Friday Photo #42 – Kvalvika Beach Aurora

Northern Lights Kvalvika Beach Lofoten
Photo: Aurora over Kvalvika beach campsite, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Aug 30, 2013. 22:54

As August (and summer) comes to an end the Arctic sky finally begins to darken enough for the Aurora to return from their summer Holidays.  Well, they’ve been in the sky all along, but it was never dark enough for them to shine.  This year, might first sighting of the Northern Lights was on August 21st, Though they were quite faint against the twilight night.  The night of this image, August 30, the sky was significantly dark and the Aurora strong enough for a decent image to be made.

This is also an image that I nearly missed, as a few hours earlier I had sprained my ankle while coming down from sunset up on Ryten, and was thus is a fair amount of pain and without the ability to move much.  But as soon as I saw the Aurora, I left the warmth of the campfire and did my best to hobble and crawl around the ground to get myself in position.  And with the fairly dark foreground of the campsite, and the Aurora high overhead, I needed to keep my camera quite low to the ground to capture more of the sky.  Thus I would probably would have ended up laying on the ground anyhow, sprained ankle or not.

The Aurora only lasted for a few moments and then disappeared as quickly as it arrived.  But due to the high cliffs surrounding Kvalvika beach, it is probably not the best location for Aurora watching anyhow, most of the lower horizon is hidden from view.  Had I still been up on Ryten, it probably would have turned out to be quite a nice display.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 16-35mm f/4
16mm
ISO 800
f 5
10 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #37 – Kvalvika Beach

Group of people on Kvalvika beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo:  Kvalvika Beach Friends, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Aug 26, 2012.  16:00

While I typically choose to exclude people from my landscapes, sometimes a human element helps make a scene.  I can’t remember exactly what I was doing at the moment, probably wanding around the beach to collect driftwood, when this group of people showed up and caught my eye.  And so I pulled out my camera to see if anything interesting might happen.

I would have preferred the beach to be clear of footprints, but what can you do, other than hiring some models to re-create the scene at low tide.  As the 3 friend sat and chatted for a minute, before one of them went diving into the water, I grabbed a couple quick photos.  Somehow the 3 of them standing there helps show the massive scale of Kvalvika beach, to me the cliffs in this image almost look bigger than they are in real life.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
56mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/160 sec
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #29 – Reinebringen Mountain Sunset

Sunset over Reine and Hamnoy from Reinebringen, Lofoten islands, Norway

Photo: Reinebringen Mountain Sunset, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  July 26, 2010.  00:35

The sky was a perfect blue as my friend Søren and I arrived back in Reine after two nights camping at Bunes beach.  The original plan was to head back to Stamsund, but such a day was too good to spend sitting on buses and waiting around Leknes.  Not having planned ahead for such a situation when leaving Bunes, my water bottles were empty and so I resorted to purchasing 1 liter of overpriced water from the small store in Reine.  And at that, we were on our way towards Reinebringen.

Despite our heavy overnight packs we made good time up the mountain, with a few odd comments and looks of surprise from the people we managed to pass.  We were on the summit before noon, with hardly a cloud in the sky and barely a wisp of wind to be felt.  Absolute perfection!  After some time of sitting in the sun, I set up my tent for the sole purpose have having some shade.  And by mid afternoon I was down to about 200ml of water.  But we were determined to stay on the mountain and so the hours slowly passed by as the sun sunk lower and lower on the horizon.

Not trusting if the weather would last, I took the tent down around 11pm, deciding that it would be safer just to sleep in the open; allowing a faster escape if the weather turned.  By midnight I was in my sleeping back, trying to get a few hours sleep before our 5am wake up call.  Though some 20 minutes later I opened my eyes to this scene emerging. Shit!  Time to get up…

I didn’t even bother getting dressed or putting shoes on.  So there I stood, barefooted and only in my underwear on the summit of Reinebringen as I photographed a midnight sunset.  It probably would have been a pretty funny looking scene had someone else decided to show up then.  By 5am we were on the way back down the mountain for the 6am bus back to Stamsund, where I slept the rest of the morning away on the deck outside.

