Friday Photo #454 – Early Autumn

Photo: Studalselva flowing through early autumn landscape below Tindstind, Sørvågen, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 12, 2021. 16:25

I woke up Monday morning to the first dusting of autumn snow across the higher peaks of Lofoten; A sure sign that we are now well into autumn. The snow seems early this year, which reinforced my observations that autumn itself seems to be a few weeks earlier than normal. Though this could also be a bit biased, as autumn was late to arrive last year. Either way, I think the wet summer, followed by an early cold spell, will hopefully lead to a colourful autumn this year on Lofoten. Just hope the storms stay away long enough!

With consistent rain through most of last week, on Sunday I headed west to Sørvågen to checkout the waterfalls and rivers of Studalselva which flow from Stuvdalsvatn. The autumn color was already quite mixed, with some trees already fully yellow/orange, while others have yet to turn at all. But I think the autumn color peak will be in late September this year – assuming weather conditions remain consistent – and not early October like most years.

The waterfalls were flowing nicely, but I ended up in the flatter part of the river first, with Tindstinden rising in the background. Even with my Wellies on and walking out into the river, I found it difficult to get a balance composition between the mountains in the background and the flowing river in the foreground. I just couldn’t (without wet feet) get to the right part of the river to balance out the scene properly. Especially because the mountain ridge to the right of Tindstind would become too strong and dominant if I showed to much of it.

Here are two versions of the scene in landscape and portrait format. I think the portrait format of this image works better in this case, as it avoids all the empty space of the upper left sky in the landscape image. I think I can spend a little more time working out the composition, but on this particular day, I was racing against the incoming rain, which eventually arrived and sent me back to my van.

With two Lofoten autumn workshops coming up in early October, I think I’ll have more time to spend in this location with the groups – just hoping the trees hold their color for another couple weeks!

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 14
1.6 seconds
WB Daylight
3 stop ND filter

Friday Photo #452 – Two Summers

Photo: Autumn rain showers over Selfjorden, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 2, 2020

There generally always seems to be a north – south divide with the weather in Norway. When the media reports Norway is having a good summer, this can be translated to, ‘Oslo and the southern coast of Norway is having a good summer.’ This year the opposite weather effect seems to have been particularly strong, as Oslo has now having set a new record for the most summer days from June to August – 79 days over 20˚c this year. The previous record was from 2006 with 78 days.

Moving north to Lofoten. Leknes has had 11 days over 20˚c this summer, or what has been called summer. Now Lofoten is a long ways north, and obviously not a tropical destination. But the islands have had a particularly bad summer this year, to the point where even my old neighbours are commenting how grey and windy it has been. Basically the the entire coast of Norway north of Trondheim has been in an endless cycle of wind, rain, and clouds; with only a few redeeming days here or there.

And even as I write this, Nordland and Troms-Finnmark have already received the first snowfall (across the border in Sweden as well), while southern Norway is potentially setting more heat records.

There is never a particular day when one can say summer has ended up here in the north, but I think we’ve now made our way into autumn.

Beyond sitting at the beach, we are also now two weeks into the northern lights season, and I have yet to see them so far this season even as several large solar storms have already hit the earth (though they were seen in east Lofoten last week). Cloudy and windy days turn into cloudy and windy nights, which is not good for aurora photography, unfortunately. Last year was a wet and grey autumn, so I hope there is not a repeat of the same. Otherwise I will just sit around on rainy nights dreaming of Spanish sunshine…

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
62mm
ISO 100
f 9
1/800 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #451 – Kvalvika Reflection

Photo: Reflection of Ryten and Fuglhuken mountain peaks in small lake at Kvalvika beach, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 15, 2021. 20:35

Aurora season has finally begun on Lofoten. While last night was the first fully clear, a faint aurora only visible to camera was all the appeared. Tonight, will full cloud cover, a strong solar wind is hitting the earth, and no doubt there will be a dancing sky above the clouds. With the weather forecast not looking the best at the moment, it will probably be well into September before I see the first aurora of the season this year.

Today’s photo is where I had planned to hike yesterday evening to hopefully capture the first aurora of the season. Although laziness eventually got the best of me and I stayed hope, at least I didn’t miss anything. There are still plenty of weeks ahead for another attempt anyhow. Though this year, I’m not quite as excited about northern lights as I usually am. I feel a bit more like I do towards the end of the season, ‘ehh, just a bit of green stuff in the sky…’ I guess after 5 full winters living on Lofoten, the northern lights are actually more common than a nice colourful sunrise or sunset. Like everything, they just become familiar. I guess I should count myself lucky – that northern lights now feel normal to me.

