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

Friday Photo #471 – Winter Driving

Photo: Difficult winter road visibility in flat light and fresh snow, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 5, 2021. 15:59.

With Norway remaining essentially closed for last winter’s tourism season on Lofoten, the snowy roads in 2022 will likely be somewhat busier as photographers begin to travel again. Photographers and tourists that often are not experienced with winter driving conditions. So this weeks post is a bit of a safety post, which I do from time to time, for all the people chasing snowy beaches and northern lights over the next months.

Even in somewhat decent visibility as in this photo: no fog, sideways snow, its daylight, etc. You can see it is quite difficult to distinguish the right side of the road, even with the aid of snow poles. And what looks like plenty of room to pull over slightly will actually immediately see your car into a 1 meter deep ditch which begins just outside of the snow poles.

The flat light and lack of roadside objects of contrast make driving in these conditions quite demanding of attention, even more so in busy traffic or when the numerous large trucks heavy with fish are speeding towards you in the opposite direction down a road that is already uncomfortably narrow in summer.

For a more detailed article, see: Winter Driving

But for now, a few brief tips to keep you and others safe on the roads:

  • Never attempt to pull off the side of the road unless you are 100% sure of what is below the snow. Nearly all sections of road on Lofoten have drainage ditches immediately outside of the snow pole line. The road plows do an okay-ish job of cleaning out the roadside parking areas, but not always after a fresh snow storm. However, unless you have seen the roads in summer, I do not suggest pulling out into unknown depths of snow. This is a good way to get stuck.
  • Let other vehicles pass. With the above said about pulling off the road. If you are traveling especially slow, be polite and pull over at the next safe and visible pull out area. Signal clearly before doing so.
  • Do not park on the road! Especially so in regards to the E10. There are some nice roadside views, but unless there is a proper pullout, you cannot park on the road.
  • Be very careful of driveway and parking lot entrances. Driveway entrances are not always well marked, if at all, from the surrounding roadside ditches. The Parking at Haukland beach is a particularly treacherous one that always catches cars after a fresh snow.
  • Double any travel time Google maps give you for driving to a location in good weather. Triple the driving time in bad weather or darkness.
  • Stay home when its the best choice. There are several days each winter where it is simply unsafe and irresponsible to be out on the roads.
  • Be careful of side roads in periods of heavy snowfall. Especially so in early mornings or late evenings. When the snow is falling, all roads plows are out just to keep the main roads of Lofoten open. Smaller roads to rural villages or scenic areas might get temporary overlooked, and deep snow can build up quickly, especially in high winds. Uttakleiv beach is a good example of a location that is not always accessible during heavy snowfall.
  • Plan ahead in anticipation of any long drives. Weather conditions might dictate that if you are driving from Lofoten to Harstad/Evenes airport for example, you might need to adjust your schedule by a day or two. Beyond difficult and dangerous driving conditions, there are also several closure points, such as the Gimsøy bridge, which can block travel between west and east Lofoten, even for periods over 24 hours.
  • Most importantly: Enjoy your trip! Lofoten is not going anywhere anytime soon. You cannot control the weather, so there is no point in trying to fight it. The weather does what it does, so just go with the flow. You’re on Island Time up here…

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
36mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/25 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #470 – January Sun

Photo: Midday January sun low in the southern sky over Nappstraumen, Lofoten Islands, Norway. January 13, 2021. 11:53

After a month below the horizon, the sun finally returns to Lofoten this week. Although the first sighting is always weather dependent, and even a low layer of clouds might hide the sun for another week or more. But it is back, and will reveal itself eventually!

If the weather forecast is promising, I often like to hike up a mountain for my first viewing of the sun in the new year. And hopefully one of many more hikes to come as the days get longer over the following months.

In this image, even week after the polar night has ended, and just before noon, you can see how low the sun still remains in the sky. It won’t be until early February that the days begin to feel somewhat ‘normal’ for anyone visiting Lofoten. Before that, it is still quite dark and atmospheric here in the North. Perhaps one of my favourite times of year actually, as the ‘deep winter’ feeling is present, but then I know the return of longer days are actually not too far away. Much nicer than November, when one can feel the winter darkness creeping further in day by day, with many long dark nights still ahead.

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
52mm
ISO 31
f 13
1/25 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #469 – Reinebringen Twilight

Photo: Twilight moon over Kirkefjord from the summit of Reinebringen, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 30, 2020. 11:32

I generally don’t pay too much attention to the moon here on Lofoten. On this morning I should have! My first thought upon reaching the summit ridge of Reinebringen and seeing the full moon over the mountains in the twilight sky was that I should have arrived an hour or so earlier!

