Friday Photo #524 – Stortind Winter

Photo: Stortind mountain peak rises over snow covered sand during low tide in inner Flakstadpollen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 16, 2022. 11:16

By ‘normal’ weather standards, this past December was a good one. Starting out dry and cold, a couple passing storms put down a good layer of snow before quickly clearing to calm and cold weather again. It wasn’t until the holidays when a warm spell arrived, bringing windy rain across the islands.

Looking at the weather data below for 2022, you can see the last two Decembers have been abnormally dry, receiving only about 50% of expected precipitation. However, within the two Decembers themselves, 2021 was largely better during the 2nd half of the month, while 2022 was better during the beginning and middle of the month. This is more or less a small look at what happens throughout the year as well.

If one were to seek advice online about when its best to visit Lofoten, summer often gets the top choice – especially among non-photographers. This is sometimes true and sometimes not. Looking at 2022 you can see several spikes of warm weather, but an overall cool summer. You can also see the June and July had slightly above rainfall. And then August, which turned out to be the second wettest month of the year, with nearly triple the normal rainfall. And following with the normally wet and rainy September, it seems like the year1s quota of rain must have fallen in August, making September one of the driest months of the year.

What’s my point to all this? Nothing really. Or simply to illustrate the difference between what the weather should do, and what the weather actually does. Like everywhere else in the world, sometimes the weather is better than average, and sometimes worse. But you won’t know which until you get here and look out the windows.

Though a tip, mostly for those on road trips with a planned stop to Lofoten. Keep an eye on the weather before your planned visit, and this applies to the rest of Norway as well. If you can seen just a constant flow of rain and storms sweeping across Lofoten, try to adjust your plans if possible, or potentially skip Lofoten overall for a destination with improved weather. And the reverse can also be true, with southern Norway having the bad weather and then you should race north to Lofoten’s sun.

I myself use this tactic when planning short road trips around (northern) Norway or longer hiking trips over in Sweden. I generally try to give myself a rough timeframe of when I was to visit a place, and then keep an eye on the weather until the time seems right. In the last years I’ve tried to spend a bit more time down along the Helgeland coast south of Bodø. But the summer’s have left me checking the weather forecasts daily, hoping for a week of good weather. In the last years, I’ve had to settle for maybe 2-3 days of hopefully not terrible weather, between otherwise seemingly endless weeks of rain. Hopefully summer 2023 turn out better!

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 10
0.4 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #521 – Calm Between Storms

Photo: Winter blues of the polar night on Christmas day, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 25, 2022. 12:56

The peaks of Himmeltindan rise into the pastel blues of twilight on Christmas afternoon in a rare moment of calm weather in the last week. Lofoten has been in full winter mode for several weeks now, and with that has been near daily storms and the usual flight and ferry cancelations. Even all the local buses were canceled this morning.

Although I miss the calm weather of the first half of December, the current storms are actually much more normal at this time of year. The holidays have seen Lofoten briefly filled with tourists and I see many of them walking the streets of Leknes in the noon twilight and blowing snow wondering what they have gotten themselves into. Although there has also been brief moments of dancing northern lights if one looked out the window at th right time.

The weather systems look like they will continue blowing across Lofoten over the weekend and into the new year. A friend and I had discussed plans for a midnight hike on new year’s eve to watch to fireworks from the mountains, but looking at the current forecast, a warm fire and whisky will probably be a better idea!

Now over a week past the winter solstice, I can slowly sense the days lasting longer – still not that long though! But soon it will be time to wait for the correct weather and head out for my fist glimpse of sunlight of the year. Although as I’ve previously written (Friday Photo #519), my last sighting of the sun this year was December 11th, so it not that long ago, and better than many years.

With the storms also usually come slightly warmer temperatures, and that is how the current forecast looks for the next week. Though with the existing snow base currently on Lofoten, it will take a prolonged period of heavy rain before most of the sea level snow even melts. So I’m cautiously optimistic that 2023 will be a good winter on Lofoten – both visually for my photo workshops and physically for lots of skiing. But of course like all things weather related in northern Norway, only time will tell…

Happy New Year from Lofoten! See you in 2023 and year 10(!!) of Friday Photo weekly ramblings.

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
53mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/5 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #520 – Moonlight Aurora

Photo: Moonlight and aurora over Nappstraumen, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. December 11, 2022. 16:31

While the sun remains below the horizon during the polar night of December, the opposite effect can happen with the moon, which may remain completely above the horizon through its orbit. Often times I can forget about the moon during winter due to the cloudy weather, but this year the weather has been abnormally nice thus far, so in early December a bright moon was shining in the sky over Lofoten.

In very simplified terms, a full moon occurs when the moon is 180˚ opposite the sun. In sub arctic locations, a full moon typically rises at sunset and sets at sunrise. North of the arctic circle, the orbit of the sun and moon is flattened out. And with the sun below the horizon in for most of December, the moon’s orbit may allow it to remain slightly above the horizon at its lowest point. On the day of this image, the lowest position of the moon was 3.15˚ above the northern horizon at 11:45. At the time this image was taken at 16:31, the moon had risen to 4.8˚ degrees.

