winter road with snow, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Lonely winter road, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

Wednesday I board a plane and chase the sun into the western horizon.  After 5 months here in Europe it’s once again that time to head home to California.  Not that I wouldn’t love to stay longer, but unfortunately I still haven’t managed any success with getting a residence visa or starting a business.  I don’t know how some people do it and make it look so easy; seemingly effortlessly moving from place to place with the apparent superpowers necessary to navigate the endless bureaucracies and restrictions.  What’s the secret? I guess I’m not rich-talented-educated-successful-smart-connected-charming enough to pull things off over here yet.  Not that I wont keep trying…

As good timing would have it though, I’ll actually only be in California for a few days before heading south to Mexico to help out my brother and his team who are racing in the San Felipe Baja 250.  More on that in a few days.  I better be sure to bring some sunblock otherwise I’ll end up looking like a boiled lobster after the first day.  I think I’ve only actually seen the sun about 8 hours total since the beginning of December so I’m looking a bit like a pasty white Brit tourist at the moment. 🙂

Last Journeys Among the Brecon Beacons

Hiking Brecon Beacons national park Wales

Photo: hiking towads Fan Y Big, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  Feb 2012

As luck would have it, my final days here in Wales took a turn from the usual gray, rainy days, for a weekend of brilliant sunshine.  Saturday saw us heading up Fan Y Big and Cribyn.  I was hoping to wait around until sunset, but clouds descended late in the afternoon.  I still walked away with over 1100 photos for the day, which for me is quite rare.  The forecast for Sunday was for cloud, but as I was stirring in the morning hours I could see sunshine coming through the blinds.  So instead of going climbing as the original plan had been, we once again took advantage of the weather and headed up to Hay Bluff and wandered a bit down Offa’s Dyke path for a couple hours.

Tonight is my last night in Wales, so I’m glad I got a few final days out in the hills.  Same thing happened last year as well, maybe it’s the California sun trying to welcome me home…

Hiking Brecon Beacons national park Wales

Photo: Big views from Fan Y Big, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  Feb 2012


Hiking Brecon Beacons national park Wales

Photo: Heading towards Cribyn, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales.  Feb 2012

Patterns in Ice – Lofoten Islands

Snow on frozen lake Urvatnet, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Snow on Urvatnet, Lofoten Islands, Norway.   Feb 2012

Nedre Heimdalsvatnet, Eggum, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Photo: Rock breaks through ice on Nedre Heimdalsvatnet, Eggum, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

With the relatively low amounts of snow during my two weeks on the islands I often found myself using ice as a foreground subject.  Normally, even with only 10cm or so of snow, the frozen lakes and fjords would just be flat areas of white without much contrast or anything of interest.  With the snow mostly melted from rain or blown away by the wind I found the crack patterns that formed in the ice to be patterns for study.  The frozen areas of tidal inlets where rocks would break through the ice and form unique shapes and patterns were especially interesting.  This also helped add a bit of contrast to the scene on otherwise flat and overcast days.

Being from California, ice isn’t exactly a common sight for me.  I probably looked pretty funny at times trying to negotiate my way around.  Especially after the days of rain when the ice was especially slippery and I would have to use my tripod as a sort of walker to keep me from falling on my ass.  Though I still managed that a few times as well.  On one somewhat windy day, my tripod (without camera) was blown about 20 meters while standing up.  It was a bit funny to watch it just slide across the lake until I realised that it ended up a bit farther from the shore than I was comfortable in walking; I usually stuck to areas where I could see that the bottom wasn’t much more than knee deep if the ice was to break for some reason, although it was plenty thick enough.

The following two photos illustrate just how much a night of rain can change the scene.  In the first photo the snow helps emphasise the crack patterns in the ice, giving a bit of contrast to the scene in the flat light just before dark.  In the second image, the cracks are almost without detail and the contrast in the scene comes from the changing hues of the ice as it is elevated upon a rock below the surface and the water covered ice reflects like the surface of a lake.

In case you missed my post from the other day, HERE’S THE LINK to my gallery of the trip.

Lofoten Islands winter landscape

Photo: Frozen shore of Ytterpollen, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

Lofoten Islands winter landscape
Photo: Frozen shore of Ytterpollen, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

Lofoten Islands Winter Photo Gallery

Lofoten Islands winter, Norway

Photo: Edge of the World, Å I Lofoten, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

Lofoten Islands Winter 2012 Image Gallery –CLICK HERE–

The first images from my 2 weeks in early February 2012 on the Lofoten Islands are now up on my archive.  Overall there is a more variety than the images from my January 2010 trip, but I think the 2010 collection is still better overall;  more dramatic and better light conditions.   It was definitely a struggle this year at times.  From what I’ve seen online in recent days, it seems conditions improved greatly after I left.  Bad timing on my part I guess.  I’ve had pretty bad conditions for my last 3 Lofoten trips, so I think I’m due for some better weather next time.  One of those 25˚ C summers with no rain would be nice! Maybe if I can get back in July…

Lofoten Islands Winter II – Images by Cody Duncan

Haukland in Winter II – Lofoten Islands

Haukland beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Haukland beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

I’ve been busy the last week getting a few images processed.  I should have a gallery of the first 50 online and ready to go tomorrow.

