Friday Photo #450 – Silence

Photo: Misty clouds blow over Stortinden mountain peak, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 19, 2021. 21:17

A cold wind has been blowing out of the north for the last week. And while the sun has emerged from time to time, the mountains have mostly been concealed behind the clouds, like most of this summer has been. But there is a change in the air, subtle, but there. That our short arctic summer is slowly fading away to the first signs of autumn color among the blueberry bushes and birch trees.

But beyond the blowing wind, the crashing waves, the sideways rain, the return of the northern lights; there is another sign that summer is soon over. Silence.

It is a subtle change and not always one I immediately pick up on, but one day I notice something missing; the sounds and liveliness of summer. The chirping, screeching, cawing birds that keep me up on summer nights are suddenly gone. The fields around my house are silent.

This is the opposite of spring, where one day in late march I will see the first pair of oystercatchers sitting on a rock during my drive to Leknes. But perhaps I’m looking out for this more as it is a sign that winter will (hopefully!) soon be over. But in late summer I’m not even sure when I last saw an oystercatcher. Was it 1 week, 2 weeks, more? It is just sometime around now that I notice my garden has gone quiet, save for a crow or two circling around at random. And so as the migratory birds have gone south, the sun is slowly doing so as well.

It wasn’t until late evening that I headed out yesterday. The north side of Lofoten was covered in a heavy, low clouds, but things were breaking up on the southern side of the islands, eventually with fully clear sky over the Vestfjord. I wasn’t heading anywhere in particular, just maybe looking for something interesting when I saw the clouds blowing over Stortinden. The scene wasn’t ideal, as the river is barely flowing at the moment – it is better in spring, or after a heavy rain. But the scene was dynamic enough for me to put in at least the minimal effort to walk a little to a familiar location. Luckily I got there just in time, as within a few minutes the summit was completely concealed in clouds and the moment was gone.

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 13
8 seconds
WB Daylight
3 stop neutral density filter

Friday Photo #449 – Elusive Sun

Photo: An elusive sun of summer 2021 peaks out from behind Breiflogtind, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 7, 202. 16:59

The weather finally cleared last weekend and I caught the ferry to Kirkefjord and hiked out to Horseid beach for a night of camping – only my 2nd night in a tent this summer. I was slightly fearful the beach was going to be crowded, as after extended periods of bad weather, the mountains are always extra full from all the people who have been patiently waiting around for the weather to improve. And I had seen what the ferry line looked like Friday morning and decided to wait an extra day. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that no one else of the several dozen people on the ferry exited at Kirkefjord, the rest remaining on the boat for Vindstad and the more popular Bunes beach.

The weather was hot and still, the sun shining brightly overhead for the hike over the low mountain pass between the village of Kirkefjord and the beach on the outside coast. Normally, I would hike along the (much drier) west side of the like pictured here. But in the perfect calm I could see the nice reflection of Breiflogtind and the sun soon to set behind it, so I put on my crocs and headed down the boggy trail along the east side of the lake as quickly as possible before the sun disappeared. I just made it.

As a 750 meter high wall of near vertical granite, Breiflogtind is one of the more impressive mountain faces on Lofoten. Even at 14mm, it was impossible to capture the scene in one image, and thus this image composed of 4 vertical images to capture the full scale of the scene. I also have some over versions with the lake shore in the foreground, but this introduces a bit too much distortion for my tastes, though maybe I will eventually process one of them as well. I like the clean look of this image anyhow.

The original plan had been to camp for 2 nights, but in the early morning hours I found myself having to go outside and guy out my tent as a strong gusting wind had arrived. It wasn’t in the forecast, but as with the weather on Lofoten, one never knows. And especially in narrow mountain valleys, the wind can bounce off the mountains and do other weird things. Walking back across the beach into the wind and sand blowing 100’s of meters into the sky felt like a Death Valley sand storm. Unfortunately, I should have been a little more patient, as that evening turned out to be the best sunset in months, followed by low grey clouds for the entirety of this week…

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
15.5mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/100 second
WB Daylight
4 image panoramic

Friday Photo #448 – The Lost Summer

Photo: The lost summer: Dark rain clouds conceal the summit of Himmeltindan from across Nappstraumen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 4, 2021. 09:51

What started off looking like a promising summer in early June has mostly ended up as a wet and cool one. With only a few days here and there of sunshine between continuous weeks of low clouds and rain, even my neighbours have commented on how poor this summer has been thus far. A few weeks ago, tired of the rain, I even booked myself a last minute trip to Svalbard – where it was warmer on my arrival there than it was on Lofoten. Though the sun did eventually return for a few days while I was in the north – and with luck, Lofoten will hit 20˚c again this weekend.

