Author Topic: Israelguy's impromptu Lofoten Islands [LIVE] - chasing the snow and Auroras  (Read 15463 times)

Offline tzifanya54

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I'm not sure where yakrot saw it, but I have it up on Facebook and Instagram.
Amazing picture!

Offline tzifanya54

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Amazing picture!

Offline Yehoshua

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You're lucky you're so close. It makes it easier, despite the many flights it takes. Have a great time, and looking forward to hearing about it before the SF Photo DO TR gets up!

Offline IsraelGuy

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You're lucky you're so close. It makes it easier, despite the many flights it takes. Have a great time, and looking forward to hearing about it before the SF Photo DO TR gets up!

Well that shouldn't be too hard :)

Not sure how much closer it really is given the path I took but indeed.

Some developments to come- too tired to type but will update soon

Still no mobile internet so limited to wifi when I'm back at the hotel, which had been very infrequent :)

Offline IsraelGuy

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Low quality jpg but too tired to edit the raw - pretty much untouched-more will come soon with descriptions...just didn't want to keep ya'll hanging too long



Offline Something Fishy

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Nice! Looks like your weather is better than mine already.
Check out my site for epic kosher adventures: Kosher Horizons

Offline Something Fishy

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How goes it?
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Offline IsraelGuy

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Back in Tlv- will post lot to soon (already the next post written just have to find time to assemble it) and more to come - and of course pictures; but those will come a little more slowly - they really deserve processing time

Offline IsraelGuy

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Ok so....

BOO

Last we left off I had just arrived to BOO and had a few things to do. First on my list was getting a SIM card - you spend a lot of time in the middle of nowhere and if you are by yourself itís really a good idea to have some way to communicate with the outside world. I stopped at the Narvegian store in Bodo airport (one of only three stores) and asked about purchasing a SIM. They said I could but it would have to be done at the downstairs location, which is at baggage claim.

*Sigh*. I exited to secure area and went to the store near baggage claim. The teenager at the counter was slightly confused about the process and turns out she gave me the wrong card. The card was 50 nok and 1GB of data was another 100 (I think). Norway has strict rules about who can get a cell phone (much like Israel used to) and if you donít have a national ID you need to have the store verify your identity and fax in a form to the main office.

I checked back in through security (is this the 7th time?) and of course my laptop dropped and hit the ground. This happened to me in Germany also, and the security person did the same thing - immediately grabbed the computer, opened it, and saw this is turned on smiling.

I sat down at the gate and spent the next 20m trying to frustratingly sign on to the free Wifi. Eventually with some hocus pocus I was able to get online, and went to the website to register my new card. I wonít go through all the details but you essentially have to wait for the fax to be received and processed manually - that being said apparently after being in contact with the MVNO (Mycall-avoid at all costs) for the next few days, the airport people never sent in the fax, so I was without cell service most of the time I was there. I was going to ask for a refund when I got back to the airport but I couldnít find all the receipts - so I think Iíll just dispute the charges with Chase- weíll see if that will work. Anyway, I had my Golan sim in case of emergency, and most importantly I remembered to download the region on Google maps for offline viewing (I can emphasize how critical this was - 95% of what I need service for when Iím not near wifi is for navigation, and with the feature recently added on the iPhone I could navigate everywhere as if I was connected - took about 5 minutes to cache the entire area at BodÝ before I boarded the plane to LKN.

While sitting in the airport I got in touch with one of the local rental car companies - there are a few in Lofoten who will rent you beat up cars instead of brand new ones for about 1/2 - 2/3rds the cost of Hertz/Avis/Budget. Problem is many of them are more oriented towards people coming in on the ferries, and the first two I talked to would have charged close to 2000 nok ($240) just for airport delivery and pickup - unfortunately killing the deal. Luckily I finally got in touch with the Ballstad local rental company and they quoted me a price for 3 days that was about $100 less than Hertz/Budget. Additionally, Hertz / budget charge 450 nok ($54) just for Sunday pickup which was annoying as well. I called budget and told them not to meet me at the airport because I had previously arranged with them.

