Lofoten Islands – Week 2
This is part 2 about my time in the Lofoten Islands, Norway, on another Tom Mackie workshop. Read the previous post about week 1.
Day 7 – Sunrise over Sakrisøy, Sunset over a shed.
Day 7 heralded our last day with Tom and our last day in Sakrisøy before we headed out on our own further north. It started with a trek up the hill out the back of our cabins for sunrise. With a bit of scrabbling and sliding we eventually got set up in a prime spot overlooking Sakrisøy, then we waited for the magic light. For a moment it looked like the clouds were going to scupper us again, but soon enough it cleared.
I chose to again use the Lee Filters stoppers (can’t remember which one, probably little) to get a slower shutter speed and smooth out the water, which had the added benefit of showing off a lovely mix of colours in the water which would have been lost in the slightly choppy surface. The island on the right of the picture is Sakrisøy, in fact, the very cabins that we were staying in were the ones to the right of the white building on the near shore.
After scrambling (read: falling) back down the hill we packed our things and left Sakrisøy. We ventured north to our new home in the fishing town of Ballstad, then continued north on the E10 to reach the Lofoten Tourist Centre. We weren’t there to go inside and have a coffee though, we’d just spotted a damn near perfect reflection in Steirapollen Lake at the side of the road. And what photographer can say no to a good reflection (I soon learned the answer, none).
The shape of this particular mountain range led itself to a bit of creative zooming, as well as using my artistic licence to flip the image.
And voila, an arrowhead! I think flipping the image helped make it obvious what I wanted you to see, with the arrow going the standard from left to right, but maybe I’m wrong, let me know either way in the comments!
And it was with this last stop that we said goodbye to our tutor and friend Tom. He was off to take on another workshop whilst we struck out on our own. 5 of us in a Skoda Octavia. It was, uhrm, cosy. Well, it was for the mugs in the back anyway…
Before heading back home there was just time to find somewhere for sunset. With a bit of driving we came across a nice little shed by the water. The main attraction was actually a mountain in the distance, but the light never really caught it, so I got a nice sky, a nice colourful reflection in the water and a shed. What? Not every photo can be of some beautiful mountain ranges!
I did a bit of minor HDR’ing using the Nik Collection to bring out the very dark shed a bit more whilst still getting the great colours of the sky and the water.
Day 8 – Another Aurora! And a smashed lens.
We were on for another Aurora, so headed to Uttakleiv beach, a popular spot on the east coast north of the ‘capital’ Leknes. After scrambling down to the rocky shore with just the red light from my head torch (didn’t want wreck anyones shot if I accidentally pointed it at them) and saying hi to Tom and his new group of workshoppers who happened to be there as well the light show started. Just. It was pretty faint but with a bit of good timing we still managed to pull off some decent, if not exactly award winning, shots.
After a few hours here we decided to head back to Ballstad at about midnight. We got through the tunnel and saw the lights start to appear behind us again, needless to say we swung in to the next pull in, hopped over the railings and got the cameras out.
The shape of this particular aurora seemed to bend itself quite nicely over the mountain, which I emphasised by cropping down to a square format image. The strong moon lit up the mountain and cast a nice reflection in the water with a relatively low ISO of only 640 and a shutter speed of 9 seconds. Sadly this was to be my last photo taken with my trusty Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 Wideangle. For this trip I’d bought a new Tripod, a ‘3 Legged Thing’. It was super light and strong enough for most (but not quite all) conditions we faced so far. Problem was I hadn’t got used to the screw tight release plate on the ball head that I got with it, as I had only ever had heads with quick release plates. The screw in plate is fine as long as you are not trying to determine if it’s tight through gloves whist tired. I hadn’t screwed my camera on tightly enough and picked up the tripod to move just a few feet when the whole plate, with camera attached, slipped off and crashed from 6 feet onto the rocks below.
I almost cried.
Any other camera at this point would have been ruined, and that would have been my photography for the rest of the week over. Luckily I use a Nikon D4, which is certified grizzly bear proof, and apart from a few scratches and a small bit of plastic dislodged in the eyepiece (which I don’t even notice anymore) it was in perfect working order.
The lens was not so lucky. In the dark it looked like it survived, it was only when I tried to focus it I noticed a problem. Turns out the metal part at the rear of the lens, the bit that keeps all the important bits together, had bent a bit out of shape.
So that was done for, but luckily I only had a few more days left. Even more luckily home contents insurance covered a full replacement for it, so I had a shiny new one within a couple weeks of getting home.
Day 9 – Ballstad, stuck French tourists and more red cabins.
