Friday Photo #27 – Horseid Beach – Lofoten Islands

Horseid beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Dark skies over Horseid beach, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 22, 2012.  15:51

I arrived on Lofoten early the previous morning and immediately caught the ferry to Kierkefjord to make the hike to Horseid beach.  Exhausted, I fell asleep in the early afternoon to the sound of a gently rain falling on my tent.  15 hours later I finally emerged.  The sky was still gray, but at least the clouds had risen and the rain was now only arriving in passing showers several times per hour.  As time passed the northwestern sky began to clear and moving beams of light would shine across the beach.

With the right tide (high), the small peninsula of land at the far end of Horseid beach provides an almost perfect view directly back towards the pass; the mountains in almost perfect symmetry.  Now it was my task to wait around for a bit of light.  When the sun happened to pass across the beach, the water was a brilliant turquoise. I knew I wanted to highlight this aspect of the scene, while not minding so much about the lighting on the background, or actually preferring it to remain dark and dramatic.

With the quickly moving light, I first shot with ‘normal’ exposures, but wasn’t getting the mood I was looking for out of the scene.  So I added my 10 stop B+W neutral density filter and then waited for the next found of light.  Shooting with 30 second exposures, it took a while for the elements to align themselves: a pleasing blur in the water with the correct timing of the waves and a long enough moment of sunlight across the beach to bring out the exposure and add some contrast against the mountains in the distance.  And even though the wind was fairly soft by this time, the 30 second exposure helps soften up the clouds a little, giving a bit more separate between them and the mountains.

For reference, I’ve included the following ‘outtake’ photo of the scene exposed at 1/250 sec.  While you can tell it would be something pleasant to sit there and look at in person (albeit a bit on the chilly side), visually, there is nowhere near the impact of the above photo.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 80
f 11
30 sec
WB Daylight
2 images – top/bottom
10 stop ND filter

horseid beach, lofoten islands, norway

Friday Photo #25 – Horseid Beach Camping

Tent camping at Horseid beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Photo: Camping at Horseid Beach, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  August 22, 2012.  19:32

I think Horseid beach is one of the more wild and dramatic locations on the Lofoten Islands to set up a tent.   With a multitude of camping places available, heading out to the furthest reaches of the beach to a small grassy headland is a slightly exposed, but unforgettable place to pitch your tent.

Normally I don’t like to hike in the rain, but immediately upon departing the ferry in Moskenes on a late August morning I was already changing into my rain gear.  A steady line of cold, tired looking backpackers was waiting for their departures from the islands, the Summer in the north quickly coming to its end.  My journey was just beginning however…

The Reine ferry to Kierkefjord – Vindstad was more crowded than I was expecting, however only three of us exited in Kierkefjord.  Despite the fact that the pass through the mountains is quite low, it was thoroughly concealed in clouds.  Heading higher and higher up the trail the rain fell harder and the visibility dimmed, until it was barely possible to follow the trail.  At one point I wasn’t sure if I was still going the right direction and it was only until I stopped for a second and heard the faint crashing of waves in the distance that I knew I was still on the right path (there is really only one way to go, so it’s a bit hard to get too lost.).  Finally I descended below the clouds and could see the beach, still a few kilometers away.

From the distance, Horseid beach doesn’t appear all that big, but it is a deceptively long hike from the back of the beach until finally reaching the edge of the sea.  Still raining, I immediately set up my tent and crawled into my sleeping bag.  And due to my exhaustion from 30 hours of travel, I was quickly asleep.  Not that I was missing any photo opportunities anyhow.