What I’m missing the most is a warm summer afternoon, which we never had many of this year. Or, a break from the winter’s long darkness. Hopefully I can finally get south this winter – something I’ve been saying to myself for the last several years, but never managed to achieve yet. Since moving to Lofoten in early 2016, I’ve only been south of Lofoten for a total of 3 weeks between October – April. Too many long winters for this California dude.

But even as I ramble on about northern lights and long winters, there’s still always images I have planned. Maybe they happen this year, maybe next, maybe in 5 years, or perhaps never… There is a lot of talk in photography about pre-visualization vs. being open to the moment and seeing what happens. Both I think are valid methods to be used under varying circumstances. But when you live in a place full time, even such a dynamic place like Lofoten, I think it is important to have some imagination for scenes or moments that would make a good photo.

This image, with northern lights over Ryten and Fuglhuken and reflected in the lake is one of my pre-visualized images. It will probably take multiple attempts, while also requiring 2 hours of hiking (round trip), so not overly difficult, but very dependent of a multitude of conditions to occur at once. The main difficulty I think will be the wind, or lack there of, as having a still lake and clean reflection is an important part of the image I have in my head. And then me being out there when something magical happens. Fingers crossed.

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
38mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/80 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #449 – Elusive Sun

Photo: An elusive sun of summer 2021 peaks out from behind Breiflogtind, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. August 7, 202. 16:59

The weather finally cleared last weekend and I caught the ferry to Kirkefjord and hiked out to Horseid beach for a night of camping – only my 2nd night in a tent this summer. I was slightly fearful the beach was going to be crowded, as after extended periods of bad weather, the mountains are always extra full from all the people who have been patiently waiting around for the weather to improve. And I had seen what the ferry line looked like Friday morning and decided to wait an extra day. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that no one else of the several dozen people on the ferry exited at Kirkefjord, the rest remaining on the boat for Vindstad and the more popular Bunes beach.

The weather was hot and still, the sun shining brightly overhead for the hike over the low mountain pass between the village of Kirkefjord and the beach on the outside coast. Normally, I would hike along the (much drier) west side of the like pictured here. But in the perfect calm I could see the nice reflection of Breiflogtind and the sun soon to set behind it, so I put on my crocs and headed down the boggy trail along the east side of the lake as quickly as possible before the sun disappeared. I just made it.

As a 750 meter high wall of near vertical granite, Breiflogtind is one of the more impressive mountain faces on Lofoten. Even at 14mm, it was impossible to capture the scene in one image, and thus this image composed of 4 vertical images to capture the full scale of the scene. I also have some over versions with the lake shore in the foreground, but this introduces a bit too much distortion for my tastes, though maybe I will eventually process one of them as well. I like the clean look of this image anyhow.

The original plan had been to camp for 2 nights, but in the early morning hours I found myself having to go outside and guy out my tent as a strong gusting wind had arrived. It wasn’t in the forecast, but as with the weather on Lofoten, one never knows. And especially in narrow mountain valleys, the wind can bounce off the mountains and do other weird things. Walking back across the beach into the wind and sand blowing 100’s of meters into the sky felt like a Death Valley sand storm. Unfortunately, I should have been a little more patient, as that evening turned out to be the best sunset in months, followed by low grey clouds for the entirety of this week…

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
15.5mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/100 second
WB Daylight
4 image panoramic

Friday Photo #441 – Mountain Clouds

Photo: Misty clouds form over Tverrfjellet after evening rain, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 7, 2021. 06:59

I usually don’t camp too much during June unless I’m heading out to the mountains for more than one night. Otherwise, as its never dark at this time of year, it’s easy enough just to hike back to my van after shooting the midnight light wherever I’m at and have a lighter backpack without camping gear. But on this evening, heading up to Fageråskaret pass, and then continuing up to Markan, I saw that there was a few hours of early morning rain in the forecast, so I brought the tent along for the hike.

The trail out of Selfjord is one of the worst on Lofoten. Unfortunately, it also leads to some of my favorite mountains. I would visit the area much more if the trial were better, but the bog at the beginning, and then the terribly eroded ascent/descent to Fageråskaret always makes for a slightly tedious journey. It has actually be fairly dry on Lofoten for the last weeks, and so I was well tempted to hike back down the pass before the rain arrived. But the photographer in me said it would be better to wait until morning, to see what happens after the rain.

