Friday Photo #488 – Beach Seaweed

Photo: Seaweed covered beach after a week of stormy May weather, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 11, 2022. 22:33

Today’s photo is an intentionally ‘ugly’ one. It has been a fairly stormy, cold and rainy May this year with a seemingly near constant north wind blowing across the islands and rough seas. In these types of conditions, seaweed is ripped from the coastline and deposited on the beaches across Lofoten, leaving them in a somewhat ugly and messy state. It is not a good time for beach photography at the moment.

Some areas are affected more than others, and there’s also the affect of wind, tides, waves, and more. Here, at Myrland beach, there’s actually not too much. Down the road at Storsandnes is much worse, or over at Unstad, where the seaweed can often pile 1-2 meters high, forming ‘seaweed mountains’ along the beach.

It will take some time now, and some bigger waves to clean up the beaches so they are in better photographic form. But it looks like the grey May weather will continue for a while longer, so not quite beach weather at the moment anyhow. Though it is somewhat frustrating, as the twilight nights of this time of year can bring some of the best light, but for weeks now, the northern horizon has had a constant layer of clouds blocking out the sun well before sunset, even if other parts of the sky remain somewhat clear. Hopefully better conditions arrive soon…

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 31
f 11
10 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #486 – Return Of Winter

Photo: Late April beach snow, Myrland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 28, 2022. 23:25

Winter has returned to Lofoten! After a period of mild weather that saw most of the low level and a fair amount of high level snow melted away with the promise of an early spring, a cold north wind has brought snow showers across the Islands in the last days April.

By last weekend, I had finally managed to clear the last of the winter snow drifts out of my yard and even some of the trees were beginning to bud. And I spent the evenings on two separate hikes in mild weather, though Sunday was a bit on the rainy side, on snow free trails. However, the weather has now shifted and winter has returned. Lofoten’s landscape is once again while from sea to summit.

Last night I wandered down to the beach a little before midnight. The sun is only about 7˚ below the horizon at the moment, so as the clouds clear, the night is brighter and brighter with each passing week. I’m not sure where I put my headlamp last, but I won’t need it again until late August.

There has been enough snow that even some of the beaches are covered in white, which isn’t even a regular occurrence in winter these days anymore. I wasn’t looking to shoot much, more to just record the conditions for future memory. The tide was incoming and one large wave swept across the beach – ruining the snow in the composition I was shooing, but forming this interesting pattern across the now revealed sand. I actually found the clouds somewhat distracting, and competing against the rocks and other elements of the foreground, and the sky was clearer overhead, but in an awkward position for where I should put the horizon. I would have liked to have the melt pattern a bit more centered, but it ended in a rock that didn’t work for the composition, so this diagonal was kinda the best I could do, though it leaves quite a bit of blank space on the left side of the image. I suppose I could always crop in tighter…

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 9
8 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #485 – April Twilight

Photo: The northern sky glowing at midnight in the white nights of spring, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 20, 2022. 00:35

Only a month after the spring equinox in March the nights of mid april are no longer fully dark. Though it can be somewhat deceptive just looking at the sunrise and sunset numbers themselves, which at the moment are about 04:50 and 21:15, which seem to afford plenty of time for darkness. But the arctic sun rotates on a much flatter orbit than lower latitudes, so even though it is below the horizon for 6-7 hours, it is not actually that far below. And with each passing week the sky will continue to brighten until the midnight sun arrives in just over a month. The sun moves fast here in the north!

Just after midnight I wandered down to the beach. Partly to have something to write about this week, but really hoping for a last aurora image of the season – which this year, is April 10th for me. Kind of an anticlimactic end this year compared to last year (friday Photo #433 ), when the sky was dancing every night until the very end. The weather and sun were not so cooperative this year it seems.

Now to look forward for the landscape to turn green over the next month and a summer in the mountains!