Gray skies greeted the next morning, with elusive moments of sunlight appearing every now and again between passing bands of rain.  Most of my time was spend gathering wood for a campfire and figuring out the best place to gather fresh water (the small waterfalls on the right side of the beach).  But every time the sun would pop out for more than a minute, I’d grab my camera and try to get a photo or two.  And hence, sometime in the early summer evening, I turned my attention to my tent as a bit of weak light arrived.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 5.6
1/80 sec
WB Daylight
2 images – top/bottom

Friday Photo #24 – Bunes Beach Mountain Reflection

Mountain peaks rise above Bunes beach in spring twilight light, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Mountain reflection on Bunes Beach, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands.  Apri 29, 2013.  22:33

After only a few days on Lofoten with my my Aussie travel companions Adam and Rod, I had received the friendly nickname of ‘Captain Wetfoot,’ based upon my proven abilities to almost always end up in the water somehow.  This night shooting on Bunes beach would be no exception.

Shooting with at 24mm tilt-shift lens to end up with a square crop means I need to shoot at least 2 photos.  And with each photo having a 60 second exposure (+noise reduction) means I need to stand in the same place for at least 4 minutes.  The trick is to find the balance point where the highest tide will just barely reach you.  Too far from the sea and the foreground might be a bit dull.  Too close to the sea, and you’ll end up named Captain Wetfoot.

The wet feat I can deal with, especially with the size of the campfire I would build on my return.  But since I generally only carry a light tripod, any incoming waves will tend to shake the tripod or sink the legs into the sand ever so slightly, which is often enough to add blur to the scene.  Thus I sit there anxiously as the seconds tick by on my watch, hoping the water gets close, but not too close.  If the wave is small, no problem.  But if I’m sent running halfway through the second shot, it means I have to start all over again.  So 4 minutes easily turns into a half hour or more for a single photo.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 11
61 sec
WB Daylight
2 images – top/bottom

Friday Photo #22 – Bunes Beach Camping

campfire at Bunes Beach, Moskenesoy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Driftwood campfire at Bunes Beach, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  April 30, 2013.  01:46

As the twilight nights of late April and early May arrive on Lofoten, exhaustion and insomnia become constant companions for the landscape photographer.  And if you’re wanting a few hours around a campfire, it needs to wait for the few hours between sunrise and sunset, an all to late in my opinion.  But after an afternoon of scouring the beach for driftwood, and then shooting until well past midnight, an hour or so by a fire is a welcomed reward.

I’ve written before that Spring, in the normal meaning of the word doesn’t really exist on Lofoten.  It is more of a ‘brown period,’ between the melting of the snow on the lower elevations and the return of green, in mid May.  But over these few weeks, the nights disappear in their entirety and suddenly you will find yourself surrounded by Summer.

With a couple Australian landscape photographers as my companions (I’ll write more on this later), I took the opportunity of a stable weather forecast to head out to Bunes beach and camp for a night.  I was still exhausted from my nearly 40 hours of travel to the islands, having arrived just a few days prior, so I think I slept most of the afternoon away as well, but as the evening came, it was time to head out for some photography.

It wasn’t until after 01:00 am that we were finally back at the tents and finally finished with the night.  Of course I can never let a campfire go to waste as a photo opportunity as well…

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24mm f/3.5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 200
f 5.6
5 sec
WB Daylight
2 images – top/bottom

Friday Photo #18 – Winter Storm

Dramatic scenery at snow covered coastline, Å I Lofoten, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Photo: Approaching winter storm, Å I Lofoten, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 12, 2012.  15:27

The last full day of my February 2012 Lofoten.  After nearly a week of positive temperatures and horrible rain, the thermostat fell below zero and snow once again fell upon the islands.  In late afternoon, I headed back to one of my favorite winter locations, the cliffs beyond Å.

It was one of those classic Lofoten winter days of snow flurries sweeping across the islands.  If you try and run from the weather on days like this, you’ll never get a shot if it’s more than a few minutes from your car.  You wait on the edge, watching as the next wave of snow heads towards you, shooting until the last minute.  Then you hide your camera under your jacket, turn your head away from the wind and wait until the snow passes, if it passes.

With luck, you only have to stand there 10-15 minutes until the clouds once again rise and a brilliant fresh layer of snow covers the land.  You try to shoot what you can as you watch the next cycle approach.  Repeat ad infinitum.  Winter on Lofoten.

