Friday Photo #495 – Seagull Hatchlings

Photo: Three seagull hatchlings in evening light, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 1, 2022, 03:59

With summer will underway it is the beginning of hatching season for the local seabirds. What are usually already loud nights have become even louder as the various bird species squabble and fight to defend their chicks which are now free from the nests and generally just walk around. While there are (supposedly) no foxes on Flakstadøy, these three have a risky few months ahead of them, with predation from other birds the largest threat.

Beyond the wild lands of Lofoten, these little fuzzballs can be seen walking around literally everywhere during the next months: from parking lots in Leknes, sidewalks in Reine, piers in Henningsvær, and basically everyplace else. On my drive home from the Moskenes ferry late Monday night, there were multiple times I had to slow down on the E10 as there were various hatchlings just standing in the middle of the road.

These three have spend the last couple days on a rock just outside my house while the mother keeps watch the telephone pole in my backyard. Usually they take a bit more shelter in the grasses during the day and come out more in the evening hours. Though it does seem awfully exposed for them to just stand on top of a rock for several hours and I’m surprised I haven’t seen or heard any major attacks on them yet. Although perhaps the rock is safer, as the field will likely be cut within the week for winter feed for the local sheep, so probably best they stay out of the way of the tractor and mower.

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 200-500mm f/5.6
500mm
ISO 400
f 6.3
1/640 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #494 – Arctic Skuas

Photo: Arctic Skuas under the midnight sun, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 18, 2022. 01:02

I am admittedly a terrible wildlife photographer and even worse when it comes to birds – probably because I don’t really have much interest in birds anyhow. But there is one coolish bird in my neighborhood – Arctic Skua.

I first encountered Great Skuas on Orkney in 2003 and then over several following trips. Last summer on Svalbard was my first encounter in Arctic Skuas. Much small than Great Skuas, they are equally aggressive when approaching too close to their nesting area and will repeatedly attack any trespassers. Given my mostly non-interest in birds, I never really noticed that they were also here on Lofoten, and a breeding pair is in my neighbourhood.

I’ve made a few attempts to photograph them, but have yet to return with anything very good. My 200-500mm lens seems too slow to focus while they are in flight – they are fast!. So I generally return with a whole card full of soft images. The surrounding mountains also make it difficult, mostly limiting my shooting direction north towards the open sea.

I’m not sure if I have to patience required for wildlife photography, but I’ll make a few more attempts over the summer months.

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 200-500mm f/5.6
500mm
ISO 500
f 6.3
1/800 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #493 – Summer Wildflowers

Photo: Summer house by the sea, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 17, 2022. 17:28

With midsummer less than a week away Lofoten is now reaching its peak summer lushness. The landscape is bright green and the fields filled with the endless colors of wildflowers (though mostly yellow). While the temperatures have been a little on the cooler side still, hovering around 10˚C, the sun provides plenty of warmth for an evening bbq.

I was out in the ‘myr’ – or boggy marshland of my valley this afternoon attempting to photograph the local pair or arctic Skuas. They are fast, and hard to photograph, and more so because the valley is surrounded on 3 sides by high mountains. So I can only really get clean shots while looking north towards the sea, but they never seem to be in that direction! And, they are fast. It was much easier to photograph them on Svalbard last summer, where the surrounding landscape was much more open.

Walking back, my neighbour’s house was looking quite ‘summery’ set against the distant mountains of Vestvågøy and surrounded by wildflowers. I would have like to go a little wider, but there is an old barn just off to the left which I didn’t want to include in the frame. It’s only a quick snapshot, but I think it sums up quite well a nice summer afternoon on Lofoten.

This look will only last a few more weeks at most after which any areas which are actually farm fields will be mowed for winter feed for Lofoten’s sheep and cows. While the wild areas still remain, quite a lot of the meadows are actually farm fields, especially on Vestvågøy and Flakstadøy.

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
67mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/400 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #492 – Summer Rainbow

Photo: Summer evening rainbow circles the sky over Haugheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 8, 2022. 21:51

After last weeks brief visit of summer – hitting 20˚c on June 1st, the temperature took a significant drop over the weekend for several days of wind and rain, and a fresh dusting of snow down to about 700m. With the sun emerging again on Wednesday, I headed out to Haugheia for an evening walk and just to get the legs moving a bit after several days stuck here in front of the computer. The evening sun was shining in the mostly blue sky as I left home for the 10 minute drive to Haugheia.

As soon as I crossed the tunnel to Vestvågøy I noticed a bit of rain begin to hit my windshield. Hmm, that wasn’t supposed to be there. Soon, I noticed a fain rainbow being to appear over the leknes area, brighting over time as I neared the trailhead. As I got out of my van and put on my backpack a heavy summer rain was falling and a bright rainbow was circling the sky.

