Two early shots at the seaside

When I wake up earlier than necessary I have two choices. Either to stay in bed, turn on the other side and continue sleeping, or to get out of bed and – if weather is fine – make some photos. Today I chose the latter of the two and drove to the “lotsstation”, the nearest of my favourite places which is just two and a half kilometres away, and waited for the sun rise.

Two shots of this morning, the 1st day in October:

Étude – making photos at the rocky shore

There’s nice autumn weather with blue sky and there’s today, a windy day with a clouded sky, but at least no rain. I took a tour to the rocky shore at Långhällan, one of my favourite places nearby. My plan was to practise. The musical pieces that provide you with practising material are called étude. That’s why I’ll call it “étude” when I practise photography.

Todays topic: Long time exposure which filters at daylight to blur the waves. I’ll show you the unedited snapshots of two motifs at the coast. That’s how it looks like, if you just do “click”.

Ok, that’s the motifs. They show some kind of chaos, because the windy weather created quite big waves (at least for the bottenviken – the most northern part of the Baltic Sea) and it’s hard to distinguish between the waves and the rocks. There’re several way to improve the photos. One: Wait for better weather. Two: Work with filters.

In the following images I used the Big Stopper, a filter that takes away 99.9% of the incoming light and forces you to exposure 1000 times longer than usual. Instead of 1/20 of a second for example you would expose 50 seconds, long enough to blur all the moving objects as the waves, but to keep the sharpness of the stable objects as the rocks. Additionally I used a graduated filter to avoid overexposure of the sky. And that’s the first motif with the filters, edited in Lightroom.

The long exposure transforms the waves in some kind of a foggy layer, making the photo look like flying over cloudy mountains. I’m not so happy with the shot. Waves are too high blurring bigger parts of the rocks and the sky is quite dull making the photo almost looking like black-white.

By way of comparison a photo of the same motif I made last year which I prefer instead of the todays shot:

The next photo I like much better. The rocks are looking rougher and the tuft of grass is a nice eye catcher giving the photo both a focus and a story. It will be the first image of my series “one”.

What do you need beside of the filters to make these photos: First of all a stable tripod, it’s a must. A remote release is quite handy to avoid shaky images. And last not least, warm and water proof clothes. I had chest waders to get to the big rock through knee deep water and to kneel without getting wet.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

exposure – Belichtung
expose – belichten
blur – weichzeichnen, verwackeln, verwischen
tripod – Stativ
remote release – Fernauslöser
chest waders – Wathose

Last not least, just another photo from today, perhaps my favourite:

Autumnal kayak tour

Today morning weather was calm with a grey sky, but later it brightened up a bit and I decided to take a kayak trip. Summer kayaking with just a life vest over your t-shirt are definitely past for this year, since both air and water where chilly. It always takes a bit of time before I finally sit in the kayak: Emptying the kayak from this weeks rain fall, dressing, fixing map and compass as well as the camera and finally dragging the boat into the water.

Minutes later I paddled round the northwest point of the island Storgrundet which lies off the coast of Skelleftehamn. The birches on the island where almost completely leafless, only the rowan trees still wear their many-coloured leaves and bright red berries.

On the outer side of Storgrundet the sea was a bit wavy and I tried to make pictures of the waves flooding the bow of my kayak. But I wasn’t lucky because when bigger waves came I felt safer with the paddle in both hands.  I landed on the small island Brottören, hardly more than a flat pile of stones, some birches, rowan trees and a shallow pond. On one of the bigger rocks I found a twig with rowan berries and I wondered if a human or a bird laid it onto this stone.

I continued in calmer sea between Brottören and Storgrundet where I had a nice view on the Island Norrskär with many coloured trees. Alas the sun hid behind clouds again.

Since weather was a bit dull I didn’t continue to other island but returned to the tiny sandy beach where my kayak has been laying since summer. The sharp tracks of the keel where the only tracks I left today.

Protected against wind and waterTo protected against wind and weather and – much more important – I use a dry suit. I bought it second hand, it is too big and not at all breathable. This could be a problem on longer tours since you start sweeting and getting means getting cold. The head was protected by a balaclava – there may be prettier things – because on the open sea it’s always a bit windy and chilly. And even if I love cold and even rough weather, I don’t like to freeze.

On my wish list: A neoprene balaclava – much better when it gets wet, and a better dry suit for kayaking, but those are extremely expensive and cost up to 1000 Euros.

Two cloud shots in the morning.

