Friday Photo #592 – Late Nights

Photo: Evening sun shines over Kvalvika beach, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 15, 2021. 22:55

Lofoten’s midnight sun season officially begins next week on May 24th. But for the whole of May, there isn’t really darkness, and in the last days before the midnight sun, it is practically daylight all night long already. Photographically, I actually prefer the weeks pre/post midnight sun, as this is when the chances for colourful twilight nights are best, while there is actually less color during the midnight sun itself, as the sun is never below the horizon.

I often use mid May to visit some of Lofoten’s more popular locations before they become too busy for my liking once summer fully arrives. One of these may trips is usually to Kvalvika beach for one of the last sunsets before summer. Maybe I camp, and maybe I just hike back out, but usually I’ll spend about 4-5 hours out there, hopefully alone in the last calm before the chaos. Although in the coming years, even in May I will probably need significant luck on my side to ever have a night alone at Kvalkiva again.

As a side night, having just returned from a long overdue trip back to California, I found an old hand drawn map for Kvalvika/Ryten in my travel journal from the summer of 2006 – when I camped alone at Kvalvika for 2 nights. The old days of limited internet info, no smart phones with GPS guided hiking apps, no social media hotspots. Guided instead by word of mouth, shared knowledge, and hand written maps. How the times have changed. And I’m not sure if I would say for the better…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 31
f 16
1/4 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #592 – Waiting For Summer

Photo: Oystercatcher in evening sunlight, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 10, 2021. 22:11

I’ve probably written this every year for the past 10 years, and I’ll write it again now: I find the month of May a strange season on Lofoten. It is a weird balance of summer light in a (brown) winter landscape. Knowing that the lushness of summer is only a few weeks away, I often feel that the often wonderful light of may is wasted on the boring and drab landscape.

Oystercatchers are typically the first of the migratory bird arrivals, typically showing up around mid/late March. By now though, the fields are full of birds, chirping away all night long as they look for mates and nesting locations. I could probably search why oystercatchers are called so, as I never see them eating oysters and they are more typically eating in the fields around my house. Maybe if I lived at a beach I’d see them eating some oysters.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 200-500mm F/5.6
500mm
ISO 500
f 5.6
1/500 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #591 – May Or Winter

Photo: Cold weather and fresh snow leaves mid May looking like winter, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 8, 2022. 18:08

By early May the nights are no longer dark and the midnight sun is only a few weeks away. The light says summer! The weather however might not always agree, and winter fights to maintain its old on the islands. Summer will eventually arrive, but it can take until June or even July for that to happen.

This day was particularly dreary looking. Had I been shown the image and asked when I thought it was taken, I would have guessed anytime from November to April. I probably would not have guessed mid May. Aside from the snowy mountains, the landscape itself is still quite brown and wintry looking. I’m sure if I looked closer at the scene I would have seen the first signs of new grass growing, but from this distance, it just looks like winter brown.

This is one of the reasons why I find May a slightly frustrating month photographically. I know summer is coming soon and the landscape will be green and full of flowers. But the brown, dead grass and leafless trees of late April and early to mid May I find uninspiring. Even in the nicest light – which May often has as the days to the midnight sun approach, I wish the landscape was more vibrant and alive. But the winters are long here in the north, and so summer must wait a little while longer.

Camera Info:
Nikon Z7 II
Nikon 24-200mm f/4-6.3
85mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/100 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #590 – Northern Lights Over Nappstraumen

Photo: Northern Lights swirl in the sky over Himmeltindan, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 19, 2024. 23:38

The nights are now no longer fully dark on Lofoten, and that means the northern lights season has come to an end. But don’t worry, it will be back soon as the next season begins already in late August, only 4 months away.

For Lofoten, the northern lights season is roughly: August 20 – April 20

Last year, the season started early for me and my first aurora sighting was in the early morning hours of August 19 while on Værøy. This was the earliest in the year I’ve seen northern lights on Lofoten.

Overall, I spent much of the autumn and winter traveling down south in Germany, Scotland, and Spain. So I was gone for most of the first half of aurora season here on Lofoten, and I know I missed some good nights! Luckily I was also around for some good nights, the best two being December 1 and March 3 while guiding on Senja.

It was also a difficult winter at times, with lots of cloudy weather over Lofoten, and, despite all the media hype about the approaching solar maximum, a largely quiet sun for much of January and February. So even when the clouds parted, there was not always something to see.

This image, from January 19, was one of three nights of clear sky and moderately active northern lights. I was mostly focused on getting the 5th edition of Seasons on Lofoten – Winter eBook out before the start of the winter photography season, so I didn’t travel from home. But luckily I don’t have to go too far for a decent image light this one.

