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:

 

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.

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.

Sunrise colours

The sky was partly cloudy this morning but the late rising sun shone on the clouds illuminating them in warm pastel shades that changed every minute. This shot I made on a small swampy lake not far from my house in Skelleftehamn.

Roller coaster weather

This December the weather is like a roller coaster, going up and down, bringing frost, rain, hail, sleet and storm. It’s not at all the winter you imagine when you think on Northern Sweden.

Monday started with sunny weather and temperatures round 1 °C – cold enough to cover the windscreen with a thick layer of window frost. (I prefer the German name “Eisblumen” which means ice flowers.) Then it got colder.

Tuesday it was quite clear and cold with temperatures round -7 °C with a minimum of -9 °C at 22:00. In the next three hours temperatures rose by 10 °C and the next morning we had +3 °C and heavy winds. I left my car at the car service station to get it checked before my winter journey and took some photos on the way back home. I attached spikes to my boots because the wet icy roads where extremely slippery. When I went back some hours later to get the car I was surprised at the high water level. This day the water level climbed 70 cm, that’s a lot for the Baltic Sea and only happened because of the storm pressing the sea water ashore.

The next two days were cloudy, temperatures round + 2 °C with some drizzle that instantly froze on the cold ground. Saturday evening – which was yesterday – it started to get colder and rain started to mix with snow and some soft hail. In the evening it finally started to clear up a bit und got colder.

Today it was quite clear, temperatures round -8 °C and I took a tour to the peninsula Örviken. Örviken has an area of 1 km², 400 people are living here. Even if it is quite near I hardly has being there, which is a pity since it’s a nice place, especially if it’s clear and you’re waiting for the sun rise.

And that’s what I did today. A good activity if you caught a cold and want to take it easy.

On the photos you can see the impacts of the weather: The storm destroyed the ice cover leaving a lot of floating ice floes, but in the cold night the surface started to freeze over again. Do you see the stacked ice in front of the trees? Its laying on land and I guess it was left there after the high water some days before.

After that I drove to another place I already knew and took some photos of the last motif today:

Now it’s half past five and -7.4 °C outside. The weather tomorrow? +2 °C and rain! Probably the whole day! Onto the frozen ground! Sounds familiar?

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

roller coaster – Achterbahn
drizzle – Sprühregen
soft hail – Graupel
peninsula – Halbinsel
Ice floe – Eisscholle

Déjà vu

An addendum to “Roller coaster weather”

Yesterday I already guessed that I would have a déjà vu today – and I got it! The day resembled last Wednesday in so many details: The same temperature rise the night before, the same car ride to the car service station (some additional fixes) and the same way back home by foot. Maybe a bit more rain, maybe a bit less storm, but the same clothing as  altogether the same: Waterproof parka, rain pants, rubber boots and – most important of all – spikes you can attach to your boots.

Definitely not my favourite type of winter. I definitely prefer cold weather and loads of snow.

108 free days

Yesterday I worked the last day for a long time. Now I have holidays. Long holidays! The first day I’ll work again will be the day after Easter Monday and that means that I have (just a moment, I’ll have to check it again to believe it: 12 + 31 + 28 + 31 + 6), that I have a 108 day holiday starting today!

108 days – isn’t it great? Um – err – I don’t know! The last months were quite tough with much work (both privately and on the job) and I’ve been in “survival mode” for many weeks – and still I am. I don’t realise yet, that today my longest period of free time since pre-kindergarden times started. Probably it will take some more days until I really understand.

Yesterday it was sleeting – a bit of snow, quite much rain. But in the afternoon it got colder and rain changed into snow. Today it’s round -5 °C and we have ca. 8 cm fresh snow. In contrast to the last weeks the snow will probably survive, since the weather forecast promises temperatures below zero for the rest of the month.

My friends know my passion for winter and snow and of course I went out and took a walk round the lake Rudtjärnen. The whole lake is covered both with ice and fresh snow and I saw the first two skiers today. They tried to cross a part of the lake but they had to stop to scrape the freezing slush from the bottoms of their skis. The ice under the snow is still wet. No surprise after yesterdays rain.

Later this morning I took the car to the peninsula Näsgrundet where you can see the island Gåsören with its red-white lighthouse in two kilometers distance. It still snowed and long waves rolled on the beach, broke on the shallow shore and flushed away the snow of the nearest rocks. And in the background lay Gåsören covered with the first noteworthy amount of snow.

It took more than 60 shots of this motiv, until I found the right place and – much harder – the right time with surf in the air and the red spotlight of the lighthouse on. I’m still not content, but it’s the best shot today.

