An arctic island and the cold light of day

Hailuoto is a largish island in the Bothnian Sea, just off the coast of Oulu – just about visible from the mainland, but far enough for the access being by a ferry only. Living on the island is a small community of locals, and an even smaller community of vacationers; tourists come and go. I imagine this not being too dissimilar from the island in Stephen King’s Colorado Kid; a place defined by it’s isolation, slow to give up its secrets. There are the kind of old farm buildings one rarely sees on the mainland anymore, wild nature, sand dunes and pines forests, heath and marsh. The wind is always blowing, shifting the sands, and there’s economic beauty on the plain landscape.

Coldest day of the year

imgp8270 imgp8283 imgp8303 imgp8315 imgp8333 imgp8324 imgp8322 imgp8336 imgp8378 imgp8375 imgp8363 imgp8355 imgp8350Here is a second set of winter photos from Finland. After the New Year, the temperatures plummeted to blood-curdling -28°C – with the biting wind so cold that I got frostbite on my face. But I finally deemed the ice strong enough to walk on! Not many people around, just harsh, unforgiving beauty.

All photos were taken with Tamron 17-50mm wide angle lens, and scaled to 25% with a batch editing software, which has caused some sharpness to be lost. Click to view in full size.

Another summer, another set of arctic seascape photos

IMGP5095 IMGP5427 IMGP5228 IMGP5233 IMGP5235Every summer when I head home, I think this year I’ll spend lovely evenings sitting outdoors reading and sipping grapefruit soda (it’s a Finnish thing), meeting friends for outdoors dinners, and painting watercolours. Invariably, by the end of the trip I will have read 2 two out of the 5 books I brought, worn less than half of the clothes I packed, and maybe gone downtown twice. This year was not an exception. There were too many biting and stinging insects flying around in the evenings to even to consider sitting outdoors (this is quite unusual for late July/early August). I did meet friends and drink the grapefruit soda though, and even managed to swim – sort of – in the sea.

IMGP5065 IMGP5044 IMGP5047 IMGP5033 IMGP5038Boats are still there, laying where the storm pushed them last year. One has all but disappeared under weeds, inaccessible. It’s like meeting an old friend, seeing them, one year older, much worse for wear.

IMGP5026 IMGP5403 IMGP5535 IMGP5548I learned this year that apparently summer is over when fireweed has bloomed. If we are to go by that, summer is very, very nearly over. Everything this year bloomed early, and by the time I arrived, mid-July, clovers were gone, red glovers (one of my favourite flowers) was gone, harebells were almost gone, and there was a distinct lack of fireweed, usually colouring roadsides dark pink this time of the year. At least tansy didn’t let me down. I used to hate it as a child, and I have no idea why. It’s the most wonderful thing – gorgeous colour, beautiful flowers, dries well. The first and the last wild flowers are yellow – dandelions in the spring, tansies and hawkweeds at the end of the summer – little spots of sun.



The first cow parsley of the spring, spotted in my secret place in Jericho.
For a long time, I thought that the spring is not coming at all – but it did, it did! My favourite spring place is Magdalen College park; the sunny banks of the Fellows’ Garden are a sea of flowers in March/April. I have developed an allergy for daffodils and cannot buy them for my flat anymore, but I do love seeing the vast stretches of them in the spring, and feel a bit sad when they wilt away in April.
This is the last week of Easter holidays – usually the most unremarkable holiday of the year for me. This time I decided to up my game and visit friends in Helsinki. I have rarely spent more than couple of days there, and not for many years, and was interested to see how perceptions change. After London has been my big city for nearly a decade, Helsinki seems small, quiet, almost parochial. Great architecture, lots of coffee shops and bakeries, wide streets, continental feel. I was surprised by the lack of ticket barriers in the tube or in the tram, startled to see men sitting outside drinking vodka from plastic bottles in the morning, surprised by how often I’d pass local celebrities just walking down the street. It was a lovely place, but not necessarily one where I’d love to live.
Coming from the blossoming England, I was surprised to find out that despite global warming, in March the bay is still frozen.
The old, public sauna in Kallio was always going to be the highlight of my trip. I suspect the fittings are original, and the atmosphere was certainly nostalgic. If there was a place like this here, I’d go every week, and not even care that it cost €12.
Another staple of every and any visit to Finland – fika, or coffee and pulla. The British are great bakers, but they don’t do pulla.
Near Johanneksen Kirkko (St John’s, below) I found a used books’ shop that was the properest thing I have ever seen. Books stacked everywhere, an authentic smell of slightly acidic paper, lots of rare things for not much money. This magazine cover is one of my all time favourite illustrations – I have used it for cards and glued it in every art journal I have ever had. I was beyond excited to pick an original copy of the magazine it was painted for.
The murals by Akseli Gallen-Kallela in the National Museum – a small, but exquisitely curated and displayed collection in a rather nice, Jugend/gothic romantic building.
With my friend.
Some of Helsinki’s architecture really is exquisite. These turn of the century buildings don’t just have great detail, but they have presence.
The compulsory shot of the sea.
Before I went to Helsinki, I got around to unpacking the bag of yarn I had bought at Christmas, and found this pair of mittens. These are Norwegian, and the pattern imitates the northern lights. I have had these literally always – I must have been given them as a very small child (thought they are adult size), even though I have no memory of receiving them. My mother deemed them too precious to be worn, and so they are still in immaculate condition. I look at them and wonder if I should wear them now, or continue to keep them for posterity, as a souvenir from my childhood. I have few toys left, and somehow the most memorable object for me anyway are the knickknacks that I wasn’t suppose to touch as a child.

I came back, and the spring had come.

Blow, blow thy winter wind, Part 1

December now feels like it was years ago. Holidays at home were one of the hardest, most depressing times I have ever had – the weather was gloomy, the sun not showing itself once for nearly three weeks, the endless cycle of sleet and ice and rain, the darkness more oppressing than ever before. My mother was ill, and so were the rest of us. Christmas didn’t really happen. The only really bright memory is New Year, when the ground finally got its white cover of snow, I met friends and drank bubbly from a mug. I only took about 25 photos over the holidays, forcing myself to take the camera out of its bag just so that didn’t bring with me for nothing.

Bird tracks on freshly fallen sleet.

I would normally love this sort of thing, but there just wasn’t light to lift up the details of the nature or landscape.

In the bleak midwinter darkness, the horizon sort of disappears, land and sky becoming one, blurry grey mass. The sea was frozen, but not strong enough to carry my weight.

Abandoned boats in the marina. Some of these have been there for years, in the summer all but invisible among the bushes that have overtaken the beach, slowly falling apart. The owners have probably died long ago, and these boats will be the last earthy thing left of them.

This is my niece. She bluntly refuses to pose (her younger sister on the other hand cannot get enough of it), but I managed to sneak this snap of her before she turned her back to me. I rather like the way how the wind has wrapped her hair around her face. It may not be a perfect picture – or even a good picture – but it is her.