Living near the coast was a bit disappointing the last days when it came to making photos. Snow in the inland – for example 15 cm in Malå on Sunday? We got just twenty snow flakes on Monday morning melting directly on the wet ground. Polar lights last night? Yes, in many places of Norway, in Abisko, even in Kusfors which is just 70 km away. But we in Skelleftehamn had overcast sky the whole night probably due to the near Baltic Sea.

Therefore I neither got photos of fresh snow-covered landscapes nor of any polar lights this week. I have to wait, you, too.

But when it comes to clouds I have to admit that they can look quite nice in the morning. The following two photos showing the island Gåsören I made at the Lotsstation today.

Freezing over

Last night temperature was below zero, but not too cold. To my big surprise it was cold enough to let the small duck pond in Skelleftehamn freeze over completely anyway. The yellow-brownish leaves lay on, in and under the thin new ice. The rudtjärnen – a lake perhaps twenty times as big – was completely open by contrast. I had a look at the rocky landscape nearby and most of the puddles were frozen over with 3mm ice, too, but not all of them. I guess, there must be some warmer spots in some places even if the sun is hardly shining.

The first ice on the Baltic sea

After a clear and starry night temperatures dropped to -6 °C. I was quite curious if there would be ice on the Baltic Sea already and drove to the beach of Storgrundet. Of course the sea is still open in the midst of October, but in some protected bays the first thin sea ice starts covering the water. While I looked around the sun rose and instantly changed the colours of the scenery showing a nice contrast between the bluish ice in the shadowy and the warm colours in the sunlit parts.

Even if it’s cold, some bluebells are still blooming. I guess there’re quite tough. They really look nice with the tiny hoar frost crystals on their blue petals. (I guessed I looked quite funny while taking this picture from below with my head lower than my feet …)

The sun rose higher while it was still quite cold. A small outboard motorboat with two people in bright red thermal suits and fur caps went by. I took another photo of the first motif, just ten seconds before the tiny bow waves of the boat reached the thin ice and crushed it into pieces. That was the time when I realised that it’s friday, no weekend yet and I definitely should start working. So I drove home and took the bus at 9:30. Still -5 °C – the first day where a down jacket came quite handy.

Now its a quarter to eight, -5 °C again and I want to go paddling tomorrow morning. But I’m still unsure how to dress. I’m not too experienced in cold weather paddling.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

starry – sternenklar
Baltic Sea – Ostsee
bluebell – Glockenblume
hoar frost – Raureif
petal – Blütenblatt
outboard – Außenborder
bow wave – Bugwelle

Breaking the ice

6:15 rang my iPhone alarm and woke me up, far too early for a Saturday, but I made up a plan yesterday when I took pictures from the ice: I want to see the sunrise. From my kayak! I took a short breakfast, packed my camera, water, a snack and my immersion suit and drove to the small Storgrundet beach again. Half of the sea between the island and land was covered with ice.

immersion-suitSome minutes later I sat in my kayak and started my trip. It was harder to get ahead than expected. Even if ice was just three to five millimetres thick you could easily lay down the paddle without braking it. And so I had to prick the blade through the ice to force me forward. The cracking sounds of the ice smashed by my kayak reminded me on the tour with the “Arctic Explorer”, an ice breaker in Piteå. But I’m not sure if I would break as little as a single centimetre with the blade of my paddle. The immersion suit that I wore for protection in case of flipping over or falling into the icy water is quite alike the survival suits on the Arctic Explorer, too. You can lie in ice water for quite a long time without even freezing. But moving in it is hard because the neoprene is quite thick and stiff and the attached gloves are not very comfortable.

The sky was mostly clear, just some clouds in the east gleamed in warm early pre-sunrise colours. And far afield just over the horizon you could see a big wall of grey clouds. The locals call this clouds vinterväggen (The winter wall), since this is a typical cloud pattern in the winter months. It was awesome to be out, feeling the chilly air in the face, listening to the cracking sounds of the fresh ice and watching the changing sunrise colours reflecting on the icy surface.

But the ice gave me a quite hard time and so I decided after a while not to round another island but to head back to the beach and perhaps take another nap after the short last night. Therefore I turned my kayak and paddled back. I could see the channels of open water that the boat cut into the ice on my way there. I tried to use these channels to make paddling simpler, but it hardly help. Not the boat is the problem but the blade. Finally I went ashore again after one of the shortest kayak trips ever. But it was completely worth it!

