Friday Photo #489 – Almost Midnight

Friday Photo #489 – Almost Midnight

Photo: Four minutes til midnight – spring twilight over hornleva, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 19, 2022. 23:56

After what has so far been a depressingly cold and grey May the clouds finally broke on Wednesday afternoon for 2 days of sunshine and 2 nights of twilight. My first priorities yesterday evening was getting bbq season under way again, but afterwards I went for a wander around the neighbourhood to see what I could find.

It has been a little frustrating this year to know what light I’ve been missing behind all the grey skies – and it is back to clouds again already as I write this on Friday afternoon. It is also a bit shocking to suddenly realise how light the midnight sky has become. Usually its sort of a gradual process that occurs over the weeks of late April to mid May. But with such terrible weather, the evenings have been unusually dark most nights. And next week the midnight sun will officially start, so hopefully the weather improves as Lofoten heads into summer.

Overall, the spring feels a little slow to arrive this year judging by the fields outside my house, which were already filling with wildflowers by now. Though it is always a little hard to estimate the change of seasons on Lofoten, as just after the last 2 days of sun, the landscape is noticeable greener and many more trees have their first leaves. So Lofoten can ‘turn green’ quite quickly at this time of year. So by next week, Lofoten could already look like full summer, if the weather cooperates…

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
30mm
ISO 64
f 11
13 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #488 – Beach Seaweed

Photo: Seaweed covered beach after a week of stormy May weather, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 11, 2022. 22:33

Today’s photo is an intentionally ‘ugly’ one. It has been a fairly stormy, cold and rainy May this year with a seemingly near constant north wind blowing across the islands and rough seas. In these types of conditions, seaweed is ripped from the coastline and deposited on the beaches across Lofoten, leaving them in a somewhat ugly and messy state. It is not a good time for beach photography at the moment.

Some areas are affected more than others, and there’s also the affect of wind, tides, waves, and more. Here, at Myrland beach, there’s actually not too much. Down the road at Storsandnes is much worse, or over at Unstad, where the seaweed can often pile 1-2 meters high, forming ‘seaweed mountains’ along the beach.

It will take some time now, and some bigger waves to clean up the beaches so they are in better photographic form. But it looks like the grey May weather will continue for a while longer, so not quite beach weather at the moment anyhow. Though it is somewhat frustrating, as the twilight nights of this time of year can bring some of the best light, but for weeks now, the northern horizon has had a constant layer of clouds blocking out the sun well before sunset, even if other parts of the sky remain somewhat clear. Hopefully better conditions arrive soon…

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
10 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #487 – Light And Shadow

Photo: Long shadows fall over the peaks of Veggen, Mannen, and Himmeltidan on Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 3, 2022. 21:25

It has been a turbulent and stormy start to May this year and any short moment of sunlight was quickly erased in the next wave of passing snow or rain. In these weather conditions the northern horizon area is typically fully cloudy, the opposite of what is needed for nice sunsets. But in the hour or two before sunset, there can be interesting dances and light and shadow across the mountains of Lofoten.

With the midnight sun only a few weeks away, the sun is now setting in the hight northwest of the compass, casting its last light over the northern side of Lofoten. I actually find this time of year somewhat frustrating, as the sunsets are now quite late, about 22:30, but the sunrises not quite early enough, about 03:45. So its a little hard to find the motivation to go out at ‘night’ after having eaten dinner maybe around 19:00-20:00. I’m slowly starting to transition to ‘midnight sun time’ where I spend all night out in the mountains. But the nights are still a little too long at the moment, especially considering the stormy conditions of the last weeks.

Luckily, at this time of year the light almost comes to me, so its not too bad to be lazy. And while I’ve shot this scene dozens of times over the years, its still a nice one. Especially since its just taken from my office window. So I can be sitting here at the computer typing away and take a quick look out the window to see if anything interesting is happening. If so, a couple quick photos, then back to work. Though some days can be more distracting than others and I find it difficult to concentrate on writing. But no complaints about that…

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
130mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/40 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #486 – Return Of Winter

Photo: Late April beach snow, Myrland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 28, 2022. 23:25

Winter has returned to Lofoten! After a period of mild weather that saw most of the low level and a fair amount of high level snow melted away with the promise of an early spring, a cold north wind has brought snow showers across the Islands in the last days April.