Next was housing - the few affordable places I called were all full - and unless I wanted to pay north of $100 a night, I was getting desperate. There was a hostel in Ň for cheap but its a little further West than I wanted to be, same with the hostels in Ballstad and Svolvśr (except they were too far East).
Note if youíre not traveling alone the Eliassen Rorbuer located near HamnÝy is where a ton of photogs stay - youíre literally footsteps away from some of the most iconic shots in the area, but the Rorbu cost around 1000 nok ($120) for 2-6 people, so for just me wasnít worth it. If you can though itís a much more convenient location.

Luckily one of the local hotels recommended I contact the Lofoten Aqua Adventures company - itís a nice couple that runs local water activities but they also own a sort of dormitory / hotel building and it was cheap enough at 500 nok ($60) / night. They had space and I got a room for the night, with the option to extend the next day.

A lot of this information I got from Cody Duncanís book on Lofoten, but Iíll get into that in the gear section to comeÖ

WF BOO-LKN

I always thinks its fun to be on the Dash-8s, and WiderÝe is no exception.



Boarding was insanely quick, and I was a few seconds late which meant I was one of the last passengers on the place. They had to take my carryon bag down to the baggage compartment (understandable the overhead bins will only fit the thinest of carryon suitcases), and sat down in the from to be in front of the propellors for pictures. The flight attendant came up to me and asked me to relocate to the back of the plane for weight reasons-sigh. I took a seat directly blocked by the underwing-engine but she said I could move after the fasten seatbelt sign went off (which was like 4m into the 20m flight). The islands and peaks below were really quite beautiful - being on the right you see the scenery from leaving BodÝ but will miss most of the Lofoten Scenery. I switched sides of the airplane halfway through, but it was so overcast there wasnít much to see. I did get a few glimpses of the landscape though, and while it wasnít the winter wonderland I was hoping for there were still quite a few areas with decent amounts of snow-score!




LKN

LKN is a pretty tiny regional airport, so its pretty much security, a waiting area, a single baggage claim belt, and a car rental counter. I met the two people who brought me my rental car, which was a little beat up but luckily a hatchback which I wanted in case I wanted to sleep in the back. I got the car around 6, which game me just enough time to make it to one of the beaches for sunset. I knew I would be in Reine area the next day so I would do sunrise/sunset there, and Tuesday I planned to be closer to the Eastern beaches like Haukland, Uttakleiv, and Unstad. Skagsanden beach is right on the way from the airport to HamnÝy / Reine, and was perfectly timed to get there before sunset.

Pictures and more to come...
 
« Last Edit: March 31, 2016, 03:21:40 AM by IsraelGuy »

Offline IsraelGuy

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Forgot to post these from the last post
Arriving into Bodo:








Offline IsraelGuy

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Ok brief detour about preping for this trip. Going to a location like this requires knowing what youíre getting into. The weather is damn cold, and honestly I was this close to being totally underprepared but luckily at the last minute got some trip-saving things to borrow. But letís discuss some of the planning:

Goals
Where you want to go, for how long, and when all depend on why. I really wanted to go to this location to photograph the iconic scenes, and to see the northern lights. That being said we already talked about the ideal timing, but itís really important to know approximate places you want to photograph before. Honestly reading SF, whYME, and ChAiM'l ís TR was a great into to the types of things you can except.


Photography Location prep
Thereís a few places I turned to for general planning, again some based on the SWC TR, but also everywhere I could find info. Iíll touch a little on general planning that I think would be more beneficial to the hamon am, and then briefly on some Lofoten specifics, but that will really only be relevant if youíre going there.

General:
You definitely want to have an idea of what you want to photograph beforehand - the iconic spots, some things you might want to see. There are places people love to photograph that I thought were kind of boring, and places Iíd only seen a couple times that I really wanted to see. Especially important are viewpoints / perspectives you like - the same mountain may be shot from 30 different places-some youíll like more than others. Another reason youíd like to have photograph locations mapped out is so that depending on the weather you can go to one place or another. I really only figured the weather-dependency part out on my last day, and maybe it would have been helpful to realize beforehand (SF warned me, and of course itís in Codyís book which I talk about below, but not everything sinks in so fast to this thick skull).

I spent weeks combing 500px and flickr for Lofoten images. Iíd catalogue the ones I liked, and look them up on Google maps using street view to have an exact idea of where I wanted to get my pictures from, and charted them on a Google MyMap so I had them all in one place. Another great thing about these websites is they list the settings much of the time used, so it also gave me an idea of what types of setting I could expect to consider.

