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.

The first frost

Yesterday we had the first frost with -0.6 °C and it felt cold the whole day in the chilly wind. Today we had -3.2 °C in the morning, but the wind is gone. Not too cold, when you compare it to Karesuando where the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute measured -12.9 °C at seven o’clock today.

Late October sunrise

Even after switching to standard time you don’t have to stand up extremely early to catch the sunrise over the Baltic Sea. Sunrise today was 7:06 and since I already was awake I took the car to the shore. Sky was clear and illuminated in warm orange colours while the open sea was of a deep blue. A nice contrast and since there ware hardly any clouds the photo has some kind of an abstract look. When the sun came – click – I made this photo:

After two warmer weeks it was chilly this morning with temperatures round -5 °C. Of course the sea is still open, but the water puddles on the waterfront were covered with ice.

Did I say “of course sea is still open”? Well, not everywhere! After making the photos above I drove to the little beach Storgrundet where I saw the first thin layer of ice lying on the cold sea water. (The photo itself is far apart from being good – I’ll try to make better ones tomorrow morning if it’s as cold as today.)

 

Flood along the Skellefteälven

The river Skellefteälven had much water today. Water level was 87 cm above normal according to a hiker I met at the river today. The hiker had to turn because parts of the way were still under water just as the ground besides.

It was funny walking on this “way” – the ground was frozen, 15 cm water above, slightly frozen over, too. I even saw a fish fleeing my rubber boots under the thin ice cover. And I was so glad about my crampon-like spikes, that I had with me, since the ground was almost frictionless.

After a grey morning the weather was nice with blue sky and sun, but still much too warm for the season. I really wonder how the river succeeds in freezing over when it’s hardly frosty. I also wonder why the river ice can rise almost 90 centimetres without getting any visible cracks. Probably it’s quite soft.

Ten, fifteen centimeters above water level you could see ice round the branches and twigs of the smaller trees and bushes, marking the high water peak of last night. I had to crouch and lie down to make the next picture.

It was easier to make pictures of the beautiful frost patterns that covered the ground. By the way: These are colour photographs.

Christmas flood

Yesterdays Christmas was still a bit white and snowy but then – déjà vu – it got warmer and started to rain. At the same time the sea level was extremely high again: More than 100 cm above normal. I did the beach walk with chest waders and spikes and took the picture of one of the small pine trees with my underwater camera:

The locals that have their summer cottages on the near island Storgrundet came with their cars to check the sea level. They were a bit nervous because just now they cannot reach the island; neither by boat nor by foot. The ice itself is still thick but not at the borders where the warm weather melted it away.

Same day, another place: Skellefteälven – even more water than some weeks ago. The waterside promenade along the river had a layer of ice on the bottom and was flooded with up to 30 cm water.

Interesting weather, but I miss the snow.

Did anyone of you had a white Christmas?

A little expedition to the island Gåsören

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home. Unknown sea ice can be dangerous just as very cold temperatures.

Today I had the plan to cross the ice and go to the island Gåsören which is one of my favourite places nearby. The challenge: Parts of the Baltic Sea were open five days ago due to the low water. How thick would the ice be and would I be able to go to the island?

I started at the little boat harbour Tjuvkistan and planned to go to the island Bredskär where I’ve been with Annika two days ago. This time I chose snow shoes and pulka to transport all clothes and equipment. I changed plans and didn’t head to Bredskär, but followed the ski tracks to the island Klubben instead – a better direction. In the dim light of the daybreak I could see Gåsören ahead.

It was quite cold, round -27 °C and I was glad about my fur rimmed hood, that protects the face against wind and cold air.

I continued to the next island Flottgrundet, which is hardly 300 meters away. A tiny ice rim encircled the island and I took a small break. Normally I take breaks mainly for taking pictures, but this time I had another reason, too:

Beside of the tracks of a lonely hare I couldn’t see any track or trail to Gåsören. Is the ice safe and will it bear me? Since I already expected such, I brought along my survival suit, which is completely waterproof and has attached socks, gloves and hood, so that only the face would be exposed to the ice cold water in case of breaking through the ice. All other equipment such as camera, extra clothes and food was in waterproof bags.

