fredag 15 november 2013

Humpback Project Start / Knølhval i fokus

Right now, the fishing for herring is in full swing along the coast of Northern Norway. The herring does not, however, only attract fishermen, but also humpback whales and orcas who turn up to feast on the fish.

As a marine biologist, I started up a project in 2010/2011 to collect photos for photo-identification of humpback whales in Norway - a project that has grown enormously since the start and with interesting results starting to emerge about the ecology and migration patterns of humpbacks in Norwegian waters.

The last Sun of the year? The Polar Darkness period starts 21 November here in Tromsø

This winter I continue my data-collection of fluke-photos for the North Norwegian Humpback Whale Catalogue (NNHWC) as usual, but this year it will also form a part of a larger mulitidisciplinary research project here in Tromsø in Northern Norway with focus on oceanography, fish-stock size estimates using hydroacoustics and testing out of new techniques to monitor this species.

Monitoring pelagic fish at 70kHz and 200kHz

Because no two humpbacks look exactly the same (the flukes have various patterns and markings) the pictures can be used in much the same way as human fingerprints to identify individual whales. If enough pictures from various places are collected over long time, the same individuals may be seen several times and one can start to get an idea of e.g. migration patterns and the population size.


Unique humpback fluke - accompaigned by two orcas

Already from the first trip, we were able to identify approximately ten different humpback whales. I will present the scientific results in future posts - this is only be a pure photographic gallery with photos shot from the boat while the hydroacoustician run some test transects showing us dense balls of herring - and the feeding humpbacks were not far away.



söndag 3 november 2013

Comet Galore

Finally a night with clear skies here in Northern Norway - and an opportunity for some astrophotography!

While comet ISON is getting all the media-attention, the sky is filled with so many more exciting comets right now and on the night between 01 - 02 Nov I set out to see how many different comets I could catch with a DSLR in just one single night.

No less than 5 different comets were visible. While comet ISON is still a huge challenge (at least for me) to see visually, Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy and 2P/Encke were easily visible as distinct green fuzzballs in 10x binoculars. Comet C/2012 X1 LINEAR continues its spectacular "17P/Holmes-outburst" and 154P/Brewington was only just detectable as a faint green smudge.

All photos are taken using Nikon D800 and Nikkor 300mm with 1,7 x converter and are stacks of multiple 20-30 sec exposures at ISO 640-1000.

While I enjoyed the comet feast, pulsating aurorae added to the beauty of the night sky.

torsdag 24 oktober 2013

Violent Action on the Sun

With absolutely miserable weather for stargazing up here in Tromsø lately, the sky is finally starting to clear up a bit, and today the Sun - being littered with large sunspots - is shining over the snowclad landscape here in Northern Norway.

While waiting for clear skies to appear also at night-time, I took a quick snapshot of the Sun today from my window sill - a view that is soon about to disappear from these latitudes as we are now approaching the polar darkness period when the Sun doesn't rise above the horizon at all.

Each sunspot is huge - maybe up to 50.000 km in diameter - and the entire Earth would easily fit inside the largest. The middle sunspot (AR1877) recently erupted and produced a solar flare from which strong UV radiation caused a brief HF radio blackout here on Earth today!

To learn more about the Sun and how it affects us - check out todays new book release by my co-author solar phycisist Pål Brekke (in Norwegian)

söndag 6 oktober 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 41

Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula) with a recently caught evening-snack-vole on a rainy dark day here in Troms

Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula) / Haukugle

måndag 30 september 2013

Comet C/2012 S1 ISON

Following the discovery of the 'new' comet, named C/2012 S1 ISON, in September last year, public expectations of comet ISON have been sky-high, since it has been predicted to become one of the brightest comets in a long time.

At the time of its discovery by the two Russian amateur astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok the comet was as faint as magnitude 18.8 and, although it’s now much closer to the Sun, it is still faint (mag 12-14) and impossible to see with the naked eye.