I made several journeys out to Haukland Beach during my time on the islands.  I was hoping for conditions similar to the award winning image I photographed in 2010 but I never managed to get the timing right for the tides and temperatures were too warm for much ice to have formed.  While it’s not as dramatic as I might have hoped, I still like the simplicity in the above image.  I should have arrived a bit earlier though for a bit more color in the sky.  Next time…

Lofoten Islands Northern Lights

Lofoten islands northern lights Reine

Photo: Northern lights fill sky over Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

Out of 12 nights on the islands I only saw a minor display of the northern lights – aurora borealis on February 6th.  Most every other night of my trip the sky was cloudy and thus not very conductive to northern lights watching.   Capturing a photo of the lights over Reine, or more specifically the mountain peak Olstind is an image that has been on my mind for a while.  I think I came close, but the aurora wasn’t particularly bright so I’ll have to be back to try again.  As luck would have it, I missed a fantastic display of the lights just two days after I left the islands.  In addition to missing a good display that occurred at the end of January.

I’m of a sort of mixed opinion as to how good the Lofoten Islands are as a location for viewing the Northern Lights.  While snow covered mountain peaks rising out of the sea make for perhaps some of the best subjects to include in a photo of the northern lights, the weather on Lofoten greatly diminishes ones chance of seeing the lights.  I’d say that if you have 2+ weeks and want to see/photograph the northern lights than Lofoten Islands would be a good location.  If you’re time is limited to under a week, then it would probably be better to look to northern Sweden or Finland where the chances of having clear skies are much higher.  It doesn’t matter active the sun is, if the night sky is full of clouds, as it was 10 of 12 nights for my last trip, you’re not going to see anything.


Lofoten islands northern lights Reine

Photo: Northern Lights over Olstind, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

Eggum Nights

Moonlight over Eggum Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: Moon over mountain, Eggum, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

Eggum is one of those places that I’ve been to a fair amount of times, yet generally walk away without any photos.  I’m not sure if its because I don’t find Eggum as immediately scenic as say Utakleiv or Unstad, so I tend to shoot those locations when the light is good and leave Eggum for the not-so-good days.  This time however, Utakleiv and Unstad were crap most of the time, windswept with dull grey light, and so I found myself at Eggum just hoping to shoot something, anything.

It was here that I first started to notice how cool the frozen lakes looked.  I’m used to frozen lakes being covered in snow, but since there wasn’t much snow upon my arrival to the islands, many of the lakes were clear.  The cracked surfaces often made better subjects than the dull brown grasses or barren trees of winter so I found myself spending a fair amount of time nervously walking around on ice during this trip.  It was a bit eerie to stand around in the moonlit silence listening as the moved and cracked about the lake as the nights temperatures dropped.


Frozen Lake Eggum Lofoten Islands Norway

Photo: Crack in ice on frozen Nedre Heimdalsvatnet, Eggum, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 2012

Lofoten Winter Travels

Reine Lofoten Islands, Norway

Photo: Olstind rises above Reine in winter, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Feb 6, 2012

After picking up my backpack from the luggage carousel I left the airport and walked into the cool night air of Bodø.  The streets were rather snow free for Jan 31st but a crisp wind cut easily through my jackets as I walked the well lit streets towards the ferry waiting room down at the docks.  Arriving a little after 7:00 pm and with a few hours to kill until the ferry at 1:30 am, I figured I’d sit around a read for a bit and maybe cook a small dinner.  As I approached the automatic door, it didn’t open.  Hmm.  Then my eyes turned towards a new sign that I’ve never seen before, ‘waiting room opening hours 0700 – 1700  (thats 7:00 am – 5:00 pm for you non 24hr people).’  What? Huh? Shit!  This is going to suck.  There was also a phone number listed with a note about calling the harbour authority.  Call?  No, they can’t mean me.  So I walked back to the train station which was at least open until 9:00 pm.

Once the train station closed up I took about wandering the streets of Bodø for a little bit.  I thought about sitting in the entrance way of one of the supermarkets which was open until 11:00 pm, but quickly talked myself out of that idea for some reason.  So I headed back to the ferry station and figured I might as well let the suffering get under way.  I found a spot next to another building that was mostly sheltered from the wind, leaned my backpack against the wall and crawled into my sleeping bag in some awkward half sitting – half lying position to avoid too much contact with the freezing cold ground.  The hours crept by at a sluggish pace but eventually the clock neared 1:00 am (mind you that I had begun my journey at 2:00 am the day before) and I packed my things and started looking for the ferry.  By chance I wandered back to the waiting room and saw someone sitting inside.  I knocked on the door and he let me in and proceeded to tell me that if I had called that phone number on the door, someone would automatically open the doors and let me in.  Double shit!  I suffer from my shyness sometimes often.  And so began another journey to the Lofoten Islands: tired, cold, and hungry.