This is what my map looked like:






I also spent a lot of time researching photography workshop / tour websites for the areas (these can give you sample itineraries, idea of popular locations, and general info on where and when to shoot specific places), which were definitely a big help.

Lastly I spoke with a couple people members to get their advice from previous trips, SF here, another photographer from FT, and Cody from 68north. Reach out to people - worst come to worse they donít respond.




Offline Yehoshua

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Nice background info. I thought for a second you'd shared your MyMap, but it turned out just to be a picture. Looking forward to the rest.

Offline IsraelGuy

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Nice background info. I thought for a second you'd shared your MyMap, but it turned out just to be a picture. Looking forward to the rest.

Just a picture but if anyone wants it they can pm me and I'd be happy to pass it along

Offline IsraelGuy

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Lofoten-specific info:

To quote SF:
Quote
Once I have a couple of locations in mind, I look around for photographers who are either local or specialize in that location. More often than not their blogs are a treasure trove of tips and suggestions that only someone closely acquainted with an area could know.

Enter Cody Duncan. There is a great Lofoten dedicated resource called http://www.68north.com/ by Cody. Heís got two ebooks about Lofoten, one for winter and one for summer, and it was absolutely worth every cent of the $10 it costs (that being said probably about 90-95% of the info is available in different articles on his website, and then some, but the organization and info on some of the pictures is nicely organized and very helpful).



If anything I wish I read every sentence of this book more intently, because I would find I got myself into situations, and then only too late remembering Cody talks about specifically that thing in his book! Anyway if youíre going get it-end of story.

That being said in my mind Lofoten is divided up into a few areas:



1) Reine, SakrisÝy, and HamnÝy
2) Everything West of Reine, including Ň
3) FlakstadÝy - including Skagsanden beach, and Storvatnet frozen lake
4) VestvŚgÝy - including Haukland, Uttakleiv, Unstad, and Eggum
5) Everything East of VestvŚgÝy
6) Any of the above locations on the crazy cool hikes

I was mostly interested in 1, 3, and 4. 2 I was told wasnít so great, 5 as well unless you really have the time. Most photo tours spend 4-5 days just based around Reine, so I figured I would base here for the first couple days, and move East for the last. As far as 6 (the hikes), even though some of them really looked amazing, I donít have enough mountaineering experience to feel comfortable going alone in the winter time - I just donít think it would have been smart. The views look great, but honestly the photos donít catch me as much as other places, so I didnít feel too much of a loss here either.

While the locations here arenít hours apart, its still a good drive from Ň to VestvŚgÝy, and you donít want to be going back and forth multiple times a day, so plan a general direction of the trip. At the same time be flexible, youíll see there may be patches of better weather opening up a different direction so head that way. The topography in Lofoten is pretty wild and changes quickly. In late March, some places would be brown and muddy, while around a corner it would turn drastically into a winter wonderland. The weather is just as unpredictable. Use weather reports as a guide but donít expect them to be right- the night I got my best aurora pictures with crystal clear skies they called for 95% cloud coverage the entire night.

As SF mentioned above, the smell in Lofoten isÖwellÖnot always so pleasant. It is a fishing village, and they store the fish and/or fish heads outside which create a pungent aroma. You get used to it pretty quickly, but if you hate it you can stay in areas where itís not so terrible.

Offline IsraelGuy

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I've got a few more posts on the prep and photography stuff, but I think people may be getting bored without any real pictures, so I'll just skip ahead a little.

I left LKN around 6, sunset was around 6:45 / 7. I had enough time to get to Skagsanden, the problem was threefold:
1) The roads in Lofoten are two lanes with no middle indicator - it took me a little getting used to in terms of the windy nature and pulling over for oncoming cars
2) Seeing the scenery here for the first time was absolutely insane, and it took all my energy not to get distracted and concentrate on the road.
3) There were some really amazing places along the way I really wanted to photography - two places I stopped but in general I held the course.

Skagsanden Beach
Iím glad I got here while it was still light out. This beach has an absolutely amazing view, but beyond that as well the sand has an incredibly intricate black and white pattern. If Iím not mistaken itís where SF took his aurora shot weíve all been enjoying. This beach is a little bit precarious as there are some streams that cut across the beach and can be a little hard to see. If youíre wearing waterproof boots its no problem, but as I was wearing hiking shoes that were not even close to waterproof, this became a slight inconvenience for me.

