Sol does play some wicked tricks. Everyone of His 12 year-long heartbeats sends waves of dread and excitement to us camera-toting earthlings.
Excitement and anticipation of the auroral displays that accompany the periodic peaks in solar cycles. Dread and fear of clouds and other potential hinderances.
This winter, at the peak of Sun cycle 24, bears outnumbered bulls just as in Wall Street. And for a reason : our star’s activity has almost never been as weak in recorded history, meaning that even if the weather obliges, the odds of witnessing the amazing light shows that Alaskan masters have so brilliantly documented are rather slim for we tourists.
Still, this is no ordinary blog and, in spite of the odds, Suzie’s two main contributors – Philippe and yours truly – both embarked on a photographic crusade in the farthest climes of Northern Europe in a modern-day Scott and Amundsen competition.
Philippe headed North to the Lofoten Island with his friend and brilliant photographer Boris (episode 1 of his hilarious report can be read here and Boris’s superb pictures can be found on a Fred Miranda forum and on his website) while I opted for a family trip to Lapland to combine Nordic skiing and photography.
This trip carried a special meaning for me. 12 years ago I visited Lapland for the first time, also hunting for Norther Lights (in much more favorable conditions) with the Mamiya 7 I have bored you so much about in this blog. It was that trip that started my love of medium format and manual lenses.
Since then, I have come full circle, neglecting film for early day digital, evolving to heavy DSLRs, finding liberty in mirroless wonderland and finding ultimate balance with the Nikon D800e and manual Leica-R lenses.
This trip was my first opportunity to verify that my change of photographic lifestyle was for the better.
So, what’s Lapland like to photograph ?
Trees and snow. Throw in a few frozen lakes and the odd cabin and that’s about it for scenery. Then, there’s the light! As the pictures on this page reveal, the sun occasionally shines, but remains pretty low throughout the day. Shadows are long and beautiful, sun rays filter through tree trunks and snow glitters like a sea of tiny diamonds.
Taking pictures of that scenery is challenging. There are no highlights, no exciting drama, no spectacular waterfalls … There is much repetition, and attuning to this is a meditative experience that heightens awareness of small variations in light or curves in the hills. There is much interpretation involved and it is unlikely that two photographers shooting alongside one another would pick the same frame.
Philippe and I have often likened photographic gear to Hi-Fi equipment. Well, photographing Lapland certainly evokes memories of the deeply penetrating melodies of Arvo Pärt and Erkki-Sven Tüür.
Black & White suits this landscape beautifully. The emotions are (often) not in hues but in tones, here.
That being said, colour plays its role admirably in subtle nuances and through atmospheric phenomena. Which brings me back to …
… Did I see and photograph Northern Lights ? Let’s just say Odin seemed to favour reindeers over cod during that wonderful week, but you’ll have to read our next instalments to know the details 🙂
Be seeing you !