Friday Photo #592 – Waiting For Summer

Photo: Oystercatcher in evening sunlight, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 10, 2021. 22:11

I’ve probably written this every year for the past 10 years, and I’ll write it again now: I find the month of May a strange season on Lofoten. It is a weird balance of summer light in a (brown) winter landscape. Knowing that the lushness of summer is only a few weeks away, I often feel that the often wonderful light of may is wasted on the boring and drab landscape.

Oystercatchers are typically the first of the migratory bird arrivals, typically showing up around mid/late March. By now though, the fields are full of birds, chirping away all night long as they look for mates and nesting locations. I could probably search why oystercatchers are called so, as I never see them eating oysters and they are more typically eating in the fields around my house. Maybe if I lived at a beach I’d see them eating some oysters.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 200-500mm F/5.6
500mm
ISO 500
f 5.6
1/500 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #589 – Willow Ptarmigan

Photo: Willow Ptarmigan – Rype walks across snowy field, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 18, 2022. 17:01

The long days of mid April bring an ever increasing level of activity to Lofoten as the migratory birds arrive and fight over mates and nesting locations. Though the willow ptarmigans – rype in Norwegian – live on Lofoten year round, they also increase in liveliness during the spring and their calls begin the fill the air.

Usually in winter, my only knowledge of their presence is a set of fresh tracks in the snow. But by April I can hear the males calling out as the fly around the neighbourhood. If I hear one near by house, I’ll often times try to sneak out a get a few photos before they fly away. Sometimes they are patient, other times not.

I still have yet to get a nice image of a fully white rype in a full winter landscape. I guess I’m not that dedicated to wildlife photography! Maybe I should try before all the snow melts…

Camera Info:
Nikon Z7 II
Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6
500mm
ISO 500
f 5.6
1/1600 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #584 – Twilight Aurora

Photo: Twilight aurora over Myland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 10, 2024. 20:29

It has been a sometimes difficult northern lights season so far this year. When I have more time, I will write a longer article about all the fake news of 2024/2025 being the ‘best aurora season in years,’ and the solar maximum, etc. At the moment, I only have the time to say: Don’t believe all the hype.

I was guiding every day in February without a single day off. And I must say it has been a tough winter this year. Hurricanes, wind, more wind, blizzards, rain, more rain, and even more rain. Though for the previous week we had an early glimpse of spring, with lots of sunshine and mild temperatures. Mild temperatures which means Lofoten has been low on snow for the last weeks, looking more like April or May than March. Which leads me to this weeks photo.

A German TV documentary crew was shooting a bit of footage about me and life on Lofoten, northern lights, ect. And this is supposed to be during winter – which at sea level, Lofoten is not looking very wintry at the moment. So, I decided to take them up to the mountains over my house, as at least that would provide a better winter landscape. Still a little tired from a long winter guiding season, I would have probably just spent the evening sitting around the house. So thankfully, I had the motivation to head up into the mountains, to a location that I’ve always thought to visit for aurora, but never actually done so.

And luckily for us, Miss Aurora cooperated as well, already showing up in the evening twilight of mid March. The aurora got much brighter as time passed, but I actually like this image of earlier in the night, with a little glow still on the northwestern horizon. Overall, it was a fantastic winter night in the mountains, and even more special to be looking down at my little village in the valley below.

Camera Info:
Nikon z8
Nikon 20mm f/1.8
20mm
ISO 1600
f 2
10 Seconds
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

Friday Photo #571 – Afternoon Blue Hour

Photo: December moon shines over Storsandnes beach, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 7, 2022. 14:26

A nice bright moon shines over Storsandnes beach at blue hour. It looks like sometime in the evening, but on the Lofoten Islands in December, the is 14:26 is the afternoon. This image is taken one hour after last week’s image (Friday Photo #570), and there is quite a difference. Looking at the images for this article, I actually thought they had been taken on different days, not merely an hour apart.

