A morning in good company

It’s migration time again, and “migration in Grenoble” rhymes with “Col du Fau”, the pass at the end of the valley, to the south, where all migrating birds have to go in the autumn. On a sunny Sunday morning, I arrived there at 8, shortly after sunrise. The light, low and warm, was beautiful, and a constant flow of swallows, mainly Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica), was crossing the pass. Four or five European stonechats (Saxicola rubicola) and a Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) took a break along the fence, looking for insects then plunging to the ground to catch them. From time to time, a Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) and a Common redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) joined them.
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From Kiasma to Suomenlinna

Kiasma is Helsinki’s Modern Art Museum. Set near the station, in the city center, it occupies a modern building as fits its status. I know reactions to modern art can be really diverse, from worship to rejection. A friend of mine doesn’t like it, because she doesn’t understand it. I think I like it because I don’t understand it.
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My Denmark: one year in a flat country

A year ago, I arrived in Copenhagen as a student, and settled in Tingbjerg, somewhere half-way between the center of the city and the university, located in Lyngby. My passion for birds had reignited a couple of months before, when I had bought my telelens, and I knew I would want to see birds there. I didn’t really have any expectation, but I found that the local bird protection society, DOF (Dansk Ornitologisk Forening), had a website with many birding spots located and explained.

I discovered that one of those, Utterslev Mose, was located next to my new dorm. What a great way to start!

Mute swan (Cygnus olor)

Mute swan (Cygnus olor)

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Anatomy of a Finnish sunset

I had spent the whole day inside, working on my computer. I went out before sunset, took my bike and rode along the shore to a place north of Hietaniemi. I tried some shoots, see how long of an exposure I could use, but it was cloudy, and I expected the evening to be very boring. I walked a bit to the south, to the marina I had noticed the day before. Suddenly, the clouds were lit from beneath, they seemed incandescent. I stopped, tried to make some pictures but the moment didn’t last.
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Orava avenue

Finnish word of the day: orava = squirrel

In Pallas, after finishing our hike and hitting the Visitor Center’s shop, we walked a kilometer to reach our last shelter. The weather was great, there was no wind and we chilled there, proud of our accomplishment. Along this easy kilometer, we discovered small sculptures representing squirrels in accoutrements from different cultures. The explanations from the artists were quite vague: he said that there was not much meaning to that work of art, that sometimes things pop up in your mind, y’know… In any case, it was fun to see😉

Do you like these squirrels?

Atop the fells

Lapland. A land of fantasy far far to the north, inhabited by reindeers, covered in snow and lit by Nordic lights. Or a land of neverending days, when summer comes. Or none of this.

Our story starts on Facebook. I’m chatting with my friend Vincent, telling him I’m going to stay in Finland for the month of August. “Hey, I may pay you a visit”, he said. And me: “hey, from France, Helsinki is not so far north, what about we go hiking in Lapland?”. I knew he was keen on hiking in the wild, and I wanted to try something longer than what I was used to. I had high hopes for birds there, although I feared we would be too late in the season.

There started our quest: quest for information on the hike, the weather (tip: never trust the Finnish weather forecast), the facilities, transportation… Quest for equipment also, as I didn’t expect my sleeping bag optimized for 15-10ÂșC to be warm enough. We settled on the Hetta-Pallas trail, in the (repeat after me) Pallas-YllĂ€stunturi National Park: 55km in the forest and atop the fells (tunturi in Finnish). The highest “summit” in the “mountain” range is 800m high (notice the quotation marks, that’s nothing scary for two people born in the Alps), and we would climb it on our last day.

Backpacks heavily loaded (I left at home the book I had bought especially for this occasion), we set sail on a long and expensive trip accross Finland, to reach Hetta (Enontekiö), our starting point. A lengthy journey that almost never happened: the first bus was late and slow, so we missed the connection that would lead us to the railway station. I am happy I know Helsinki, for I was able to improvise a plan C on the go and get another bus. We arrived on time to take our train… which itself was late, thanks to some work on the tracks. Our connection in Oulu was threatened, but an announcement stated that the train to Rovaniemi would wait for us (and I understood the announcement in Finnish! Yaay!). On the way, I had time to admire small flocks of Common cranes (Grus grus). In Rovaniemi, we visited a shopping center: for the sake of my back, I had got rid of everything unnecessary in my photo bag, and also of something that was much necessary, a spare memory card. Quand on a pas de tĂȘte…

The hike felt long, especially carrying so much on our backs. We saw vey few birds, as everything was silent most of the time. We saw very few humans too, which was great, and some reindeers!

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Vincent and the reindeers

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Wonders of Seurasaari

Seurasaari, located north-west of the center of Helsinki, is a place loved by tourists and locals alike, for it is a beautiful island where you can lose yourself in the forest. I was about to say that it’s also a patch of wilderness inside the city, but I realized the animals there are anything but wild: remember the raccoon-dog?

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Sunrise in Sioskuru

Here are the first pictures from our trip to the north. That day, I woke up early for sunrise, nothing special about it. The weird thing is, many things have happened in my photographer life, but never, ever had I woken up TOO early for sunrise. After facing the wind for one and a half hour, I was frozen when the sun appeared at last. I welcomed my warm sleeping bag when I entered it again for a few more hours ^^

Here are three versions of the same shot. Which one do you prefer? Why?

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Sipoonkorven kansallispuisto

Finnish word of the day: kansallispuisto = national park

Wonderful Finland, whose capital has two national parks established thirty kilometers from the city center. Nuuksio, to the west, lies in Espoo, and Sipoonkorpi lies in Sipoo, in the east. I went to Nuuksio a couple of times last year, but for some reason, Sipoonkorpi is not as famous, and I had never visited it before that day.

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