Friday Photo #482 – Slippery Roads

Photo: Snowy traffic jam as rental car is pulled from ditch after sliding off the road near Vareid, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 29, 2022. 15:47

After an unusually warm and mild first half of March which saw Lofoten looking more like spring than winter, the snow finally returned in a series of passing storms. Along with the snow, an unusually high amount of road chaos also occurred, mainly in the form of cars in ditches and semi-trucks stuck on inclines. It must be the combination of sun shining on the snowy roads, as even to me, they seemed to be slipperier than normal winter roads.

Tuesday afternoon, on my way to Reine for a conference I didn’t get far from Leknes before I encountered the first car off the road. The weather was pretty terrible, and I even though of turning around myself, but there was a large amount of traffic on the roads, about 1/2 of which being rental cars. It wasn’t fun driving conditions, even for a local, so I don’t understand why so many people were out…

A short while later, I passed another car in the ditch just after the Fredvang bridges. Just before departing the conference in the evening, I saw that the E10 at Nappskaret was closed, as 3 semi-trucks had gotten stuck. And finally just before getting home there was a van sitting deep in the ditch at Kilan – where 2 semi-trucks found themselves partially off the road on Thursday, closing the E10 for several hours. Busy days for the tow truck drivers…

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6
460mm
ISO 640
f 5.6
1/1250 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #480 – A Rock On The Road

Photo: A (very large) rock on the road near Storsandnes beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 16, 2022. 09:39

The unusually warm temperatures since the beginning of March have begun to thaw out the frozen mountains of winter. But as the sun comes out and the temperatures go up, ice and rocks come down. This particularly large one fell on my road on Wednesday morning – also cutting the internet cable to my village in the process. It’s big enough that they’re going to have to get out the heavy machinery to move it, or perhaps even blast it apart.

As of Thursday, the 815 was also closed near Valberg, on the southern side of Vestvågøy, due to another rock fall. And with heavy rain and wind due all weekend, more rocks will likely be falling from the mountains of Lofoten. To paraphrase one of the guys from the Norwegian road agency about the rockfall on Lofoten: the roads (of Lofoten) won’t be safe until Lofoten is as flat as Denmark…

With that in mind, the road signage on Lofoten, and Norway in general, is quite understated. You can see in this picture that quite appropriately placed rockfall sign just beyond the boulder. While this rock is on the bigger side, rocks large enough to smash through the roof of a car fall along this road on a monthly basis, more or less all year long.

Yet, it is just a few of these tiny signs to warn you of the quite substantial rockfall danger of Myrlandsviein. And these tiny road signs do little to stop the dozen or so tourists in vans and motorhomes camping on the the road each night throughout the summer. Perhaps if they knew the reality of what waits in the mountains above them, they would choose a safer spot to sleep for the night?

Considering how much emphasis Norway puts on road safety, it seems strange that consistent rockfall in a highly touristed area only receives a small notice.

Which brings me to my next point. From a Norwegian perspective, small signs like these do mean something! And yet, I think this translation is lost among the continental European visitors whose countries are often covered in an endless amount of signs that they become subconsciously ignored. If the road was dangerous, it should surely have more than a small sign, right? Not in Norway…

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 f4/6.3
24mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/1000 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #479 – Frozen Sand

Photo: Winter storm waves flow over frozen sand at Unstad beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 23, 2022. 15:52

During winter cold spells or after heavy snow of the beaches the sand often freezes into a hard, sandy ice. During calm periods, this mostly just stays as a frozen layer on the beach, with the waves gently washing over the beach. But when the waves pick up during winter storms, they often ‘chip’ away at the frozen layer of sand, sometimes forming interesting shapes and lines along the tideline.

This was one of those days at Unstad beach. The waves were big, 4m+, and washing high up the beach. The incoming tide would slowly break away the frozen layer of sand, eventually creating a sharp line across the beach. The bigger waves would break off large chunks of the frozen ice-sand and wash them higher up the beach – and often crashing into my tripod legs, making that series of out of focus from the movement. But as the water flowed back out, there were moments when the tripod remained still and the images sharp.

Even with boot on, it was a wet foot afternoon, as it was better to stay as close to the action as possible. There were a few other compositions I made some attempts at, but those were even closer to the waves, and I spent most my time running back up the beach before I could make a decent composition.

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 11
0.6 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #478 – Storm Chaos

Photo: Traffic jam and car stuck in snowdrift on E10 near Eggum in snow blizzard conditions, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 26, 2022. 15:10

In last week’s post I wrote about the coming warm weather due on the weekend. The rain eventually did arrive Saturday night, but not before enveloping Lofoten in a heavy blizzard throughout the afternoon causing chaos along the roadways throughout the islands. By Sunday morning, Lofoten was split in two, with several avalanches closing the E10 on Flakstadøy, and avalanche in Reine, and several of the side roads closed as well. This left tourists and other locals stuck in various locations across the islands.

