Friday Photo #581 – Rorbu in winter

Photo: Red cabins of Eliassen Rorbu on snow covered rocky shoreline of Hamnøy with Olstind in the background, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 25, 2023. 17:07

Cold grey clouds fill the sky over Reinefjord and the mountains of Moskenesøy. A very typical winter day on Lofoten. No color, no dramatic light, just the blue and grey tones of the flat winter light and an almost black and white snow covered landscape.

These colourful red rorbu cabins on Hamnøy are perhaps the most photographed in all of Lofoten – usually from the bridge which is just off to my left. With a layer of fresh snow covering the rocky shoreline, I like this composition as well as I feel it better simplifies the balance of the cabins and mountains – particularly in this flat light.

Many initially think the cabins were painted red to brighten up the look of the villages in winter. This is not the case. The real reason is much simpler: red paint was the cheapest. And so the rorbu cabins for the fishermen and the barns for the farmers are painted red. In contrast, in the traditional fishing harbors of west Lofoten, you will often see a large white house on the top of any hill above the harbor – this was for the family which owned the village/harbor in the old days. The rorbu cabins would be rented by fishermen during the winter fishing season.

There aren’t as many fishermen anymore, and many live full time on Lofoten anyhow. So now these cabins are for tourists. Several of my groups each winter stay in these exact cabins – so it’s not bad to walk out the front door and have some nice pictures available within a minute of walking.

Camera Info:
Nikon z7 II
Nikon 24-120mm f/4
37mm
ISO 31
f 9
60 Seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #580 – Flying to Lofoten

Photo: Widerøe flight coming in for landing at Leknes in winter, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 25, 2023. 13:21

Flying into Lofoten during winter can sometimes be an adventure! On days with strong winds, the little Widerøe planes can almost feel more like helicopters than airplanes, as there approach and landing can be so steep to the short runway of Leknes.

There has been ongoing debate for years and years about building a larger airport for Lofoten, capable of accepting landings from international flights, but so far it seems like no one in Lofoten can decide on where or should go, or even if they want it at all. Personally, I like the adventure of the short hop across the Vestfjord from Bodø. Though admittedly, cheaper travel options without driving 3.5 hours east to Evenes would be nice as well on occasion.

It had been my intention for a while to get an image of a flight approaching Leknes just for an article or ebook updates. Yet somehow I never manage to do so. Usually I’m driving into town and see the plane coming in to land and think to myself I need to take a picture the next day. And then I instantly forget about it until I’m driving a day or two later and see another plane.

This image I only managed because there was a slight delay in arrival as I was waiting to pick up my next group of clients for a photo workshop. While not the most interesting light, I like the scale of the plane against Skottind mountain. It almost makes things look more dramatic than what is just a 690 meter mountain.

You can find more Lofoten travel info in the article: Getting to Lofoten

Camera Info:
Nikon z7 II
Nikon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
400mm
ISO 200
f 5.6
1/1600 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #579 – Stornappstind

Photo: Morning light on the summit of Stornappstind from Nappstraumen, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 22, 2023. 07:54

The highest mountain on the eastern edge of Flakstadøy, Stornappstind (literally: Big Napp mountain) catches the first morning light during mid to late winter sunrises, when the sun is rising over the flatter areas of western Vestvågøy. Though this location is only 10 minutes from my front door, I tend to only visit when guiding workshops when staying down the road at Ballstad; ironically, further away than my house. Though I guess I don’t go out for sunrise too much on my own when I’m not guiding and have to wake up so early. Personally, I much prefer the late nights of summer’s midnight sun!

The location is not always accessible, particularly after a heavy snow, as the parking area is down as small hill that is unmaintained during winter. So access is also weather dependent and often when I think the shoreline would be the best looking with a fresh layer of snow one can’t actually get there. But other times, such as this image at low tine, there can be some scenic foregrounds to find.

I do also find the mountain itself almost too symmetrical, and a little difficult to frame. I this image I wanted to include the full cloud which was above the mountain. Had the cloud not been there, I think I would have moved the mountain a little higher in the composition, or perhaps zoomed in a little more. While I like this image, I think everything feels a little too centred and the mountain too distant.

