Drip, drip, drip …

… it sounds, when I go outside. After a longer period with frosty winter weather a period of warm period has started today. The forecast predicts plus temperatures for the next ten days, at least in the daytime.

Yesterday was quite windy, -4 °C and it had been snowing a while. Despite the frost temperatures the snow was mixing with tiny rain drops that froze on the outer window pane of my home office room. I took the opportunity for a last “sub zero” tour with skies.

First I had to climb a snow drift beside the house. There I had a look on our barbecue place. Do you see the two benches in the photo below ;-)? Then I entered the sea ice and followed the coastal line until I reached the spot where I saw the open water last weekend. Now the ice floes first had frozen together and then were covered with snow. Now it’s not possible any longer for me to distinguish between stable and weak ice. So, the sea ice skiing season may be over now. The rest of the tour I skied on land until I was home again.

Appendix: That’s the table on our terrace. We had waited for the snow to cover it completely but this place heads to the sea and is exposed to the wind, so the snow drifts were lower than on the other side of the house.

 

Changing plans

Last Sunday in Kont, 30 minutes by car from home:

Annika and I skied around on the sea ice and reached places we’ve never been before. We were not the only ones. A lot of other people skied, skated or walked and some of them just sat there in down jackets on the ice or used the barbecue areas on land. All of them seemed to enjoyed the wonderful winter weather.

We saw a lot of reindeer tracks, caused by the very same herd that I saw yesterday. And we realised, how near the island Tarv is from there, that’s the island I skied to two weeks ago. So a plan was made: next weekend we shall ski to Kont and back again. That’s about 10 to 12 km.

Now it’s “next weekend”. It has become grey, foggy and snowy with much warmer temperatures round -1 to -2 °C. Not the exiting weather that we hoped for. So we cancelled the tour for today. Instead I skied alone heading for Obbolstenarna , a group of small skerries that we visited with friends last Sunday, also on skis.

When I should turn to Obbolstenarna I hesitated. I looked like the open water had come nearer and that last Sunday’s way over the ice wouldn’t exist any longer. So instead of turning left I followed the coastal line straight ahead.

A good idea.

The open water reached to the southern tip of Obbolaö and it wasn’t longer anymore to go round on the ice. So I stepped up the ice covered rocks. From there I could spot a large rock, that I had skied around several times. Now it had become impossible without taking a cold bath. So our plans were not only crossed by the dull weather (our decision) but more from the wind, that blew from the sea and crushed large areas of last weekends sea ice (Nature’s decision). We wouldn’t have come long.

After taking these photos I didn’t dare to explore further and skied back the same way. I could hear the foghorn of a large ship but I couldn’t see it. When I almost was home again I spotted it in the harbour of Holmsund. It was the Wasaline ferry that goes between Holmsund and the Finnish town Vaasa.

I met some ice fishers, who told me, that this winter has been extraordinary for Obbola. Both the amount of snow and the large area of solid sea ice is not usual for here. I’m glad and grateful that I was able to experience such in my first winter in Annika’s and my new home.

Outdoor exhibition

A Covid-19 compatible art exhibition visit.

What’s that? That’s the Baltic Sea off Obbola. When you stand on the ice, you see the frozen surface reaching to the horizon.

Today I take the skis to explore our coast the first time from the frozen sea. I head south and ski along the coast until I reach our beach Vitskärsudden.

From there I can see an apparently higher wall of ice at the southern tip of the island Tarv, 1.3 km away in the southwest. I do not know this part of the Baltic Sea in wintertime. Is it safe? Can I dare to cross the ice? Well, let’s check for tracks or prints.

OK. There is roe deer prints, footprints, ski tracks, ice skating cuts and a snowmobile trail. And I can see skiers on the ice. Doesn’t look too dangerous. Of course I have my ice picks round my neck as a rescue tool in case of breaking into the ice. Spoiler: the ice sings but nothing happens.