By last weekend, I had finally managed to clear the last of the winter snow drifts out of my yard and even some of the trees were beginning to bud. And I spent the evenings on two separate hikes in mild weather, though Sunday was a bit on the rainy side, on snow free trails. However, the weather has now shifted and winter has returned. Lofoten’s landscape is once again while from sea to summit.

Last night I wandered down to the beach a little before midnight. The sun is only about 7˚ below the horizon at the moment, so as the clouds clear, the night is brighter and brighter with each passing week. I’m not sure where I put my headlamp last, but I won’t need it again until late August.

There has been enough snow that even some of the beaches are covered in white, which isn’t even a regular occurrence in winter these days anymore. I wasn’t looking to shoot much, more to just record the conditions for future memory. The tide was incoming and one large wave swept across the beach – ruining the snow in the composition I was shooing, but forming this interesting pattern across the now revealed sand. I actually found the clouds somewhat distracting, and competing against the rocks and other elements of the foreground, and the sky was clearer overhead, but in an awkward position for where I should put the horizon. I would have liked to have the melt pattern a bit more centered, but it ended in a rock that didn’t work for the composition, so this diagonal was kinda the best I could do, though it leaves quite a bit of blank space on the left side of the image. I suppose I could always crop in tighter…

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 100
f 9
8 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #485 – April Twilight

Photo: The northern sky glowing at midnight in the white nights of spring, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 20, 2022. 00:35

Only a month after the spring equinox in March the nights of mid april are no longer fully dark. Though it can be somewhat deceptive just looking at the sunrise and sunset numbers themselves, which at the moment are about 04:50 and 21:15, which seem to afford plenty of time for darkness. But the arctic sun rotates on a much flatter orbit than lower latitudes, so even though it is below the horizon for 6-7 hours, it is not actually that far below. And with each passing week the sky will continue to brighten until the midnight sun arrives in just over a month. The sun moves fast here in the north!

Just after midnight I wandered down to the beach. Partly to have something to write about this week, but really hoping for a last aurora image of the season – which this year, is April 10th for me. Kind of an anticlimactic end this year compared to last year (friday Photo #433 ), when the sky was dancing every night until the very end. The weather and sun were not so cooperative this year it seems.

Now to look forward for the landscape to turn green over the next month and a summer in the mountains!

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 1600
f 4.5
3 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #484 – Spring Ptarmigan

Photo: Male Ptarmigan in mix of winter and summer moulting sitting on fence post, Myrland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 11, 2022. 15:11

With the long and (hopefully) sunny days of April comes the ever increasing activity among Lofoten’s birdlife. With the oystercatchers some of the first arrivals in mid March, many of the other migratory bird species have arrived over the last few weeks. Bridging with them a near round the clock flurry of activity in the skies over Lofoten as they fight for mates and territory for the summer breeding season.

The Ptarmigans, while year round residents of Lofoten, also join in with the activity and become much more active an visible than during the winter as their mating calls ring out through the air. One benefit of living in a rural setting such as mine, is that much of the area surrounding my house is filled with frequent activity, making for somewhat easy photography from my yard. Although in a few more weeks, the noise level on some nights will reach an irritatingly high volume, that I have to wear earplugs some nights to get a full sleep!

The Ptarmigan are also some of the easiest of the birds to photograph, and usually allow one to slowly approach without flying off – though a 500mm lens also helps in this process! If I’m lucky, I can catch them in my backyard and sneak around my house before they notice me. Maybe I should build a hide one of these days, but truthfully, I’m not that into bird photography. Only when an easy opportunity presents itself, such as these April days around the neighbourhood.