I looked like a Teletubbie, (and probably moved like one too) but I felt safe. Round my head I had my camera bag and so-called isdubbar, that’s ice picks, that would help me to pull myself on land, if I had broken though. I put the snow shoes into the pulka and started crossing the ice.

Round 700 meters later I reached Gåsören. I went ashore and was quite glad that the ice bore me without any problem. I unmounted the pulka but continued wearing the survival suit. I wanted to discover the ice rim on the eastern side of Gåsören and didn’t dare to do that without it. First of all I climbed onto the two meter high ice to get an overview. The risen sun started to light parts of the landscape in warm colours, while the snow in the shadows still looked cold and bluish.

The next two hours I strolled around east from the island to take pictures from the amazing ice formations round the island. Some of them were up to three meters high. It’s interesting to see, how many different colours ice can have, both the ice itself and the sun light as the day progresses. While I walked round I could see the light houses of Gåsören, the new one (the red tower to the left) and the new one (the house to the right).

Meanwhile I protected even my nose that started to get cold. The danger is that you won’t realise, when the nose gets too cold and you really have to be careful to avoid frostbite. The neoprene survival suit is surprisingly warm, but not comfortable at all. Since it’s not breathable I started to sweat and become wet. I longed for warm tea and other clothes. I went back to the pulka, undressed the suit and slipped into the cold boots. Then I took tea, crackers, camera and a huge bin bag that wrapped my down coverall. I went to the other side of the island, this time on land and put on the coverall over the other jacket. Now I really looked like a polar explorer, but was just 5 kilometres away from home. It took a while, until I got warm again and another while to realise, that this suit is almost to warm for temperatures between -26 and -28 °C. But at least I got my hot tea, some cookies and I didn’t freeze at all.

Of course I continued making photos on land. I went round, took images of the big welcome-sign, the red-white light tower and even more ice. But after a while clouds came in and started to cover the sun.

So I undressed my down coverall, went back to the pulka, packed all stuff into it and started my walk back to main land. I chose almost the same way to be sure, that the ice is stable. The sun vanished behind a layer of clouds, only a bright orange light pillar was left.

When I looked left I got reminded, that this fantastic tour was not in the arctic wilderness, but near home. The smelting works on the peninsula Rönnskär was within sight. The chimneys gave off clouds of smoke that racked southwards below the inversion boundary, but northwards above. When I was almost back on the main land I could see the red solar disk setting behind Rönnskär.

When I entered the car, it was still -26 °C below – one of the coldest days that I experienced in Skelleftehamn until now.

Conclusion: a great tour with a touch of expedition due to the coldness and the unsafe ice. Should be repeated when ice is safer and weather is warmer.

Addendum (2016-01-20)

This tour was more dangerous than I suspected. Not because of the weak ice but because the rubber gloves of the survival suit didn’t isolate good enough. Today – two days after – I got small blisters on all fingers but the thumbs, a clear sign for a second degree frostbite. My nose is a bit reddish and itches, probably a first degree frostbite.

I have full tactile sense in all parts of the fingers and the nose, but it probably will take some time until the skin heals completely.

The danger was, that I didn’t feel any pain in the fingers while being out. I just felt the cold when I removed the wool mittens. I never will make such an extended photo tour in the survival suit when it’s so cold.

Take care, photographers. Don’t risk your health for just some nice photos. It’s not worth it.

 

The snow returns

I dislike thaw. When it’s winter I want to see white snow, not brownish slush and drizzle falling from low-hanging clouds.

The latter was the weather that we got for four days. The snow slid from the roofs and melted away and under many water puddles sheer ice covered the roads. But alas, yesterday the weather changed and it started to snow. Today it has been quite windy and it has been constantly snowing. The strong winds glue the wet snow to the houses, the cars, and the windows.

I guess, we got round 20 cm of snow the last 24 hours and it continues snowing. The thick brown half-frozen chunks of wet snow, that framed all streets start to get a fresh white snow blanket and small snow drifts cover the roadways.