I ski across the ski and there it is. This year’s ice art exhibition:

How large are the exhibits? Here, where I took the photos mostly between 150 and 200 cm.

Most impressive is the ice wall along the coast. But some of the ice formations on the solitaire rocks look interesting, too. If you lay down they look like mountains.

I follow the coastal line of Tarv and finally find a place where the ice wall is so low, that I can enter the island. On the sea there was hardly half a cm of snow, here it’s more half a metre. And a lot of forest.

Parts of the forest are quite dense but after a while of squeezing between the trees I find a snowmobile trail that leads back to the coast. Although it is one and a half hours before sunset the light starts to become a bit orange.

Now I ski back quite the same way.

When our House comes into view I see that the front chimney is smoking. Has Annika warmed up the uninsulated winter garden? Yes, she has! A fire is burning in the stove and I even get a hot chocolate. A warm welcome! And a cool tour!

From dawn till dusk

After some cloudy days the sky cleared yesterday afternoon so that Annika and I could do cross-country skiing under the full moon. Beautiful!

This morning was crisp (-17 °C) and sunny. I took a short break from work and skied a bit along the icy coast, just in time to see the sun rise behind the layer of clouds at the horizon.

I stopped working already at 14:30 and directly put on the skis again. I managed to follow more or less the icy edge to the bay Vitskärsudden, our favourite bathing place. The sun was going down already and lit the ice in warm sunset colours. The scenery looked really arctic. And it felt arctic, too. I felt quite cold and was glad, that I had a down jacket with me to put over the touring jacket.

It was mostly the forests that revealed the fact, that it’s not the Arctic Ocean but the Baltic Sea that I ski along. And of course the houses, hardly 200 meter away from the icy shore.

When I arrived at Vitskärsudden I realised that – unless another storm would break all the ice – bathing season is finally over. I posted a picture on Facebook in the Umeå winter bathing group and then returned home, still on skis but mostly following the roads.

Even with taking the photos the tour took less than two hours. But it felt like having holiday. It’s really a privilege to be able to live here!

 

Ski premieres 2021

The first ski premiere was already last Saturday. We were not the only ones who read that Olles Spår, a cross country ski track northwest of Umeå was freshly prepared. The parking place was filled with eighty other cars when we arrived. We took the 5 km lap. Oh, so nice to be able to ski again!

Being back at the car there were even more cars. They filled the parking place and parked along the road as well. But at least one of the skiers didn’t came by car but by bike.

Today I had my backcountry premiere. I was so eager after the snowfall yesterday and last night.

It took some preparation. First I had to dig free the garage door to fetch the old skis (the new ones are in Tromsø). Then I had to thaw the door look of our house with a hair dryer to be able to lock the door. But finally I could start. I took the way to our beach Vitskärsudden but as expected it looked quite different from last week.

The car roads were cleared but there was just enough snow to ski. The plain was partly easy to ski, partly the snow was so loose that my skis went submarine. Here I heard and felt the first **whooop**, the sound of a larger area of snow settling under my weight. A clear sign of avalanche danger in the mountains but no problem here.

And then I arrived at the beach. While the sea was open again, the beach was only ice and snow. Probably the ice floes that prevented our previous winter bathing had been washed ashore yesterday morning, when we had a water level of +60 cm.

I decided to follow the shore to the left. I never went there before. There were snowdrifts where I sank to my knees with skis on and I know that there are a lot of rocks, but skiing went better than excepted.

Oh – so many motives. But this tour was only an extended lunch break from work. I didn’t have as much time as desired. Following the coastal line slowed me down because of the uneven and icy underground and finally I had to go back into the forest.

Anyhow I was slowed down even more in the forest because the snow was so loose that I got bogged down to the ground all the time and then my skis got caught in the underwood. I was glad when I reached a road again. Now I just headed back until I arrived home two hours later – later than planned.

And after the ski tour? Back to work!

Two-digit minus temperatures

And suddenly, after some days with temperatures below -10 °C the Baltic Sea at our house has started to freeze over.

