and calm day. So I decided to head up to the mountains for sunset.

Normally I love this time of year, with the ever lightening horizons each night. But this year, the night sky has been almost entirely cloudy, especially lower on the horizon. So I haven’t really been able to observe the change, since it all looks the same when cloudy. So with a clear sky it felt like a jump in time, suddenly it was so light!

The snow was too icy – and I brought my light crampons – for the mountain I wanted to climb, so I headed over to a section of ridge overlooking the coast above Vikten. The clear sky didn’t provide the most dramatic sunset, but it was nice to just sit and watch the sun sink into the calm sea, even if it was a little on the cold side. Normally I would have had the setting sun visible from my house for about two weeks now, but last night from the mountain was the first time I saw it happen this year.

I headed down a little before 23:00, making my journey through a mostly snow filled valley until a short steep descent to the lake and the muddy trail home. I brought my headlamp, it it remained in my backpack, probably the last time I will carry it until late August. Only a few more weeks until the sun is here for the summer and the sleepless nights begin…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 100
f 9
1/5 second
WB Daylight