This is part 1 of a 4-part series from my trip to Lapland in February 2017. I had too many photos to share in one post, so I ended up having to split them into themed posts.
This post contains the photos I took at relative altitude. I say 'relative', because Finland is a very flat country. It has no mountains at all, just 'fells'. In fact the hardest thing about landscape photography in Finland is getting above the trees to see the sprawling forests which surround you for miles. Otherwise, it's hard to see more than a few dozen meters in the forest. But we did get up a few fells while we were there, and these are the photos from those higher viewpoints.
I was visiting Lapland with family, so as usual our location and plans were primarily determined by holiday activities, with a fair amount of leeway/crossover for photography. This is a combination that many photographers are used to these days, and it seems to be something that works better for some than others. Fortunately, my wife is incredibly patient with me, and I think it works well, as my motivation for interesting views and locations often serves as a great excuse to put us in some spectacular places.
We have both fallen in love with the culture and landscapes of Scandinavia, but we'd never visited in winter. We wanted to see some classic snow-covered landscapes, and scenic pine forests, and feel the cold of the arctic in February. After a couple of visits to Iceland in 2013 and 2015, then Norway, Sweden, and Denmark in 2016, it seemed like Finland was the next country to sample.
After quite a bit of research we chose Pyhä as a base, surrounded by Pyhä-Luosto National Park, and my photos were almost all from the national park and surrounding area. Certainly all those in this post were. It was a great location. A small ski resort inside the Arctic Circle, a couple of hours drive (or bus) from Rovaniemi Airport (cheap flights to/from Gatwick with Norwegian Air). It also appears to be a hot-spot for aurora, but of course like my trips to Iceland, the northern lights were notable by their absence during my visit. Location aside, it also boasts some other conveniences:
It's smaller and quieter than the main tourist resorts (Levi, Saariselka, Yllas, Rovaniemi).
It has a good choice of accommodation, from hotels to self-catering rentals, as well as conveniences such as small shops, a visitor's centre, etc.
There are plenty of the typical 'lapland' activities available such as downhill & cross-country skiing, snowmobile tours, husky & reindeer safaris, etc.
Convenient access to well marked hiking and snowshoe trails which criss-cross the national park - which was a real draw for me.
Pyhätunturi Summit Hike
There's a great hike which takes you around and up the main Pyhätunturi peak, which is very easy and accessible, and provides unique views, for relatively little effort. We ambled up and down in an afternoon, taking time to stop at the cafe on the summit for pancakes, naturally.
The photo above was taken at the top of the hill, where the temperature was approximately -18°C to -20°C. Down below, where we started, it was around -12°C. This would regularly be in the 30's & 40's below zero in February, but it was relatively mild during our visit. Don't be put off by the numbers though. It's so dry, the cold isn't as bad as you might think. I've spent plenty of days feeling colder in the UK than I did in Lapland, such is the difference in other factors.
These photos were all taken on the way down the hill, as the sun was setting and the mist was settling in for the evening.
If you do this hike, I strongly recommend checking with the guides at the visitors centre first, just to check the weather at the top, and make sure they would recommend it as a good day for it. It's a well marked trail, close to the town centre, but still; this is inside the arctic circle during winter, and conditions can change rapidly, so don't be too casual about it.
I had a specific shot in mind here, hoping for a clear blue sky behind the hillside fir trees, but it wasn't to be. Still, the mist is atmospheric in it's own way.
These are all views from a well-maintained trail, so access is very easy. It's a great walk, whether you're a photographer or not.
There are scenes like this for most of the route, and I took so many photos, but these were the ones which I thought best conveyed the feeling of the place. It was so quiet and still.
Another hill in the area is Lampivaara, where the Amethyst Mine is located. Unfortunately, the top of the hill is private property of the mine, so you can't hike all the way up. But you can take a short hike most of the way up, via a 'circular' route, stopping at a conveniently placed cafe halfway round. From the cafe, you can take a tour of the Amethyst Mine, which includes a tractor/trailer ride up to the summit. This photo is from the summit of Lampivaara Hill, beside the Amethyst Mine.
From the same car park as the Amethyst Mine, you can hike to the peak of Ukko-Luosto, which is a higher hill covered in old growth forest. I wanted to try this hike, but the route is unmaintained during winter, so snow-shoes are required. In the end I decided it was a little more challenging than I was looking for this time around.
In my next post from the series, I'll be sharing images of the vast forests in Finnish Lapland, on both a grand scale from above, and from within the trees themselves.
Click to see the whole #Lapland2017 blog series.