Luckily I was correct to wait, and as the rain finished in the early morning hours, by the time I emerged from my tent around 06:00 (I hadn’t gone to bed until 02:00 – so it was more like a nap than a nights sleep), mostly clouds were moving around the landscape – the exact conditions I thought might happen.

Unfortunately, a layer of high clouds also remained, allowing the sun only to peak through over small areas from time to time. So the light wasn’t as dramatic as I had been hoping for. Sunset the previous evening hadn’t been very spectacular either. But it is one of my goals for the summer to try and be a bit more risky with the weather. Typically, I don’t like hiking in the rain. But I think I need to push myself to do so more, as that is when the potential dramatic light will happen – and if I’m not already on the top of a mountain, then I’ll always miss it! A little rain won’t hurt me, especially here on Lofoten, where you’re often never more than 1-2 hours hiking from the car.

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
110mm
ISO 100
f 7.1
1/250 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #439 – Early Summer

Photo: Cloudless summer sky and fresh summer green over Sakrisøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. June 2, 2021. 14:02

Lofoten is off to a fantastic start to June this year, already with temperatures between 19-21˚C since the start of the month (its only June 4th as I write this, so who knows if the trend will continue.). One needs to go back to 2017 or 2014 for the last time Lofoten had similar temperatures in early June. Otherwise, the average temperature during this time of year is around 8˚C, so not particularly warm.

Normally at this time of year I’m pretty much fully transitioned into ‘Midnight sun’ time, but the occasional day sees me out of the house before noon. On Wednesday I was doing some filming for a friend and found myself in west Lofoten, enjoying the year’s first cinnamon roll at Anita’s Sjømat in the early afternoon. Before heading back I took a quick walk up the small hill overlooking the yellow rorbu cabins at Sakrisøy. Despite a ‘boring’ blue sky, This is what a perfect feeling day in early summer on Lofoten looks like: Azure water, fresh green trees, blue sky, a bit of mountain snow… Paradise. It is days like this that make the months of darkness and bad weather over the winter worth being up here. And even more so because the weather can shift at any time – so we need to enjoy it while we can!

For the island landscape itself though, it will still be a few more weeks until it is finally in its summer appearance. The coastal farm fields have been green and filling with various flowers for several weeks now. However, the wild grasslands and landscapes are still somewhat brown, as the fresh green hasn’t grown tall enough yet. You can see so in the grasses in the very bottom of the image. So it will still be a few more weeks until the wild areas of Lofoten are full of knee high grass and flowers – that is when summer really arrives for me and camping season begins. Although for the farm fields, they will be cut by the farmers for winter feed some time in the first week or so of July – so there is kinda only 2-3 weeks where all of Lofoten’s landscape is filled with grass and wildflowers.

What weather the rest of summer will bring is anyones guess. But for the few tourists and us locals that have been here during the last week, it is about as good as it gets!

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
18.5mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/320 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #433 – Aurora Season Finale

Photo: Aurora Corona fills the southern sky over Stornappstind just before midnight, Flakstadøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. April 16, 2021. 23:40

My prediction for the weekend in last weeks post (Friday Photo #432) of maybe 1-2 more last nights of northern lights of the season more than came true, turning into 4 consecutive nights of aurora from Friday to Monday. The best display by far though, was Friday night and into the early morning hours of Saturday, with multiple KP5 coronas appearing well into the southern half of the sky.

I’m posting multiple photos this week, as these will be the last northern lights photos I’ll have until the sky begins to darken again in late August. But this was a good finish to the year, and now the latest I have taken northern lights images into April, with the last night being Monday/Tuesday the 19/20th – where previously it had been the night of 13/14th. So almost a week later this year.

Really though, it is just pure luck after the beginning of April, as it needs to be a large enough aurora display to appear overhead or in the southern sky which remains dark enough. Any small northerner lights along the northern horizon would not likely have been visible. But I think there is something unique and special about these spring auroras, with the horizon glowing which adds depths and color to the image.

The second image, taken just after midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning might be my favorite of this group. Too bad I hadn’t been in Reine on Friday, that would have been a show! But I kind of like the subtlety of this image, with the aurora almost interacting with the moon, which itself was also nicely situated over the landscape. Normally I try and avoid including city lights in my aurora photos, but here, I think they add to the sense of place to the image. The aurora didn’t last long this night, but eventually some really cool lenticular clouds began floating over the fjord (you can see a time lapse of if you follow me on Instagram) which eventually took over my attention – Perhaps only a photographer living on Lofoten can be more interested in clouds than northern lights!