The rest of the day: Celebrated laziness – it’s my first day off!

In round about three weeks I will start my long trip through Northern Sweden and Northern Norway – the reason why I took such a long period off duty, and by the way the reason why I started this blog.

Shortest day in Skelleftehamn

Sunrise 09:40, sundown 13:25 – that’s less than four hours sunlight with the sun hardly rising above the horizon. But you can add at least three hours dusk and dawn, so it’s not pitch-dark 20 hours and the snow that fell two nights before lightens up the scenery, too. The image below shows the river Skellefteälven which is almost completely ice covered, at least in Ursviken where the river is broad and the current is week.

Just a normal winter

Living at the coast of the Bothnian Bay, the most northern part of the Baltic Sea can be a bit surprising, when it comes to weather. Let’s take the weather one year ago, for example. January started with rain falling on the frozen ground and the roads where so slippery that you hardly could use the car, even with spiked tyres on it. (German article: “Eisflächen”). One week later we had a lake effect in Skelleftehamn and got 83 cm of snow on bare ground within 24 hours! The city Skellefteå, hardly 20 kilometres away got a millimetre! (German articles: “Schneekanonen 2014”).

Just now we have winter. Just winter. It’s -5 °C – not too warm, not too cold. There a 30 cm of snow in the backyard – not very much but not very little neither. And it has been snowing for almost two days, not much, but anyway. That’s what the Swedes call lagom, a word that’s perhaps translated best with “just the right amount”.

The high water mark of the Baltic Sea sank from +104 cm to +40 cm within the last days, leaving the beach of Storgrundet covered with ice and fresh fallen snow making the high water completely invisible.

The lake Snesviken is covered with ice and snow, too and parts of the old boat that I photographed two month ago have been vanished in snow as well. The sky is grey and the trees on the other side of the lake look a bit blurred since it is still snowing. Not much, just lagom.

I’ve been ill since sunday but today is the first day where I feel better. Tomorrow I’ll start with the last preparations for the tour and I planned to depart on next Wednesday, the 14th. I’m really looking forward to travel way up north and will hopefully provide you with many articles and photos – as long as my laptop doesn’t freeze do death.

Winter intensifies

Did I write about the “just normal” winter two days before? Well that changed a bit. Right after I wrote the last article the snowfall intensified and brought 10 cm new snow within 16 hours. It got both windier and colder and still snowed a lot.

Today¹ I took a walk round the small lake Rudtjärnen. Snow fell in thick, heavy flakes and made it impossible to look farther than 100 meters. The squalls whirled up the snow morphing the view into a grey-white nothing. And it was even windier on the slope by the lake. The trees on the 2nd photo were hardly 50 metres away!

That was a nice and not so long walk (which was intended since I don’t want to overstrain myself right after the infection), but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to go out again. And so I did. This time with food and drink, (of course) my camera, my new flashlight and my new down clothes for some testing. I already guessed that I couldn’t drive to the small boat harbour because the way wasn’t ploughed and snow was too deep for my car. So I decided to continue to the peninsula Näsgrundet. What a piece of luck!

I dressed up for cold weather, lit my new strong flashlight and went to the rocky beach. Normally the shore descends to the open sea but not tonight where – I couldn’t believe my eyes – the shore was an ice shelf rising up at least one meter before dropping into a black nothing. I could hear the sea behind but I couldn’t see it. Where am I? What happened? Then I heard a rolling wave and – SPLAT! – I could see water and foam rising high up behind the brink and clashing onto the ice shelf! It took a moment or two until I realised what happened: The brisk northern wind presses the waves ashore where they rocket up into the air several meters. I guess that the water and foam first landed on the rocks where it probably froze almost instantly – remember, it’s -15 °C  out there. The rocks became more and more ice covered until they vanished under a growing layer of ice. When I came to this place this evening some parts of the ice were already two meters above sea level! And still some of the waves managed to toss a lot of water onto the ice where it froze and enlarged the ice shelf. What a fantastic experience!

I was both happy to be out there and a bit disappointed that I couldn’t share this moment. If I at least could take a photo, but how to take pictures of waves when it’s so dark. Wait a moment – dark? – My new flashlight was described as extremely bright – Let’s test. I switched the flashlight to the brightest mode, laid it onto my backpack and adjusted the beam to the waves. Then I took tripod and camera and started to experiment. And that’s the result:

I’m impressed. The new Flashlight is really bright. So bright that I can take such pictures at night time. (For the photo freaks: 1/20 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 1600. 35mm)

OK. The flashlight succeeded the test. But what’s with the rest? I was curious how warm the new bought down parka and down pant would be. I just wore a single layer of woollen underwear and my thin but windproof Norrøna-jacket, mostly to test the fur under the down clothes, that was all. (Not mentioning boots and gloves, of course). I’ve been out more than an hour, first taking pictures, then measuring wind and temperature, than taking my frugal evening meal. And yes – the Marmot down combination is as warm, snugly and cozy as it looks like. Almost too warm when sitting although we had an average wind speed of 10 m/s resulting in a wind chill of  -27 C. That’s good to know.

