Lofoten Archipelago, Norway – 2020

I spent a week in Norway this winter (2020) photographing the sights of the Lofoten Islands with 5 other photographers. The Lofoten Islands are an archipelago of islands known for dramatic landscapes with rugged mountains and peaks, beautiful blue fjords, sandy beaches and sheltered bays. Lofoten is also known for colorful traditional fishing villages.

I spent a day flying from Chicago to Oslo, Norway. I spent the night near the Oslo airport. The next day I caught my flight to Bodo. My flight from Bodo to Leknes on a small plane got cancelled due to the weather. There was an extreme low-pressure system over Iceland and Norway during this time. Apparently, they wouldn’t be able to calibrate the planes instruments because of the low pressure. My options were wait and possibly go later in the evening or take a four-hour trip on an inside steamer (ferry) from Bodo to Stamsund. Stamsund is only 15 minutes from my destination at Leknes. I got in touch with the leaders of the group and they agreed to pick me up in Stamsund. Unfortunately, it rained the entire trip and I didn’t get to see much of the ocean and archipelago.

We stayed at a resort called Lofoten Basecamp. They were nice cabins made to look like the classic Lofoten fisherman’s cabins. I got lucky and had an entire cabin to myself, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a kitchen/living room. For me the trip started the next day since I was a little late having come on the ferry.

Day 1

After a quick breakfast, our first stop was Skagstranden beach.  Skagstranden is a wide sandy beach with a jagged mountain in the background. There was not a lot of snow on the mountains or ground. It had been raining over the previous days. This would change and we would have some snow each day.

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There are springs bringing fresh water down to the beach and into the fjord. Interesting patterns develop in the sand from the movement of the fresh water flowing to the fjord.

We next headed to Nusfjord, one of the quaint little fishing villages with many red fisherman’s cabins along the shore, many out over the water of the fjord on stilts. These huts were originally for itinerant fisherman that worked in the area during the fishing season.

After leaving Nusfjord we stopped at a large lake called Strovatnet. Strovatnet means “big lake” in Norwegian. There were nice patterns in the ice which were probably made by the wind blowing thin layers of ice. The sun tried to peak out at one point but never made it.20200211-_D853010_1_2

On our way to our sunset location at Uttakleiv we stopped at Flakstadpollen, a large bay with turquoise-colored water. A long exposure smoothed out the water.Fjord

Our destination Uttakleiv is another wide beach. Portions of the shore is rocky with many large boulders. We never got our desired sunset, the sky remained overcast as it was all day long. Walking down to the shoreline I noticed this sculpture that I thought was nice since it was only a few days before Valentine’s day.Sculpure

The tide was up and the waves were crashing upon the rocky shore. I shot a number of long exposures of the surf. This can give some interesting movement to the water and create “ghost” rocks. You never quite know how things will look until you’ve made the image. It’s hard to visualize what the image will look like ahead of time. It all depends on the wave and your timing of the photograph.ShorelineShorelineShoreline

Day 2

We finally got our snow. At times the driving conditions were a “white out.” I was glad I wasn’t responsible for the driving. Our first stop was the Grimsoy church which is at the edge of the sea. The tide was out and the seaweed was exposed but covered with snow. It was a pretty unique scene, the snow-covered seaweed, white church and the snow-covered mountain in the background. It’s not often you see snow-covered seaweed. We had fun composing many photographs while the snow was coming down. Grimsoy ChurchGroup20200212-20200212_111410

Our next stop was the small town of Henningsvaer. Henningsvær is spread across a number of islands, with breakwaters and dikes bringing the fishing village together. Access to Henningsvaer is by bridge which is common for many of the towns and areas of Lofoten.Street

We stopped for coffee and sweets in Henningsvaer and did a little souvenir shopping. Henningsvaer is a quaint small fishing village with a small harbor and a famous soccer field at the tip of one of the islands making up the town.PastriesHarbor

I was most intrigued by the fish hanging up to dry. We had been seeing these fish racks along our drives. This was the first opportunity to see them closeup. The fish is cod. This is the traditional way of preserving the cod. These fish were fresh and smelly. Actually, we smelled a fishy odor in many towns due to the drying cod. We just got used to the smell. I learned later that much of the dried cod goes to Italy.Drying FishFrying FishFrying Fish