Yesterday morning, however, I managed to catch the comet on a photo using a 300mm lens with a 1.7 x converter, but since ISON is poorly placed low in the sky in a light-polluted part of the sky as seen from my observing spot, the result is poor. Being my first attempt simply to see if I could detect it at all, I didn’t bother with taking any calibration frames and the shot is simply a crude stack combining eight 30-second shots at high ISO.

My first 'detection' of comet ISON - 29 Sept 2013

As always with comets, it is notoriously difficult to predict whether they will put on memorable displays or disappoint and fail to “deliver”, but ISON is expected to reach the naked-eye magnitude 6 in November and, depending on if it survives perihelion passage or not, may be visible to the naked eye until early January 2014.

Let’s hope for another amazing sky show later this winter – at least is was nice to “see” that the comet is on its way as it passed by planet Mars - making it my 24th comet that I have caught with a camera without the use of any telescope. Hopefully it will be possible to catch it without any camera at all later this year - Northern Lights Photography wishes you all clear skies!

torsdag 19 september 2013

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013

Each year, the prestigious international photo-competition "Astronomy Photographer of The Year" is arranged by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, UK and yesterday the winners of 2013 were announced during an award ceremony in London.

The competition is divided into three main categories, "Earth and Space", "Our Solar System" and "Deep Sky", where astro-photographers around the world compete about the title for the world’s best astronomy photo. Detailed information about the competition can be found here.
This year, more than 1200 high-quality entries from all around the world entered the competition and I was therefore very happy and honored to receive both 2nd and 3rd place in the category “Earth and Space of the competition for my images “Green Energy” and “Icy Visitor”. The first place and overall winner of the competition was Mark Gee from Australia who was awarded first place for his spectacular photo “Guiding Light to the Stars” from New Zealand – congratulations Mark – you are a very worth winner!
All winning images can be seen at the recent media coverage of the photo-competition by NRK here
“Green Energy”

"Icy Visitor"

Out of the 24 finalists, three photographers also got a visit by a film-team from London that travelled to the places where some of the winning images were captured to understand the story behind the photos. I was one of the lucky photographers to receive a visit, and together with the film-crew we returned to the spot where I took my photos and yesterday Royal Observatory Greenwich released a short-film on Vimeo telling the tale behind the awarded images (in English): Fredrik: Sharing the magic of the northern sky


fredag 13 september 2013

Autumn Milky Way

The moon-free nights in September is the perfect time to go out and watch the Milky Way - the combined glow of millions of stars in the disk of our galaxy.

Since the Earth's nightside faces the heart of the galaxy at this time of the year, seeing the Milky Way, arching from east to west in the autumn sky, is truely a sight worth seeing.

måndag 9 september 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 37

Most birds are leaving the high-north now after the breeding season - but not all

In September, a tiny little warbler, no more than 9-10 cm, instead travels a very long distance westwards from the northern Russian taiga and some end up here in Scandinavia. The reason for this long-distance autumn migration is, as far as I know, not understood, but it's a most welcome guest!

And, two days ago, the first of the autumn's yellow-browed warblers was back among the autumn leaves here on Kvaløya again.

Yellow-browed Warbler / Gulbrynsanger / Taigasångare (Phylloscopus inornatus)

tisdag 3 september 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 36

This week's bird-photo portraits one of the smallest and cutest birds that we have in our fauna - the Wren / Gjerdesmett (Troglodytes troglodytes).

The northernmost distribution limit of  the species lies here in Troms in Northern Norway, and what was once a familiar species to me when I lived in Sweden, is now a rare sight. A quick and unexpected meeting in the forest two days ago was actually the first time for me to see this otherwise fairly common species up here in the north.

Eurasian Wren / Gjerdesmett (Troglodytes troglodytes)

söndag 1 september 2013

First northern lights of the season + bright nova

After a long summer without any proper nights since April, it has finally started to get dark enough in the evenings to see stars once again and now, on the night between 30-31 August, the first auroras of the season could be seen here in Tromsø, dancing in green and purple over a starry sky.