Now a week into the polar night, if I were to shoot this image on today’s date, December 15, I would need to do so about a half hour earlier, so around 14:00. The polar night will continue to deepen for another week until the winter solstice next Friday, and which point the sun will have reached its lowest point below the (midday) southern horizon. The next time the day will have this equivalent light again is January 6, just as the sun crosses the horizon again. That’s enough numbers and dates for today.

I always like this blue hour light during winter. Even without the moon, on clear and cold days, there is a period where it seems as if the mountains are glowing from within. It is hard to photograph correctly, but if you are on Lofoten, it can seem as if the mountains get brighter as the light fades. I guess this technically just has to due with relative contrast of the white mountains against the deep blue sky, but it feels like a special light when it happens.

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
25mm
ISO 100
f 11
1/5 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #563 – Light And Cloud

Photo: Rays of light shine over the distant mountains of Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 4, 2023. 16:25

While every landscape photographer dreams of colourful sunrises and sunsets during their travels, the weather often works against us. Even more so on Lofoten this autumn with a near constant layer of low clouds and rain covering the islands for weeks on end. When the horizon is fully enveloped in the next waves of rain swept in by a cold north wind, it is time to look for other options.

Fortunately, other options exist on Lofoten. The dynamic light of backlit clouds actually requires the stormy and rainy weather which is often present in autumn. With the quickly moving in the variable weather, the trick is attempting to predict where you want the light to fall, and then waiting for the right moment to hopefully arrive – which is still not guaranteed. But on rainy days like this cold and blustery day in early October, there is a high chance of such conditions.

It is important not to wait too late in the day, because as the sun gets lower on the horizon, it is more likely to become fully concealed behind the clouds. You will often have better looking shooting towards a more distant background, as this gives you a better chance of having the backlit rainy clouds pass between you and your intended background. The closer your intended subject, the more exact the passing of the rain and gaps in the clouds must be, making a higher miss rate – although for a potentially more dramatic image should conditions come together perfectly. But on a day like this and out with a group, I knew there was a pretty good chance for some interesting light if we positioned ourselves near Vareid while looking towards the distant mountains of Moskenesøy rising over Fredvang.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon z8
Nikon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6
165mmmm
ISO 100
f 5.6
1/400 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #560 – Autumn Storms

Photo: Waves crash over the rocks at Nesland in September autumn storm, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 22, 2021. 15:15

Another storm has passed Lofoten this week with canceled ferries and my house shaking in the wind, making sounds I haven’t heard since the end of winter. It is evident that this year’s warm and dry summer is over and the September storms are making up for lost time and the lack of rain. No one knows what next week will bring, but it looks like there is storm after storm lined up across the north Atlantic, with the eventual destination of the Norwegian coast and Lofoten. Earlier in the month I had been over in Sweden for my usual autumn hiking, but even the wet weather reached across the border so I gave up my plans after just 40km – no point walking in the rain with a heavy backpack for 2 weeks if I can’t even see the mountain tops. I flew south to Spain instead.

As stormy as the sea in Lofoten often is, one thing the landscape here is missing is a good set of sea cliffs. Cliffs where the winter swells pound into a wall of rock, sending the sea high into the air – and often completely soaking my if I’m out photographing. Scotland, or even Spain is better for this, and I have much more impressive stormy seascape images from these countries. On Lofoten, the coastline is slightly sloping for the most part – at least the easily accessible areas. And so while there are plenty of days where the waves are crashing over the rocks and high up the shoreline, it doesn’t quite have the same dramatic affect of a huge open ocean swell running into a vertical wall of rock. But I guess one location can’t have everything!

If you are traveling to Lofoten from now until the springtime, it is always a good idea to check the weather on any travel days, as ferries, planes, buses, bridges, and roads can be canceled or closed whenever the wind blows a little too much.

For more information on road safety, you can see 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 24-200 f/4-6.3
27mm
ISO 31
f 14
1 Second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #558 – Aurora Light Pollution

Photo: Northern lights shine over low clouds and light pollution from nearby village, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 4, 2021. 01:01

In the image from a couple weeks ago (Friday Photo #556) I spoke about the still bright northern horizon of late August in the early part of the aurora season. This week’s photo is another type of light pollution typically found during the rest of the aurora season – low clouds and city light pollution. Personally, I prefer a clear sky and glowing horizon like in the previous image, vs. the image here today, which I just find frustrating.