The illusion of winter

No, no, it’s not winter yet, it’s October. Yes, it snowed a bit in Skellefteå last weekend. Yes, some frozen snow is left. Yes, the maximum temperature in Skelleftehamn was only + 0.2 °C yesterday. Yes, we even have snow storm this night (snow warning: 5 – 15 cm until tomorrow morning).

But after the snow storm it will get warm. And rainy! 4 °C at lunchtime and 6 °C in the evening. With wind gusts up to 60 km/h. Probably the streets will be full of wet slush tomorrow and I won’t leave the house without rubber boots. But, as I mentioned above, it’s not winter, it’s just plain old October.

Anyway, the snow covering the houses, the gardens and the streets and lighting up the whole nocturnal scenery gives a perfect illusion of winter, even if it’s only for a night and half a day.

Some photos made in the forest two hours before the snow arrived:

And some photos I made in Skelleftehamn just now, between ten and eleven o’clock:

 

Bog colors

The illusion of winter is past. The snow that fell two nights ago melted the next day and made place for warmer weather with a grey-white, cloudy sky and some rain.

For me the colours of early autumn are the yellow and red leaves, but the colours of late autumn, that’s all these shades of brown found in bogs and swamps. Today I made a short tour in a bog nearby to catch these colours. Large parts of the bog were frozen and you could walk quite easily, other parts were wet and muddy. Therefore I left by big camera home and took my waterproof Nikon AW1 instead. A good choice, even if the quality of the photos is a bit poorer.

The last image shows the forest way I took, which was partly covered with soft ice. I was a bit nervous when driving, because I still have summer tyres on my car, but it was much easier to drive than I thought. When I was home I washed my muddy clothes and – luxury! – took a hot bath after this chilly and wet bog walk.

 

Market in Byske

Today I visited the autumn market in Byske, a small coastal town 40 km north. If was smaller than expected and I was through it quite soon. The two main topics: Things to eat and things to keep you warm in winter. The former was divided into meat, bread and goodies, the latter one in thermal boots, warm socks, knitted Lovika mittens and last not least fur, mostly in form of warm hats.

The marketer showed me the parka on the first picture. It is greenlandic and made of sealskin. He told me, that it’s hard to get these parkas nowadays, since sealskin products are only available in Greenland and then sold to Denmark. Once he sold a parka to a professional landscape photographer, but cost 3500 Euros or more. I’m glad, that I have a huge down parka to keep my warm in even the coldest winter. I would feel a bit odd wearing a sealskin parka without being an inuk or living in greenland by myself.

Just two other random shots of today: A wave at the sandy beach in Byske and a small lighthouse on the other side of the Kågefjärden. I considered first driving to the lighthouse but changed plans, which was a good idea as I realised later, since this lighthouse is not onshore, but on the island Bergskäret.

Just testing the new Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D

Yesterday my new Nikon lens arrived: A Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D, which I got secondhand on Tradera (the Swedish Ebay) for less than 200 Euros. So I was out yesterday evening and today morning to make some more or less silly test shots. Today I had a workshop in Malå, which is 126 km in the inland. We arrived half an hour too early and drove onto the Tjamstanberget, where we had a view over Malå and the hilly landscape behind. “Click”, another test shot.

Tonight I left the house to make photos of the starry night, but it was a bit hazy and making pictures didn’t work well. So I made a photo of the copper smelter Boliden Rönnskär instead, which shows quite big but nice stars on the lighting. I’m quite happy with the new lens.

Then I headed back to the car looking at that stronge cloud, which was quite greenish … And if clouds get greenish you either smoked the mushrooms instead of photoing them or it’s no clouds but Northern Lights. And thus it was! I just managed to make some shots of the pilot boat with the aurora above before it got weaker again and faded to some kind of greenish glow, hardly visible. Not the best photo, but I like the motive.

Now I’m hoping for many starry nights and polar light, I need more practise.

November: sun and ice

I love the combination of sun and snow, or sun and ice. Today I got the latter. I woke up 5:45 and after a short breakfast I drove to Långhällan, where I’ve been four weeks ago. First I tested my new lens, but quickly changed to my old wide angel lens, since I don’t have a 52mm filter adapter for the new one. It was quite cold for the first of November: between -8 °C and -9 °C. The sun slowly went up but was hidden behind a wall of clouds. Långhällan is just a big rugged rock but I could take photos again and again, always trying to find new and better motives. Today I tried to catch both the cold ice covered puddles and the sky with its warm daybreak colours.