Camera Info:
Nikon z7 II
Nikon 20mm f/1.8
20mm
ISO 2000
f 1.8
1/25 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #578 – Eye Of Uttakleiv

Photo: Sea foam conceals the famous ‘Eye of Uttakleiv’ at Uttakleiv beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 28, 2023. 15:32

With these Friday photo posts I generally like to highlight locations in their best conditions. But the best conditions often don’t exist – especially so in winter! Today’s image is the famous ‘Eye of Uttakleiv’ or ‘Dragon’s Eye’ in less than ideal conditions. So bad, that if you were walking here for the first time and looking for the Eye, you might actually think you were in the wrong location altogether.

This is the right location and the Eye is in the middle of the image, it is just hidden by a layer of sea foam whipped up by the waves and wind. If shooting the Eye was on your list of images for Lofoten, then a day like this would be a waste of time and you’d be better off visiting locations with work better in stormier conditions. Although, other than the Eye, Uttakleiv beach is one of my favorite locations for stormy weather, so it is still a location worth visiting in such conditions.

Camera Info:
Nikon z7 II
Nikon 14-30mm f/4
18mm
ISO 31
f 11
0.5 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #577 – Unstad Beach

Photo: Waves flow over Unstad beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 26, 2023. 14:22

I am not sure how many times I have stood on Unstad beach over the last decade, probably a lot! And though I’m a little more picky with light and conditions these days, it is always a favorite location for me to take my winter photography groups. The beach seems to always have a nice variety of potential images, no matter what conditions are present.

One of my favorite interpretations of the beach is the outflowing water over the the rocks which form the border zone between the sandy beach and the boulder beach. With constant change from the shifting sands, tide, waves, and weather, the location usually has something new to offer while keeping a similar motif.

On this day, with passing snow showers in the distance, the flowing water over the rocks offered a nice foreground contrast to help show the storminess of the day.

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
16mm
ISO 64
f 10
1.3 Seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #576 – Lofoten Winter Driving

Photo: Night driving through winter snow storm, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 15, 2023. 23:48

The January sun is riser higher and higher above the southern horizon with each passing day and as Lofoten is beginning to emerge from its long wither sleep, the Islands’ roads and rorbuer cabins will soon be filling with photographers and tourists looking to experience the winter landscape. For many of you, it might be your first time ever driving in winter conditions, and so this is my (somewhat) annual winter driving post.

The picture itself is pretty self explanatory, and likely a view you will experience multiple times if spending a week on Lofoten. And the picture actually has better visibility than the reality of being in a moving vehicle in heavy snow and pitch black roads – only your headlights and the dim snow poles keeping you traveling in the right direction. It can be hypnotising as the snow flakes fall though the headlights. And the concentration required becomes exhausting as the drive gets longer.

Take your time, plan ahead, and use caution. And if the night looks like this, just maybe stay in your cabin and relax – you can’t see the northern lights in the middle of a blizzard anyhow…

For more detailed information and winter road and driving conditions on Lofoten and in Norway, here is my article:

Winter Driving

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 20mm f/1.8
20mm
ISO 2000
f 1.8
1/25 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #575 – Southern Sun

Photo: Midday sun low on the southern horizon over Nappstraumen, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. November 29, 2023. 12:26

The last sun and first sun of each winter follow the same cycle – with the sun’s lowest point on the winter solstice. Equal time before or after the solstice and the sun will follow the same path through the sky. So the sun in this picture from late November last year will be in the same location as today, nearly two months later. The only difference being that the days in November are getting shorter, while in January they are growing.

The weather itself is not too much different between November and January. And the past couple years it seems November has quite cold, dry, and stable weather, making it quite a nice winter month actually. And in turn, the last couple Januaries have been stormy and wet – with January 2023 being particularly terrible!

