Recent Photography: #2

It's been a while since I did the first round-up of photographs taken outside the usual backpacking-related activities here on the blog. With winter far in the rear-view mirror (or just over the horizon, depending on your glass half-full/half-empty position), and with a month in Tromsø just behind me, it's maybe time to catch up.

I like to think of the image above as "Melancholy Ostrich". It's from the weekend in Yllas I spent with the family, and a visit to the domesticated animal zoo. There's a more traditional photo in the post from that trip, but I like this one more. It breaks all the rules of composition, and yet manages to conjour up the appearance of emotion... from an ostrich.

When the snow began to melt, I too Rufis for a walk in Vennivaara. There's an excavation pit there where they dig out sand, creating strange, Mars-like dunes. In winter, the kids go there to show off to each other on their snowmobiles. The snow was melting on the dunes, and turning orange form the sand – the first spot of colour isn't always the prettiest. But then pretty isn't always interesting.

As the ice melts on the river it fractures into long, vertical cones. By the river's edge the melt/freeze cycle of early spring created an etch-a-sketch pattern by the water's edge.

Meanwhile, up in Pöyliövaara, melting water runs over the last vestiges of snow, the forest wetlands imbuing the water with orange hues. Again, unconventional composition works nicely with the reflections, I think.

In May, I somehow managed to find my way inside the abandoned Lapin Kulta brewery in Tornio. While most of the space was full of office detritus (binders, coke bottles, plastic flowers, girly calendars, all covered in a patina of grime), in the boiler room of all places I found this:

I've not idea what function it played in the fabrication of the world's oldest alcoholic beverage, but it looks like something out of Doctor Who or Battlestar Glalactica (a new Cylon model, maybe). The "SAACKE" branding reminds me of Einsrürzende Neubauten (incorrectly, I know, but anyway). Probably the oil stains that look not unlike blood stains help create the slightly threatening atmosphere.

Time for something more serene.

The drive to Tromsø leads through Kilpisjärvi. It was a typically grey day, with waves of rain splattering the windscreen. The lake was still partially frozen, and in a couple of places there was a mist rising off it. It's always great when the sun breaks through in these moments, so when it did I found a way down to the lake.

The weather continued to veer between sun and rain into Norway. Here's another one of those "Okay, I have to stop the car now and photograph this" moments.

Later in the evening, after we'd arrived at the residency, the skies had cleared, and the midnight sun was casting a golden light over the islands and mountains. With Enni in bed I took the opportunity for an evening stroll, and found the Telegrafbukten beach, which would become a regular haunt in the weeks that followed.

You might not think "beaches" when you think of northern Norway, but a lot of the north-facing coastline has beaches covered in pristine white-yellow sand, covered in crystal clear water that fades to the deepest turquoise. It the air and sea temperatures were 20ºC warmer, you'd swear you were in Greece.

I'd picked up a cheap 9 stop ND filter before I left, with the hope of taking one of those nice photos where the water is all smoothed out. Unfortunately, this is where "you get what you pay for" comes into play as the filter isn't quite as "neutral" as I'd like, and creates an odd colour cast that's hard to fix. So this next one is a bit all over the place in colour, and composition was problematic too. If only that big island would move to the left a bit, and maybe come a bit nearer. The seaweed could try and be a bit more symmetrical, too.

Funny thing seaweed. Bulbous yet flowing, slimy yet luridly colourful.

I was surprised how much I liked being at the beaches, and by the sea in general. Growing up in Dover, and not being able to swim in my youth, I had a bit of a conflicting relationship with the sea. I saw it as a huge, limiting problem that restricted my movement in one direction. It was a bit like having only half a world to explore.

But I felt surprisingly nostalgic in Tromsø, brought about by the seagulls, seaweed, beachcombing, ship horns, the mysterious tides, the smell of salt in the air in the morning. Tromsø is a far cry from Dover, and a far more pleasant one, but there was something that felt familiar.

Of course, having sea


mountains is a particular bonus.

I could imagine having a very nice life there. Kayaking across the sea to an island. Climbing the mountain on it. Coming down and having lunch on the beach.

Of course it's not all nature. There's also... culture!

There is some great architecture in Tomsø, the library being one very identifiable example, with its sweeping, ostentatious curves. From one angle, it looks like a bug-eyed monster.

But apart from art, it was mountains I came for, and I found them in abundance. I climbed 3 (well, 3.5) of the four I set myself a challenge to climb. The one that got away was Store Blåmann, which is a particularly impressive hunk of rock, topping out in a massive vertical face that I'm told takes a couple of days to climb. The hiking route up is not as bad as it looks, or so I hear, but as it was often shrouded in cloud I didn't get the chance this trip. Next time...

Although clouds can make things more difficult for the hiker, they make much more interesting for the photographer.

I love they way they come out of nowhere; completly unpredictable.

Grey skies make for a better sense of scale and distance.

It seems you have to learn to make the most of cloudy days in Tromsø, though. While we did have a few bright days in the first and final weeks, the unpredictability of the Gulf Stream on the weather meant you never really know what the weather is going to be an hour away, or in an hour's time. So in much the same way that in Lapland you have to learn to love the snow, in Tromsø, you have to learn to ignore the rain.

For those interested, I offer a collection of prints for sale on

my art site

, including some of the photographs shown here. All of the images are offered as one-off, single-edition prints - so you own the only copy in the world (if there are others you are interested in from this blog, I can also print special editions).

Take a look at the collection here >>