After a while I turned the car and drove back a bit, but stopped at another shallow beach. In contrast to Långhällan which is quite exposed, this small bay starts to freeze over. The ice is still very thin and even small waves can break it into large, irregular pieces.

All grass and reeds where covered with hoarfrost which gave the landscape a quite wintry mood, even if it’s only first of November. First I was annoyed with myself because I left home the macro lens. But the new wide angle is surprisingly good for near shots, too.

Now it got cloudy and warmer, +1 °C. So I guess I can have a lie-in tomorrow.

Kajak home

Two photos from a small kayak trip today: Between these two photos lie round 2.5 kilometer, enough for a change from idyllic islands to grey industry, and 30 minutes, enough for a weather change with gathering dark clouds and increasing wind.

But it’s the same tour, the “bring-the-kayak-back-into-the-garage-tour”. Yes, I could have gone to the tiny private beach where my kayak lay under the summer, take it and just drag it homewards. But that’s boring. So I paddled it to the small boat harbour Killingörviken, which is quite nearby from my house. The tour is just 6.5 kilometer long but shows the different sides of Skelleftehamn: The beautiful small islands with forest and summer houses, the open sea, the industry on the peninsula Rönnskär, the small but active port and last not least the small boat harbour that probably won’t see any boat before April next year. Season is over.

We’ll see when kayak season will be over. As long as parts of the Baltic Sea are clear of ice I’ll try to be out, but that may change quite soon. At least the kayak is back in the garage where it is sheltered from the upcoming winter weather.

Day and night boat

Today we had the first day with 24 hours frost and a maximum temperature of -2.8 °C. When I was out this morning both the sea and most parts of the lake Snesviken where free of ice. When I was out tonight, temperature dropped to – 9 °C, big parts of both sea and lake where covered with ice, the sea with very soft ice, the lake with a surprisingly thick layer where you could even stand on – at least near the shore and if you where really careful.

The first image got blurred because I pressed I stood on the thin ice, as well as the tripod, and pressed it down some centimetres with my weight. Then I continued to make photos of the same motif as in the morning: A frozen boat. I prefer the night shot with the full moon illuminating boat and ice, even if I dislike the blurred stars.

The night showed both an almost full moon and polar light, quite weak again. I made two shots neither focussing on moon light or polar light, but showing them anyway. The pictures are more experiments than good shots. But showing those is part of the blog, too.

From bed to sun rise in 11 minutes?

Today I woke up 7:26, sun rise should be 7:37. That’s eleven minutes to get into warm clothes (-11 °C!), get the camera, change the lens, change camera mode, get the tripod, put all stuff into the car and drive to the peninsula Näsgrundet. This should be one of the last days where I can make a photo of the sun going up behind the light tower of the island Gåsören. Eleven minutes were slightly too short and I arrived two minutes late. So I was a bit in a haste but at least could capture the motif just in time, even if the light tower is not perfectly in the center of the rising sun. But anyway, it was really nice to be outside and I continued being outdoors.

 

What a Diff’rence a Day Makes

Today (6th of November) was probably the coldest day this season by now. When I left the house the thermometer showed -11 °C. I was a bit in a hurry to get the sunrise photo in time. After that I had a bit more time and drove to the lake Snesviken where I made the boat photos yesterday and last night. When I looked at the lake I was stunned! Yesterday only a minor bay was covered with thin ice, today – just 24 hours later – the whole lake.

And we’re not talking about a tiny duck pond, but about a lake one kilometre long and up to 500 meter broad. Amazing, how a single frost day can change the surface from small gurgling waves into a solid ice cover.

The evening before I was a bit angry with myself that I already dragged the kayak home again some days before, but when I came to the little beach Storgrundet I realized, that even this sheltered part of the Baltic Sea was completely covered with ice. Ice you almost could stand on and therefore much too thick to break it with the plastic blades of the paddle without ruining them.

It will get warmer the next days with even some rain, but I guess that kayak season is over, at least as long as I want to set in the kayak at the beach Storgrundet or at the boat harbour Killingören.

Wintry moods round Norsjö

Yesterday I had a meeting in Norsjö, which is round 100 km away. The meeting already started at 9:00 with a breakfast at 8:30 and ended 12:00 with a lunch.

I started quite early to make some fotos on the way to Norsjö, but the trip took longer than expected and I just made an extremely boring photo of a big lake, completely overfrozen and covered with two millimetres snow.

