3× winter coast

Yesterday, 13:30

After having lunch, Annika and I drove to Näsgrundet, where the Baltic Sea had been mostly clear of ice three days before. Still most of the sea was ice-free, only at the coast some meters of new thin ice had formed.

It had started clearing up and the temperatures dropped to -15 °C already in daytime. The cold air over the open water created sea smoke, that gleamed in the colours of the low sun.

Yesterday, 23:00

It continued getting colder and soon the temperature dropped below -20 °C. Before sleeping I was out again, this time to check for an optical effect, that can appear when it’s as cold as then: light pillars. Even though it was round -23 °C I wasn’t lucky, but I took some photos of the Rönnskär industry anyhow.

Today, 8:00 – 9:00

This morning was the coldest yet this winter with temperatures round -24 °C. That’s when I start wearing two pairs of gloves for taking pictures. The inner fleece glove for handling the camera and a thick woollen mitten for staying warm when I just wait or look for motives.

The first motive may look quite boring but I love motives like these: just different cloud layers and ice up to the horizon plus the first gentle sunrise colours.

Remember, this part of the Baltic Sea had been clear of ice the day before. Due to the cold weather it has frozen within a range of several kilometres within less than twenty hours. It still amazes me how fast this process can be.

After I had made the former photo I detected that purple-red spot beside of the island Gåsören. The sun started to rise. I changed the lens and made a telephoto shot. (It’s quite blurred due to the atmospheric conditions)

Then I waited for the sun to rise. And really – after some minutes the sun succeeded to rise above the lower cloud layer. But only seconds later the upper cloud layer, that approached from the southwest covered the red orb again and the sun disappeared for the rest of the day.

Though it was still below -20 °C it started to snow.

Blue hour – golden hour

Some winter days are grey and colourless. The photos taken on such dull days appear almost look black and white as long you don’t have a colourful motive.

Some other winter days are clear and colourful. There are two colours, that are especially prominent: orange and blue.

Orange is not only the colour of candlelight and cozy fires, but of the golden hour, too. The golden hour is defined by the time, when the sun’s altitude is between -4° (thus below the horizon) and 6°.

Blue is the complementary colour of orange. If you look at snow in the shadow you may realise, that it’s not of perfect white but looks a bit blueish. And the whole landscape gets a blue tinge when the sun’s altitude is between -6° and -4°. This period has a name, too, it’s called the blue hour.

Both images are made today. The first one at 09:32 (sun ±0°), the second one at 08:30 (sun -4.5°). If you have a closer look to the 2nd photo you can see the first sunrise colours on the left part of the sky. I should have make it a bit earlier.

It’s a good thing for such to live way up north. In Skelleftehamn the sun won’t rise more than 6 °C for two months, that’s golden hour even at lunchtime! And since the path of the sun is quite flat, these time periods are quite long. Today I didn’t need to rise up very early since the days are still short, but this will change soon:

Sunrise was 09:35 on 1 January and will be 08:20 on 1 February and 06:44 on 1 March. Then it’s time to get out of bed really early! Or to travel even more north, but that’s another story …

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A clear winter morning at Långhällan

Today I took time off work. I stood up quite early and at 7:30 I took the car to Långhällan, a place by the coast which I love for photographing. Today I tried out my new Tamron telephoto lens (150 – 600 mm) and I’m very contended. All photos shown here are made with this lens and focal lengths between 400 and 600 mm.

The morning was cold with temperatures round -10 °C and the sky was completely clear beside of a layer of clouds at the southeastern horizon. The locals call this cloud phenomenon “vinterväggen” – the winter wall. Although it was more than one hour before sunrise, the horizon was already of a bright orange colour. The first photo.

As usual the other side of the celestial sphere was of a pale purple colour. The ice and rocks however were still of cold blueish colours. I could have waded to the rock with its shining ice cap, but I wanted to test my new lens. Photo number two.

Långhällan’s shore is partly solid rock, partly round stones of different sizes. Each of the stones, that are partly below and partly above water has such an ice cap as on photo number two. Photo number three – just for the impression.

On one of the rocky salients there’s a small but deep puddle of water which was covered with ice too thin to bear me. I could have tried to walk on it (I wore waterproof chest waders) but probably I would have destroyed the motive: a small ice pane sticking out from the icy surface. Another good argument for a telephoto lens. Photo number four.

While I looked round and breathed the crisp air the sun has started to rise, still invisible since it was behind the vinterväggen but the rim of the clouds were illuminated in a bright glowing orange. I had taken some other pictures of the lighthouse before, but this photo wins. Photo number five.

When waves splash water on the frozen stones long chains of icicles are formed. Some of them were already in the sun (Photo number six) …

… while most others still were in the shadows of other rocks. These icicles had reached the ground and created a row of ice pillars in a ice portal. Photo number seven.

