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Yorkshire based Professional Landscape and Wildlife Photographer

Adventures in the Arctic 2015 part 1

Posted on 02/01/16

I'm back in the Arctic working for Lights over Lapland for another winter season. I flew out on the 16th of November so a blog is well over due but life has been busy with work and personal photography. Hence this is a little bit of a long blog at least in terms of pictures...

It's little bit different coming back as I made a lot friends here last winter season some of them had moved onto new places and some had stayed. Svante came and picked me up from the airport and we were due to meet some more friends who had stayed, for an evening meal. Even as we drove from Kiruna to Abisko we saw some great aurora and had to take a break in the evenings activities to grab the below shot. Not bad for the first night and I've seen a lot of good aurora over the last 6 weeks.

1st night of Aurora

One of my fascinations last year was the ice here. When I got here it was a similar temperature to last year about -10C so there was a lot of ice. In one of the pictures further down the blog you will how this happens around the shore of lake Torneträsk. Also in the last year I've taken my photography further especially with macro photography. The below image is water ice from the waves of lake Torneträsk which have built up over time to from this cool icicle.

Frozen tree

With the clear arctic air here, if you can catch the moon rise, it can look very spectacular!

Moon rise

There's a great canyon near the Kungsleden and late November a lot of the river had frozen but just as the canyon starts the water was still quite open. Where the water turned into a rapid, moisture was being produced and that was freezing in the trees giving these fantastic views.

Frosty trees

View down the canyon

The next two shots are both ice abstracts and are both stacked shots. The first one is still water whilst the second one is moving water. Both are quite fun though!

Ice teeth

Ice

The temperatures in December have been much warmer than last year. I would estimate last December the average temperature was something like -20C and this year it's been about -2C with a few days being +2 or +3C. This has meant the lake is still mostly unfrozen and on the days when the weather has been around 0C there have been insects about. The below image is a snow fly (which is actually a wingless crane fly). These insects have glycerol in their bodies which prevents them from freezing! Like having antifreeze for blood!

Snow fly

Last season I got 4 front pages on Spaceweather.com which is 'the' news site for space weather. The below shot is from the T-pee site we use for guests and was my 1st Spaceweather front page for this winter season.

1st spaceweather

Wildlife photography is quite hard to photograph up here. Lots of evidence of the wildlife can be seen but getting photos is another matter. I saw my first local hawk owl yesterday so hopefully some time soon... In the meantime here's a small flock of redpoll I stumbled upon.

Redpoll

The next shot shows how the amazing ice here forms. The lake Torneträsk is 70 km long and at the western end of the lake the waves get fairly and big splash onto the rocks If the temperature is below freezing the ice forms. The second shot below is a stacked close up macro shot of one of the icicles that can be seen at the left had side of the first image (taken on a different day - you also don't want to get splashed as it freezes on you!)

Ice forming

Dragon ice

You can't always pick your compositions. Whilst setting up one night, for a Lights over Lapland Aurora tour, I popped my head out of the hotel to see this great aurora developing. I had to grab a shot which ended up being my 2nd Spaceweather front page of the season (2 more to go to beat last years record). Both Chad (Owner of LOL) and Sarah Skinner (fellow LOL guide and brilliant wildlife photographer) have also had front pages this season which says something about how good Abisko is placed for Aurora smile

Aurora bins

The next few images again show how the crazy ice forms around the edge of the lake.

Tree ice

(The below is my fav of the season so far)

Tree ice and Lapporten

Ice blob

Ice abstract

Over the last few weeks we have had some odd clouds and also some rare ones. The next two shots are of Nacerous clouds with are Polar Stratospheric clouds approximately 25 km up and because they are so high they catch the sunlight which refracts and produces crazy rainbow colours. They remain very still whilst the normal (much lower) clouds travel quickly.

Nacerous clouds

Nacerous rocket cloud

More crazy stacked ice abstracts of icicles smile

Trio of ice...

Just a quick picture to show you what it's like on some of the nights. Here my group of clients and I headed out with Roger and Jesper from Activities in Abisko. Top guys and good fun heading out in a snow storm on snowmobiles!

A night in the park!

Lot's of nights with aurora this season with some really big displays.

Sami food store

Aurora fire

Sometimes you see a shot but it takes a while before the conditions are perfect. I saw this shot in my mind on the 2nd day I was here, but it was a month later before I got the still waters and the right snow. Really happy with this abstract which is just snow, beach and the lake.

The Flag

The below 2 shots are from an epic day. I picked up an Italian client for a 121 landscape workshop. When I picked him up he asked if there was any point in going out as it was grey, 1C and raining. Not really the most inspirational landscape weather! But this is Abisko and the weather can change fast, this beautiful view was about 1 hour later!