After the meeting I took a detour round Norsjön which was covered with ice, too. It started snowing.

I continued my way with another detour and crossed two rivers. First the minor Malån which was mostly ice covered, than the big river Skellefteälven that enters the Baltic Sea in Skelleftehamn, where I live. The Skellefteälven was completely open. That was the last photo I took yesterday. Even if it was only three o’clock it was already so dark, that I had to expose 3 secs (with f/9 and ISO 200).

By the way: älv means “river”, älven is the definite form meaning “the river”. Å is a minor river and ån is the definite form.

Ice fishes, a deadly meteorite and an almost secret cave

The present day I spent with my friends Lasse and Martine. Well, not the first part because I was awake earlier and went down through the forest to a small bay of the river Skellefteälven. The bay was covered with several thin layers of ice. I fell through with each step and the only reason why I dared to go there, was that I know that the water is quite shallow. The atmosphere is always a bit spooky – decades ago this place was a forest but I was cut down because of the water regulation. In summer you can still see the cut-off trunks standing in the shallow water.

After an extensive breakfast – ok, let’s call it brunch – we made a trip to two special places. Look at the next image which is probably the awfullest photo ever I published. But the history is quite interesting.

Let’s go back to the 20th of May 1900: Ludvig Lundgren just left the house in Kvavisträsk to visit Fredrik, his neighbour. A bad idea, because just this day the place was hit by a meteorite. Ludvig wasn’t hit directly but found unconscious just 50 meters away. He died some days later probably of the consequences of the pressure wave. This is probably the only documented case of a deadly injury connected with a meteorite impact.

The next photo (back and white for technical reasons) is a place hardly known even to the locals. It is hidden in the middle of a forest and probably almost undiscoverable without knowing the GPS coordinates.

This cave is connected to World War II where it was used as a hiding-place for locomotives. Up to eleven engines found place in this hole in the mountain. It was locked for many years but now both the gate in the fence and the big folding doors of the cave are unlocked and you can enter it. We didn’t have any flash lights with us but the three LEDs of our smartphones where bright enough to see floor and walls. It was both fascinating to see this place as terrifying.

It is always great to travel with Lasse since – as a journalist – he knows so many fascinating stories and interesting places. Without him I’ll probably would have continued to make pics of ice and snow. A welcome variation!

On the way back (and what a way with frozen tracks so deep that the car was steering itself and occasionally hit the ground) we saw a lot of reindeers. They don’t pay attention to cars, but as soon as you open a window to make photos or even leave the car they probably will leave the place. But quite often they will stop again and watch you carefully. That’s the chance for photos. (None of the pictures became really good, but I’ll publish them anyway).

Thank you, Martine and Lasse for yesterday evening and for this nice day!

Northern lights and truthfulness

What a nice surprise: After 10 days of dull, cloudy and overcast weather sky cleared up this afternoon. You don’t have to go outside, just have a look at the thermometer: A temperature drop almost guarantees a cloudless sky. But you have to go outside if you want to check for the faint Northern Lights. And this evening I was lucky: a large pale bow of  the aurora borealis was visible in the sky.

Some minutes later I stood beside the small haven tjuvkistan and made the first photo. Click: 15,0 sec at f/2.5, ISO 800 35mm.

Whoa! The whole sky is green, it’s like diving into Fluorescein! Just too much green color! A great deal too much!

I made another photo, knowing beforehand it wouldn’t work. Click: 1,0 sec at ƒ/2.8, ISO 400 35mm, which means only 2.7 % of the light compared to the first photo.

Yes … um … interesting … . Is it art or may I trash it? Too dark! A great deal too dark! This image is just a dumb proof to the platitude I already knew: Cameras need enough light to make good pictures, even a Nikon D800.

Let’s take the 1st photo: I’ll show it again. And again – and again! I cropped it to the same 5:3-format, but processed it in three different kinds.

Version 1: The kitsch-version: I kept the extreme colours and increased contrast, especially in the center. Bang – that’s the photos you show on Facebook!

Version 2: The almost-real-version: I tried to adjust the photo to my memories of the real moment, which means for example that I reduces exposure more than 3 stops and removed saturation of the polar lights by 50%. Well, that’s the photos you won’t show anybody. They are more realistic but a bit prosaic.

Version 3: The in-between-version: I tried to find a version between kitsch and almost real. I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad compromise between the other versions.

What do you think? Which photo do you prefer? I’m looking forward to your comments.