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.

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!

An overnight stay on the island Gåsören

Saturday

The advantage of short kayak trips with overnight stay: you can start quite late. It was 7 p.m. when I started pulling my loaded kayak from home to shore. A quarter later I sat in the kayak and started paddling. It’s only four, five kilometres to the island Gåsören that shone in the warm light of the evening sun.

The first thing to do: Put up the tent before sundown. The second thing to do: Taking a picture of the lighthouse before sundown. The stomach reminded me of thing number three: Preparing food and eating. Todays dinner: Graved salmon on fire roasted bread à la plein air.

I was quite curious if I would catch the first polar light. The short term forecast of Soft Serve News wasn’t too bad. But even if the sun already went down round 9 o’clock – two and a half hours earlier than eight weeks ago – I still had to wait for the sky getting darker. After a while however I could see the first faint greenish garlands. My first Northern Lights of the season 2015/16! Great!

But then I saw something in the sky that I thought was much more fascinating: Right above the red coloured northern sky I could see a layer of lucent clouds. They looked really strange because there weren’t red or purple – they were pale white! I never saw something like that before. They looked extremely far away, almost extraterrestrial. I wondered if this perhaps could be noctilucent clouds – clouds that are found in extremely high altitudes of round about 80 kilometres. I stayed awake for a long time, I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from this wonderful phenomenon. Two pictures of the clouds:

Of course I checked my hypothesis directly, when I went home. Yes – I guessed right. My first noctilucent clouds ever. I was really lucky and I’m happy that I could see them just from my tent.

But let’s leave the Mesosphere and go back to earth again. If you tent on the island Gåsören, you can see other lights, too. Lights of civilisation: The peninsula Rönnskär is quite nearby. On Rönnskär there is Boliden Rönnskär, one of the most efficient copper smelters. You think industry is unsightly and ugly? Well, not Rönnskär by night in my opinion:

Sunday

I woke up in broad daylight although it was only half past five. I took one halfhearted picture out of my tent and then I started reading.

I started the book “Norwegen der Länge nach” written by Simon Michalowicz that was published just some weeks ago. Simon hiked from the Southern tip of Norway to the North Cape – round about 3000 kilometres.

I read in the tent – I read sitting in front of the island’s sauna — I read sitting or lying on a floating boat bridge, only interrupted by a short bath in the Baltic Sea. I followed Simon’s tour and just couldn’t stop reading. It was noon when I finally finished the book. If can warmly recommend it to all German readers that love Scandinavia or are interested in hiking. There’s a website as well: www.simonpatur.de.

I wasn’t alone on the island. Some people hired the old lotshus – the pilot’s house for an overnight stay. The first motor boats came in for a day visit. And both summer cottages – there’re only two on Gåsören – were used, too. From T. who owns one of the cottages I learned that it was international lighthouse day today. So before I packed all my stuff together and paddled home I went up the two stairs in the old lighthouse and made a last photo.

I was home again half past two. Many experiences and a good book in less than twenty hours – that’s a fine weekend.

Translation:

EnglishGermanSwedish
Noctilucent cloudsLeuchtende NachtwolkenNattlysande moln

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.

 

Cold, clear and crisp

It’s mid-April and the civil twilight already starts round 4 o’clock. A quite stupid time to wake up, but it happened to me today. Normally I would roll over in my bed and continue sleeping, but the sky was so incredibly clear, that I just had to stand up and take the car to the coast.

As clear the sky was, as cold was the air: -8 °C. Time for gloves and down parka again. East from the peninsula Näsgrundet the Baltic Sea was still open – just as on Monday, when I opened the kayak season.

West from Näsgrundet however, the frost has frozen together the drifting ice floes and put a thin layer of fresh sea ice on the bay Kallholmsfjärden.

Now I have to get some more sleep, it’s still quite early.

Second kayak tour 2016

What a contrast to the first kayak tour six weeks ago: Last time dry suit, today t-shirt. Last time between ice floes, today birches with fresh leaves. Last time Baltic Sea, today the river Skellefteälven.

I put my kayak onto the new two-wheeled dolly (the old one broke down) and dragged it to the small bay Killingörviken, where I started my today’s tour. First I paddled along the harbour, then I turned right into the channel Kejsar Ludvigs Kanal. It always reminds me a bit of the “Ruhrgebiet” in Western Germany, where I lived for eleven years. After the last tunnel waited the Sörfjärden.

There I left harbour and industry behind and considered, where to go. The tour into the Nördfjärden wan, since it was windier than expected and I didn’t want to cross the Sörfjärden. So I paddeled upstream.