Camera Info:
Nikon D700
Nikon 16-35 f-4
16mm
ISO 100
f 11
10 sec
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #17 – Reine Winter Sunrise

snow covered Olstind mountain peak glows pink in winter sunrise, Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Photo: Pink dawn, Reine, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 19, 2013.  08:16

This is perhaps what Winter photography on Lofoten is all about, mountains glowing pink in the low hanging sun.  In mid January, this would be your view the entire day.  However by mid February, the sun rises sufficiently high were only the first hour of the day will provide this sort of light.

Having stayed up somewhat late the previous night shooting a fantastic display of the Northern Lights I was perhaps a bit sluggish to leave my sleeping bag this morning; also aided by the fact that this was the coldest day of the entire trip.  Lucky for me, the sun moves slow in the north, leaving enough time for a lazy photographer to prepare for the day.

Having slept in the car at the parking lot in Å, not my preferred sleeping place, but all the others were covered in deep snow, I figured heading to the tourist viewpoint in Reine would probably be my best bet.  The upper view point was already crowded with others, so I headed down to the lower one, which few people seemed to visit for some reason.  I like the view from here better anyhow.  And so, I now have yet another image of Olstind, a mountain that I’ll probably never grow tired of photographing.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70 f-2.8
40mm
ISO 100
f 10
1/30 sec
WB Daylight

Friday Photo #14 – Winter Rorbu

Traditional Rorbu cabin reflects in fjord in evening light, Valen, Reine, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Valen Rorbu, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 17, 2013.  17:00

Heavy skies had covered the islands for several days.  After spending the afternoon at Å, waiting for a sunset that would never arrive, I returned to the area of Reine while waiting to meet a friend in the early evening.  I sat close to the fjord at waited for any possibilities of light, but nothing.  The clouds hung low, concealing the mountain peaks.

As I was leaving the car, heading in the opposite direction, towards a view of Olstind, I saw the lights of this Rorbu turn on as the inhabitants returned from a day at sea.  Perhaps not what I would normally photograph, the gloomy weather drew me towards the light and this scene.  I made my way down the snow covered slope to some rocks just above the water, perilously perched on the snow and not knowing where one misstep would put me into the sea.

I took a few photos until the fishermen left and the lights turned off.  A moment of good timing or I would have missed the photo.  I think the heavy clouds concealing the summits of the distant peaks helps add to the atmosphere of this photo.  I can feel the darkness of Winter in this image.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24mm f/3/5 tilt-shift
24mm
ISO 100
f 8
3 sec
WB Daylight
2 images: top, bottom

Friday Photo #11 – Agvatnet

Boats at Rest, Agvatnet, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Row boats float in Ågvatnet, Å I Lofoten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  July 2001

This is the oldest Lofoten photo I’ll ever post on this site. But this photo is perhaps the whole reason this website exists. It was the summer of 2001 and a 20 year old long haired version of me was on his first ever backpacking trip to Europe. Or more specifically, 10 weeks of summer in Scandinavia. Becoming a photographer was not anywhere on my mind, infact, I would be moving to Santa Cruz to study computer science (ha! That didn’t last too long…) shortly after my return. But I still carried my trusty old Nikon FE (my first ever slr camera) and a couple dozen rolls of film to document my summer in Scandinavia.

I’ve written elsewhere about my discovery of Lofoten while in Bodø, because I had merely wanted to go north of the Arctic circle somewhere. The following morning I was on the ferry to Moskenes. Not having any idea of where to go, I teamed up with the only other Americans making the journey and followed them to Å. Sometime shortly before midnight I was wandering back from a walk and took this photo.

It is not technically perfect. In fact I’d dare say its pretty damn bad. I should have given a little more room in the foreground, and no doubt a tripod and a little hyperfocal-distance also would have helped, but the overall balance of the image is still appealing to me Or perhaps my memories from back then still hold power over something that would never see the light of day today.

