Finnish Lapland: Where King Winter Makes The Rules.


by Leander Voets

After months of preparation (climate data, local support and accommodation and gathering additional timelapse- and camera gear), I took off in early January for an adventure into the wild, relentless freezing world of Finnish Lapland. I had lived in the south of Finland for studies before, and now it was time make an idea that had long been spinning in my thoughts reality; to document the beauty of the world-famous fairytale landscapes of Lapland shaped by extreme cold weather.

As I drove with a fellow photographer (Pekka Koski, Rovaniemi) in Riisitunturi National Park to the end of the road where we were planning a two day hike with overnight in an open wilderness hut, I could not believe what I was seeing. Due to the enormous amount of swamps in especially this area of Finnish Lapland there is a lot of fog in the autumn. This fog, but also clouds, freezes to the trees as temperatures drop below zero and forms a snow-load, or ‘tykky’ as the Finns call it. For this to happen there is actually no snowfall needed at all; it’s the combination of moisture particles in the air, wind and temperatures well below zero (at my time of visiting temperature was plummeting to a harsh -33 °C). As winter progresses (and temperature usually stays below zero for over six consecutive months) the tykky grows and the trees bend over under the excessive weight of the ice packages. Evolution has forced these trees, spruces, to stay slim because side branches would break off under the load.

Walking around in the thickest winter coat, bivouac, several gloves and a warm hat to prevent serious frostbite, and on big snow-shoes to prevent you sinking too deep (the snow depth here can be up to one meter in March) you find yourself in a world that seems almost unreal. The silence of the landscape – not just because the nearest sigh of civilization is 30km away, also because the snow mutes all sounds to zero – in combination with the massive, frozen snow giants, gently sweeping in the wind, makes you feel humble and vulnerable.

Another very important reason for me to go in January - besides low temperatures - is the low position of the sun above the horizon. Because of this there are two periods of around 20 minutes, around sunrise and sunset, when the light breaks in a specific way in the atmosphere. As a result sky turns deeply pink and purple on the sky-side opposite of the sun, in a way I thought could only be possible on digitally enhanced photographs. I’m glad I brought seven additional batteries cause without electricity to recharge and extremely low temperatures, my camera had a hard time getting enough energy. I had to watch out not to breath out towards the camera, as the moisture would instantly freeze onto the camera, the lens, and the glass of it. It as an experience I will never forget.

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