I looked at the sea. Parts of the ice covered rocks were sunlit and glowed orange-colours as if they would gleam from the inside. The good thing with chest waders is that you can kneel down into the water for a better perspective without getting wet. Photo number eight and the last one of today’s series.

 

Two days on the Hurtigruten

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

On Wednesday we left Kirkenes and started our journey to the next destination: Stokmarknes on the Vesterålen where we planned to visit good friends of mine.

KirkenesStokmarknes would be 1000 km by car and take at least 14 hours, if you take the faster way through Finland and Sweden. Anyway there’s an alternative: The Hurtigruten express route, which connects many coastal towns, among others Kirkenes and Stokmarknes. That’s why we took the Hurtigruten ship instead of driving for at least two days. In Vardø we entered the vessel Trollfjord and 16:45 we started our two day long tour.

The first night we went to bed quite early and I only took some pictures in Berlevåg. Since the ship already was moving again I decided to make a longer exposure with the camera on a tripod. That’s Berlevåg by night seen from the Hurtigruten:

We missed Mehamn, Kjøllefjord, Honningsvåg. The first place with a landing stage I saw was Havøysund, were we anchored from 7:45 to 8:00. Shortly after we met the Lofoten, the oldest and smallest ship of the Hurtigruten fleet today. It was tiny compared to the much bigger Trollfjord (which is tiny compared to modern cruise ships).

I tried to be as much outside as possible. It was cold and quite windy, not only because of the airflow, but the gusty wind, too. First I thought, that I would be extremely overdressed in my Canada Goose expedition parka, but soon I found it quite comfortable to wear it in the chilly weather.

In Hammerfest we left the Hurtigruten, looked round in town and bought food. In Øksfjord it started to get dark and the black-white mountain ranges became blue.

… and blurred if you wanted to …

… and it got darker …

Then it started to snow. Sometimes the snowfall was quite heavy especially with the wind and I was even more glad about my warm parka.

In Tromsø we arrived at 23:35 and I made some night shots of this favourite town of me.

We could have left the ship for a visit of Tromsø but we preferred sleeping. We’ll probably visit Tromsø this summer.

The next morning came and the last day aboard began. Good for me, because even if I was glad to slip the car ride it’s not my world to be on a large ship looking at the landscape rolling by. Last night snow fall has brought much snow on the top deck. I never waded through snow drifts on a ship before.

At the same time the Trollfjord anchored in Harstad, a town on the island Hinnøya.

On our way to the next destination Risøyhamn it got extremely windy, the stabilised ship started to roll and to pitch and heavy snow showers appeared, reducing the view to some hundred metres.

Suddenly the wind calmed down, the snow showers were left behind and for the first time of the whole cruise patches of blue sky and finally the sun came out. We approached Sortland, the last stop before our destination Stokmarknes where I gazed at the beautiful mountains of the Lofoten archipelago in the south.

I generally dislike the last 30 minutes of transportation, if it’s by train or by plane. I just want to arrive, and so it was on the Hurtigruten. Impatiently I waited in the inside of the Trollfjorden for its arrival in Stokmarknes, then another fifteen minutes for the allowance to enter the car deck and another ten until I was allowed to drive the car onto the very same car elevator which I used to enter the ship almost 46 hours ago.

I could write a lot more about the Hurtigruten and its passengers, but that’s another story. Short résumé: I love those ships for transportation, but cruising is not my cup of tea. (Anyway, the outside jacuzzi on the top deck is really great!)

Slippery When Wet

We got roller coaster weather again. Yesterday morning we had -15 °C and in the evening about +3 °C.

Today Annika, two friends and I made an excursion to Kågnäsudden onto the ice. It was even warmer than yesterday (+7°C) and quite windy. The surface of the thick ice was very wet with many puddles of clear ice water and the structure looked like the rippled sand of the tidal flats in Northern Germany. The wind gusts blew tiny ripples over the large meltwater pools and it looked like the ice shield would reach as far as Finland.

But no – it didn’t. The wind and the waves had started to break the ice. We crossed the ice and went to the near island Kågnäshällan. We all were equipped with either spikes or snowshoes to be able to go on the slippery, wet ice.

Right behind the seaside shore of Kågnäshällan we could see the waves lifting and lowering the ice and finally breaking it apart. The rocks round the light tower were bare of ice – too warm was this season’s winter weather.

Along the rocky shore lay large blocks of ice. They glittered in the sun because they were wet and free of snow.

These ice floes were found everywhere. Along the coast but even between the small alder trees further on land. I guess that one of the high water levels this winter had flushed these ice floes ashore where they razored the bark from the thin tree trunks.