And suddenly even Vitskärsudden, the bay where Annika and I took a winter bath just two days ago is covered with ice, too.

Finally winter

December was an odd month regarding the weather. It was quite warm and extremely cloudy. There was hardly any sun and when it snowed it turned into sleet and rain. But at the turn of the year the weather finally changed. We got 10–15 cm of snow before New Year’s Eve, a short warmer period and then finally permanent frost. Right now, at the morning of 3 January the thermometer shows -12 °C.

Yesterday Annika and I made a short excursion to Strömbäck-Kont by the sea, where we took a promenade by the mostly open sea. It is 4 km linear distance to Strömbäck-Kont, but 30 km by car due to a long bay that separates the island Obbolaön where we live from the mainland in the west.

Some photos from our tour. The first 5 are made at Strömback-Kont, the other three in Degernäs on the way back.

An almost normal sunrise

It was fresh in Obbola this morning. Blue sky and -6 °C. Time to take a break from my work and make some photos.

I went to a place with a better view on the sunrise at 8:41. I had however to wait a while because there was a layer of grey clouds above the horizon. Some locals in Skelleftehamn use to call this cloud layer vinterväggen – the winter wall – since it is quite dense like a wall and typical for the beginning of winter. But that’s not a common term.

So I had some spare time for crouching and taking this photo of the ice covered plant standing in the water – a reminiscence to the high water level the last days.

And then the sun finally rose above the vinterväggen and everything was illuminated in warm shades.

In the lunch break I took the car to “Obbola town” to have a pizza for lunch. Parts of the mouth of the river Umeälven were already covered with ice.

Sunset today was 14:11 but I was in online meetings from 13 to 15, so no sunset photos for today.

Why I write about this? Because without the Corona restrictions I would have worked in Tromsø today.  And in Tromsø  I wouldn’t have seen a sunrise. And neither for the rest of the year. That’s what the Norwegian weather service yr shows for Tromsø today:

Sun and moon, 27. Nov 2020 | Sun: ut is polar night, the sun does not rise.

So today is the first day of the period of polar night that will last until 14. January. Maybe I’ll be able to work in the office in Tromsø right after New Year. Then I’ll experience the polar night there. For the first time in my life.

A Weekend in black and white

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Ok everyone, let’s talk about making photos. I say “making” instead of “taking” on purpose. Photos are not lying around just waiting for you to pick up some of them. It’s you yourself that has to create a photo – or as I use to write to “make” it. It’s about two things: Your camera and your choices.

The better your camera equipment the more choices you have. Each piece gives you additional possibilities whether it is a telephoto lens, a flashlight or a sturdy tripod. Sometimes the choices can be overwhelming. Which photos do I want to make today? Landscape? Architecture? Sea birds? Night shots? People waiting at bus stops? Some of them? All of them? Phew!

I want to become a better photographer. To get better you have to practise. For me practising mostly means focussing on a certain aspect of the whole. This weekend I drastically reduced my possibilities. Instead of using my Nikon DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera) I used my new iPhone. Instead of the normal camera app I used an app called Lenka which only takes black and white photos with a fixed focal length (which means you cannot zoom). The only freedom I took was to post-process the photos by changing the contrast and the aspect ratio (and a bit more).

Here are the results. I’ll show the photos without any detailed comments.

Saturday – Sydspissen, the southern tip of the island Tromsøya – clouds and some rain

Sunday – Kvaløya, 430 metres above sea level – winter impressions

Sunday – Kvaløya, a short stroll at the coast – mostly sunny

I’m not content with the last photo. Maybe it’s because the house lacks three-dimensionality but I’m not sure. Beside from that it was real fun to use my self-set restrictions to get another kind of view on the motives around.

But no practising without a goal! My goal is to use the black-and-white photo app to train finding good motives and even when using my DSLR making full-color photos to be able to imagine how it will look black and white.

And you? What do you think about these photos? Criticism is welcome.