We came across some red sheds along a small fjord after leaving Henningsvaer. We stopped to photograph this idyllic scene with the snow-covered mountains in the background. The shed had cables attached to it. We noticed this on other buildings which we assumed was to stabilize the structure from the winds and storms that can hit this archipelago.Shed

We stopped along the E10, the main road through the archipelago for sunset. The sun was trying to peek out from the clouds over the sea. It made for wonderful pink colors on the distant mountains. Eventually the sun peeked through clouds for an interesting sunset. The sunset was nice but I thought the best scenes were where the setting sun was reflected onto the clouds over the mountain.MountainsSunset20200212-_D853518-Pano

I wanted to try the dried fish for a meal but we saw this sight of gulls trying to feed on the fish and I lost my appetite for dried fish and instead had fresh cod.Fish RacksHalibut

Day 3

We were at Balstad harbor for sunrise. We had great color on the mountains and great reflections on the water in the harbor.HarborMountainsHarbor

We made several stops prior to our destination for the next segment of the trip, the town of Reine. The first stop was a small waterfall below the usual rugged mountain in the background. I also found the ice forming in the stream interesting.Waterfall2020-02-25 10-45-13 (B-Radius8-Smoothing4)

We stopped at Skagstranden Beach again to watch a surfer in the cold water.Surfer

We dropped our bags off at the Lofoten Bed and Breakfast and headed out to probably the most iconic location in the Lofoten Archipelago, the bridge in the small fishing village of Hemnoy. This is a popular spot to photograph and we lined up with other photographers on the one-lane bridge overlooking the old fisherman’s cabins. Some of these date to the 1890s. The cabins have been rehabbed and are rented out to tourists. We were hoping for some sun to light up the scene, but no such luck. We would return and try again along with other photographers.PhotographersCabins

Day 4

We got up early and hiked up to a hilltop overlooking the small fishing village of Sakrisoya which is just a very small island. Crampons were in order getting up to the top of the hill. There was one other photographer up on top when we got there. It was overcast and the color wasn’t good. The other photographer started to leave and told us we were 10 minutes too late. We stayed around in the sleet and snow and in about 10 minutes the sun started to peek through the clouds and paint the mountains pink.  I’m not sure why the other photographer thought we were late but it sure seemed he left 10 minutes too soon.BillSakrisoyaSakrisoya

We then traveled farther south, as far as you can drive to the town of A, pronounced “aw.” We were in whiteout conditions again and didn’t stay in A but worked our way back north. We stopped at a spot overlooking the town of Reine. We got some photographs of the town before the snow started getting serious.ReineReine

We returned to the Hemnoy bridge location for sunset. We got more images of the cabins with the snowy mountain in the background. While we were there, a fishing boat left the harbor. CabinsFishing Boat

Once the sun had set, we moved to another iconic location of a footbridge. It was difficult shooting because you had to be on a small road to photograph it properly and there was lots of traffic of workers driving from work. I gave up and spent my time photographing around a house nearby and the town of Reine from the dock. I think my photograph of the town of Reine at night is one of my favorites from the trip.Reine at Night

Day 5

We went back to the overlook of the town of Reine before sunrise (the blue hour). The light was nice reflected off the water of the harbor.20200215-_D853979-PanoTown Early Morning

We went back to Hamnoy again but not the bridge location. We were behind the iconic cabins that are photographed from the bridge. Here we found more colorful cabins and a harbor.DockDock

Our ultimate goal for sunset was to return to Uttakleiv beach. We had time to make stops on the way if we saw anything interesting. We stopped at a pretty scene of the high arched bridges linking up parts of the archipelago. We crossed many of these bridges. We also passed through numerous tunnels; some were under the fjords linking different sides of the fjord.Bridges

We stopped at Ramsberg to examine the beach and made another visit to Nusfjord. While we were there, an inland steamer came and dropped off some passengers. These ferries are a regular way of getting around the Lofoten islandsInland Steamer

Our final stop of the trip was back to Uttakleiv for sunset. The sea was not as wild and the tide was lower than on our first visit. On the first visit we couldn’t find the famous “eye of Uttakleiv” or “dragon’s eye.” The crashing waves during our first visit covered up the eye. It was easy to find this time with all the photographers around it and we had to wait our turn. It’s a round rock in a depression that looks somewhat like an eye. I had fun photographing the surf and rocks with a long shutter speed. More water streaks and ghost rocks.Eye of UttakleivRocky Coast20200215-_D854176