Now I’m longing to sunrise. I want to visit the spot again and take some daylight pictures. That’s perhaps evan a reason to postpone my journey another day. I’m not in a hurry. But tomorrow, when I’ll visit the place again I’ll wear something less water-sensitive than down, because tonight I always expected a huge monster wave would flood half the shelf and soak me completely.

Finally just two selfies from today, one when I walked round the lake, the other when I sat outside after the evening meal.

Foot note:

¹ As a matter of fact: Yesterday. It will already be Monday when I publish this article.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

squall – Windböe
down – (hier) Daune
foam – (hier) Gischt
flashlight – Taschenlampe
fur – Pelz

For equipment nerds:

Flashlight: Nitecore EA41 Pioneer
Down clothes: Marmot 8000M Parka, Marmot 8000M Pant. Older (or simpler) models.

Just for the archives:

Friday 2015-01-09 21:45 ca. 30 cm -4.6 °C
Saturday 2015-01-10 13:40 ca. 40 cm -7.1 °C
Sunday 2015-01-09 09:15 ca. 45 cm -8.6 °C
Sunday 2015-01-09 16:55 ca. 52 cm (47 cm backyard, 57 cm front yard) -15.0 °C

T minus 35 hours

Now I’ve made up my decision: I’ll start my journey on Thursday round 11 o’clock. That’s only 35 hours left! I’ll have to work all day tomorrow to manage my departure in time. Mostly it’s packing the zillion things I’ll want to take with me, but I have to continue and finish the installation of my travelling computer (my old MacBook Pro) and we all know: Working with computers always takes more time than planned and excepted.

Anyway, I managed to take a photo of the cement carrier Sunnanvik that regularly goes ashore in the bay nearby. Look how ice-covered the foredeck is! I would have preferred a wide angle lens shot from a lesser distance, but the whole bay was clear of ice some days ago and the new ice is much too weak to bear me.

That’s probably my last photo made in Skelleftehamn for long. When I’ll write the next blog post, I’m probably in the midst of Swedish Lapland already.

Starting the journey

Day one and two

Round half past nine I started “Nordkalotten 2015”, my long journey through Northern Sweden, Norway and Finland. The first destination is Stokmarknes, which is 880 km away and according to Google Maps it takes eleven hours, nine minutes from my home in Skelleftehamn. I’m not a long distance driver therefore I divided the journey into three parts.

Day 1: Skelleftehamn – Solberget

When I started sky was completely cloudy and overcast but right after Vidsel the sky started to clear up and the temperatures dropped from -8 °C in Skelleftehamn to -21 °C in Solberget (with a daily minimum of -23 °C). On the journey I had to cross the river Luleälven three times and on one of the long bridges I could see the sun slowly going down.

I’ve been in Solberget many times and I’ll be there again in February. This time I stayed only to sleep and continued the next day. I one woke up when Sesam, the tom cat and secret owner of Solberget lay down on my feet in the dead of night.

Day 2: Solberget – Abisko

The evening before temperatures increased and it started snowing. When I woke up almost 10 cm fresh snow covered the ground and my car and it was only -2 °C. Half past nine I continued my journey heading for Gällivare, Kiruna and Abisko. It was cloudy the whole time but fortunately almost no snow fell. That made driving as easy as on the first day. Just some kilometres before Abisko sky cleared up a bit. I was lucky and could hire the same nice room where I already stayed last February for a week.

Tomorrow I’ll enter Norway and continue to Stokmarknes.

Reindeers – many, many reindeers

Day three (part I)

Today I got up early, no wonder after more than 10 hours sleep. I packed my things, cleaned the room and left Abisko heading westwards. It was still twilit and I was quite alone on the road.

That changed after 18 kilometres: A huge herd of reindeers blocked the road. I slowed down and slowly, slowly drove through the reindeers. Right after the reindeer crossing I found a parking place. Good to exit the car and take some images of these beautiful and gentle animals.

The reason why the reindeers were hanging around was probably the pile of big bags lying beside of the road. I guess they contain reindeer food.

After half an hour of taking pictures and watching I entered the car again and continued my journey to Norway.