Camera Info:
Nikon Z8
Nikon 20mm f/1.8
20mm
ISO 200
f 2
2.5 Seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #542 – Over Unstad Beach

Photo: Evening view over Unstad beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 29, 2022. 22:29

With no darkness for the next 2 months, May is the beginning of my midnight sun hiking season. I typically don’t camp too much at this time of year unless I’m heading to a more distant location. Otherwise, I find it easier just to pick a location, start walking, then return home sometime in the early morning hours. And then hope my neighbour doesn’t knock on my door at 09:00!

This evening I actually had no plan. First I headed up Saupstadtind, then over to (lower) Skrådalstind, and then I just wandered along winding sheep trails until I was over Unstad. I’ve hiked the mountains in the background of the image numerous times, but this was my first time on this side of the valley. And I think overall, this is an infrequently visited part of Lofoten. I attempted a bit of a shortcut on the way down, but it turned into something of a bushwhack at times.

With June just a few days away in this image, you can see the difference between the already green fields of the valley vs. the still relatively brown mountains rising above. The transition from winter to spring to summer is a gradual process on Lofoten; beginning at sea level and then rising higher up the mountains as time passes.

This image also shows the difference between Innmark, the green fields, and utmark, the mountains rising above. This is important in the regulations of Allemannsretten, which most people just think of as, ‘it’s free to camp where you want in Norway.’ This actually only applies to utmark. Though it is generally tolerated in many roadside areas and beaches, even if they are innmark. However, for Lofoten specifically, the increased pressure of tourism has seen more regulations and controls put in place in recent years. And there are even some calling for an end to Allemannsretten in the utmark. Only time will tell if these old traditions and freedoms still have a place in the modern world. But if everyone is respectful of the landscape, hopefully future generations can still enjoy the right to roam!

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
21mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/60 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #540 – May Grey

Photo: Mountain birch tree in grey clouds on Haugheia, May 10, 2023. 14:53

May is usually the start of sunset-to-sunrise season of Lofoten, and I had actually already written an article about that for this weeks post. However, May this year has been on the grey side and there hasn’t been too much in the way of colourful nights lately. Even when the sky has been clear overhead, there’s oven been a layer of cloud over the northern horizon, which largely blocks any color which might occur.

The last few days have actually felt like cold summer days, with a mild temperature around 10˚c, still air, and low, misty clouds concealing the peaks. Even on a Wednesday hike up the low ridge of Haugheia for a bit of exercise, clouds were blowing across the summit forest leaving me wanting around in a sea of grey. Although for the wind twisted mountain birch grove at the summit, I actually like this type of low visibility and it removes the distractions of the background or sky and allows more of an emphasis on the shapes of the trees. Even better is when this occurs in winter.

I only shot a couple images on this hike as I often prefer the shoot the trees from a low vantage point, but the flip screen on my camera stopped working a couple months ago, and I’m too lazy to otherwise have to lie on the ground for some trees I’ve already shot dozens of times. One difficulty with living in Lofoten is that any sort of equipment repair takes a long time! So I would like to fix my camera soon, but I also can’t be without one for a month or more in the height of summer…

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 24-120 f/4
110mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/250 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #539 – Between Seasons

Photo: Dark clouds over Bulitind from Smordalskammen, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 1, 2023. 16:36

It is that time of year that locals often call false spring, winter part 3-4-5, the May summer tire club, and various other jokes about the weather. After a few ‘warm’ days in April it’s easy to think that the trend will continue. But almost reliably, the the temperature will drop as winter fights to hold on a little longer. This last week has been a perfect example of that weather as the wind shifted north and snow flurries have been passing over the islands, with Wednesday’s temperature dropping down to -4.8˚c and leaving my backyard and surrounding fields with a layer of snow.

Once the sun returns however, the snow quickly melts until the next wave of snow passes. Winter takes over the shadows while the sun brings spring. But overall, the snow is slowly melting away and the coastal farmlands are beginning to turn green. I kinda lost track of time a bit this week noticing a few flowers on the side of the road and thinking it was an early spring. Until I remember that it was already a few days into May! So the pace of ‘the greenening’ (not a real word, but sounds cool) of the land seems normal this year.

On a May day hike in the cold blustery wind on Smordalskammen a small recent dusting of snow survived in a few places while in more exposed areas it had melted, creating these cool patterns across the land. The sun was high over Bulitind, but luckily the clouds concealed it from time to time for a slightly more balanced image.

Loosing track of time again while planning where to hike today, I suddenly realised that sunset is now at 22:20. I always find it hard to image that it’s still snowing but the days are already longer than midsummer in Berlin or London, for example. Winter weather but summer light. The midnight sun is now only 3 weeks away!