Torneham clouds

This shot was the same day and this stacked abstract of ice reminded me of sharks teeth!

Shark teeth ice

On the Winter solstice I was invited to collaborate on a project which was sponsored by Outdoor Photography. It was basically representing your area on the shortest day. Again it was another warm day and I found this midge crawling on an icicle! I loved the little reflection. I've saved the best shots from the day for the article though.

Midge on ice

I had another group of guests this time on a special 4 day Christmas trip (a brilliant fun group) on the last night we went to a different site and we where treated to some amazing aurora. The below shot was taken at 1/8 of a second it was moving that fast!

Fast aurora

The next shot was from the same night and has to one of the rarest shots I've taken. This is a Nacerous Cloud which has produced a moon rainbow. The probability of a rare Nacerous Cloud drifting in front of a nearly full moon is very remote. As far as I'm aware that night was the first time a Nacerous Cloud lit by moonlight has been photographed!

Nacerous Cloud back lit with Moonlight

Another spectacular day was greeted by this Moonset behind Mount Nuolja.

Arctic Moonset

Then I had a real surprise after I'd broken trail for some distance to a spot, I saw some large footprints. I thought that's strange as mine were the only tracks to get to this spot. I then noticed that the single set of tracks going one way led to a small cave. It was at that point I realised I was only a few meters away from a wild wolverine.... Yikes I swiftly moved on and no I didn't stick my head into the cave!

Wolverine

A few mornings ago I woke up to an amazing sky. It's still in the polar night here and although the sun doesn't come up we can still get amazing colours in the sky. This morning there were beautiful red lenticular clouds. I've been using the Canon 5Ds 50.4 megapixel camera a lot this trip and the shot is comprised of a lot of portrait images stitched together. This means that the original image (not this one shrunk the internet) is 40 000 pixels long i.e. it would print at least 5 meters wide with no loss of resolution. So if anyone needs a wall filling let me know!

Lenticular clouds over Lapporten

The last image of this blog is from New Years Eve we had a huge aurora storm but also a lot of cloud. The aurora was that bright though it was till clearly visible through the cloud! So we finished the year with some of natures fireworks smile

NYE aurora

Apologies for the long blog and I'll try to do the next one in a week or so. The temperature is now finally dropping and due to go to -32C on Wednesday sot hat should hopefully present some more different images.

Hope everyone had a good New Year and any questions or feedback please let me know.

All the best,
Oliver

13 Comments
  • Fantastic images Oliver -hope you’re staying warm!  Happy New year - Nick

    Nick court - 02 January, 2016
  • Inspiring…love it!

    Giles Rocholl - 03 January, 2016
  • I love reading about your time up there. Fabulous photos as always. I had no idea that moon shot with the nacreous clouds was so rare!

    How many stacked shots did it take to get that lovely trio of icicles?

    Hope you stay warm next week!

    the4ts - 03 January, 2016
  • Hi Oliver
    Great read on your first blog from Abisko, cheered me up on a dismal raining hard Lancashire, amazing pictures, take care roll on blog 2

    Peter west - 03 January, 2016
  • A superb blog Oli, the 2nd image of the lake water icicle looks like a sad Stork/Heron.

    Vince Cowell - 03 January, 2016
  • Thanks all for the comments smile

    the4ts - the stacked icicles is 12 shots stacked.  Doesn’t require too many as it does;t require that much DOF…

    Oliver Wright - 03 January, 2016
  • A great blog Olly and I’m very much looking forward to coming out in March to spend some time in the wilderness with you. Fantastic photos too..

    Dave Sarkar - 04 January, 2016
  • great shots, the macros are my faves, oh no, the abstract one of the beach is, oh no, wait, the one you took with your 121 italian client is as it looks like a runner going across the sky, oh no, I love that aurora shot, oh no, wait…I actually love them all.

    mel colie - 04 January, 2016
  • Hi Oliver,
    Loving the Abisko images. Where can i find more information on workshops out there ?

    Cheers
    Chris

    chris davis - 05 January, 2016
  • Loved the blog, don’t apologise for the length .Look forward to more.

    chris slater - 06 January, 2016
  • Great stuff Oliver. The ice closes ups are special as are the river ones.

    geraint evans - 06 January, 2016
  • Brilliant blog Ol, worth waiting for. You’ve got some amazing shots, as usual!

    Phil Wrigley - 06 January, 2016
  • Amazing images from Abisko, Oliver.
    I’ve been in Abisko from Jan 4th till Jan 7th with my wife Tiziana, and we could enjoy spectacular auroras all nights.
    In particular, on Jan 6th, when the temperature was < -30°, it has been really a great experience.
    I do hope to see soon your next blog - Part 2 - with other great images from Abisko !

    Cheers,

    Mauro

    Mauro Di Pilato - 11 January, 2016
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