Lofoten Islands · Norway
Apocalyptic light breaks through a clearing between rugged coastal mountains and brooding clouds as an epic morning slowly erupts over Yttersand Beach. Although the collective plan formulated the evening before called for us to shoot a horseshoe bend set in a grassy expanse made famous in epic photographs by Arild Heitmann and Stian Klo, I’d already decided that night that I’d be forsaking the bend in favor of catching sunrise on the beach, a photogenic strip of brown sand within walking distance from the grass field that featured delightful crescentic patterns paralleling the dynamic shoreline forged by the surf. Having never been a great fan of shooting situations where competing tripod legs might potentially clang together, I just felt an irresistible impulse to break free from the group in search of a perspective I could uniquely claim as my own. I’d had a brief flirtation with Yttersand a couple of mornings before when I took in an incredibly dramatic sunrise there, but it was far too brief and necessarily done from a distance due to a retrospectively humorous search-and-rescue mission that cut our shooting session a bit short (more on that in another photo description...).
I walked along the road flanking the grassy field at a spirited pace, worried that I'd have insufficient time to scout out compositions on the beach before the good light would be upon me. Along the way I passed by the headwaters of the horseshoe bend's waterway, itself offering a picturesque reflection of the sky, and I contemplated in my sleep-deprived stupor and fatigue whether to abandon plans for the beach in favor of this unexpected find, where it was guaranteed I wouldn't miss out on the evolving light show and--most notably--wouldn’t involve any further physical exertion (hey, it was Day 4 and I was tired, ok?).
As my wavering hit a fever pitch, my feet and legs resolutely refused to capitulate to the self-doubt, and before I knew it I found myself a hundred-plus yards beyond the reflective headwaters. Off in the distance, the rhythmic clang of a flagpole's loose halyard blowing in the wind grew louder and louder with each ensuing footfall, drawing me like the driving beat of a jungle drum into some hypnotic state in which deviation from the original plan was simply not an option.
Worried about the time, I glanced at my phone. Some twenty minutes had transpired since I left the group back near the horseshoe bend, and the light was only marginally brighter than it was when I started. I realized then that I needn't have worried about running short on time, slowly coming to appreciate the profound effect the northerly latitude had on extending the golden hour. Whereas at home in the Pacific Northwest the few minutes lost while spent fumbling together a camera setup could mean missing out on some prime mountain or coastal light, here at 68º North the pace can be taken up much more leisurely, with periods of sublime light at either extreme of the day lasting on the range of hours rather than minutes the closer to winter you get.
I tried my best not to fritter away the luxury of time afforded me by this quirk of planetary physics, so I studied several shallow pools in the tidal flats before settling on this composition in which the ripples in the sand nicely mirrored the cloud and light pattern in the sky while retaining the tops of the mountains in reflection. In full faith now of the predestinate location in which I'd found myself, I set my tripod as low as it would go, entrained my pulse down similarly, and breathlessly awaited my fate.