Haugheia wasn’t really the best location for such an occurrence, especially since it was nearly 20:00, the rainbow was in the southern part of the sky over the ugly industrial parts of Gravdal and Leknes harbor. So I just continued up the trail, trying to ignore the rainbow as I didn’t think I could get much of a shot anyhow. But as the minutes passed by, now probably 10 minutes since the rainbow first formed, it just stayed there. After a few minutes of hiking I got to a higher area where I finally thought it might at least be worth a quick snapshot.

There still wasn’t much, if any, of a foreground, but standing on a bit of a higher rock, I could at least take a semi-interesting shadow-selfie. Nothing special, but it would have been a shame to let such a nice rainbow pass without a single photo. So this was probably the best I could have managed in the situation. Had I known how long the rainbow was going to last, I probably would have driven to some other nearby location. Maybe next time.

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
17.5mm
ISO 10
f 7.1
1/125 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #491 – Kvalvika Midnight Sun

Photo: Midnight sun over Kvalvika beach, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 31, 2022. 00:02

After what has been a cold and wet spring this year, the last week has brought the arrival of the midnight sun and full summer weather! The weather here can often be just like switching on a light, it changes that fast. And luckily, once it changed for the better, it has lasted the better part of a week with t-shirt weather – even while sitting on mountain tops at midnight.

The good weather of the last week has seen me exploring some new mountain areas, as well as visiting some familiar one, such as this image of Kvalvika beach, before the summer season kicks into full gear and the popular places become a bit to busy for my liking. So it is good when I can visit them in summer like conditions still in May. And this year is feeling like it will be a busy one after two years of covid as the roads are already filled with continental camper vans and motorhomes.

The weather forecast on this evening was for clear sky, which is actually not that good for photography during the midnight sun season. And as you can see, the light is kinda ‘boring.’ With a fully clear sky there is often enough sea haze to block much of the sunlight, causing a weak and soft light to shine over the landscape, while the sky overhead remains bright blue. In winter, with snow covered mountains, this would be perfect light, but in summer, it doesn’t work as well.

As you can also see in the photo, the mountains area already backlit by the sun, so I’m only looking at the shadow side of them. If I was looking for dramatic sunset light on the mountains themselves, I would have to have been here earlier or later in the year, when the sun would be setting to the west and shining onto the mountains. Although then, the sun would not be in the image either.

On this evening, with a forecast for little to no wind, I was actually out at Kvalvika to photograph a different scene – these mountains reflecting in a small lake which is on the edge of the beach. But as I arrived out there at about 20:00 and 4 km of hiking, the beach side of the valley I hiked up and a bit of a breeze blowing in off the mountains and disturbing the lake too much for a reflection. I waited around for a while – until after midnight – hoping the wind would subside, but it never did.

Hiking back after midnight, once I got to the other side of the small mountain pass I could feel the conditions immediately calm. The (somewhat large) lakes I had to pass on my hike back to my van were perfectly still, with mirror like reflections of the surrounding landscape. So I was just a bit unlikely with the particular wind direction only affecting the Kvalvika beach area.

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
24mm
ISO 80
f 14
2 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #490 – Nesting Season

Photo: Ground nest in coastal moorland of common gull, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 26, 2022. 16:07

With the midnight sun having arrived in the north and the landscape turning greener by the day – though the trees are still not fully green yet – it is breeding and nesting season for many of Lofoten’s migratory birds. 

Most of the birds are ground nesting, often choosing to hide their eggs in the thick and boggy heather of the coastal moorlands. But as the islands are full of birdlife, the nests are everywhere in reality. I’ve even seen young gull chicks walking around the parking lots in Leknes and Svolvær in the middle of the day. 

Most of the birds are semi-aggressive when you approach too close. The gulls and kittiwakes will scream as they fly towards you, but never get too close. The rarer, but highly aggressive arctic skua (dark brown in color) will come into near contact with your head in repeated attacks until you leave the nesting area. While others like the oystercatchers will try to distract you to get you away from their nesting site. 

If you are just walking through an area and suddenly notice aggressive bird activity, then take a little more caution to where you are walking, as you can see in the photo, the eggs are pretty well camouflaged, and easy to accidentally step on.

If you are camping, then you need to take a little more care to investigate the area and perhaps move away from a planned camping location. Continued proximity to a nesting area, such as setting up a tent for a night, may force the parents to abandon their nest for too long, and thus the chicks never hatch. So be careful to keep a great enough distance should you happen to enter into a nesting area.

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 200-500mm f/5.6

450mm

ISO 500

f 5.6

1/1000 seconds

WB Daylight

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