Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pictures, Pictures, and More Pictures (and Maybe a Video)

Hej hej everyone!

At this point I have so much to show you in photos from the past couple of weeks. Everything including the Auroras, sunsets, the town, and the ice road (not particularly in that order).

There's so much I don't know where to begin. How about the town of Luleå? Last week I went into town to take care of paying my rent, as well as searching for a shop that could clean the sensor on my camera (which was unsuccessful). Anyway, I'm always looking into improving my photography skills and I set a goal to force myself into taking street photos. At first I felt a little out of my comfort zone since I normally shoot landscapes but I fell into a groove. I started meandering the streets of town and then made my way towards the South Harbor.

On the harbor you can find the ice road, which branches off to the smaller outlying islands, as well as the main road which winds around the town into the North Harbor. Since I had so much time I figured I would take a walk down the ice road a few hundred meters. Several locals were out and about on the ice road. Some people walking, others ice skating, and even a few trail-blazing snowmobiles off the beaten path. It was an incredibly sunny day, as you can see. Because of Easter coming up, a lot of people were taking holiday for the week, hence the reason for the larger crowds. Before making my way off of the ice I snapped an awesome panoramic of Luleå. It's a nice town when looking from the interior streets, but when you can see the town from the distance with a little sunlight, you really can embrace its hidden charm.

Later than evening, my Spanish friends, Dani, Fernando, Adrian, and I wanted to see what the town had to offer (photographically speaking) late at night. We set out by bike for a twenty minute ride into town and went out onto the North Harbor ice road. Quite the opposite of NYC, Luleå definitely sleeps at night. Other than a few cars, there was not one soul around. On the ice, it was the same story. Except I was a little nervous. Even though the ice is still very thick (at least a meter), it still cracks and settles. Over the dark abyss you here faint pops from the ice, sometimes even very close to you. At one point, just being reactionary, I jumped and ran for it after the ice settled right under me. Quite scary if you're not used to it. Still I managed another panoramic of Luleå.

After meandering through the streets and shooting a few more photos, we biked back to our apartments and enjoyed a warm up with a steaming cup of tea.

The tallest point (at least to my knowledge) in Luleå is Ormberget. There you will find a small training hill for skiers and snowboarders. On certain evenings the slope isn't operating and you can watch the sunset. I've done this on multiple occasions and have shot some of my best sunset photos there. In the photo below the silhouette is my friend Benoit from France. I've mentioned him in previous posts. The photo to the right was actually taken a about a month ago. Due to the days becoming significantly longer everyday, the position of the sunset constantly changes. In these photos, the sun is setting in two very different places along the horizon, although it may not be indicative from these photos alone. 

The next theme is something I was very excited to see when coming to Sweden. For the first month here I never saw the Aurora but was told I missed it on a couple occasions. In my last post's video I shared several photos of my first experience. Since that video, the Aurora has produced better shows, and I captured two of them.

On the morning of March 17th I caught word that there was a massive solar flare launched from a sun spot many times larger than the Earth headed our direction. I checked the Auroral Oval satellite image and found the effect of that flare seen below. The sky was on fire! Early that day the clouds blanketed the sky and I thought it wouldn't be possible to see the lights. For once Mother Nature cooperated and the Aurora lit up!

Here's what I managed to capture.

I thought this would have been THE night to see the Aurora. But I was mistaken. Just last evening, the 29th, a sudden solar storm was heading in the direction of our planet. This time the sky was perfectly clear. After waiting for about an hour on the lake ice with my friend, Romain, the heaven's opened up! At first, there was a single isolated streak lingering above our heads and then the lights became very active and started dancing all across the sky, flashing not only green but purple and pink also. This is what became of that storm.

I want to leave you with one more thing: a video. Two weeks ago I took an overnight trip north into the Arctic Circle to Kiruna. There, myself and four others stayed in a cabin for the night and then woke up the next morning for a snowmobile tour to the Icehotel. I'm going to be visiting the Icehotel again this Wednesday on a bus trip but I wanted to share this video with you until I write about the trip in more detail in the next post. Enjoy!

Also, speaking of trips, I will be away from Luleå for about ten days on a boat trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, with stops in Helsinki, Finland. My adventure will finish with a three day stay in Stockholm to tour the city. So definitely stay tuned for my next couple blog posts.

Thanks for reading and check back for updates from Emily, Lauren, and myself!

- Jonathan

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