It is too early to say what this winter will bring. Hopefully it is cold and calm, with a nice dusting of fresh snow every few days. But one this is certain: the days are getting longer. That is the only real predicable element of the seasons on Lofoten. Anything else is just luck and chance.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon z8
Nikon 14-30mm f/4
15mm
ISO 100
f 13
1/30 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #574 – Return Of The Sun

Photo: The sun is back! Low January sun partially over horizon over the Vestfjord, Ballstad, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. 12:30

After a month below the horizon the sun is now (partially) shining again over Lofoten But… When we will first see the sun again is entirely up to the weather. As you can see here with a lucky perfectly clear horizon on January 5th, thus sun is only halfway over the sea and any small layer of clouds would have blocked it out for hour it was visible.

Last year was the earliest I’ve ever seen my ‘first sunlight’ of the year, which was actually the day before this on January 4th while in Reine – with is also near the southern most latitude of Lofoten, so the sun is visible a little earlier there. But two days in a row of first sunlight is pretty special and rare. Usually it takes a week or so, and my longest ever wait was January 18th.

It was a cold east wind blowing on this day and a sun only halfway across the horizon isn’t defiantly not providing any warmth! Though perhaps you could say the warmth of color in the sky was enjoyed by the eyes. The days will still be short for the next weeks and it is this time of year that you can still feel like you are far north in the arctic, while still enjoying a couple hours of sunlight each day. By February, the days will begin to feel ‘normal’ with the sun higher in the sky, and then already by March I’ll have to set my morning alarm clock to a painfully early time to take my groups out for sunrise.

But I enjoy this time of year of the return of the sun much better than I do the countdown of the sun’s departure in November and early December. I is nicer to know more light is on the way with each passing day, than the opposite – that the polar night is coming.

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 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
250mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/320 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #573 – Winter Vikjordtinden

Photo: Vikjordtinden mountain peak rises into the cold twilight of the arctic polar night, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 28, 2020. 13:19

Even starting by headlamp in the morning darkness is often not enough to reach some summits during the polar night. Even more slow with slow progress though deep snow and rocky hillsides. Add in a layer of heavy clouds, and this is what it looks like by early afternoon. Our goal of the day was the mountain in this picture, Vikfjordtind, but it was obvious we would not summit until well after dark. So we turned around.

An icy cold east wind also helped in the decision to turn around and the sky became more ominous looking with time. Even from this middle high point, it was still several cold hours back to the van, navigating the last sections of frozen bog by headlamp.

With a heavy backpack full of camera gear, I also find it a little hard to keep motivated in weather when I’m not likely to get many photos. And while it’s nice to reach the summit, my many goal is always just to take an interesting photo, wherever on the mountain that might be. I actually figured this photo of the mountain would likely be more interesting than a photo from the mountain. Though I haven’t been back since this only attempt on Vikjordtind, perhaps I’ll choose sometime in summer or autumn for another try.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
36mm
ISO 100
f 10
1.3 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #572 – Winter Solstice

Photo: Christmas twilight over snow covered landscape, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 25, 2022

Today is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. But as Lofoten is in the middle of the polar night, and there is no daylight, it is simply the darkest ‘day’ of the year, with the sun reaching a maximum elevation of -0.87˚ below the horizon. And while there are many months of snow and winter ahead in the north, the sun will now rise higher in the sky for the next 6 months. I’m already looking forwards to the long summer days.

How dark the polar night is on Lofoten depends on a multitude of factors. The two most import for any given day are weather – cloud cover, and snow. A clear sky with fresh snow will be much brighter than heavy clouds and no snow. It sounds pretty obvious as I write it, of course it’s darker when cloudy. But when the brightest it gets is twilight, then a heavy layer of clouds can make quite a difference in the few hours of light which exist.

Location on the islands is also important. This image, taken on Christmas afternoon on a nice clear day is about as light as it gets on the Yttersia – the northern side of Lofoten during this time of year. Whereas if I were on the southern side of Lofoten, looking south across the Vestfjord, there would have been a nice colourful glow in the sky.

There are a few locations across Lofoten that have the best of both; fully open to the north for the midnight sun and south for colourful winter twilight. Having to choose though, I prefer the north and the midnight sun. It’s not like I’m going to spend a lot of time sitting in my backyard in the middle of winter anyhow, so I can survive a few months without direct sunlight. Or even better, head down to Spain!

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
28mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/5 Second
WB Daylight