After the Belgian top 10, it's time for the Finnish one. Since September, I have been spending my Erasmus year here at the University of Oulu in northern Finland. Study close to the sprawling nature of Lapland and Eastern Finland and not to mention all the fun there is to do near Oulu. As a biology student/photographer, I'm not short of anything here!
Short but powerful. That is a good definition of how autumn is like in Finland. Two weeks long, until the wind blows the leaves from the branches, trees colour yellow, orange and even red. Once in the morning, when I walked through this spectacle of colours, I could make when dancing with my camera this picture. With “Dancing” I mean that you intentional move your camera to make moving, abstract pictures, pictures that hopefully also move something in people…
FLYING TO FREEDOM
You are standing on a bird tower after a chilly night sleeping under the bright sky. Graceful Whooper swans cross the sky above a landscape partly hidden after a layer of fog. That seems like a wonderful morning, right?
It is a good description of the morning when I took this picture.
Waxwings are the kind of bird that appeals to (almost) every birdwatcher. The question is why? Is it because they live in the vast taiga forests in the far North or is it because they have wonderful subtle colour accents in their plumage? Or maybe just because they have a distinctive silhouette? Waxwings are - besides all these fascinating characteristics - also very tame and thus easy to approach.
Each winter, waxwings leave their vast taiga forests searching for food (rowanberries)and go to cities. Each year they visit Oulu. During the evening, I passed a little playground with next to it a tree full of waxwings. Coincidentally, the sunset started at the very same moment. The perfect recipe for a unique waxwing picture!
Light makes or breaks a picture. When I took this picture, the sunset did the snow whirl down as orange, twinkling stars. The moment didn’t take much more than a couple of minutes, just enough to make some nice pictures.
THROUGH WEATHER AND WIND
During the last week of October, I made a sole hike through the well-known Urho Kekkonen national park, a vast wilderness. Winter started good, there was already a blanket of 50cm of snow. While hiking through this wonderful emptiness, I came several times across reindeer. These animals try to find their daily portion of lichen under the snow, no matter which kind of weather! Respect!
HAWK OWL MADNESS!
One of my absolute dream species to see in Finland was the Hawk owl. It is a medium-sized owl with piercing yellow eyes and beautiful striped plumage. I was lucky that there was a small invasion of these owls during the autumn. However, it was not easy to find them. I had to cycle around 120 kilometres through the Finnish countryside for this picture. Not that that is a punishment, the small-scale fields here are amazing to discover by bike. It gave such a discharge to find this bird on a field alongside a busy road. Step by step, I was able to get closer while crawling through the ditch. It was a mighty moment to be able to look deep into the eyes of this owl!
On the second day of my hike through the Urho Kekkonen national park, I arrived tired at my second hut. As there is a little stream close to the hut, I planned to get water after I was ready with unpacking my stuff. I heard the funny sound of the grouse shortly after I started to unpack my stuff. I grabbed my camera and went fastly outside. Ten birds were foraging around the hut!
The birds foraged mainly on the catkins of birch and (creeping) willows and rarely landed in the snow. Nevertheless, I got some great photography opportunities. I never expected to get such good photography opportunities of this emblematic species before leaving for this trip.
THE CALL OF THE WILDERNESS
Under a bright sun and at -10°C, I started to climb a hill in the Urho Kekkonen National Park. Arriving at the top, I am once again rewarded with a beautiful view. I look with great desire at the snow-capped mountain peaks in the far distance. Someday I want to know what lies beyond these seemingly sleeping mountains.
Soon, I notice moving dots on the snow-covered plains. Numerous reindeer try to survive in the vast snowy plains.
I won’t forget September the 14th very soon. Surprisingly, it started snowing around noon! I left my study books behind and went outside. There was plenty to photograph on and around the lake behind my apartment. These two grebes were the missing link for this picture. It would take another month and a half to see the snow again. Since then, there is a continuous snow layer in Oulu!
This snowfall was one of the most unexpected events I had to date. I love such surprises!
DREAMING IN THE SNOW
At the start of December, I and four other crazy biology students impulsively decided to rent a car and leave Oulu.
The landscapes were breathtaking... and very cold as it was only -26°C!
Luckily there is a sauna everywhere in Finland!
I was like a kid in the candy store when walking through these landscapes. Impulsive plans are often the best!