And the winter on land? Less and less snow – much too warm – I’m longing for colder weather and snow. Probably it will come in the beginning of May …

Jämtland hike part I: Storulvån—Blåhammaren

This article is part of the series “2016-09: Jämtland and Norway”.

After three weeks of travelling I’m back in Skelleftehamn. The first week I was in Germany, then I travelled back to Umeå, where Annika lives. Let’s start there:

Sunday after breakfast Annika and I started our tour through the autumnal Jämtland. However the first day’s focus was on getting there by car. It takes round six and a half hours to get from Umeå to Storulvån. We made a stopover in Åsele to look in on some friends and so it took a bit longer until we reached the STF Storulvån Fjällstation where we parked our car. But anyway, we have semester – holiday – and plenty of time. It was even still daylight left, when we crossed the creek Stor-Ulvån (sami: Stoere Vïerejällanjohke) to get to our cabin.

Monday, 12. September

I awoke quite early the next morning and went out to make some photos of the beautiful morning mood and the autumnal colours of nature.

After our breakfast we shouldered our backpacks and started the tour. My backpack could have been quite lightweight if I hadn’t taken my camera, four lenses and a tripod with me. Nevertheless the weight was less than 15 kilos since we were able to buy food in almost all cabins and mountain lodges.

First it was a bit cloudy but soon the sky cleared up more and more and we got a warm autumn day with temperatures up to 20 °C, which is quite warm for the season. The summer trail led us first through autumnal birch forests but after some kilometres we were already on the kalfjäll – the bare mountains above the tree line.

In the middle of the trail between Storulvån and Blåhammaren lies the cot Ulvåtjärn, one of the “emergency cots”. You’re welcome to have a break here, but not to stay overnight beside of emergency situations. Right before this cot you have to cross the Stor-Ulvån again, this time by fording it. When Annika crossed the river three years ago, the water was knee deep, now the water level was much lower and I could just cross it in my rubber boots, while Annika went barefooted.

After a break we continued our tour to Blåhammaren. There were many reindeers on the fjäll. No big herds, but many small groups here and there. They are quite shy and cautious, but on the kalfäll it’s quite obvious, that they are the real residents of the mountains, not we human beings.

We continued our tour on the treeless mountain terrain until the Blåhammaren fjällstation came into view. Here we got two beds in a 14-bed-room and entered the sauna, that has a gorgeous view. After that Annika invited my to a three-course dinner (Blåhammaren is famous for its cuisine) where I got the most delicious reindeer meat I ate in my whole live. Thanks for the invitation, Annika!

While we enjoyed our dinner it started to get dark outside and after a while the beacon in front of the main house was lighted and the first stars came out. Later in the night we got a fantastic crystal clear starry sky, but no Northern lights. I considered about taking some pictures of the milky way, but I was too lazy and too tired.

The tour so far:

Continue with part two …

ɥʇnos uʍop ʎɐʍ – part II

Two days ago I started a journey southwards. After half an hour in Stockholm, where I changed trains, I sat in the X2000 to Malmö – a four and a half hour trip. I looked out of the window to have a look at Stockholm and saw the train crossing the Årstaviken on a high rail bridge.

Then I got tired and tried to fall asleep. Then the landscape got a bit boring. Then it got dark. That’s why my camera stayed in its backpack for a long time. Then our train started to delay more and more. Will I be able to catch my connecting train in Malmö? I knew, there were later trains the same day in case of missing this one, but I was a bit nervous anyway. I was tired and just wanted to end this part of my journey as soon as possible.

Two or three minutes before the departure of my connection we arrived in Malmö. I left the train, and started to run: Where’s track 2B? To the left – to the right – holding left – running down the looong escalator. Where’s the train? Oh – the track changed. Where’s track 1A? The other end of the same platform. Jogging again. Where’s the train? Oh – not here yet. Phew!

Some minutes later I entered the local train to Trelleborg where I finished my 12 hour 40 minute journey and took the short way to my hotel. I checked in, went to my room, took a shower and a photo and soon I was fast asleep.

Ten hours later: I stand on the huge ferry to Sassnitz, Rügen, Germany. The ferry crossing will take a bit more than 4 hours. Twice I am inside to buy small things to eat and to drink, the rest I sit or stand outside having a look at Sweden leaving behind, the open Baltic Sea with nothing in view beside of an offshore wind park and some other ships far away. Some places on deck were quite windy, other were wind-protected so that I can sit in T-shirt enjoying the sun. Two and a half hours later Kap Arkona, the northernmost tip of Rügen comes into view and later the outstretched chalk cliffs of Jasmund. A good hour later the ferry goes ashore in Sassnitz and I am in Germany – for the first time after Christmas 2014.