Camera Info:
Nikon D700
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 200
f 8
1/40 sec
WB Daylight
2 Images – Top/Bottom

Friday Photo #27 – Horseid Beach – Lofoten Islands

Horseid beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Dark skies over Horseid beach, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 22, 2012.  15:51

I arrived on Lofoten early the previous morning and immediately caught the ferry to Kierkefjord to make the hike to Horseid beach.  Exhausted, I fell asleep in the early afternoon to the sound of a gently rain falling on my tent.  15 hours later I finally emerged.  The sky was still gray, but at least the clouds had risen and the rain was now only arriving in passing showers several times per hour.  As time passed the northwestern sky began to clear and moving beams of light would shine across the beach.

With the right tide (high), the small peninsula of land at the far end of Horseid beach provides an almost perfect view directly back towards the pass; the mountains in almost perfect symmetry.  Now it was my task to wait around for a bit of light.  When the sun happened to pass across the beach, the water was a brilliant turquoise. I knew I wanted to highlight this aspect of the scene, while not minding so much about the lighting on the background, or actually preferring it to remain dark and dramatic.

With the quickly moving light, I first shot with ‘normal’ exposures, but wasn’t getting the mood I was looking for out of the scene.  So I added my 10 stop B+W neutral density filter and then waited for the next found of light.  Shooting with 30 second exposures, it took a while for the elements to align themselves: a pleasing blur in the water with the correct timing of the waves and a long enough moment of sunlight across the beach to bring out the exposure and add some contrast against the mountains in the distance.  And even though the wind was fairly soft by this time, the 30 second exposure helps soften up the clouds a little, giving a bit more separate between them and the mountains.

For reference, I’ve included the following ‘outtake’ photo of the scene exposed at 1/250 sec.  While you can tell it would be something pleasant to sit there and look at in person (albeit a bit on the chilly side), visually, there is nowhere near the impact of the above photo.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 80
f 11
30 sec
WB Daylight
2 images – top/bottom
10 stop ND filter

horseid beach, lofoten islands, norway

Friday Photo #25 – Horseid Beach Camping

Tent camping at Horseid beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Photo: Camping at Horseid Beach, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 22, 2012.  19:32

I think Horseid beach is one of the more wild and dramatic locations on the Lofoten Islands to set up a tent.   With a multitude of camping places available, heading out to the furthest reaches of the beach to a small grassy headland is a slightly exposed, but unforgettable place to pitch your tent.

Normally I don’t like to hike in the rain, but immediately upon departing the ferry in Moskenes on a late August morning I was already changing into my rain gear.  A steady line of cold, tired looking backpackers was waiting for their departures from the islands, the Summer in the north quickly coming to its end.  My journey was just beginning however…

The Reine ferry to Kierkefjord – Vindstad was more crowded than I was expecting, however only three of us exited in Kierkefjord.  Despite the fact that the pass through the mountains is quite low, it was thoroughly concealed in clouds.  Heading higher and higher up the trail the rain fell harder and the visibility dimmed, until it was barely possible to follow the trail.  At one point I wasn’t sure if I was still going the right direction and it was only until I stopped for a second and heard the faint crashing of waves in the distance that I knew I was still on the right path (there is really only one way to go, so it’s a bit hard to get too lost.).  Finally I descended below the clouds and could see the beach, still a few kilometers away.

From the distance, Horseid beach doesn’t appear all that big, but it is a deceptively long hike from the back of the beach until finally reaching the edge of the sea.  Still raining, I immediately set up my tent and crawled into my sleeping bag.  And due to my exhaustion from 30 hours of travel, I was quickly asleep.  Not that I was missing any photo opportunities anyhow.