The ferry crossing was a rough one but my utter exhaustion meant I at least managed a bit of sleep on the 5 hour journey.  Arriving in Moskenes at 6:30 am I thought about setting up my tent for a few hours, but the bus would come a little after 9:00 so I figured it wasn’t worth the effort.  Stupidly, and for the sole reason of saving a few NOK, I started walking the 5km towards Reine.  Now I say stupid because at moskenes there is at least a heated public toilet that I could have waited in (not in the toilet itself, but in the small room outside), whereas in Reine there is nothing.  [minor complaint: For a country as rich as Norway that is also cold and dark half the year, and especially for a highly touristed area like the Lofoten Islands, there are surprisingly few sheltered areas where one can wait to escape the weather.  Even at the bus stop in Reine, it is just a couple of wooden benches with a small roof, but totally exposed to the wind.  Nothing opens before 9-10 in the morning, of what little actually opens in winter anyhow.  So if you actually have a bit of a wait for a bus, it can be a very cold one.]  The bus eventually arrived a little after 9:00 and I was on my way to Stamsund to pickup my car.  In typical fashion, I missed shooting quite a brilliant sunrise while watching through the dirty bus windows.  Probably the 2nd best of the whole trip.  So it goes.  But I knew I needed to get to my car as soon as possible to finally have some shelter.

The car would be my home and companion for the next 12 days of all the variable weather combinations that can be possible, except for ‘good,’ of course.  I had some plans of camping, but conditions weren’t ideal so I slept in the car all but two nights where I was in a hostel; and that was really only because I needed power to charge my camera batteries.  A bit on the ghetto side and not the way I’d recommend traveling if you can afford it (which I cannot, unfortunately).  With darkness coming around 4:00 pm, I was often going to sleep around 6:00 pm; more out of boredom than actual tiredness.   At least my car was a wagon, so I could properly stretch out, unlike my last winter journey.

This trip now has me halfway convinced that the next time I’m on the islands in summer I’ll probably spend half my time walking in knee deep snow.  There is just no depending on the weather for any reliability or consistency. One summer will be brilliant, the next crap.  One autumn dry, the next raining.  You can only do so much to plan, and then the islands take over.  during my time on the islands I had a minimum temp. of -10.7 °C (06 February) and a high of 7.8 °C (10 February).  Those warm days meant rain, lots and lots of it.  Rain in winter is not a good thing, at least photographically.  Much of the snow was melted away, giving the islands a drab, gloomy feeling for days on end.  One would think that I would be smart enough to focus my attention on someplace with more favourable photographic conditions, but nope.  I’ll no doubt be back again as soon as possible to wait out more bad weather in hopes of a few elusive moments of brilliance that can only be achieved in places like Lofoten.

Oh, and on the way back, I was at least smart enough to call and get let into the waiting room at 2:00 am for a few hours sleep on the floor before heading off to the airport.  At least I learn some things sometimes…

Back From Lofoten

Lofoten islands winter ice, Norway

Photo: Winter Ice, Lofoten Islands, Norway. Feb 2012

I was fading in and out of sleep as the car made it’s way through the winding roads of the Welsh Marches just before midnight last night (no, I wasn’t driving).  24+ hours of travel had taken the last energy I had.  This trip was exhausting, more so that any other time I’ve been there before.  The weather was chaotic, to put it nicely.  I was often cold, sleeping in my car and rocked by gales as if it were a boat at sea.  Rain.  More rain than snow.  Dark days and darker nights.  Endless winds.

I started the trip with a few visualizations of images I wanted; nice snowy mountain landscapes and seascapes with pastel pink and blue skies. None of these really appeared.  I hardly even took out the camera at my old favorite locations and found myself being forced to look at the islands almost completely anew.  I’ve only barely put the images on the computer now, but I think I managed fairly well all in all.  I’ll see more as I get to editing over the next weeks…

Lofoten Islands – Winter Days

Olstinden lofoten islands norway

Photo: Winter Light on Olstinden, Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway.  Jan 2010

Starting from the darkness of the new year, the daylight hours of the Lofoten Islands lengthen at at phenomenal pace throughout the early months of winter.  Over the course of a week daylight increases by about an hour, making a noticeable difference to the observer.  And for the photographer waking for sunrise, it means having to adjust ones alarm clock earlier and earlier every few days.   By the middle of February the days still feel a bit short, but are approaching some feeling of normality for wintertime at lower latitudes.  By late March the length of the days have passed places lower down on the continent and are well on their way to a summer of endless sunlight.

Here are a few sunrise – sunset times for the first few months of the year (based on Leknes):

Jan 1:  No sunrise
Jan 15:  10:45 – 13:45
Feb 1:  9:27 – 15:12
Feb 15:  8:27 – 16:14
Mar 1:  7:24 – 17:13
Mar 15:  6:25 – 18:06

In planning for a trip to the islands, I think it’s important that one pay attention to the length of day.  While the darkness of midwinter is a beautiful time on the islands, and should be experienced at some point.  It is perhaps not the best time to visit if you’re planning a ski touring or climbing trip, as longer days for outdoor activities would be preferable.  For the photographer who wishes to catch up on sleep after a busy finish of the year, mid January is a perfect time for a visit.