Yes snow – that’s more my cup of tea. I hope however, that the wind gusts will stop soon, since tomorrow the Winter Swimming World Cup and Scandinavian
Championship 2016 will take place in Skellefteå and I guess it won’t be much fun for the swimmers standing in some kind of “snow storm” dressed only with a swimsuit and a warm cap. And neither for me, who is going to take pictures of this event.

Furuögrund

Today Annika and I took the road E4 to Byske to visit Byske Havsbad, one of the largest sandy beaches nearby. But I was curious about the other side of the river Byskeälven and took another departure. That’s how we came to Furuögrund, which is a small coastal village north from Skelleftehamn. 39 kilometres by car; 20 kilometres if you can fly. Outside of Furuögrund there’s a peninsula with a small boat harbour and a café (that unfortunately won’t open before next weekend). The peninsula is surrounded by two bays – one with a sandy beach (and still some old leftover ice).

On the northeastern side there’s an old dock for timber, build in 1874 together with the sawmill. The dock has or had three different names: Massahusdockan, Norrdockan or “Nööl-dockan”. As you can see on the images, there’s hardly anything left beside of a mikado-like stack of old timber.

After strolling along the shore we took the car again and turned into a small side road to Svartnäsudden. I just had to stop when I saw the smooth granit rocks with the clear water puddle. In front of the rocks there was some boggy ground, partly covered with ice, surrounded by pine trees. And behind that a beautiful view over the blue Baltic Sea – that’s Coastal Northern Sweden in spring in a pocket.

 

Micromountains

After two weeks of cloudy and gloomy weather it started to clear up and the sun came out, glistening from a cloudless blue sky. I was out at 8 o’clock, sufficiently early to catch the sunrise.

The photo however I liked most was of the frost-covered tree stump which I developed in black and white.

 

Four images from the coast of Kågnäsudden

When I arrived at the former fishermen’s village at Kågnäsudden I realised that I almost came too late for the beautiful pre-sunrise colours. The sun had already risen above the horizon, only covered by some clouds lingering at the horizon far away. I just managed to take a picture of the big lumps of ice before it rose above the clouds.

The sun illuminated the Baltic Sea which was covered with rough drifting ice floes to a great extend.

While I continued my photographical promenade the sun rose higher – what a difference to six weeks ago, where it more rolled along the horizon and hardly rose at all.

Round some of the small rocky cliffs the sea was still partly open but the first heralds of frost were visible. Finally we got a bit colder weather and the temperatures next night expect to be round -15 °C. This could be enough to make the surface to freeze over.

Perhaps I’ll check the same location again tomorrow, but then I’ll have to leave earlier because sunrise is already before 8 o’clock.

4×4 winter impressions of Kirkenes

Kirkenes – the harbour

While Annika and our friends in Kirkenes enjoyed their breakfast in the Hotel Thon I took a short promenade along the Johan Knudtzens gata to take some pictures. Already the view from the hotel terrace over the fjord is quite impressive and shows the beauties of the arctic nature while the harbour shows the more practical sides of living here: fishing, both commercially and just for fun.

A hike onto the top of the Lyngberget

After the breakfast we took the car to Jakobsnes and a bit further to take a promenade up the mountain Lyngberget, which lies on the other side of the Bøkfjorden. Here you can have a wide view over the whole town of Kirkenes – at least as long it doesn’t snow, as it did on our way back. I just love these wintry landscapes where you have views over fjell and fjord, but the wind was quite chilly and soon we looked like the participants of an arctic expedition.

The Huskies of the Kirkenes Snowhotel

Today we played tourists and visited the Kirkenes Snowhotel, which is just some hundred metres away. The Snowhotel has 180 Huskies including the seniors plus 30 puppies. The huskies are like we humans – some are working, some are resting, some are curious and some are shy. But they are all very kind and friendly.

Inside the Kirkenes Snowhotel

I slept in tents, in igloos and outside in wintertime. I even slept in the Kirkenes Snowhotel two years ago. This time Annika and I enjoy sleeping in the inside of our friends house (Thank you for your great hospitality, Christine and Ørjan) but gave the Snowhotel a visit. And it was worth it – especially the lounge with it carved ice blocks is very impressive.

Tomorrow we’ll leave this fine place, take the car to Vardø in the North (yes, that’s still possible!) and take the Hurtigruten from there to our next destination.