But the overall appearance of this summer has been like this photo. Well, not even like this photo, as there is at least some nice drama in the clouds. This summer has just been flat grey a majority of the time. While I thought July was on the cool side, it ended up only being slightly below average. Perhaps it was the missing sun that made it feel cool. What was above average was the rain, nearly 3x wetter than normal – 116mm vs. normal July of 39mm.

August is often a month of transition from summer to autumn as the weather becomes more dramatic and the winds blow stronger. But as Lofoten has not really had a summer this year, who know what the next weeks will bring. Optimistically, we will have a warm and dry autumn – it cannot rain forever, right? However, with the border now open to northern Sweden, I’m personally setting my sights on the long, empty trails for my autumn wanderings.

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
54mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/200 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #447 – Mountain Mist

Photo: Misty clouds swirl over Storvatnet above Myrland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 14, 2021. 23:15

There is a particular type of weather where the forecast shows sun, while a heavy, low cloud remains over the mountains – something similar to a high fog. Often though, this can be quite localised and more frequent with a north wind. So the southern side of Lofoten eventually is filled with sun, while isolated areas and valleys on the northern side of the islands can still remain in clouds and fog and the moist sea air impacts with the mountains. This was one of those types of days.

It is actually quite hard weather to predict and can often change quite rapidly. Usually, whatever weather you are looking at will have changed within 10-20 minutes. Particularly if planning on hiking and you see some cool clouds over a particular mountain, it will have completely changed in the the hour or two of hiking required. Often, the best plan is not to over think, but just choose a location or mountain, perhaps one with some flexibility to move around if conditions suddenly deteriorate and you end up in a whiteout with no visibility at all.

This particular day I was driving around and over thinking about which area to visit. It wasn’t until around 20:00 that I headed up the trail from Nappskaret, in the general direction of Middagstind, but not particularly fixated on getting to the summit. This was already the 3rd day in the week I had found myself in this area, and had already been up Okstinden a few days before. So I was just open to whatever the conditions would dictate.

And as it turns out, I ended up elsewhere, nearby a small little pond after scrambling up some steep sheep trails. I’ve been looking at this pond for a while, but never been, as it is the opposite direction of where I usually travel. But on this evening, it seemed like a pretty good area to be at, proving views over Storsandnes beach, Nappstraumen, and across to Himmeltindan in the northeast, as well as down to the valley of Myrland in the west – which had been covered in clouds for most of the day.

When I arrived, there were misty clouds blowing around the various mountain peaks, but these eventually faded and disappeared as the July evening sun still remained high overhead. I sat around waiting, not so much for any change in weather, but more so that the sun would move out of the background of my composition. It turns out this was a bit of luck, as I might otherwise had headed back home already content with a few decent photos for the evening. But as I waited, the mist returned.

I had semi-packed my backpack and moved off to a different area when I noticed the mist beginning to swirl around the outer mountains of the valley. Soon, it formed over the lake and blew in below me, illuminated by the late evening sun and almost perfectly filling the scene. It was a quite dynamic few moments and then the clouds vanished again and I could walk home…

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
27.5mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/40 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #446 – Cold, Wet, And Windy

Photo: Cold waves crash over the rocks at Myrland beach on a gloomy summer evening, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 18, 2021. 20:03

Summer seems to have vanished over the last week from Lofoten (and the rest of northern Norway). Starting with a ferry canceling storm last Thursday, the wind, rain, clouds, and cold temperatures have remained, with the thermostat barely reaching 10˚C most days this week. I’ve commented to friends that it already feels like autumn.

But it is still only July, and the weather will improve again – forecasted to the mid 20’s˚C for next week in much of northern Norway. But this last week has been pretty rough, and defiantly not summer-like. Beginning with last weeks storm, many motorhome tourists fled Lofoten, causing hours long waiting times at the ferries, until they too were canceled due to the weather. After a week of near constant rain and wind and cold, Lofoten is actually feeling pretty empty for what should otherwise be the height of the summer tourism season. But if I was traveling around Norway, I wouldn’t want to be on Lofoten during the past week either, when I can see it is nice and sunny down in the fjords.

Overall, I think this will probably end up as a below average summer in terms of temperatures (low) and rain (high). Last year we seemed to have endless sunsets every night in July and into early August. This year, I haven’t seen the midnight sun in a week – and by now it is already setting below the horizon. Midnight sun season is over for this year, and I never really got to enjoy the end of it, unfortunately. Though for being outdoors and camping, there still won’t be proper night until later in August. And as of today, it is one month until the northern lights become visible again over Lofoten, so there will be a different reason to stay up late into the night.