I generally quite like moonlight in my aurora images. Though this year, the full moon seemed somewhat intent on disturbing me during several northern lights shoots as it was high in the southern sky, which resulted in my shadow being cast northwards onto the foreground of a couple locations I tried to shoot from. Not a big deal, but it sometimes happens and I can’t move the aurora to another part of the sky!

On this day though, the aurora already started quite early in the afternoon. And instead of the moon being behind me, it was directly in the aurora itself. With the bright reflection shining across the dark water of Nappstraumen, I thought this was actually a somewhat interesting image that I’ve never taken before.

The exposure was slightly tricky, to balance out the reflection of the moon, northern lights, and the almost black sea. Luckily the moon was still fairly low on the horizon and dimmed a bit from some distant haze so the image was still possible with a single exposure. A little later I went to one of my nearby beaches, but by then the moon had moved to a somewhat awkward position compositionally, and was now far too bright, blowing out the reflections on the waves and wet beach.

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 2.2
2 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #516 – November Twilight

Photo: Gentle waves flow over Myrland beach in soft pastel twilight light of afternoon in November, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. November 16, 2022. 14:41

Now with over 500 Friday photo posts going back nearly 10 years, I’m sure I’m repeating myself again when I say the current year often seems to have opposite weather from the previous. Often this involves worse weather (this July/August), but sometimes we do get lucky, and so far for November this year, that is holding out. It seems it rained so much up north this summer that the sky finally ran out.

I’ve actually only been back on Lofoten about a week now after a trip over to Scotland for the last few weeks. But in these few, and short, days, I’ve already seen more sun than the previous two Novembers combined! Lofoten has been lucky with clear and calm days this week, which if the forecast is correct, will (mostly) carry on for at least a little while longer.

With the sun low on the southern horizon, much of the day is filled with pastel twilight colors, especially so on the northern side of Lofoten where the sun doesn’t quite reach anymore. In a couple more weeks, as Lofoten enters the Polar Night, twilight is all we will have – similar to this image, taken about a half hour after sunset.

I unfortunately haven’t had much time for hiking as I’m busy catching up with work after what has been a busy autumn with me mostly out of the house since the middle of August. Normally I spend most of this time of year working on writing projects and hiking guide updates on the website. And normally the sideways November rain and wind is an aid to that process. But at the moment looking out the window is quite distracting! At least I can manage to wander down to the beach for a couple images between emails and Excel spreadsheets and image keywording…

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 10
1 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #513 – Sea Eagle

Photo: Sea Eagle sitting on rock, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 3, 2021. 13:56

I think with any wildlife image I post I state that I have little to no skill as a wildlife photographer – I’m far too lazy to ever get far with that type of photography and basically just look like a dude with a point-and-shoot camera compared to work I see many people putting out on a regular basis. With that being said, I will take the opportunity to try with it presents itself.

In this case, I’m typically in the habit of driving around with my old D850 + telephoto lens attached when going about on my normal daily tasks on Lofoten. And then, every once in the while on my way to or from home I might catch one of the neighbourhood sea eagles sitting on one off the coastal rocks.

I learned in my few early attempts that if it even looked like I was slowing my van down for a closer look that they would quickly fly away. So now if I spot an eagle on a rock I know to drive around the corner and park out of sight, quickly grab my camera, then do my best to sneak up on the far side of the road. This typically works with moderate success, and I’ll get a shot of an eagle, such as this one, from time to time.

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 250
f 5.6
1/1600 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #512 – Autumn Mountains

Photo: Mountain peaks rise into misty clouds, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 5, 2022. 16:47

I was in the Flakstad ‘swamp’ on a rainy October afternoon looking to capture the last of this years autumn color, which after a few passing storms, had quickly faded from the landscape. The wind was mostly calm, but the frequent passing rain showers kept breaking up the reflections on the small ponds I was attempting to use as foregrounds.

The higher peaks were mostly in the clouds, but as the showers passed, they would become visible from time to time. Mostly having given up on reflections, I looked for something else to use as the foreground, and so I looked for a bit of colourful autumn foliage. As the peaks of Bjørntind emerged from the clouds, I thought I would give this composition a try.

Since moving to the mirrorless Nikon Z7 II last year, I’ve only had the 24-200 f/4-6.3 as my ‘normal’ focal length lens. While I love it for for its light weight for hiking and backpacking, I do wish it was a bit faster for a shallower depth of field. In this image for example, I wish I could have shot at f/2.8, for example, to have the foreground properly out of focus and just a blur of color. Here, I think there is still too much detail in the various leaves, and not abstract enough in my opinion.

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/4-63.3
46mm
ISO 100
f 6.3
1/50 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #509 – October Snow

Photo: Dusting of October snow on Slettinden, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 19, 2021. 14:31

The first dusting of snow over Lofoten usually arrives sometime from late September to mid October. Though these first snows are never permanent and there can still be plenty of mild weather and rain as the calendar creeps towards the new year. But the first falling snow is always a reminder of the cold months ahead as the mountains slowly begin to freeze.