Gray skies greeted the next morning, with elusive moments of sunlight appearing every now and again between passing bands of rain.  Most of my time was spend gathering wood for a campfire and figuring out the best place to gather fresh water (the small waterfalls on the right side of the beach).  But every time the sun would pop out for more than a minute, I’d grab my camera and try to get a photo or two.  And hence, sometime in the early summer evening, I turned my attention to my tent as a bit of weak light arrived.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 5.6
1/80 sec
WB Daylight
2 images – top/bottom

Friday Photo #21 – Driftwood Campfire

Evening campfire at Utakleiv beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Photo: Driftwood campfire, Utakleiv, Vestvågøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Aug 27, 2012.  21:44

Despite the fact that it had been as near to a perfect day as is possible on Lofoten, I was the only one to setup a tent at Utakleiv this evening.  By late summer, burnable wood can be somewhat scarce to come by, all the best driftwood having been previously scoured from the beaches over the preceding months.  But despite this, I managed to collect together an unseemly assortment of half moist logs and boards from the rocks at Utakleiv.

Even in late summer the nights are so short that a fire isn’t really necessary, but to me it’s more of a tradition while camping than anything else.  Although sitting alone by a fire still feels a bit lonely, there was no one else around to share it with.  And so I sat, on one of the few calm evenings of summer 2012, myself and my fire at Utakleiv while the sun sank below the horizon.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24+70mm f-2.8
70mm
ISO 100
f 4
.3 sec
WB Daylight

Friday Photo # 15 – Stamsund Summer Twilight

Summer evening twilight, Stamsund, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Late Summer twilight, Stamsund, Vestvagøyå, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Aug 24, 2012.  00:59

Even one month after the Summer’s first sunset, the northern horizon of late August still glows throughout the night.

After several days of turbulent weather, this evening, my first after arriving at the hostel in Stamsund, was eerily calm.  With clear skies, I stayed up late in hopes of an early appearance of the Northern Lights, which had appeared a few nights prior.

Finally, on one of my trips up the small hill behind the hostel I came upon this scene.  I’m not sure what in particular I was drawn to, and perhaps at some other period in my life I would have passed this photo by, just content to be an observer.  but the stillness of the night was rare for Lofoten and as I had only been on the islands for a few days, I was still eager for photos.

More effort of my behalf would have perhaps led me down to the shoreline to shoot for a few more hours, but I think a comfy bed was calling my name by this point in my travels.  Still was a night to remember.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
24mm
ISO 200
f 5.6
30 sec
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #11 – Agvatnet

Boats at Rest, Agvatnet, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Row boats float in Ågvatnet, Å I Lofoten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  July 2001

This is the oldest Lofoten photo I’ll ever post on this site. But this photo is perhaps the whole reason this website exists. It was the summer of 2001 and a 20 year old long haired version of me was on his first ever backpacking trip to Europe. Or more specifically, 10 weeks of summer in Scandinavia. Becoming a photographer was not anywhere on my mind, infact, I would be moving to Santa Cruz to study computer science (ha! That didn’t last too long…) shortly after my return. But I still carried my trusty old Nikon FE (my first ever slr camera) and a couple dozen rolls of film to document my summer in Scandinavia.

I’ve written elsewhere about my discovery of Lofoten while in Bodø, because I had merely wanted to go north of the Arctic circle somewhere. The following morning I was on the ferry to Moskenes. Not having any idea of where to go, I teamed up with the only other Americans making the journey and followed them to Å. Sometime shortly before midnight I was wandering back from a walk and took this photo.

It is not technically perfect. In fact I’d dare say its pretty damn bad. I should have given a little more room in the foreground, and no doubt a tripod and a little hyperfocal-distance also would have helped, but the overall balance of the image is still appealing to me Or perhaps my memories from back then still hold power over something that would never see the light of day today.

Anyhow, I made a print of this when I returned home. It hung on my wall in the various places I lived for the following 5 years until I was finally able to return to Lofoten again. Since that second visit, the Summer of 2006, I’ve been to the islands every year except 2008, when I was doing my best to live in Germany.