After a while the peninsula Örviken to my left ended. That’s where the Nördfjärden starts. I knew the first part and paddled to one of the rotten wooden piers. Luckily I realised that there were also under water parts – there were almost everywhere. I slowed down to avoid a collision with one of the big rusty underwater-nails. Finally I came to one of the four old platforms that probably formed an old pier, too – many, many years ago.

Now it was not far to the small island Gustavsgrönnan, where I made a short break. The whole shore is wet and covered with reeds, that lay flat on the ground.

I continued my tour by surrounding the island and paddled to the islands Stensgrönnan and Björnsholmen. To these islands you can drive by car and I was curious, if there would be a bridge or a tunnel to allow me continuing my trip.

First try Stensgrönnan: No chance! A solid dam connects the island to the main land.

Second try Björnsholmen: A small chance … . This island is connected to Stensgrönnan by bridge, but it looked really low. I didn’t believe I could manage to squeeze me underneath it until the end, but it worked. I had to bend my upper body onto the kayak and drag myself forward slowly by hand.

(Reminder to myself: This tour works only when water level is ±0. 20 cm more water and I wouldn’t fit under the bridge. 20 cm less and paddling could be hard due to the shallow water round the islands.)

Now I paddled downstream, which was not as much help as expected since the wind increased and came right from the front. But soon the bridge of the Sundgrundsleden was in view, the tiny cabins ashore and the dry dock with the read ship that I already saw on the way there.

I was a bit exhausted when I turned left to enter the bay Kurjoviken on the other side of Kallholmen. Now I was almost home, I just have to take the tiny tunnel “Lappstrupen” and I’m …

… well, that didn’t work. Due to roadworks this tunnel was completely blocked. Can I traverse the tunnel anyway? No. Do I want to walk and get the jetty? Neither. So I returned to the open water again and had another two kilometres against the wind until I entered the Kejsar Ludvigs Kanal again.

Now I headed back to my starting point. Another kilometer to go and I was onshore again. Phew – the last part was exhausting!

Today’s tour: Round 19 km total. (3.2 km extra because of the blocked tunnel Lappstrupen.)

ɥʇnos uʍop ʎɐʍ – part I

Although I already live quite up north (64° 41′ N) my most longer travels head even further north, not south. But not this time.

Having started in Umeå I took the train to Stockholm, another train to Malmö and in some hours a third train to Trelleborg, which is the southernmost town in Sweden. I’m travelling more than 1200 km and more than 9 degrees of latitude – a tenth of the distance between the equator and the North Pole!

Last night rain poured down in Umeå, where I already arrived yesterday. How will I come to the rail station without becoming completely rain-drenched? Goretex jacket, pants and rubber boots? No need for it, I was lucky: The rain had stopped and the sunlight was reflected by the wet asphalt, when I went to Umeå Central.

I was way to early and had to wait. Anyway, the weather was fine, the air fresh and the train arrived 20 minutes before departure. When I went to carriage 1 I realised, that it’s a 1st class coach. First I was a bit puzzled, but then I remembered, that I did book 1st class tickets. They were hardly more expensive and now I was glad to have a bit more comfort on the long journey. And there was coffee, muffins and fresh mandarins, too. For free!

First I took another seat (my window seat hardly had any window …) and had a look at the Swedish landscape rolling past.

In Sundsvall many people got on and I had to take my original seat again. 2 hours 19 minutes to Gävle

… and then 1 hour 26 minutes to Stockholm, where I left the train. One of the disadvantages of living in a small town is the increasing inability to be comfortable in crowded places. And for me, Stockholm Central Station is really crowed! The photo may fool you, all people were in the very same shop, where I bought a photo magazine.

I longed to get on the next train to Malmö, were I just could sit and relax, but first I had to wait with the other zillion people for the train to arrive …

(to be continued …)

Drifting ice on the bay Kallholmsfjärden

When I came back from Umeå this morning the sun was still below the horizon. I’m glad that the bridge over the river Skellefteälven has a parking bay. So I could take some image of today’s pre-sunrise landscape.

Much more interesting however was the view on the bay Kallholmsfjärden which is the part of the Baltic Sea that is nearest to my house. When I left Skellefteå some days before almost the whole bay was ice covered with a thin, white snow topping. Today the sheet of ice was broken and many ice floes drifted on the surface. It looks like some larger waves had broken the ice into several parallel stripes that then broke apart into smaller ice floes.

When I passed the same place two hours later to fetch a christmas parcel most of the ice was gone, probably it had drifted into open sea.

 

4×4 winter impressions of Kirkenes

This article is part of the series “2017-02: Northern Norway”.

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.