Day 6

It was time to leave. I had the early flight and I was dropped off at the tiny Leknes airport. The plane left Bodo and at some point, during its flight to Leknes it turned around and went back. So, my flight out of Leknes was cancelled just like my flight into Leknes. This time the airline bused us to a large airport in the north of the archipelago. It was a 4-hour trip and it snowed the entire way. The only good thing  was we were on a direct flight to Oslo and I didn’t have to transfer in Bodo. It snowed most of the way and the roads were slick but we made it. I’d love to go back to Norway but I’m not sure about in the winter when air travel can be easily disrupted.Beach

I spent the night in Oslo and left the next day for home via a stopover in Iceland. I was rewarded with clear skies over Iceland, Greenland and Labrador, Canada. Here’s a view of a glacial arm coming off the largest glacier in Iceland, Vatnajokkull.Vatnajokull Glacier

I had a great trip and would like to go back with Maureen in the summer.

Discovering the Artist in Me

Hello!  I posted this on my business blog and thought I’d share this story with you here.

Discovering the Artist in Me

Late last year I scrolled through the offerings at Mabel Dodge Luhan Inn in Taos, New Mexico.  I’d been to this magical place before with the incredible Nancy Hill https://daremore.com/.  I attended Nancy’s retreats twice in this setting, and I wanted even more.

Looking at the winter workshops, this one caught my eye:  https://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/email/newsletter/1412622040

“Rejuvenate Your Creativity in the Magic of Taos!”  Yes!  I said and signed up.  The event promised new ways to access your creative voice and make it a greater part of your life.  “If you don’t think you’re creative,” it said, “you’ll have proof that you are. If you’re a writer, you’ll find a new flow…. If you’re an artist, you’ll find out how easy it is to discover words…you’ll discover new freeing techniques.”  There would be daily yoga, drawing, painting and writing.

I’ve always been a writer but drawing and painting—ugh—I’ve been blocked about those since 7th grade.  I couldn’t do it and I gave up.  And yet I registered.

About a week before the class, I emailed Jill Badonsky, the instructor and told her I’m dreading the art portion.  She wrote back: “You’ve signed up for the right workshop.”

I didn’t buy all of the recommended art supplies because I told myself I wouldn’t be drawing or painting in Taos or anywhere, so why bother.  I had high hopes for writing, meeting inspiring women, eating delicious food at Mabel’s, and being creative. I had low expectations and anxiety about drawing and painting.

I can’t explain what happened.  I drew and painted with watercolors in that February workshop.  I overcame my resistance and somehow did it.  It was partly Jill’s cleverness, encouragement and tools; it was somewhat the magic of Taos, and it was in part me, opening myself to this little miracle.

I’ve fallen in love with drawing and watercolor painting.  Jill also taught me how to use Snapseed and Waterlogue, two photography Apps.  Here’s a little gallery from this beginner artist.

If you’re holding yourself back from something, take some deep breaths.  Open up even just a little bit and give it a try.

For me, this new outlet brings me joy and greater confidence.  I’ve registered for a program this summer to sketch Madeline Island’s landscapes, flora and fauna and create a botanical sketchbook.  If you’d asked me about this six months ago, I’d say you were mistaken; you can’t be talking about me!

I hope this little revelation of mine inspires you to open yourself up and discover your own miracles.

Kind regards,

Maureen

 

 

 

Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day 6 Part 2

We did go out in the evening to see the Aurora Borealis after dinner. Here’s two items that were on the menu. I tired the reindeer which was good, but I passed on Mister Ed.

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We drove to a pull off on the Ring Road. There were others also looking for the Northern Lights, including a bus of young Japanese girls. The camera sees northern lights better than the human eye. The Northern Lights were very faint and you could hardly make them out. I think we made the Japanese girl’s day. They couldn’t see the northern lights but they could see them on our camera monitors and they were taking pictures of our monitors. Anyway, it was a disappointing display and we are hoping for better Northern Lights later in the trip. Here’s an image that shows a little green of the Northern Lights and a lot of stars.

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I’m going to try and continue the blog but the place we are staying in for three nights has very poor wifi and I’m struggling to get the blog up.

 

 

 

 

Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day 6

The group met up to do some serious photography. The group consists of 7 of us. Jack Graham and Orvar Thorrgensson are leading the tour. We left for the east of Iceland. Soon after leaving Reykjavik the rain started. Our first stop was Seljalandsfoss, a tall waterfall that people can walk behind. I’ve seen many great photographs of this waterfall both from the front and from the back.  Today it was raining so hard I just took a few photos with my phone and didn’t walk behind it.