Over these last years I’ve returned here again and again to try and make a ‘better’ version of this photo. I’ve never succeeded. Either the boats were missing, or half sunk, or it was raining, or too windy, or Frozen, or… And so this image remains an inspiration to my future and my love of the islands.

Perhaps when I once again have a place to live, I’ll pull the dusty print out of storage and give it a deserved place on my wall.

Camera Info:
Nikon FE
Nikon 35-105 F3.5-4.5 ais
Fuji Provia 100

Friday Photo #10 – Vagakallen Summer Twilight

Vågakallen mountain peak rises from sea above Henningsvaer, Norway

Photo: Vågakallen summer twilight, viewed from Stamsund, Vesgvågoya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  July 28, 2010.  23:23

A true night never comes to the Lofoten Islands in the weeks following the end of the midnight sun season.  Instead, the sun remains just below the northern horizon and the islands glow in a magical twilight around the midnight hours (actually, 01:00 am is when the sun is at its lowest – Daylight Savings Time).  Day after day, the twilight increases until late August when the sun finally loses its hold on the North.

The ‘Arctic Twilight’ of Lofoten is perhaps more famous and recognised in the Spring due to the popularity of Terje Sorgjerd’s amazing timelapse, ‘The Arctic Light.’  While Spring is merely a reverse of late Summer, increasing days as opposed to shortening, I find I prefer the Summer twilight for several reasons.  First, The islands are at their fullest in late Summer.  The hillsides are green and grasses grow tall while wild meadows are filled with wildflowers.  In Spring, the islands are yet to wake from their Winter’s sleep.  Trees will be leafless and the hillside remain mostly brown and ‘tired.’  The benefit of the Spring twilight is that the weather is more active as winter storms still sweep across the islands.  For me, it just a personal preference for late Summer due to the type of images I like to take and other activities such as hiking and camping where I’d rather have warmer temperatures and more settled weather.

The hostel at Stamsund has long been my favourite accommodation on the Lofoten Islands.  And it is from the hills and shoreline behind the hostel that I have taken countless images over the years.  From Northern Lights and Winter snows to moments like above, a nearly perfectly calm summer evening, I have never witnessed the same scene twice.  I often find myself wandering around the coastline late into the night, when the best light exists.

Camera Info:
Nikon D700
Nikon 85mm f/2.8 tilt-shift
85mm
ISO 200
f 13
121 sec
WB Daylight
3 Images – top, middle,  bottom. For square format
Filer – B+W 6 stop ND

Friday Photo #7 – Kvalvika Beach

Kvalvika beach from Ryten, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Golden evening light shines on Kvalvika Beach, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Aug 26, 2012.  20:04  

There were only two of us camping on Kvalvika Beach this day in late August, myself and a young German guy.  It is thanks to him that I took this photo.

I had been wandering around the beach taking a few photos in the afternoon light.  I had hiked a little bit up a trail to get a slightly higher vantage point which I thought was nice.  He I some him come walking across the beach in my direction and when he got to me, he mentioned the he was going to hike up the mountain, Ryten, and asked if I wanted to come along.  Sure, why not.

Only wearing a light fleece and with no water, I found myself heading up the mountain.  As we got higher it became apparent that we wouldn’t be remaining dry much longer as we could rain showers quickly heading out way.  But by now it was too late to head back down, so I continued on.

A cold rain hit fast and hard.  The drops seemed huge, even by Norwegian standards.  I did my best to take some shelter behind the biggest bolder I could find, which managed to keep me about 3/4th dry.  15 minutes of this and then the sun finally began to reemerge, creating a rainbow so close I could almost find my pot of gold.  A few more minutes and the rain had past, leaving me soaking wet in the chilly wind high up the mountain.  But now, an even brighter golden light now shone over the landscape.

Wet and cold, the light was too good to leave.  Over the next hours I made some of my favourite images of this trip.  I wouldn’t be back at my tent until after dark.

Click here for info on getting to Kvalvika Beach.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
24mm
ISO 200
f 9
1/80 sec
WB Daylight
Single Image
No Filters