For the first time it was also possible to get a glimpse of the new "star", being an exciting nova in the constellation Delphinus.


torsdag 29 augusti 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 35

Autumn waders, like here young dunlins and little stints, are gathering in big flocks now before heading south.

Dunlins / Myrsnipe (Calidris alpina) and Little Stints / Dvergsnipe (Calidris minuta)

fredag 23 augusti 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 34

Ooops, I've been really lazy lately and four weeks have passed without any updating of my 'weekly' posts of bird-photos.. The autumn migration is in full swing now and grey, rainy and windy weather rules in Tromsø now.

Northern Hawk Owl / Haukugle (Surnia ulula)

söndag 28 juli 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 30

Having photographed very little lately, this week's bird photo is a simple species portrait of a Redshank / Rødstilk (Tringa totanus) from the garden - the nr 1 noisiest bird in the area at night!

lördag 20 juli 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 29

This year there are some isolated 'pockets' with high abundance of voles in Northern Norway.

Preferring wet and damp habitats, the Tundra Vole / Fjellmarkmus (Microtus oeconomus) is a highly appreciated food item of various owls hunting in these habitats, and despite an overall low abundance of rodents this year, some birds feeding on voles have managed to raise chicks this summer.

Here is a very charming and fluffy 2-weeks old chick of a Long-Eared Owl / Hornugle (Asio otus) - well fed on a diet of tundra voles.

söndag 14 juli 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 28

Another magic summer evening with the Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

tisdag 2 juli 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 27

Long-tailed Skuas / Fjelljo (Stercorarius longicaudus) in almost black and white

måndag 24 juni 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 26

Owl in Summer Meadow (Short-eared Owl / Jordugle/ Asio flammeus)

måndag 17 juni 2013

måndag 10 juni 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 24

Red Knot / Polarsnipe (Calidris canutus) resting in Northern Norway before the last leg of the migration to the breeding sites in North-East Greenland.

torsdag 6 juni 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 23

Short-eared Owl / Jordugle (Asio flammeus) early in the morning.

söndag 2 juni 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 22

Red-throated Diver / Smålom (Gavia stellata) in Midnight-Sun

lördag 1 juni 2013

Bird Photo of the Week / Ukens fuglebilde - 21

Summer is here and it's about time for me to get the "Bird Picture of the Week" posts up and running again, now that all possibilities for astro-photography is over with the midnight-sun period.

First out is an early-morning portrait of a male Willow Grouse / Lirype (Lagopus lagopus)

tisdag 21 maj 2013

Midnight Sun

Yesterday, the midnight sun period started here in Tromsø and now the Sun won't set until 22 July - more than two months.

While it is far too bright now for any auroras to be seen, and will remain so until the end of August when the skies are getting darker again, the solar surface is far from dull and right now, lots of sunspots cover the solar disc - some of them giving rise to strong solar flares that may effect our technology here on Earth.

The photo below is taken with a DSLR and a Solar Filter fitted on the lens. Never aim your camera or any optical equipment towards the Sun without proper solar filters!

From now on, the Northern Lights Photography blog takes summer and will focus on wildlife/bird/landscape photography from Northern Norway

onsdag 15 maj 2013

The 4th International Earth & Sky Photo Contest (TWAN)

Yesterday, the results of The 4th International Earth & Sky Photo Contest by TWAN (The World at Night) was announced, and with over 710 entries from 45 different countries, I am very honored to be awarded 4th place in the contest with my photo "Solar Storm".