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The next stop was Skogafoss, another really tall waterfall.  If you suspect by now that foss means waterfall in Icelandic, you’d be correct. This waterfall is located on the Skoga River. It had been raining so there was more water than usual flowing over it. You can walk up pretty close to it, but beware don’t get under it, lots of water is flowing over it. Here’s a short video.

 

The weather maps showed that the rain might let up for a short period of time and we went to the black sand beach at the small town of Vik. There are many black sand beaches in Iceland. The black sand is ground up lava eroded by the power of the ocean waves. We were fortunate that the sun peaked through the clouds for a brief period and we go some nice photographs. Here’s a couple of images.

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The columns are probably ballast that is slowly being eaten away by the power of the ocean.

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We are hoping for some clearing and possibly seeing the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. I’m not very hopeful since it’s still raining, but we’ll see.

 

 

 

 

Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day 5

We made it to Keflavik airport, returned the rental car and got a cab to Reykjavik – an uneventful trip for once. The sun came up around 10:30 on our way to Reykjavik. Yes, we finally saw the sun. We got to our hotel in the city center and I went out to  explore the town. I went to some of my favorite areas in the center of the city. Some of this will be a repeat of last year.

There’s a lot of art work around Reykjavik. You come across murals on many buildings. Here are a few I saw. There are many more and you come upon them as you explore.

 

I went down to the harbor. A few large fishing boats were in. Fishing is an important part of the Icelandic economy. Fisk is the Icelandic work for fish. It’s nice to understand an Icelandic work for once. It was a nice calm day and a few whale watching boats were going out of the harbor.

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From the harbor I walked along the bay to Harpa. Harpa concert hall is a meeting and entertainment center. I have to visit this building every time I’m in Reykjavik. I building is very unique and I find it very photogenic. The exterior is mostly geometric glass panels of different colors.

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The geometric columns are supposed to resemble the ballast columns that are commonly found around Iceland that were the result of volcanic action. I find the geometric designs interesting and photogenic. You can find all sorts of photographs.

 

Hallgrimskirkja is the large Lutheran church in downtown Reykjavik. I’ve visited it before, but I wanted to return on a sunny day and go up to the top of the tower which overlooks Reykjavik. There are great views of the city from the tower, but the church and tower were closed for a service. The same thing happened to me last year. The church was also designed to resemble some of the rugged mountains of Iceland and the ballast column theme continues here like at Harpa. The statue in front of the church is Leif Erikson and was given to Iceland by the US.

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I’ll finish with my favorite sculpture in Iceland. Back when I was working, I felt like this guy on some days. Tonight, we meet the tour group and start our journey to the southeast of Iceland.

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[WG1]

Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day Four

Neither of us got much sleep last night. The wind was howling and there was a lot of noise. At times it sounded like someone walking across the roof. The winds were in excess of 60 MPH. I don’t know high the wind gusts were. The wind let up a little in the morning but not the rain. We had to get over the mountains to reach Borgarnes. Fortunately the temperature rose and there was no snow on the mountain pass although it was windy, the rain was coming sideways and there as some fog. We made it across and decided to get to Borgarnes and just stay in the rest of the day. It rained hard all day so no pictures. Tomorrow we head back to Reykjavik. I have never been in rainy and windy conditions like we faced over the last two days. I can’t image what it would be like in a hurricane.

Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day Three

Day three started well but didn’t end that way. We got up and drove across a gravel mountain pass. It was windy and snowing. The studded tires came in handy again. We got to the black church at Budir before sunrise. The church stands out from the snow-covered mountains in the background. Nobody seems to know why some of the Icelandic churches are painted black.

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It seems Icelanders frequently put up lite crosses on graves at Christmas time.

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We left the Budir church and traveled west along the peninsula. It quickly started to rain and continued for the rest of the day. We decided to just head back to the quest house early. The wind really started to pick up. When we got back to the guest house we could hardly get out of the vehicle because of the wind. We got in and planned on going back out for supper later. At around 6pm we tried to get to the car. I could hardly get the door of the guest house open. I was able to get to the door handle of the car but I couldn’t open the door because of the wind. I could barely keep upright and was about to start crawling back to the door. Jack tired and had no luck either. After some deliberation we decided to go hungry. While I’m writing this the wind is howling like I have never heard. I’m glad to be safe in the guest house. The winds are over 60 miles per hour. We need to leave tomorrow and get over a pass. The wind will die down a little than it is supposed to pick up again about when we need to get over the pass. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring. If we make it over and to Borgarnes tomorrow we should be okay. We’ll be out of the worst of it, but it is supposed to get much worse here on the north coast. We need to leave. Here’s a video of Jack trying to get to the car.