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 8
1/1000 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #538 – Misty April Mountains

Photo: Mountains emerge from misty clouds, Eltofttuva, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 24, 2022. 14:19

Last week I was somewhat optimistic that it would be an early start to barbecue season this year. But unfortunately, what I thought would be a warm April has cooled again and a layer of snow was once again sitting in my yard over the past weekend. So I think I’ll have to wait a little longer this year. But that is almost always Lofoten at this time of year – sitting in a limbo of not-winter and not-summer. Up north they are still getting good ski days in the mountains, while down south the land is already turning green. On Lofoten, we just wait.

I actually haven’t been out shooting too much lately. There has been some nice light, but I’m often stuck on the computer most of the day and then the thought of sitting up on a mountain in the cold wind waiting for sunset at 21:45 turns me a bit lazy. Though I guess I probably need to get the legs moving soon in preparation for summer, as even after my winter photo workshop season ended, I only managed a few days on skis before the snow melted away. But if I have to be stuck on the computer, I’d rather it be now than during the summer.

Another reason is that my photographic focus isn’t on Lofoten at the moment. In 2020 I had meant to spend most of my time hiking and photographing in the eastern parts of Lofoten for a new ebook companion to my West Lofoten Hikes ebook. But it is actually a lot of driving for me to get to the eastern parts of Lofoten, and with everything surrounding Corona, I had to put that project on the shelf for a while as I simply couldn’t afford the driving required.

But as the world normalised again, I found I had a new interest, which is my current ongoing ebook project. This one is my most ambitious one to date and I’ve already put in a few weeks on it during the last couple years. If I am lucky I might finish up most of the photography by this autumn and the writing over winter. I guess I found it easier, and more interesting, to take a longer trip a bit further to new places, than just driving around in circles over Lofoten all summer. And there are so many beautiful regions in Norway, that I sometimes wonder how they are so overlooked. I guess it’s just branding and name recognition, like any other commercial product. I could spend 10 lifetimes just trying to photograph Norway.

So, with my mind on big plans for other parts of Norway, I’m a bit lazy about day to day photography on Lofoten without having a project to work on. Though the good news is that I still have a backlog of hikes that I’ve never added to the website for some reason. Mostly this will be some mountains on Vestvågøy which I don’t have anywhere else to use at the moment, and a few ones from West Lofoten Hikes ebook that never made it online. Though some of those hikes in that will remain only in the ebook for the time being.

This week’s photo is from one of those new hikes on the website, taken on a misty and rainy April hike to Eltofttuva – hiking guide here. I think I’ve probably skied from the summit of Eltofttuva 10x more than I’ve hiked it, but as a fairly easy short hike just east of Leknes, I still usually make a couple trips a year, mostly for a bit of afternoon exercise with friends.

On this day, we were mostly in thick grey clouds and minimal visibility. I could see on the radar that the rain would (mostly) pass shortly after arriving at the summit, so we waited around a bit until I could at least see some distant peaks begin to emerge. I actually think this shot came out quite nice for what the day looked like. My only complaint would be the unfortunate location of the power lines running though the bottom of the frame. But nothing I can do 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
175mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/250 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #537 – Spring Thaw

Photo: Spring mountain reflections in Selfjord, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 17, 2023. 10:17

Some years the weather seems to switch as quickly as if one is turning a light off and on. What was an unseasonably cold March has now (mostly) turned into a sunny and warm April, and now finally a bit of rain. The snow which I thought would last well into May seems to be melting away quite quickly, especially in western Lofoten, and many of the coastal mountains below 500 meters are already snow free. Though as I write this, the weekend’s weather is supposed to be cold with the chance for some fresh snow – so don’t change to those summer tires just yet!

I’ve probably written a dozen times before that I always find this an odd time of year for my photography. The clean beauty of winter is over and I know the lush greens and flower fields of summer are only a few weeks away. April and early May on Lofoten is often just a waiting period for me – which is needed, as I have a ton of computer work needed to finish up ongoing projects and prepare for new ones during summer. But I also find it frustrating, as I enjoy the light of this time of year and the nights get brighter and the midnight sun approaches. So I find myself inspired by the light, but bored by the brown and tired landscape itself.

Today’s image is a rare calm moment in Selfjord, taken from the side of the road. I was on the way to Reine to attend a conference, but out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something in the water. The back story to this is that there have been some humpback whales in the area of the last few weeks. They were first spotted in Svolvær harbor at the end of March. I saw them briefly in stormy water near Reinehalsen as I was headed to Moskenes to catch the ferry before easter, and then over easter they spent several days swimming around Hamnøy and Sakrisøy. So a few days after they had last been spotted, I thought maybe I was lucky and there they were!

So I quickly pulled over and scanned the fjord. Nothing. It was, however, a quite nice reflection, so I took a few quick snapshots before continuing on my way to Reine for the day. Had it not been for the possible attempt at whale watching, I most likely would have just driven by without stopping.

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 24-120mm f/4
50mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/320 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #489 – Almost Midnight

Almost Midnight - Friday Photo #489

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