I really enjoyed being here for sunset- it was my first chance to explore the area with my camera and some newly learned techniques. I took a ton of pictures, and as the light started to turn into towards the blue hour I wanted to head to Reine where I was staying so I didn't have to explore the area in the complete dark.

Anyway I'll write more and post more photos later, but just to get us started:


This valley and frozen lake was about 10-15m outside the airport







And Skagsanden beach - terribly overcast and just had a tiny bit of light peaking out between the horizon and the clouds










Offline cholent

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Gorgeous pics, keep them coming! And I'm enjoying reading the planning and technical details as well
Don't ask stupid questions and you won't get stupid answers

Offline VacationLover

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Nice!

(I like how you overexposed the first two pictures)

Offline Yehoshua

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Really nice pics! Looking forward to the rest! How was traveling solo?

Offline IsraelGuy

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Gorgeous pics, keep them coming! And I'm enjoying reading the planning and technical details as well

Thanks - will hopefully get back to the prep posts soon-processing all the pictures is going at a snail's pace.

(I like how you overexposed the first two pictures)

Lol-not on purpose - my first real time experimenting with HDR - I used +2/-2 bracketing and the +1 and +2 were well overexposed - I think that contributed to the blown out look-also I guess white scenes are harder than I thought to processes properly. Maybe I would have been better off just sticking with the neutral or -1 exposures.

Really nice pics! Looking forward to the rest! How was traveling solo?

Traveling solo was certainly very different - when we travel with the family we're inherently bogged down - moving alone through security lines and short international layovers certainly had its advantages. Also I was much more comfortable with a crummy car, cheap digs, and even spending a night in the car-these aren't really as possible (or at all) with the fam. Lastly because the main purpose of this trip was taking pictures this was wayyyyy better without anyone else's input-I was free to take pictures as I saw fit, stop whenever I wanted, eat whenever I wanted, etc. If I was also traveling with other people with the same interests that probably would have enhanced the trip-but solo was ok. Lastly from a safety perspective you really have to be comfortable being in a foreign country (without a phone) - especially in a low population area - that probably took the most getting used to. But overall for only three days I had a great time.

Offline IsraelGuy

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More from the beach:








Reine

I left Skagsanden Beach and headed further along the main highway, E10 towards HomnÝy and Reine. It was about another 30m drive, but the last bit youíve already entered the township area. You swing out of a final tunnel and see the iconic mountains Ostlind and Festhaeltinden. The red Rorbu are as beautiful against the backdrop as in the pictures. 2/3rds of the horizon is ringed by the incredible mountains - what is so unique about them is hard to describe, but they have this feeling of being incredible close - probably because they are. Iím used to seeing mountains in the states as mostly backdrops, and even when they look large they feel so distant-itís just a different kind of landscape here. There are several islands connected by the main highway E10 - and they make for some really incredible views.

At this point though I was a little nervous about making sure I had a place to sleep so I drove through taking some mental notes of the surroundings and some of the places I knew I wanted to photograph (HamnÝy, SakrisÝy, etc) without stopping. I had the address of the place I was staying, but even though Google maps shows addresses they seem like rough approximations and indeed you canít really see any addresses on the houses or buildings (at least at night). The owner told me it was close to the gas station, so I just drove around until I found it. Still couldnít find the place so I asked a group of teenagers hanging out on their bikes playing loud music - they were surprisingly helpful and directed me to the owners house, who promptly drove me over to the dorm-like rooms. I got settled, finally connected to wifi, and checked my phone again to try to get the internet working (it didnít). The digs werenít fancy but they were relatively clean, felt safe enough-for myself they were just fine. Most importantly the high floor gave me good view out the window to see the sky, watch for weather, and maybe even hopefully a glimpse of the northern lights.

I spent the rest of the night researching where I wanted to go the next day, and watching the aurora forecasts and the weather. Seemed like their wouldnít really be a break in the clouds, but looking retroactively it seems there may have been a brief glimpse somewhere between 3-4am - I probably wouldnít have made it that late anyway so Iím glad I finally got some shuteye (I hadnít slept more than a combined couple of terrible hours since two nights before.

I set my alarm for 5am to be out in time for the morning blue hour, and finally got some sleep.

Should the next post be a continuation or info on my photography prep (hopefully will post tonight)