I wish to congratulate the overall contest winner Stephane Vetter (France) for his wonderful panoramic photo “Sky Above Godafoss” in Iceland and all the other winners and photographers. All winning images and a wide range of photos selected as "Notable" can be seen in the video on Vimeo or on National Geographic News which showcases many stunning astrophotos from the contest.
"Solar Storm"
Here in Northern Norway, the midnight-sun period starts in less than a week (20 May), making night-sky photography impossible until next autumn, so now over the summer my blog will focus on wildlife and landscape photography, but seeing so many creative night-sky images from all corners of the world makes me wish the polar darkness was already on its way back again!
View over the Atlantic Ocean from Northern Norway 1,5 hours before midnight
Photo taken on 11 May 2013, with only nine days left to the midnight-sun period
About TWAN: TWAN is "an international effort to present stunning nightscape photos and time-lapse videos of the world’s landmarks against celestial attractions". David Malin, a prominent member of the judging panel and a world-known pioneer in scientific astrophotography describes this year’s contest as "The 685 entries the judges examined represent some of the best TWAN-style photographs ever gathered together in one place. Judging them was a significant challenge, considering the high standard and variety of the entries. Given the number of judges and their individual tastes and preferences and their different ways of working, there was a surprising small spread in the final selections. The winners are to be congratulated on being outstanding in a very competitive field, and the entrants commended for presenting us with such a wonderful variety of inspiring images".

torsdag 11 april 2013

Goodbye Comet PANSTARRS

The northern nights are rapidly getting lighter and lighter for each night now and soon even the brightest stars will be washed out by the light of the Nordic spring.

With an almost constant snowfall for the last 4 weeks here in Tromsø, the chances of seeing the last aurora displays of the season has been slim, but on April 8, there was finally a clear night again and the fading comet PANSTARRS could be seen against a deep-blue sky at midnight and also some auroras could be made out despite low activity.

Only twice since March 20, has there been any chance of seeing the comet, and in a small gap in the clouds on April 4 I managed to get a single 5-second shot as the comet passed by the Andromeda Galaxy.

Comet PANSTARRS (right) and the Andromeda Galaxy (left)

On April 8, the conditions allowed for a deeper exposure and this 8-minute long exposure reveals the comet's broad dust tail.

Comet PANSTARRS broad dust tail

måndag 25 mars 2013

Comet Timelapse

Early in the evening on March 20, when the bright comet Pan-STARRS came out from the twilight, I decided to make a timelapse, using a 200mm and a 300mm telephoto lens, as the comet was setting behind the mountains.

Up here in Tromsø, the weather continues to block out the night-sky, and it was only on March 20-21 that the sky cleared up, but when it did - it revealed an amazing show.
The comet is now climbing higher and higher up in the sky for each night and, if the weather co-operates, it is now circumpolar and possible to see all the time, provided it is dark enough.
As the comet is leaving the inner solar system, it also fades in brightness, so now is the time to grap the chance of seeing this icy visitor before it's too late - next time it returns to the inner solar system is not until approximately 110 000 years.

onsdag 20 mars 2013

Comet + Auroras

Tonight a dream that I have had for a very long time has come true - seeing a bright comet and auroras together in the night sky.

First comet Pan-STARRS set behind the mountains at the locality I was shooting at just 5 minutes before the auroras turned up, but driving to another locality with a clear view to the north-western horizon revealed a sight that I will never forget! Pan-STARRS was now even easily visible to the naked eye and a truely wonderful sight.


tisdag 19 mars 2013

Comet Panstarrs - Finally a gap in the clouds !

After a difficult and long waiting-period, with amazing photos from all over the world buzzing in the media, I finally got to see comet C/2011 L4 Panstarrs this evening!
The sky over Tromsø here in Northern Norway has been covered in clouds and snow ever since the comet became theoretically visible here in the northern hemisphere, but tonight, a small, but sufficient gap in the cloud-cover revealed the beautiful comet for a while before the clouds rolled in again.
Not much time for composing the image when the clouds finally revealed it, a bit higher up then I had expected, but a few quick snap-shots with a 300mm lens captured the comet nicely. I was surprised it was so bright that it was even possible to see it with the naked eye!


fredag 15 mars 2013

Freckles on the Sun

This morning started with sunshine, and with a solar face so full of freckles, spring can't be far away now...