I think, travelling by ship could be my favourite style of travelling. You are not bound to your seat, you can walk around, you get food (if you want) and you can look at the sea. What a pity, that there’s no ferry from Skelleftehamn to Sassnitz. Come on, shipping companies, it’s both the Baltic Sea, it cannot be so hard …

Some images of yesterday:

A cruise from Skelleftehamn to Bjuröklubb

It doesn’t happen often, that you can make boat trips from Skelleftehamn, were I use to live. Only one week once a year the Laponia Rederi from Luleå comes down to Skelleftehamn for some cruises. Last Saturday Annika and I took the opportunity to attend a five hour cruise to Bjuröklubb, where I’ve been quite a lot, but never by ship. When we arrived in good time before 11 o’clock people already started entering the small ship.

We boarded, too and thereby lowered the average age some years. I sniffed around the boat and got the permission to enter the bridge for some photos.

Five minutes before schedule the ship put out to sea, cruising along the industrial peninsula Rönnskär.

While Annika and I were standing on the top deck looking at the sea, the islands, the sky and the waves, all other people stayed inside and started focussing on the main topic: the lunch buffet. Anyway I have to admit, that especially the salmon was extremely delicious, and the bread as well.

I once thought about making a kayak trip to Bjuröklubb, an exposed peninsula and the easternmost point of the county Västerbotten. It would take me some days, since for one thing I’m slow and for another thing I would follow the coastline and never dare to take the much shorter direct route long away from the mainland. The ship, however was fast and took the “directissima”. Therefore it took only 90 minutes to cruise there.

At the small harbour we all went ashore and the ship continued to a larger harbour nearby where it waited for us. We got a guided tour and went up to the lighthouse where we left the croud for a good reason: Just that day was the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend, the only day where the lighthouse – which is still in use – is open for visitors. I went up, waiting for the other visitors – max 4 at the same time – to leave and made some photos. Not only the cut glass mirror construction was incredible but the colourful reflections of the sunlight, too.

Since we already left the group we took a hike to the other harbour, where we entered the ship again. Why it took us more than half an hour to walk for just some hundred meters? Well, there were blueberries, there were raspberries … and we picked and ate a lot of them.

The crew untied all the ropes connecting the ship to the land. I’m sure they are nautical terms for those ropes, you are free to post their proper names in the comments. Then the ship started, fetched the other passengers at the other small harbour and headed back to Skelleftehamn. Annika and I sat on the upper deck and enjoyed sun, clouds, wind, and waves as well as the view on the islands Skötgrönnan and Gåsören.

Ninety minutes later we arrived again in Skelleftehamn, where we came off the ship, while one of the crew played farewell music on the accordion.

Conclusion: A relaxed cruise and the opportunity to play tourist in my adopted homeland for one day.

Blue sky, blue sea – opening the kayak season

Finally the Baltic Sea round the peninsula Näsgrundet has been open and free of ice. Time to open the kayak season!

To Näsgrundet it’s just a 2.8 km walk from home. The kayak is tied onto a small two-wheeled dolly. I wear the same waistbelt, that I use for my pulka. Hereby I can walk and drag the kayak behind me without using my arms.

Soon I reached the peninsula and dragged the kayak onto the surrounding ice shield. After putting on my dry suit, lifejacket, neoprene boots, gloves and balaclava I was dressed for the first paddling. Perhaps I looked a bit overdressed, but despite of the springlike air temperatures it’s still winter paddling – the water is as cold as it can be.

I paddled along the ice shelf, that still connects the islands BredskärKlubben and Flottgrundet with the main land. The ice is soft and starts to get transparent, but it’s still quite thick.

Soon I reached Klubben and paddled along the icy coast.

From Klubben it’s just 200 metres to Flottgrundet and from that it’s only 500 or 600 meters to Gåsören

… at least, if you take the direct way. I preferred a detour to paddle between the ice floes. It’s a great experience. Some ice floes are quite big and welcome resting spots for ducks, geese and seagulls. Others are so tiny, that they are hardly visible, especially if they are completely transparent and clear. They sparkle and glitter like huge diamonds.

After some detours I headed to Gåsören, circuited it to look for a good anchorage and went on land (or better said, on ice) to make a small rest.

After I stilled my hunger and thirst I entered my kayak again and returned to the Näsgrundet, this time on the direct way, which is round about two kilometres. When I got out from my kayak and stepped onto the ice that surrounds the peninsula, I heard a noise: A snow mobile crossed the same ice shield I paddled along some hours ago – in same distance to the open water. Spring, meet winter!

After taking of the lifejacket and dry suit I went home, dragging the kayak behind again and enjoying the springlike temperatures. No warm jacket anymore, no woollen cap – no gloves and no warm boots. Round 40 °C warmer than 12 weeks ago – glorious!