Anyhow, I made a print of this when I returned home. It hung on my wall in the various places I lived for the following 5 years until I was finally able to return to Lofoten again. Since that second visit, the Summer of 2006, I’ve been to the islands every year except 2008, when I was doing my best to live in Germany.

Over these last years I’ve returned here again and again to try and make a ‘better’ version of this photo. I’ve never succeeded. Either the boats were missing, or half sunk, or it was raining, or too windy, or Frozen, or… And so this image remains an inspiration to my future and my love of the islands.

Perhaps when I once again have a place to live, I’ll pull the dusty print out of storage and give it a deserved place on my wall.

Camera Info:
Nikon FE
Nikon 35-105 F3.5-4.5 ais
Fuji Provia 100

Friday Photo #7 – Kvalvika Beach

Kvalvika beach from Ryten, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Golden evening light shines on Kvalvika Beach, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Aug 26, 2012.  20:04  

There were only two of us camping on Kvalvika Beach this day in late August, myself and a young German guy.  It is thanks to him that I took this photo.

I had been wandering around the beach taking a few photos in the afternoon light.  I had hiked a little bit up a trail to get a slightly higher vantage point which I thought was nice.  He I some him come walking across the beach in my direction and when he got to me, he mentioned the he was going to hike up the mountain, Ryten, and asked if I wanted to come along.  Sure, why not.

Only wearing a light fleece and with no water, I found myself heading up the mountain.  As we got higher it became apparent that we wouldn’t be remaining dry much longer as we could rain showers quickly heading out way.  But by now it was too late to head back down, so I continued on.

A cold rain hit fast and hard.  The drops seemed huge, even by Norwegian standards.  I did my best to take some shelter behind the biggest bolder I could find, which managed to keep me about 3/4th dry.  15 minutes of this and then the sun finally began to reemerge, creating a rainbow so close I could almost find my pot of gold.  A few more minutes and the rain had past, leaving me soaking wet in the chilly wind high up the mountain.  But now, an even brighter golden light now shone over the landscape.

Wet and cold, the light was too good to leave.  Over the next hours I made some of my favourite images of this trip.  I wouldn’t be back at my tent until after dark.

Click here for info on getting to Kvalvika Beach.

Camera Info:
Nikon D800
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
24mm
ISO 200
f 9
1/80 sec
WB Daylight
Single Image
No Filters

Friday Photo #4 – Aurora Over Olstind

Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis in night sky behind Olstind mountain peak, Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Northern Lights over Olstind, Moskenesøya, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 6, 2012, 19:25

Northern Lights over Olstind:  Olstind, as it rises from the waters of the Kjerkfjord is perhaps the most Iconic mountain on Lofoten.  A near perfect pyramid when view from some angles, it just begs to be photographed over and over again; which often I do!

This photo is taken a few hours after last week’s image.  With a rare moment of clear skies, I parked my car near Reine, hoping to capture an image such as this.  And one of the benefits of sleeping in a car is that I don’t have the temptation of being lulled back to a warm room and a hot meal.  I suffer from the cold and eat bread and butter for dinner, but I can also sleep more of less wherever I want, and thus be quickly ready when moments like this occur.

I don’t quite like the reflected lights from the distant village of Kierkefjord.  I could have located myself a bit more to the right, but this would also have concealed the brightest part of the Aurora, so a bit of a compromise had to be found.  For me this image is just a start of an idea, and something I hope to approve upon over the years.

Another element to this image is that it was captured a few days before the full moon, hence the landscape is well lit.  I often read the somewhat misinformed advice that the Northern Lights are best captured when there is no moon.  Not true in my opinion.  And with a snow covered landscape, I think moonlight is an essential part of night photography; to photograph a Northern Lights landscape, not just the lights themselves somewhere in the sky with a dark silhouette in the foreground.

Camera Info:
Nikon D700
Nikon 24-70 f/2.8
24mm
ISO 200
f 5.6
132 sec
WB Auto
Single Image
No Filters