I myself, ended up stuck in Leknes for Saturday and Sunday nights, with my road closed already since Thursday due to avalanches. I thought about walking home of Friday, but decided against it due to weather and the high avalanche risk. When I finally made it home, I could see several areas where my road had been covered.

But the real chaos of Saturday was on the E10 between Leknes and Solvær, which, when the storm hit in early afternoon caused traffic to come to a halt. I heard stories of people taking 6+ hours to make the normally 1-ish hour drive between the two cities. I was heading towards Svolvær from Leknes when I got stuck in traffic near Eggum, with several cars in the opposite direction stuck in heavy snow drifts on the road, or off the road completely.

Shortly after, I turned around to head back to Leknes as I could the weather was obviously too severe for driving. And even on the way back towards Leknes, the car ahead of me got stuck in a drift, but I was able to help push them out, so we could continue on.

The storm was forecast to be warm and rain, so I think a lot of people were caught out, not expecting the blizzard that hit. It was the worst driving conditions I can remember for years, perhaps even back to the hurricane in winter 2015.

In one of the times I was at a standstill, I managed to get a couple Iphone shots out the window of the chaos around me. But it doesn’t come anywhere near close to showing how bad conditions were and how poor the visibility was…

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

Camera Info:
Iphone

Friday Photo #477 – White Winter

Photo: Deep winter freeze at Nedre Heimredalsvatnet, Eggum, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 9, 2022. 11:42

Lofoten has been full of snow for the last weeks and even the often windswept outer coastlines and mountains have remained in a deep freeze – the landscape often looking like a black and white painting. But unfortunately, this will soon be coming to and end for the time being as the weather forecasts are warning of up to 50cm of rain arriving Saturday night.

It will actually be a very quick transition from white winter to brown winter. The forecast for Saturday at 08:00 is -5 degrees c, while by 20:00 in the evening the temperatures will have risen to 5 degrees c. A 10 degree temperature difference in only a few short hours. And with it, heavy, snow melting rain, which looks like it will last throughout most of next week as well, unfortunately. Even Tromsø further north doesn’t look like it will be spared of warm temperatures and rain.

So tomorrow will be the last morning to enjoy the winter wonderland for now. How much will be left? Who knows. But hopefully the snow soon returns and there are plenty more weeks of skiing here…

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 9
1/40 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #476 – Clear Sky Quiet Sky

Photo: Clear sky – quiet sky: barely visible aurora on clear winter night, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 15, 2022. 20:12

After weeks of high aurora activity but mostly cloudy and stormy conditions on Lofoten, a perfectly clear night finally arrived! But unfortunately, the aurora did not…

Clear sky, full moon, and fresh snow. Everything that would make a perfect night of northern lights. Except, other than a barely visible glow low on the horizon, the northern lights never arrived. Which was expected, as after a moderately active month with lots of high KP auroras dancing behind the clouds, the sun has grown in the last days.

But it can be a bit frustrating sometimes. If the clear sky had been just 2 days earlier, it would have been an epic night! But that is part of the aurora photography game. And even living in the arctic, a fair amount of luck and good timing is still needed.

Luckily, there are 2 months left in this winter’s aurora season – so 60 more nights to go out looking for the tricky lady dancing across the northern sky…

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 1000
f 2.0
1.6 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #475 – Sea Eagle In Flight

Photo: Sea eagle in flight over Nappstraumen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 5, 2022. 11:34

Sea eagles are more or less a daily sight on Lofoten. Photographing them, however, tends to be a little more difficult. Although perhaps that is because I don’t consider myself anywhere near any sort of competency with wildlife photography, and usually only make any attempt when a seemly easy opportunity presents itself. Which in the case of sea eagles, happens on occasion.

Usually, they can be seen sitting on coastal rocks as one drives around. But as soon as you come to a stop, they’ll quickly fly away. The best opportunities I have is a rock they frequent on the road to my house, where I can drive past and park out of sight around the corner, then do my best to sneak up without being seen. Sometimes I’m successful, but usually not!

Driving home on a windy day last week, I noticed one eagle sitting on a small rock and another coming into land as well. I stopped my van and waited for a second. They didn’t fly away. Not having my camera prepared, I had to reach to the back of my van to grab it, and put on my 200-500mm lens, which was even further back in my van.

By now the first eagle had taken off, but the 2nd was still hovering almost parallel to me, fighting against the strong southern wind coming up the Nappstraumen. Rolling down my window, I was able to shoot from inside my van, as the eagle floated up and down in the wind. It soon landed for a second, but I think then decided the rock wasn’t really that nice of a place to rest, and took off again, this time slowly flying off around the corner.

Overall, I had maybe 3-4 minutes of being stopped with at least one eagle present, which is quite a long time! Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared – I’m usually more watchful during the spring time when they are sitting around more often – and half that time was getting my camera setup. And it was quite dark and cloudy overall, so I needed and ISO of 1000, and really should have gone higher, as even at 1/800 second, there is still a bit of motion blur in the shot, as the eagle was bouncing around in the turbulent wind gusts.