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 1000
f 6.3
1/2000 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #483 – Aurora Season Ending

Photo: April northern light shine over glowing northern horizon in final days of aurora season, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 10, 2021. 01:06

With the ever lightening nighttime sky of April comes the inevitable end of Lofoten’s aurora season. Last year (Friday Photo #433) brought a fantastic finale to the season with 5 consecutive nights of dancing northern lights, including the latest aurora I’ve seen, occurring on the night of April 19/20.

What this year will bring, I don’t know yet. There is still time for a little more, but once April arrives, the sun seems to go into hyperdrive and the night time sky quickly fades away. But the last aurora is kinda like the last sunlight before the polar night in December; you never quite know when it will be until its already gone.

The last weeks have brought several major solar storms, some of which where even too far south to be visible on Lofoten – one reason why bigger is not always better in regards to northern lights and KP index. But for these late season auroras, there generally needs to be a good level of activity, pushing the aurora into the darker overhead sky and further towards the south.

For this image from 01:00 on April 10th, even a fairly moderate aurora is able to shine though the glowing northern horizon. However, a week later, this would probably barely be visible as the horizon would already be glowing significantly brighter.

I’ve written previously, but I personally think the last week of March and first weeks of April is one of the best times for northern lights as I find the white nights to add nice contrast to the images. Of course, it is also a bit more risky at this time of year as the nighttime hours are greatly reduced compared with earlier in the winter. But even so, I think my favourite aurora images of the season generally occur in April.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 2500
f 1.8
8 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #481 – Spring Oystercatchers

Photo: Oystercatcher pair on coastal rock with snowy Justadtind in the background on the first day of spring, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 20, 2022. 17:25

Last Sunday was the vernal/spring equinox, marking the astronomical start of Spring here in the north. Though even after an unusually mild March, snow is once again falling today – so ‘green spring’ is still a ways a way up here. Yet there’s always one sign every year that winter will be ending eventually and that is the arrival of the Oystercatchers along Lofoten’s coastline.

This year, my first sighting was on Sunday the 13th, as I was driving towards Reine. I tried to get near some at Yttesand beach, but as I was slowly approaching, someone flew a drone overhead and scared them off… Though I’m not overly interested in bird photography, its more so that I have a record of when certain events occur each year. But I’d still like a nice photo is possible.

For this image, was on my second attempt I just took a walk down to the coastline from my house, from where I can hear them chirping away all day. At this time of year, before they have nested and laid eggs in the coastal grasses and fields, they are quite skittish and move off quickly. So giving up on the plan of getting very close, I tried to use a bit more of the landscape in the scene. In this case, the distant (and stilly snowy) mountain of Justadtind.

These two were well placed on the top of the rock, allowing me to slowly move around and change up the background a bit. Soon though, a 3rd oystercatcher arrived, to the annoyance of these two, and sent them off to defend their rock from the newcomer.

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 640
f 5.6
1/1600 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 #437 – Midnight Flow

Photo: Midnight sunset over Myrland beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 18, 2021. 00:06

The arrival of the midnight sun is just a few days away here on Lofoten, but already for the last week, we’ve had incredible all ‘night’ light shows. May’s weather can often be hit or miss, its either all good or all bad. This year we seem to have been on the good side, with pretty calm and mild conditions for most of the month. But more important for the photographer, the northern horizon has remained clear on many nights. Which, combined with a layer of clouds over Lofoten itself results in crazy, hours long sunset-into-sunrise during the midnight hours. It’s basically impossible to sleep before 03:00 these days.

This photo is from the evening/following morning of 17th of May, Norway’s national day. The whole day was warm and sunny and perfect for a backyard bbq. While I have little to no view of the sunset conditions during winter, as high mountains block all my views towards to south, I have perfect views of the conditions during summer – especially for what is happening on the horizon. And then even better, I can be lazy and just walk a few minutes to my favourite beach for decent photos. Which sometimes makes it hard to find the motivation to head up into the mountains and wait around for light which may or may not happen, when I can otherwise be completely lazy.

But with summer just around the corner now, last night was my first midnight mountain of the season, with hopefully many more in the coming months!

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 14
0.6 second
WB Daylight