Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Winter dark night is time for aurora

The best time about winter is the cold crisp days and aurora. By the time October passes, Milkyway clouds starts to fade away and the nights are filled with bright stars, planet and aurora. That is if the clouds and rain don't come visiting ... most times they always do.

At 58 deg latitude Stavanger isnt exactly the aurora capital but sometimes the CME is so strong you can see aurora all the way to Germany. Our only blight if cloudy sky and rain being on the Western coast, which is rather common. When clear sky coincide with a particularly strong CME  ... the chasers go chasing.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Autumn MilkyWay in Rogaland

The hunt for Milkyway and Aurora starts the minute the sky gets dark here in Rogaland. The famed northern midnight sun normally fades away slowly by mid July and signals the start of normal day and night times in the daily lives of people here: summer holidays are over, everyone is back home poised for start of school and work again.

When hunters finally take their one or two weeklong break to hunt for small birds and mammals in the mountains, Milkyway and Aurora hunters follow suit in the dark hunting for the wonders of the night sky when the night is cool, crisp and clear.

Armed with a couple of full frame camera bodies and fast lenses, the only blocker for this type of photography is dearth of good weather days. Here on the west coast good weather can be a hit and miss atthis time of year, mostly miss for the most parts with clouds and rain by the time October ends.

This year I took a firm resolve to go out whenever the weather is clear. With the full moon in the way, the window for good night photography period becomes very slim indeed.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Lauwersmeer Spring Migration Birding

First thing one must do in Spring is welcome back the migrants from their winter sojourn south, their warm winter playground. What better place to welcome than Lauwersmeer practically next to the Dutch Waddensea. This is the spot where all of them gather and stage their push further North to their breeding ground. Some species havr also taken to breeding here in the Lauwersmeer itself.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Summer 2016 has passed : Solheim

Well, another season has past and the year has again come to full circle. Kids finished school by early June, sunny and warm days of the Norwegian summer kicked off almost immediately.

We opened up the almost warm period of the year with a stay at the cabin near Solheim, on the other side of Fidgeland which has slowly become the family's staple get away from home cabin breaks.  The ice was already almost 80% melted away except for some stubborn patches on the higher ground protected from the sun. The cabin itself was cozier than home, but the surrounding was slightly open for our tastes.

Not being familiar with the trekking route in the area as well as due to the still nippy weather, we did not venture to far away from the cozy warmth of the cabin. The fact that the cabin had two 60in flat screen plasma tvs made it all that difficult to get everyone peeled of the screen.

We took a short drive to an old historic route towards Tonstad and trekked for a short distance crunching ice afoot all the way to perhaps 20% of the total length of the trail. We also popped by Fidgeland to enjoy the view of Fidgeland  from another mountain on the opposite site.

Though it wasn't quite the rousing sending off of Spring and excited welcome to the summer, the change of yet another season clearly revealed in much smaller scale the subtle nuances of our changing lives  ... signs of yet another season's passed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Oldervik again, this time for Easter holidays

This week long Easter holiday we decided to go back to Oldervik, a small fishing village we spent our holidays at on two occasions before, it's approximately 40km north of Tromso. A quiet spot where the closest shop is also an hour away in Kroken, a suburb an hour away from the city across a fjord.

Our cabin, the River House sits on a small bluff overlooking a small river Oldervikelva and an has an amazing direct from the kitchen window view of the massive Lyngen Alps.

We flew via Oslo with Norwegian Air on a 0900hrs flight out of Stavanger Sola Airport  and touched down at Tromso Langness Airport at 1700hrs, we purposefully allowed ourselves a generous lay over at Oslo Gardemoen. Two hours later we were in Oldervik via a rented car. And the place is just as we left it last, just the way we like it.

The view on route to Langness, snowcapped mountains, plenty of total isolation for the 5.0 million Norwegian population.

The River House (in yellow), and our view from the front door towards Lyngen Alps across the fjord.

Part of the draw of the place is it's sheer location north of the 69 deg parallel, that's special on it's own virtue. A cabin close to the village without close neighbours but easily accessible is also a plus point. Though we don't use the bus service, regular village bus service ply the route right in front of our house to the center of the village. There's plenty on offer in terms of great views, nice walks in the woods, and a general quietness of a place away from the center of human activities. 

And then of course we have the northernlights given the right combination of factors, a CME and clear skies.  Our first visit here was end of May mostly for birds and general exploring. The second trip was for northernlights during the end of February (which turned out a balmy 5 deg C that year). We missed 2015 which was supposed to be a trip during autumn break. Now we are back for snow (the kids) and northernlights if it happens to turn up.

The much anticipated northernlights for visitors to Tromso, likely one of the top reasons visitors travel here. These pictures were captured in the backyard of River House.

Trips like this is great for getting out of the day to day routine of normal life. A special place like this always enhances the experience even more. We just love this village.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A year on chasing aurora in Hundvag, behind the house

This is the most recent video made on the Sony A7S (EF50/1.2), a recording made at a nature park locally known as Trolleskogen (or Troll's Woods) behind the house 16th Mar 2016.

Meanwhile this video below was recorded in front of the house also on Sony A7S, 15th of Dec 2015.

And this was recorded on timelapse almost a year ago on Canon 6D (EF24/1.4), 17th Apr 2015. It was  recorded circa 2am on a rocky outcrop just 300m north of Trolleskogen, a stone's throw away from residential spaces and a small marina.

I think it's been a super year for aurora in Stavanger, Norway. Frequent CME outbreaks, more clear nights and more people chasing after the wonderous events throughout the different locations in and around the city.

What started out as an accidental find while out on cold dark nights chasing Milkyway on Sele Beach sometime back in October 2014 has grown to 1100+ loosely grouped enthusiasts from all levels on FB group, Stavanger Aurora Chasers set up by Marisol Vaca.

An aurora event captured at Sele Beach, 17th Oct 2014 while out chasing Milkyway, while  the image on the bottom was from Lundenesset, Hundvag the following night (surely if you can see it in Sele, you can see it from Hundvag).

Actually the first posting I saw about the possibility of aurora this far south is from a blurry mobile phone posting from one of the expats on the FB group, Stavanger Expats suggesting that it was indeed possible to see them here. It's come a long way since then,  there are now appreciable number of people looking out for aurora  whenever the group raises alerts of the possibility of sightings following a CME on good, clear nights in Stavanger. There will be quite a number of folks at numerous locations enjoying the spectacle whenever it's visible here.

Personally as well, I changed from shooting aurora timelapse with Canon 40D or 7D with Samyang 8/3.5 lens to shooting videos and stills on full frame cameras Sony A7S and/or Canon 6D with a couple of fast lenses. It's a steep learning curve, but it's been a happy one. Next stage will be involving star tracking, pan and tilt and maybe even sliding motion.

It's been a lot of joy for quite a few people especially those who saw it for the first time, and what makes it extra special is the occasions to see them this far south  of the 69.

A year on sine the first sighting on Sele, here's to more CME outbreaks!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Moonlit night over the City

When the fog rolled in at lower elevations, the half moon was just floating over the city of Stavanger, Norway.