This was a strong aurora, pushing beyond overhead and down towards the southeast part of the sky. Unfortunately, from my location at Storsandnes beach, it meant I was also looking directly towards Leknes. On clear nights, the light pollution would be fairly minimal, especially with such a strong aurora. But on this night, with low rain clouds passing over the islands, the city lights of Leknes illuminate the clouds over a wide area. It doesn’t look good.

Ideal would have been to pick a better location in this type of weather, where I could avoid looking towards any distant city lights. But that can also be easier said than done when there is significant cloud cover and you are sometimes lucky just to find a hole in the clouds anyhow. From this photo, I can see that I likely wouldn’t have seen anything had I gone to Haukland or Uttakeliv beaches, as the cloud cover looks more significant over there. So perhaps even with the light pollution from Leknes, I was at least in a decent location to see the northern lights in a mostly cloudy sky.

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 2000
f 1.8
5 Seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #557 – Last Nights Of Summer

Photo: Mountains of Vestvågøy rise into late summer twilight, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 28, 2023. 00:02

What a summer Lofoten has had this year! Only a few days of rain and dream weather throughout August. One of these days the first autumn storm will arrive, but even with the fading twilight it feels like this summer might never end.

This night was after last week’s aurora photo (Friday Photo #556), another clear evening but no aurora. The day had been warm, over 20˚, but as the evening came the temperature dropped as normal. Until midnight, when a warm summer breeze arrived and the temperature rose to around 16-18˚c in the middle of the night. It almost felt like the Santa Ana winds of California which would warm up the autumn evenings. I thought about going down to the beach to wait for northern lights, but I opted for my backyard instead. I don’t know how many more evenings I’ll be able to sit outside this year, but this night was a nice one to do so!

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
30mm
ISO 320
f 4
20 Seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #556 – Twilight Aurora

Photo: Late August twilight and northern lights – aurora borealis, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 27, 2023. 00:15

After a week of mostly cloudy skies from last weeks first northern lights sighting of the year (Friday Photo #555), they were once again dancing in the sky last Saturday night. I was a warm summer evening, and so after a bbq with some neighbours I headed down to my beach to shoot a few images.

The evening sky is growing noticeably darker with each passing day, yet even in the midnight hours the glow of the sun just below the northern horizon is still quite strong. While I typically like these early/late season auroras with a twilight horizon, it is still a week or so early when shooting these images as the horizon was a little too bright – Especially if looking north towards the open sea as I was. And even with a moderately active aurora, the sky will not be sufficiently dark until around midnight, so this time of year misses all of the evenings early aurora activity.

The tide at the beach was in an awkward location, and I struggled to find a good foreground – with the the bright horizon not helping much either. At one point a small corona began dancing across the sky. I first tried to shoot it with more of a foreground, but as it passed directly to the north, I to a couple of images just pointing towards the sky and the horizon just out of frame. While a bit boring, I kinda like the abstract look of the image and the shift of warm to cool tones. It actually captures what it feels like standing out there, alone by the sea, in these last days of summer.

The image below is from when I first arrived at the beach and was still trying to work with a foreground composition to the scene. The sea was nearly flat and the rocks were perfectly in the middle of the tide line. If the tide had been a little higher, or the waves bigger, it would have been better to have the sea washing past to rock to give a little more balance to the dark sand and foreground.

It is not even September and I’ve already photographed the aurora multiple times. A good start to what will hopefully be a good aurora season!

For a bit of self promotion: there are still a few spots open on some of my winter photography workshops here on Lofoten.

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

Camera Info: Photo 1
Nikon z8
Nikon 20mm f/1.8
20mm
ISO 640
f 2.2
1.6 Second
WB Daylight

Camera Info: Photo 2
Nikon z8
Nikon 20mm f/1.8
20mm
ISO 640
f 2
2.5 Second
WB Daylight