Lofoten’s northern latitude means that the moon has a somewhat ‘odd’ orbit, to put it simply and without going into technical details. So in general, the moon is not part of my active photography consciousness most of the time. Usually I’ll just randomly see it from time to time, and maybe it happens to be in a good location for a photo, though usually not.

In the summer, I’m quite aware of the sun’s elevation in the sky throughout the weeks around midsummer, where the sun never sets. For me, this is easier to plan for as it doesn’t move as quickly as the moon, so there is a little more of a buffer in regards to weather and other conditions, making the timing not so critical. But with the moon; there is only 1 full moon a month.

On this morning, I wish I had arrived earlier so that the full moon would have been in the centre of the mountain pass over Kirkefjord, instead of somewhat out of place on the right side of the image. In its current location I feel it doesn’t really and much to the scene, and is perhaps even a distraction.

Although had I been on Lofoten earlier, perhaps the moon would have been behind the small layer of clouds lower on the horizon. And, still being a week away from the return of the sun, it perhaps would have been more of a blue hour type light instead of the soft pink twilight. I’ll never know.

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
80mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/15 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #468 – December Hiking

Photo: Hiker on the snowy ridge towards Vikjordtinden under a dark December sky, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 28, 2020. 12:50

Hiking days start early in December. And even then, there still might not be enough time to get to where you were planning to go. On the case of this dark and windy December day, the objective was Vikjordtinden on the southern side of Vestvågøy. We never made it.

Every day in December we wake up before sunrise here in Lofoten. If it is just a working day on the computer, then the time doesn’t matter too much. If I’m actually planning to go outside and do something, then this needs to be as a reasonable hour in the morning as the hours of visible light are preciously short – there is no time to waste!

Heavy clouds make December’s world even darker, so even just before 10:00 we were walking through the icy forest in near darkness. Luckily, there was no snow on the lower elevations and the boggy areas were mostly frozen, making for fairly easy hiking. But soon we left what little there was of a trail and headed cross country up a steep mountain ridge. The hiking here was somewhat slow and the warm-ish thin layer of snow that we eventually climbed into the heavy, wet, and slippery. And just deep enough to fill in the dozens of holes between rocks and the bushes.

The wind was blowing strong from the south, though not terribly cold. Continuing along the ridge, the snow deepened just enough to make route finding difficult as we climbed over rocky steps, careful not to slip. This took time. It was just before 13:00 by the time we reached the first high point along the ridge, before a long descent then another long climb to the summit. Not much light left on this dark December day.

And so I took a few photos before we turned around and began the slow descent. Returning to my van by headlamp.

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 400
f 5.6
1/13 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #467 – Unstad Surf

Photo: Arctic surfing on Monday’s 4+ meter swell at Unstad beach, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 13, 2021. 12:21

A nice and clean looking 4-5 meter west swell was forecast to hit Lofoten on Monday so I decided to head out to Unstad to checkout the action. I don’t shoot surfing too often, but when the waves are big here, there’s usually some good stuff to watch. There was only one problem this week…

It is the middle of December and Lofoten is in the period of the Polar Night – Mørketid – when the sun does not rise above the horizon. And although the sky was clear to the north, there was a heavy layer of clouds over the southern side of the islands, blocking much of what reflected light might have made it over the mountains to Unstad. So it was dark. ISO 4000 dark at noon!

I generally try to shoot surfing at 1/1000 second, and ideally closer to 1/2000 second. But in the middle of December, 200km north of the artic circle, that is not really possible. So 1/640 was the best I could manage without turning the waves into sand dunes from all the grain of a higher ISO.

Eventually, I switched to video, which was more manageable due to the lower shutter speed required. I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to video stuff, so it was at least some good practice under difficult light…

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 200-500 f/5.6
500mm
ISO 4000
f 5.6
1/640 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #466 – Last Sun

Photo: The last visible sun peaking over the southern horizon before the beginning of the polar night, Stamsund, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 8, 2021. 11:56

The polar night has officially begun on Lofoten this week – the time of year where the sun no longer rises over the horizon. We won’t see the sun again until January 5th at the earliest. And I say earliest, because the return of the sun is as weather dependant as its departure. The latest ‘first sun’ for me has been January 18th.

Lofoten has experienced an early winter cold spell over the last two weeks. A big improvement to last years endless rain – though that will be back after the weekend, unfortunately. With the cold often comes clearer skies and horizon. However, I have actually been enjoying a semi-tropical sun down in Madeira for the last two weeks, so as I flew home to Lofoten on Wednesday, I figured I had already seen my last sun of the year.

