Friday Photo #491 – Kvalvika Midnight Sun

Photo: Midnight sun over Kvalvika beach, Lofotodden national park, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. May 31, 2022. 00:02

After what has been a cold and wet spring this year, the last week has brought the arrival of the midnight sun and full summer weather! The weather here can often be just like switching on a light, it changes that fast. And luckily, once it changed for the better, it has lasted the better part of a week with t-shirt weather – even while sitting on mountain tops at midnight.

The good weather of the last week has seen me exploring some new mountain areas, as well as visiting some familiar one, such as this image of Kvalvika beach, before the summer season kicks into full gear and the popular places become a bit to busy for my liking. So it is good when I can visit them in summer like conditions still in May. And this year is feeling like it will be a busy one after two years of covid as the roads are already filled with continental camper vans and motorhomes.

The weather forecast on this evening was for clear sky, which is actually not that good for photography during the midnight sun season. And as you can see, the light is kinda ‘boring.’ With a fully clear sky there is often enough sea haze to block much of the sunlight, causing a weak and soft light to shine over the landscape, while the sky overhead remains bright blue. In winter, with snow covered mountains, this would be perfect light, but in summer, it doesn’t work as well.

As you can also see in the photo, the mountains area already backlit by the sun, so I’m only looking at the shadow side of them. If I was looking for dramatic sunset light on the mountains themselves, I would have to have been here earlier or later in the year, when the sun would be setting to the west and shining onto the mountains. Although then, the sun would not be in the image either.

On this evening, with a forecast for little to no wind, I was actually out at Kvalvika to photograph a different scene – these mountains reflecting in a small lake which is on the edge of the beach. But as I arrived out there at about 20:00 and 4 km of hiking, the beach side of the valley I hiked up and a bit of a breeze blowing in off the mountains and disturbing the lake too much for a reflection. I waited around for a while – until after midnight – hoping the wind would subside, but it never did.

Hiking back after midnight, once I got to the other side of the small mountain pass I could feel the conditions immediately calm. The (somewhat large) lakes I had to pass on my hike back to my van were perfectly still, with mirror like reflections of the surrounding landscape. So I was just a bit unlikely with the particular wind direction only affecting the Kvalvika beach area.

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
24mm
ISO 80
f 14
2 seconds
WB Daylight
6 stop ND filter

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 #462 – Fire In The Sky

Photo: Passing rain clouds illuminated at sunset over Reinefjord, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 4, 2021. 18:10

Sometimes we get lucky and all the elements line up at once; in this case, rain at sunset with a clear horizon. Then the sky turns to fire. It is not often that Lofoten has sunsets like this, and even when it does happen, the steep mountains often mean it can be quite localised. So to be in the right place at the right time is quite a treat, and a bit of luck – especially in autumn, when the western horizon is only visible from a few locations on Lofoten, so it is hard to see what is happening out there.

The weather forecast this autumn seemed to be completely backwards for the most part: rain when there was supposed to be sun, clear skies and aurora when it was supposed to be 100% cloud cover. The only reasonable guessing was just looking at the sky and hoping everything worked out for the best.

This particular afternoon didn’t look very promising, with rain in the forecast and a layer of clouds covering the Reine area. But as the hours passed, I could see the subtle beginnings of color lighting up the clouds from below. Always a good sign, but one still never quite knows what will happen. So as the sky got brighter and brighter, it was a nice surprise. And then, at the peak of the color a light rain shower passed over the mountains, adding even more color, it was the brightest sunset I’ve seen since the spring.

But a lesson to myself. I was focused on the show in front of me, that as the rain arrived, I forgot to turn around and look behind me. When I eventually did after some minutes had passed – a full rainbow was filling the sky! I wasn’t in the best position, so I had to run up the road to the Hamnøy bridge, where the rainbow had been circling around it. But I was too slow by about 30 seconds or so. And as I approached the bridge, changed lenses, and put on a polariser filter, the rainbow had already faded for the most part. I always tell my workshops clients to look behind themselves when intense light is happening to see if there might also be something interesting going on, but this time I forgot to listen to my own advice…

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
39mm
ISO 100
f 8
1/30 second
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #461 – Rorbu Reflection

Photo: Parking lot reflection of new rorbu cabins at Eliassen Rorbuer, Hamnøy, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 4, 2021. 19:05

After an 18 month break from guiding due to Corona, I was finally back in the Reine area and staying at Eliassen Rorbuer for two of my Lofoten photo workshops. Ongoing last year, they’ve expanded quite a bit, with many new cabins build (which I think makes them the largest Rorbu accommodation on Lofoten now). Along with new cabins came a new parking lot. And from all the rain this autumn, a parking lot reflection.

I think I shot this scene maybe 6-7 times as the lights changed throughout the days. Usually it was just for a couple quick snapshots while I was on my way to/from my cabin at various times of the day. Sometimes there was a car parked in front of the buildings, and I could shoot. While other times, the scene looked something like this. There was still some construction going on, limiting the angles I could shoot without a bunch of other junk in the way.

But for a simple puddle of rain water in a parking lot, I think it makes a nice image!

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
20mm
ISO 100
f 20
20 seconds
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #460 – Reine

Photo: Olstinden mountain peak emerges from passing autumn rain showers, Reine, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. October 2, 2021. 17:10

For as many times I’ve stood at the ‘classic’ Reine overlook at Reinehalsen over the year, I’m still unexpectedly surprised by unique and interesting conditions from time to time. I say unique and interesting, because that is what this weather was. It was not a dramatic, fiery sunset with the mountains glowing, or some crazy storm and blowing winds. It was actually a rather calm moment during the passing of a light rain shower.

Despite the grey weather, the wind was calm. And looking ahead at the forecast, this would likely be the only calm moment allowing for a reflection of Olstinden peak that my workshop group might have. So on the first afternoon with my first Lofoten tour group since the Covid lockdowns began in March 2020 I found myself standing at an old familiar place, waiting for the rain to stop and the water to calm. It finally did.

With the bright colors of autumn, I actually don’t mind otherwise grey and dreary weather. The color of the landscape is enough to brighten up the scene. But when the rain passed, and then began to turn into a low foggy mist concealing the lower peaks, this was something kind of special, bright colors or not.

Over all the years, I’ve never captured this scene looking quite like this. The moment didn’t last long though, and within a few minutes, the next wave of rain had arrived and more ‘normal’ type clouds began to conceal Olstind and the rest of the scene. Lucky timing I guess to capture a new (to me) interpretation of the familiar icon.

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
29mm
ISO 100
f 9
1/8 second
WB Daylight

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