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
40mm
ISO 1250
f 2
2 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #428 – Kvalvika Sunset

Photo: Setting sun behind Kjerrina from Kvalvika beach, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. March 14, 2021. 17:37

Tomorrow, March 20th, is the vernal equinox and the sun will pass north of the equator for the first time since September – spring and summer are on the way! Even the first of the migratory birds have started to find their places along the beaches and coastline of Lofoten, and the evenings are finally feeling a little lighter after the long dark months of winter.

From a photographic point of view, this means the sun is finally leaving the southern part of the sky and reaching into more northern facing locations. Today’s photo, of the setting sun at Kvalvika beach from last Sunday would not have been possible just 2 weeks ago, as the sun would have set just behind the mountain and not been visible from the beach. Over the coming weeks, the setting sun will move further the the right (north) of this scene until it reaches true north in late May – the beginning of the midnight sun season here on Lofoten.

As the sun rises and sets further to the north, more and more locations on Lofoten will emerge from the long shadows of winter. Especially important for this are the beaches, most of which are on the northern sides of the islands and surrounded by steep mountains.

Last Sunday, I decided to head to Kvalvika with a pair of journalism students who are including me in one of their university projects. Knowing it was one of the first days with the setting sun on the beach, it seemed like a pretty good option. Although leaving the parking lot for the short 1 hour hike, it was one of those days where the weather forecast was more optimistic than reality, as heavy clouds cloaked most of Lofoten. Arriving at the beach in mid afternoon I could see some small areas of clear sky along the lower horizon. I gave it a 50/50 chance of seeing a sunset vs. having a grey set.

Time seemed to pass slowly, and even the surrounding mountains where not receiving any light and with the sun behind the mountain Kjerringa, I couldn’t see what was going to happen, we could only wait. But finally, I could see the steep cliffs of Ryten begin to lighten, and then glow bright in direct light! As the minutes passed the sunlight moved towards us, eventually shining across the northern half of the beach. Luck was on our side.

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 31
f 13
120 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #407 – Ice Season

Photo: Frozen mountain pond, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 21, 2020. 17:16

The landscape has begun to settle into its winter freeze over the last week and many of the small mountain ponds are beginning to ice over. I went for a short hike on Wednesday up towards Solbjørnvatn, under the promise of a clear sky and good northern lights forecast – neither of which turned out to be true. Even the lower ground was mostly frozen and the hiking quite treacherous in places.

I had hiked higher into the mountains, where I was initially planning to wait for northern lights. But the route up over ice covered rock slabs required some tricky navigation, as I wasn’t entirely confident I could find my way down in the dark with the light of my headlamp, so I headed back to a lower spot just after sunset. By now the forecast showed a clear sky, while the scene before me was over ever thickening clouds in the fading light. My feet were wet from some of the bog which wasn’t yet frozen and a cold wind was blowing. It was barely 17:00.

So I took one last photo of this frozen pond, which I think ended up nicer than any of the sunset photos from earlier. I sat for a moment, glad to have my winter jacket on, as I took in the conditions. Should I stay and hope it clears? Or head down and try again another time. Had the evening been still, I probably would have cooked dinner and waited for a while. But as the conditions were, heading back to my van seemed like the better option. Which turned out to be the smarter choice in the end, as sky ended up fully cloudy and the aurora never arrived.

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 9.5
1 second
WB Daylight
2 images – top, bottom

Friday Photo #404 – Rainbow Season

Photo: September rainbow over Olstind, Reine, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. September 15, 2020. 12:33

One benefit of all the rain this autumn is rainbows! In general, autumn on Lofoten is what I like to call ‘rainbow season.’ Even though rain can be just as common in summer, the autumn weather patterns seem to produce rainbows on a more regular basis.

With a bit of understanding of the weather and where rainbows occur – opposite the sun, it is actually somewhat possible to predict where a rainbow might occur and use it to your advantage. Or, at least showing up at the right time of day, you can maybe get a rainbow over a mountain like Olstind here in Reine. A couple hours earlier or later and the rainbow would not have been in the same location.

Unfortunately, the bay had been completely still with a nice reflection when I first arrived, but with the rain came the wind, blowing away the calm waters. Still, one of my better attempts at a rainbow over Olstind. With all my autumn tours canceled this year thanks to Covid-19, at least I can try and capture some better versions of this scene – or maybe up from Reinebringen as well. If one thing is certain, there will be plenty more rain in the next weeks…

Camera Info:
Nikon D850
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
26mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/125 second1
WB Daylight
Polarizer filter