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 1000
f 5.6
1/800 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #474 – Missed Solar Storm

Photo: Moderate twilight northern lights in sky over Storsandnes beach in early evening, Lofoten Islands, Norway. February 2, 2022. 17:54

Wednesday’s clear skies and an incoming CME (coronal mass ejection) and prediction of G-1 solar storm is always an exciting forecast for Lofoten. More so after weeks of wind and mostly cloudy weather – though with northern lights to be found if one put in the time and effort. But a clear night sky is always something to look forward to, and seem like a somewhat rare treat in recent years.

With the aurora forecast in mind, I prepared and early dinner for myself at 17:00. When I next looked out the window into the still fading twilight around 17:30, I could see the first hints of green in the darker parts of the sky. Quickly getting dressed for the cold temperatures I was soon alone at Storsandnes beach shooting the aurora with still a little glow left on the horizon – a situation more common in early autumn or late winter, as normally, the northern lights are not out so early as this night.

Despite the early start to the evening, the aurora eventually began to fade and I headed home to warm up and wait to see what might happen later. But later never really came. There were a few small flareups from time to time, but not enough to take me from the warmth of my house. Looking at the aurora data, I could see that the solar energy had mostly faded. The solar storm would likely not arrive. And so I went to bed.

Waking up in the morning, I checked the solar data again. Now the storm had arrived! But not for Lofoten, unfortunately, as the day was already beginning to break. But those in Canada and Alaska were probably getting a nice show.

The same scenario receded itself yesterday (Thursday), with northern lights becoming visible as soon as the sky was sufficiently dark, yet fading away early. A few bigger flare ups occurred later in the evening, but by then, the sky over Lofoten was already heavily clouded, waiting the arrival of today’s blizzard like conditions…

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 2500
f 2
2 seconds
WB Daylight

Aurora data at 18:42 Wednesday evening.

Aurora date at 08:35 Thursday morning.

Friday Photo #473 – Light And Shadow

Photo: Last light over the summit of Himmeltinand, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 27, 2021. 14:21

It is now the end of January and the sun has been climbing higher and higher in the Lofoten sky for several weeks now. Yet, the high arctic feeling is still here as the ‘Lofoten wall’ casts long shadows across the landscape. And many locations across the islands (such as my house) will not see the first sun of the year for many more weeks.

It is about five weeks after the winter solstice today, January 28th, and the sun will only reach a maximum altitude of 3.89˚ just after noon.

To give a comparison, on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, nowhere south of about Östersund, Sweden, or 62.86˚n has the sun lower than 3.89˚ in the sky. To say another way; no one living below Östersund, Sweden, or the small village of Berkåk along the E6 in central Norway, will ever experience the sun lower in the sky than it currently is on Lofoten today.

But! Like I write about frequently, the benefit of being so far north is that the sun returns quickly!

This time of year, late January and into early February is when I feel Lofoten it at its best balance of arctic north, yet with enough daylight for productive days of photography and not just sitting around in the darkness. If you are on Lofoten now, you will feel like you are in the far north. By mid February or so, this feeling slowly fades away as the sun climbs higher in the sky and Lofoten could be winter in any number of places in the world; the high arctic feeling is gone.

The visible side mountains in the background of this image are quite open the the southern sky, so already receive several hours of direct sunlight each day. While the snowy field in the foreground of the image won’t see the sun until the 17-18th of February.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 70-200mm f/4
70mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/80 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #472 – Winter Sun

Photo: January sun hangs low in the southern sky over Vestfjorden from Ballstadheia, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 18, 2020. 13:37

The official polar night ended on Lofoten two weeks ago and the sun rises higher and higher in the sky each day – with a total increase in 1 hour of daylight per week. Still though, mid to late January is quite a dark time on the islands, with the sun remaining perilously close to the southern horizon. So close, that even the seeming inconsequential low band of clouds on the horizon was enough to block all of this days direct light until it finally moved around them just before sunset – 14:05 on the date of this image, January 18th.

Turning around 180˚ and facing north, it was otherwise perfect weather over the whole of Lofoten. But the most light the landscape saw until this very last moment of the day was a soft winter twilight. That small layer our clouds was enough.

This was also the first day I had seen the sun in the new year of 2020. So Just barely! If I had decided to be lazy and had skipped hiking up Ballstadheia/Nonstind on this cold day, I probably would not have seen the sun at all, as hiking up to 400 meters bought me a little more light potential – which payed off in the end.

I’ve previously posted the image looking towards the north – Friday Photo #368 – Which is a much better photo and the scene I was actually up there to capture. Today’s image is an illustration of how the actual conditions look at this time of year.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Sigma 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 4100
f 13
1/60 second
WB Daylight