But as a friend was driving me to Stamsund to pickup my van, I could seen the horizon glowing bright. Soon enough, a glimmer of sunlight poked above the horizon. I quickly cleared the snow from my van and headed to a spot on the road towards Steine. I didn’t have time for any sort of spectacular photo, and the mountains were glowing quite nicely. But it was simply enough to get an image of the sun (partially) above the horizon on my return to Lofoten. December 8th, this is now the latest I have seen the sun in the year.

Moving almost parallel to the horizon, the light didn’t last long before the sun sunk below the sea again, for its final time in 2021.

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 24-200mm f/4-6.3
145mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/160 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #465 – Unstad Twilight

Photo: Noon twilight over Unstad, Vestvågøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 4, 2020. 12:15

This is the last weekend of the year with (possible) sunlight on Lofoten as next week is the beginning of the polar night – the period of time when the sun no longer rises above the horizon. That is not to say that it is ‘night’ the entire time, but the nights are long after the twilight of the day begins to fade around 14:00.

Without direct sunlight, however, there is no proper blue sky ‘daylight.’ And while the southern horizon can glow brightly on clear days – as the sun is never too far away, for the northern side of Lofoten, the world is just a soft pastel glow.

For northern locations like Unstad, the village will already have been in the shadow of mountains for several weeks before the polar night officially begins. So for day to day life in the village, there is no real change from late November vs. early December. Or, perhaps only on a clear day where the sun might be shining on some of the surrounding mountains. The last visible sun at my house is October 20th, and it doesn’t return until February 19th. So unless I’m away from home, it can be long periods without sunlight for me. Almost makes me want to have a house on the southern side of Lofoten for the winters, or perhaps Spain!

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
130mm
ISO 400
f 5.6
1/50 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #463 – November Rain

Photo: Mølnelva river flows below Stortind mountain peak after days of heavy rain, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. November 16, 2021. 12:52

In what seems like a repeat of last year, it has so far been a windy and wet November. Looking back over the last month, it has rained/snowed on 27 out of 30 days! The last few days in particular have brought some quite heaving rain, with localised flooding across some parts of Lofoten and elsewhere in northern Norway.

It was only a month ago (Friday photo #459) that I posted a picture of this location – Mølnelva flowing below Stortinden. But in heavy rain, or should I say, just after the rain has stopped, its an easy location for me to access that always seems to have something new to offer. Usually if I’m passing by to elsewhere and I see the the water level is high, I’ll stop and go wander around for a bit. Though, much of the scene depends on what the clouds are doing around Stortinden, and if the summit is even visible. If not, then its not worth stopping for the most part.

Tuesday, after a night and morning of heavy rain, the clouds eased off slightly for the afternoon – and by slightly, I mean just not torrential rain. The mountains had come alive with tiny ribbons of water flowing down seemingly every rock face. And so as I passed by Mølnelva on my way back from checking things out a bit further west, I made a brief stop.

With the polar night still a few weeks away, November is already a pretty dark month. More sun under heavy clouds. Even shooting at 13:00, I could already achieve a shutter speed over a second without the need for any filters – though I liked the flow of the water better in this image with a shutter speed of 0.6 second.

Hopefully the rain stops soon and I don’t have to shoot this location too many more times over the next 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 14-30mm f/4
14mm
ISO 31
f 13
0.6 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #431 – Orcas In Snow

Photo: Orcas in the snow on the coast outside Nusfjord, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 5, 2021. 17:20

For the last week I’ve been hearing various reports that the killer whales have returned to the Lofoten coast for their spring herring feeding. On Sunday, while planning to go out for a hike from Nesland, I finally spotted them in Skjelfjord – but they were on the far side and barely visible from land. I need a boat, I thought.

Monday I was out with some friends fishing near Stamsund when I got a text that the orcas were back in the bay at Nusfjord. Typical situation for me, that I’m usually occupied with some other activity when they are in a good location. But fortunately, there weren’t many fish to be found (I don’t eat fish myself anyhow, was just along for the ride), so we returned early to Stamsund, where I quickly said goodbye and headed to Nusfjord.

I arrived to the news that they had already left and were further along the coast. But, I was also informed that a boat would be coming, so I asked if I could join along. Having already been at sea outside of Stamsund, I knew it was going to be rough sailing in the choppy water. And even more difficult trying to photograph the orcas with a telephoto lens from a wildly bouncing boat. And soon enough, a large front of snow arrived, making photography even more difficult by limiting which direction we could shoot in.

But luckily enough, the orcas were just hanging around and feasting on the herring. As we drifted in the boat, occasionally they would surface nearby and swim around us. Then it is a matter to try and point the camera in the right direction and hope it focuses on the orcas and not the falling snow.

Hopefully this is just the first chance of the year and there are more times ahead as they hang around the coastline over the next couple months.

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
140mm
ISO 1000
f 4.5
1/1600 second
WB Daylight