This weeks photo is just a simple wave photo from down on the beach. About as far as I got in the last days between the rain showers. I was actually hoping for a more dramatic photo for this weeks post to better reflect the conditions, but the light has actually been quite bad, with flat, grey, and contrast-less clouds concealing the landscape behind a wall of misty rain. So even though its been stormy, it doesn’t look so…

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
14.5mm
ISO 31
f 13
0.8 second
WB Daylight
3 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #445 – Brocken Spectre

Photo: Brocken Spectre in misty clouds from summit of Okstind, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 10, 2021. 14:20

In a case of Lofoten’s unreliable weather forecasting, the planned 6-peaks crossing of Flakstadøy that a friend and I had for last Saturday when the forecasted sun arrived in the morning as low, heavy clouds. What we didn’t know, based on our locations, was that the cloud burn-off had already begun from the southern side of Lofoten, resulting in blue sky for most of the island – except my valley of course!

As time passed, my friend headed up into the mountains from Nappskaret, I decided to join from my side and we met in the mountain pass below Stornappstind and Middagstind. What had been a warm and sunny day as I walked out my door turned into a moderate north wind as I reached the pass. Then we both began our way up higher to Jofinnskaret.

Strange things can happen over the mountains in a north wind. And on this moderately warm day, condensation clouds were forming over all the first mountain peaks on the northern side of the islands, resulting in zero visibility. We chose to head to Okstind, which, as far as we could see, was in and out of the clouds as they blew across from Middagstind.

Reaching the summit, we had fully blue sky to the south. While clouds raced in from the north. Half of Stornappstind was visible, while the other half was covered in white. Middagstind was nowhere to be seen. Okstind, was just on the border of clouds and blue, in and out of the mist every few moments for quite dramatic conditions (for the middle of the afternoon).

With the sun high overhead, A Brocken spectre appeared every time the clouds enveloped the summit. Not something I see very often here on Lofoten and worth a windy day in the mountains to experience.

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 100
f 8
1/500 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #444 – Summer Nights

Photo: Warm summer light over Nappstraumen and Skolmen, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 6, 2021. 01:53

The return of the sun after a cold finish to June which I wrote about last week brought a fantastic heat wave (by northern Norway standards) across Lofoten over the weekend – even producing the first of our annual ‘Parking Chaos at Haukland Beach’ articles in the local newspapers on Tuesday – when we reached a temperature of 26.5˚C in Leknes. I would not be surprised if this will be the maximum temperature reached this summer.

And somehow, when the summer heat arrives, so do the people. But this week also corresponded with Norway’s opening to most countries in the EU on Monday. And seemingly overnight, Germans, Dutch, Finnish, and other camper vans are filling the roads here on Lofoten. I really don’t know how so many got here so fast, was everyone just waiting over in Sweden for the borders to open for tourism? So this past week it finally seems that the summer tourism season has arrived, after what seemed like a pretty slow and relaxed June. Perhaps also because the Norwegians have waiting for the borders to open, so they can leave Norway.

And while the blue skies of day are perfect for Instagram selfies and the Friluftlivs hikers, I still prefer the nighttime hours for my photography. And it was too hot for hiking anyhow – I spent my days in the water and getting sunburnt in my backyard. So up late as usual, I took a few photos out my window when a cool, this and wispy fog formed over my valley. I actually probably should have been up in the mountains for this night! Ooops…

But the sun is on its journey south again and once it begins to drop below the horizon in mid July, that is when the magical nights of color happen. So plenty more time to be out and about this summer. Just hopefully with slightly cooler temperatures so I don’t have to carry 4 litres of water up 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 24-200 f/4-6.3
135mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/200 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #443 – Sun Is Back

Photo: Mountain peaks of Flakstadøy reflect in small tidal pool, Vareid, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 30, 2021. 23:13

The midnight sun returned to Lofoten last night after an absence of several weeks. Not that the sun has set below the horizon, that is still a few weeks away, rather, Lofoten has been almost constantly covered with a lay of low, grey clouds for almost all of the 2nd half of June. Not unusual in any way, but also not ideal.

But finally, the sun is on the forecast and the temperatures will return to more summer-like levels (at least for us up here) for the better part of next week. For me, that means returning to the mountains again after a several week absence – I just can’t find the motivation at the moment to go hike out in the clouds. I haven’t done much camping yet this summer, so perhaps it’s time to pull out the tent before a bit before the July crowds arrive.