 

Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day 2

I picked up my friend Jack Graham at the Airport around 6:30am and we headed to the northwest of Iceland, the Snaefellsnes peninsula. It was a three-hour drive through the darkness with intermittent rain. We had to travel over a mountain pass and we were glad for the studded tires. We arrived at Grundarfjordur and checked into the Kirkjufell Guest House. We were at the famous mountain Kirkjufell for sunrise. Kirkjufell refers to the shape of the mountain (kirk means church, ju means bell and fell means mountain – Church Bell Mountain. You can see why it’s so named. There are waterfalls in the foreground that make this one of the most photographed spots in Iceland. We got a little sunlight at sunrise but not like we had hoped for. The scene wasn’t as dramatic as I have seen it before.

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I settled for photographing parts of the waterfall.

 

After Kirkjufell we traveled along the peninsula to the west. We spotted this small church with snow-covered mountains in the background. This is Ingjaldsholskirkja, one of the first concrete churches in the world. There is a painting of Christopher Columbus in the church. He stayed in this area the winter of 1477-1478. There is speculation he learned of the sailings of Lief Ericsson and other Vikings to the new world.

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Located at the western most tip of the Snaefellsness peninsula is the Svortaloft lighthouse. To reach this lighthouse is a long rough road over lava. This is another good bird viewing area, but not in the winter.

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Below the lighthouse is an arch in the lava cliffs. The white specks are either gulls or locations of former nests. The birds weren’t very active in the heavy wind.

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The wind was fierce and the ocean was smashing into the lava cliffs.

_8507251 We headed back to Grundarfjordur in rain, snow and wind. He had an interesting time finding somewhere to  eat. Everything was closed in Grundarfjordur. We had to travel back to Olafsvik. Thirty minutes back from the direction we had come to find a  restaurant then back to Grundarfjordur.

Back to Iceland – 2019 – Day 1

I arrived in Iceland around 6:30am after an overnight flight on Icelandair. I picked up a rental car (a Land Rover Discovery with studded tires). I didn’t need such a large vehicle but I wanted the studded tires. The roads can get very slippery this time of the year.

I drove to the Hotel Keflavik where I had arranged an early check in. I had breakfast and took a nap. Sunrise wouldn’t be to about 11am. I had big plans with many places to visit in the southwest of Iceland, the Reykjanes peninsula. My first stop was the Krisuvik geothermal field. Driving into the parking lot you can smell the sulfur and see the steam coming up. There is a boardwalk that takes you safely through portions of the geothermal field.

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The sulfur smell was always there. There were numerous small vents with steam rising and small pools with bubbling boiling water. I found the colors of the soil interesting.

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This image shows some of the interesting colors that can be found in the geothermal area.

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I didn’t get to explore to far because it started to rain heavily. I sat in the car for a while, but eventually moved on to my next stop, Brimketill. The rain had finally stopped. Brimketill is said to be a troll’s pool. Legend has it that a troll named Oddny used the pool for bathing and too wash her clothes. The round pool has been carved out of the lava by wave action. Supposedly people swim in it on calm days. Today was not a calm day. It’s hard to see the pool because the waves were washing over the pool, but it is in the lower right portion of the image.

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This coast can be good place to see birds. Gulls and other ocean-going birds nest in the cliffs. Few birds were about in the windy conditions. I couldn’t explore much because of the wind and rain. Ocean spray was even washing over the viewing platform. It started to rain again and I decided to call it a day. The sun was going to set in ½ an hour at 4:30pm. The rain and short day length meant I didn’t get to see everything I had planned to.

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Back to Iceland – 2019

I’m back in Iceland for more Icelandic winter weather punishment. The lighting in winter can be fantastic making the scenery beautiful. I’m here to photograph the scenery in the fantastic light. When the weathers bad, it’s really bad. The forecast looks like lots of rain, snow and wind. Hopefully there will be some nice days. I’m starting this blog a few days into the trip. I’m been pretty busy and tired from the flight over.