You’re cheating, it’s photoshopped!

Well, yes. What did you expect?

Eurasian siskin (Spinus spinus)

OK, let’s start from the beginning. More than anything else, especially more than a birder, I’m a photographer. As a photographer, I want to make pictures that I like, pictures that are pleasing to the eye, pictures that I find beautiful. My goal is not to make pictures that show exactly what was visible when I took them.

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A very colourful tapestry

Our journey started in Rovaniemi. We went grocery shopping, then we headed north.
Our first house was to be an AirBnB in Sassali, near SodankylĂ€. We had a few hours to reach it and still arrive before dusk, so we took our time, and stopped in the Arctic Circle Hiking Area, walking a few kilometers in the forest while miraculously avoiding the rain (well, too much of it at least…).

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Reindeers, Ruska & Revontulet

In September came a long-awaited journey: I traveled to Lapland to witness the famous ruska, the autumnal color bloom. Up there, it’s not only trees that turn yellow and orange: the low vegetation, berry bushes and bog grass alike, takes a different tint, sometimes purple, red or black.

I took two friends from France with me; Alexis and Sylvain were both late sleepers, but talented cooks and enthusiastic sauna-goers. I never expected to eat a home-made pizza in the middle of Lapland, but somehow it happened, and it was delicious! Together we experienced the ruska, the reindeers on the side of the road, the rain (a bit of it, and sometimes more, every day. Like Brittany), and other wonders!
This is only a first peek into this trip, a short mise en bouche, if you will. Like I said in a previous article, I’m really far behind in my picture editing, and so am I in my writing, but I want to talk about more recent things while the memory stays vivid in my mind. So I took the backwards timeline, and am going back by almost two months. Yes, I consider that “recent”. Please bear with me.

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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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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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