I often find hiking at this time of year somewhat tedious, as the autumn rain and mud begins to freeze and ice over on many of the hiking trails, making the mountains quite slippery! Light snow like in this image can be quite treacherous hiking over long sections of rocks as well. So in such conditions I will usually choose routes or areas which are less affected by the ice and snow – typically routes that are somewhat off trail, as the grasses and heather are safer and easier than muddy and rocky trails.

The light was flat and grey this day and usually in such weather I wouldn’t go hiking. And had there been no snow, I probably wouldn’t have. But as I was leaving for Scotland in a couple days, I wanted one last ‘autumn’ hike before I likely returned to a more wintery landscape in mid November.

Even with the flat light, the mix of snow and rocks added enough contrast to the scene for it to work somewhat decently. Had it been a full winter scene with more snow, then I don’t there there would have been enough contrast. And without snow, I think the image would also have been quite flat and dull with such a 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 24-200mm f/4-6.3
75mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/500 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #508 – Light and Shadow

Photo: Rays of evening light shine across the distant mountains of Moskenesøy, Vareid, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 7, 2021. 16:44

This weeks photo is more or less the exact same location and focal length (200mm) as last week’s photo – Friday Photo #507 – yet quite different light conditions and mood. As I wrote last week, the autumn (and late winter when the sun is setting in the same location) is often a nice time to shoot sunsets out on the coastline near Vareid and Vikten.

I usually find it more beneficial go well before sunset, as it will be setting behind the mountains, so it’s best to be there with the sun higher in the sky so it can interact with the mountains better. In this case, sunset was at 18:00, so this photo is taken 1:15 before sunset. With the sun too low in the sky, all the mountains seen here will just be shadow and the scene will be relatively boring under conditions such as this.

With the sun higher in the sky and shining in from the west, it really shows the mountain layers of western Lofoten, with the 1029 meter high Hermannsdalstinden (hiking guide) rising in the far distance some 25km away.

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
200mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/320 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #507 – September Rain

Photo: Autumn rain sweeps across distant mountains of Moskenesøy, Vareid, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 24, 2018. 17:43

It is the autumnal equinox today marking the beginning of the sun’s journey to the south. For Lofoten, this is the time of year where one can really feel the days begin to shorten as the islands lose approximately 1 hour of daylight per week. For the northern side of the islands, this is also the time of year when the mountain shadows begin to grow as the sun sinks lower in the southern sky. For my house, the 20th of October will be the last brief moments of direct sunlight before it returns again on February 19th – 4 long months in the shadow of the mountains.

This was a stormy and blustery September day, just on the edge of being too stormy. Luckily, The clouds were broken up enough to allow some rays of light shine through as the next wave of snow flurries swept across the landscape. I was out on the coast between Vareid and Vikten, which often works well for sunset at this time of year as the sun shines across the distant mountains of Moskenesøy, often creating interesting patterns of light and shadow.

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
200mm
ISO 320
f 6.3
1/640 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #506 – Silence

Photo: Autumn rainbow over Vestfjorden, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 14, 2019. 16:12

Autumn is a quiet period on Lofoten. The hustle and bustle of summer has gone and the winds of the winter storms have yet to arrive. Often is it a somewhat gradual change in which I eventually notice that one day the world suddenly feels quiet. But not this year.

I spent the second half of August traveling with my brother and friends along the north coast of Spain. Fun, but hot! Without even returning home, I arrived back at Harstad-Evenes airport and immediately drove to Sweden to hiking 140km along the northern section of the Padjelantaleden trail and a middle section of the Kungsleden trail, back to my van which had been parked in Kvikkjokk. It was a pretty quick transition from 30˚c of Spain to several nights below freezing in the mountains of Sweden. From Kvikkjokk, it is a long 10 hour drive home.

Waking up in the morning after my arrival I immediately noticed the absolute silence of the land. Even the sea was silent. It was eerie. Like I was in some sort of post-apocalyptic movie and everyone and everything had suddenly disappeared. Some wind and rain has passed during the last week, brining a bit more life to the islands, but it is still quiet. Having been long overdue with mowing my lawn, it felt like I was making a great disturbance in my valley on a Tuesday afternoon.

So, after a month of travel, I haven’t taken a single photo of Lofoten in the week that I’ve been home. The weather has been little on the grey side, but there has still been some nice light to find if one has been willing to put in the effort – which I have not – as I’m mostly stuck behind the computer catching up on overdue work.

This weeks photo is from back in 2019. I thought I had posted it already, as I quite like the simplicity of it – just a rainbow over the sea. I was with a group out on the southern coast of Flakstadøy near Nesland waiting for the clouds to clear over some distant mountains when I sensed the light changing and this bright rainbow fell from a rain shower over the Vestfjord. From my position I knew there wasn’t anywhere I could get in time to use the rainbow as part of some other composition, as it was too far out at sea and away from any nearby mountains or coastline. So I switched to a 70-200 telephoto lens and simply used the rainbow and cloud as the only subjects – which they were. I usually like to include a sense of place in my images, I don’t think it was necessary.

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
82mm
ISO 100
f 5
1/400 second
WB Daylight