Another morning, another glorious sunrise, this time just two minutes around the corner from our base at Ballstad. Mike did a little recee the previous morning whilst I was still in bed and found us a nice spot with some yellow (not red!) cabins. When we first turned up it was snowing and cloudy, so we started heading back, but then all of a sudden the weather cleared. We swung a quick 180 and set up again. The far shore in this photo is where we were staying.
Whilst here we were visited by a friendly local who took a quick photo of us, he said this was the view he woke up to every morning. Couldn’t help but feel a little envious, but being able to capture it was good enough!
We then headed on a bit of an adventure north to Henningsvær, a fishing village nestled in a bunch of islands on the south coast of Austvågøya. It was a great drive along the coast, taking in many classic Lofoten sights along the way, including the obligatory tourist in a totally inappropriate vehicle spun out and stuck in a snowy verge. After being all heroic and pushing the little Citreon without studded tyres back on to the road we carried on and came across a great little iced up lake overlooked by mountains and (you guessed it) little red cabins.
The clouds meant timing was everything to try and get some decent light on the mountains. There was also a fairly strong wind that was whipping up the icy, sharp snow all around us, giving us a lovely case of windburn. Being right by the lake I also made the mistake of leaving one of my tripod legs slightly in the water, resulting in it freezing up a treat, but after wrapping it up in my buff and gloves and sticking it in the back of the car it soon sorted itself out.
A little further on we came across another little red cabin (well, more of a shed this time) stuck out in the middle of an inlet on its own. Naturally we pulled in and got shooting.
I shot this one portrait to try and make it seem even more isolated and to capture the big sky we had overhead. I was a little disappointed by the sea in this one, it ended up just looking a bit messy rather than smooth. The telegraph pole on the left hand side is also a wee bit distracting, but I could get rid of that if I work on my Photoshop skills a bit more.
We did eventually make it to Henningsvær and, although its a wonderful place I didn’t really get any decent photos. Just goes to show that the best stuff can sometimes come from the most unlikely sources, in this case the random spots we came across on our way.
Day 10 – Frozen sand, surfs up, and my last day of shooting
The day started with a trip to Haukland beach. We were the only ones on this white sandy beach that looked like it should have been somewhere in the Mediterranean, if it weren’t for the snowy mountains that surrounded it and the fact that you could pick up the sand in icy sheets and smash it.
The little inlet we hopped over in the foreground leads the eye quite nicely to the mountains in the backgrounds which just got touched with sun at the top, making it look almost fake.
Sunrise done we headed back home, then to the bay at Unstad, but not before stopping the side of the road for a quick church shot.
This was pretty much the first time I got to use my favourite 70-200mm lens. Naturally, landscape doesn’t often lend itself to telephoto shots, but occasionally it can be good not only for capturing things a bit too far away, but also for compressing the perspective or simply removing unwanted distractions.
Unstad is a small village on the western coast of Vestvagoy island. Its beach is apparently famed for its surfer friendly waves, unsurprisingly there were none there on this day, just one other pair of German photographers.
I used a 30 second exposure to completely kill off any movement in the waves and turn it to mist. I particularly like the contrast between the dark rocks and the white, misty sea, especially in the middle distance. The sky was a welcome surprise as well with a touch of streakiness in the clouds.
Just for good measure we headed back to Uttakliev beach one last time, and I ended up with a shot that I still, after 5 months, can’t decide if I like or not.
I like the movement in the waves in the foreground, captured using a fairly slow 4 second exposure whilst the tide was receding. I also like the clouds coming off the mountain in the rop left that almost make it look like the mountain is on fire. But there’s something about the image I don’t like which I haven’t figured out yet. Lack of a real subject, or possibly the overly bright centre portion (which I could fix). Or something else.
That was to be the last day of shooting, the next day we got up early and headed home, this time with me taking the little prop plane hop back to Bodo. So much quicker than the ferry. I was sad to be leaving this stunning place and parting ways with my newly acquired friends, but at the same time I was quite happy to be heading home. On the last day there came a point where everyone else was shooting something, and I just didn’t have the energy anymore, so sat atop a hill just looking at the view instead. It was bliss. Its something you don’t often get a chance to do when trying to capture the scene. There’s no doubt that going to these places with a camera helps me appreciate the scenes in front of me more and take time to really get to know it, but at the same time it was lovely to put the camera down and just sit watching the view.
Yet again this was an experience I’ll never forget, and it was made so much better with the brilliant support of my fellow photographers, who not only helped me enormously in the photographic department but were the best little team of people I could have wished to have been with. And with the exception of one broken lens, it was a largely successful trip, with plenty learnt and lots of photos to treasure, I even ended up putting a bunch of them up (along with some of my shots from Iceland the previous year) on my wall.