Earlier this year I made another pilgrimage to the magical Lofoten archipelago in northern Norway. There are many reasons that I keep visiting this area, of course the incredible scenery on an epic scale is fantastic for photography purposes but I think there is more to it than that. For whatever reason I feel more at home in, and more connected to, this spectacular place than many other spectacular places I have visited.
Perhaps one reason that I appreciate the time spent in Lofoten is because of the effort of getting there. Usually I drive there from southern Finland, covering the 1600km in winter conditions usually takes about 20 hours of driving time and I find the journey therapeutic in itself as it is a significant period of time with my own thoughts, free of any of the distractions usually provided by the internet. The journey helps me make a more definite transition into the right frame of mind for photography.
My days in Lofoten follow a certain reassuring rhythm, falling into sync with the light. An early start for sunrise, scout different locations but take it quite easy during the day, see what sunset has to offer and then hope that the night will be blessed by dancing auroras. Sleep when you can.
Staying in the traditional rorbuer (fishermen's cabins) certainly adds to the feeling of being at one with the place. The authentic exterior provides the atmosphere while the comfortable, warm and well appointed interiors have everything you could want to be safe and cosy no matter what the arctic weather has in store for you.
After an early start and a battle with the elements there is nothing quite like good coffee and something delicious in a pleasant environment, and so we come to one of Lofoten's biggest treasures. A daily visit (or two daily visits) to the Bringen cafe in Reine is one of the things I look forward to just as much as anything photography related. Excellent coffee, home baked cinammon buns straight from the oven, nice surroundings and a most friendly welcome - there is no better place to have a first look through your morning pictures and plan the rest of your day.
The remote arctic environment has it's challenges for human inhabitants, but the snow covered wilderness is full of life. Evolution has worked it's perennial magic here to produce perfectly adapted local residents.
It has been said that variety is the spice of life. Spring in Lofoten can deliver weather conditions worthy of any of the seasons, sometimes changing it's outfit to sport a fresh new look from hour to hour.
The knowledge that all things are possible is enhanced with an element of jeopardy when you also know that a storm can rise from nowhere, mercilessly inflicting a miserable week of gale-propelled precipitation upon you, despite all the weather forecaster's promises to the contrary.
The grand scale of this arctic paradise, and the relatively small impact made by humankind on the natural beauty, brings a feeling of balance and wonder which is all too sadly absent from many parts of the world.
As night falls on this Lofoten trip I start to wonder when I will visit this magical place again, each visit makes me more eager to return. In order to continue to develop my photography I want to ensure a certain balance between exploring the new and inhabiting the familiar, but the call of Lofoten provides a strong temptation to upset that balance.
Thanks a lot to Robert Juvet, Krisztina Juvet and Andreas Hohmann who shared part of this latest Lofoten trip with me.
Until next time,
Skagsanden beach in Lofoten is a favourite spot of mine for landscapes and auroras, an interesting place to observe the activities of birds and also a place for more adventurous humans to enjoy some arctic watersports.
On my September trip to Norway I visited Skagsanden 6 or 7 times, it always seems to be on the way to places and it is a nother of those very tempting places to stop. On one of these occasions I was wandering along the beach on a rather windy day, following the tracks of a horse which had obviously walked there since the tide last went out. I noticed movement ahead and saw that some small waders (birds that live along the shoreline... not chest length waterproof boots) were sheltering in the hoof prints.
After fetching my binoculars and the camera I use for wildlife from the car I investigated further, identifying a number of juvenile Ringed Plovers.
It is fun to watch these birds alternating between looking for delicious morsels and running away from incoming waves as they take advantage of the "surf sushi" buffet. After a while I realised that the Ringed Plovers were not alone. The plovers are rather small and fast moving waders but there were some even more tiny and rapid birds which were scooting nervously around at the edge of the surf, I believe they were Little Stints.
The Little Stint was a new species for me, I now have photographs of 193 different species - closing in on 200! There is something very amusing about watching very small birds running extremely fast along the ground, their short legs pumping at a remarkable rate. I assume that is a faster and more economical way to travel distances up to a few metres, the overheads in time and energy of taking off and landing making flight a worse option for such journeys.
Some larger waders were also in attendance, a number of Dunlin were also patrolling the shore.
The markings of these two birds, Little Stint and Dunlin, are somewhat similar, but the Dunlin has the black patch on its belly and also has a significantly longer beak. In cases where both can be seen together (not an unusual occurrence) then the size difference is also very obvious.
The shore birds and the photographers were not alone at this location, there was also a significant population of people who were enjoying their day out in the chilly waters of the bay - surfing and kayaking.
I have watched surfers here and at Unstad beach (also in Lofoten) previously but this was the first time I have seen kayakers at either location. I imaging that being in a kayak makes it a lot easier to propel yourself out into position to catch the waves, and maybe gives you more control, but maybe with surfing you feel more like it is really just you and the ocean.
Watching from the shore, my impression was that neither of these activities were very easy, there must be quite an art to understanding which of the waves was really going to turn into a good one and which was going to fizzle out.
When the waves finally broke, they did so in spectacular fashion, foam everywhere.
No matter the results, all the participants appeared to be having a fantastic time in their Arctic watersport adventures and it was enjoyable to watch them.
Back on the shore, the waders continued their opportunistic snacking, completely oblivious to the action on the water.
Even when you are busy trying to feed yourself, it is important to keep your feathers in order. I captured one Ringed Plover performing such maintenance.
Well, that's it for this time from Skagsanden beach. I have no idea who the people are in the surfing and kayaking pictures, but if anyone shown here would like to have a copy of the relevant pictures, or would like their picture to be removed, then please contact me using the contact form on the site and I will take care of that as fast as I can.
Thanks for reading!
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