Wednesday I found myself driving around in circles, going all the way to Reine to chase what looked like interesting clouds, though I never found a decent composition. I almost thought about just hiking up Reinebringen, but was a little on the lazy side for that, and the parking lot was already more or less full anyhow. So I began my slow drive back home.

As I passed Ramberg, the sun first emerged from behind a layer of clouds. The first sunlight I’d seen in a while. The beach quickly filled with people, probably also wondering where the sun had been thus far on their summer holiday. Continuing east on my way home, I could see more and more sunlight shining across the landscape. I headed out towards Vikten, but then stopped when I saw the tidal pools near Vareid, knowing I could at least get a decent shot for the day.

I’ve shot this composition several times, and it’s nothing too special. I probably should have setup my tripod and focus-stacked the image so that the foreground rocks would be in focus. Instead I just held the camera low over the water for the fullest reflection and just focused on the mountains. It sometimes seems in landscape photography these days that everything needs to be sharp, but I don’t mind non-essential parts of a composition to be out of focus.

Or maybe I’m just lazy. Which I wish I knew of ahead of time so I didn’t have to drive all the way to Reine, when the day’s photo was just 10 minutes from my house.

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
49mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/100 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #442 – Flowers And Rain

Photo: The look of early summer: wildflowers and rain, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 24, 2021. 15:57

After June’s fantastic start this year, the weather has unfortunately returned to more normal conditions for early summer, with temperatures in the low teens over the last weeks and frequent passing rain showers or overcast skies. Well, Lofoten fared better than the Helgeland coast, where I spent a week in almost non-stop rain – the benefit of Lofoten being out in the sea is that the weather passes quicker, and doesn’t get ‘stuck’ over the islands as long. Although this isn’t always a positive.

But the rain is also what turns the landscape green and fills the fields, meadows, and hillsides with an assortment of wildflowers. Right now, at the end of June and into the first weeks of July is when Lofoten is at its peak of summer color – or what otherwise might be considered spring in more moderate latitudes of the world. This is the time of year I’ve finally been waiting for after the long thaw out from winter. Finally Lofoten has blossomed.

Soon however, during the first week of July, many of the coastal meadows, which are actually farm fields, will be mowed for winter feed for the farmers’ sheep and cows. This scene however, will survive the cutting, but eventually the flowers will seed and disappear. The grass here will still grow wild throughout the summer, waiting until the sheep are brought down from the mountains in autumn, and kept here for a while until they are returned to their barns for winter. Or in the case of the lambs, a less pleasant fate.

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
66mm
ISO 100
f 6
1/2320 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #441 – Mountain Clouds

Photo: Misty clouds form over Tverrfjellet after evening rain, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 7, 2021. 06:59

I usually don’t camp too much during June unless I’m heading out to the mountains for more than one night. Otherwise, as its never dark at this time of year, it’s easy enough just to hike back to my van after shooting the midnight light wherever I’m at and have a lighter backpack without camping gear. But on this evening, heading up to Fageråskaret pass, and then continuing up to Markan, I saw that there was a few hours of early morning rain in the forecast, so I brought the tent along for the hike.

The trail out of Selfjord is one of the worst on Lofoten. Unfortunately, it also leads to some of my favorite mountains. I would visit the area much more if the trial were better, but the bog at the beginning, and then the terribly eroded ascent/descent to Fageråskaret always makes for a slightly tedious journey. It has actually be fairly dry on Lofoten for the last weeks, and so I was well tempted to hike back down the pass before the rain arrived. But the photographer in me said it would be better to wait until morning, to see what happens after the rain.

Luckily I was correct to wait, and as the rain finished in the early morning hours, by the time I emerged from my tent around 06:00 (I hadn’t gone to bed until 02:00 – so it was more like a nap than a nights sleep), mostly clouds were moving around the landscape – the exact conditions I thought might happen.

Unfortunately, a layer of high clouds also remained, allowing the sun only to peak through over small areas from time to time. So the light wasn’t as dramatic as I had been hoping for. Sunset the previous evening hadn’t been very spectacular either. But it is one of my goals for the summer to try and be a bit more risky with the weather. Typically, I don’t like hiking in the rain. But I think I need to push myself to do so more, as that is when the potential dramatic light will happen – and if I’m not already on the top of a mountain, then I’ll always miss it! A little rain won’t hurt me, especially here on Lofoten, where you’re often never more than 1-2 hours hiking from the car.

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
110mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/250 second
WB Daylight