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 1600
f 4.5
3 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #484 – Spring Ptarmigan

Photo: Male Ptarmigan in mix of winter and summer moulting sitting on fence post, Myrland, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 11, 2022. 15:11

With the long and (hopefully) sunny days of April comes the ever increasing activity among Lofoten’s birdlife. With the oystercatchers some of the first arrivals in mid March, many of the other migratory bird species have arrived over the last few weeks. Bridging with them a near round the clock flurry of activity in the skies over Lofoten as they fight for mates and territory for the summer breeding season.

The Ptarmigans, while year round residents of Lofoten, also join in with the activity and become much more active an visible than during the winter as their mating calls ring out through the air. One benefit of living in a rural setting such as mine, is that much of the area surrounding my house is filled with frequent activity, making for somewhat easy photography from my yard. Although in a few more weeks, the noise level on some nights will reach an irritatingly high volume, that I have to wear earplugs some nights to get a full sleep!

The Ptarmigan are also some of the easiest of the birds to photograph, and usually allow one to slowly approach without flying off – though a 500mm lens also helps in this process! If I’m lucky, I can catch them in my backyard and sneak around my house before they notice me. Maybe I should build a hide one of these days, but truthfully, I’m not that into bird photography. Only when an easy opportunity presents itself, such as these April days around the neighbourhood.

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 1000
f 6.3
1/2000 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #483 – Aurora Season Ending

Photo: April northern light shine over glowing northern horizon in final days of aurora season, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 10, 2021. 01:06

With the ever lightening nighttime sky of April comes the inevitable end of Lofoten’s aurora season. Last year (Friday Photo #433) brought a fantastic finale to the season with 5 consecutive nights of dancing northern lights, including the latest aurora I’ve seen, occurring on the night of April 19/20.

What this year will bring, I don’t know yet. There is still time for a little more, but once April arrives, the sun seems to go into hyperdrive and the night time sky quickly fades away. But the last aurora is kinda like the last sunlight before the polar night in December; you never quite know when it will be until its already gone.

The last weeks have brought several major solar storms, some of which where even too far south to be visible on Lofoten – one reason why bigger is not always better in regards to northern lights and KP index. But for these late season auroras, there generally needs to be a good level of activity, pushing the aurora into the darker overhead sky and further towards the south.

For this image from 01:00 on April 10th, even a fairly moderate aurora is able to shine though the glowing northern horizon. However, a week later, this would probably barely be visible as the horizon would already be glowing significantly brighter.

I’ve written previously, but I personally think the last week of March and first weeks of April is one of the best times for northern lights as I find the white nights to add nice contrast to the images. Of course, it is also a bit more risky at this time of year as the nighttime hours are greatly reduced compared with earlier in the winter. But even so, I think my favourite aurora images of the season generally occur in April.

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

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 14mm f/1.8
14mm
ISO 2500
f 1.8
8 seconds
WB Daylight

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 #481 – Spring Oystercatchers

Photo: Oystercatcher pair on coastal rock with snowy Justadtind in the background on the first day of spring, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 20, 2022. 17:25

Last Sunday was the vernal/spring equinox, marking the astronomical start of Spring here in the north. Though even after an unusually mild March, snow is once again falling today – so ‘green spring’ is still a ways a way up here. Yet there’s always one sign every year that winter will be ending eventually and that is the arrival of the Oystercatchers along Lofoten’s coastline.

This year, my first sighting was on Sunday the 13th, as I was driving towards Reine. I tried to get near some at Yttesand beach, but as I was slowly approaching, someone flew a drone overhead and scared them off… Though I’m not overly interested in bird photography, its more so that I have a record of when certain events occur each year. But I’d still like a nice photo is possible.

For this image, was on my second attempt I just took a walk down to the coastline from my house, from where I can hear them chirping away all day. At this time of year, before they have nested and laid eggs in the coastal grasses and fields, they are quite skittish and move off quickly. So giving up on the plan of getting very close, I tried to use a bit more of the landscape in the scene. In this case, the distant (and stilly snowy) mountain of Justadtind.

These two were well placed on the top of the rock, allowing me to slowly move around and change up the background a bit. Soon though, a 3rd oystercatcher arrived, to the annoyance of these two, and sent them off to defend their rock from the newcomer.

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
500mm
ISO 640
f 5.6
1/1600 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 #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