Photographing in the Arctic as a passion

About the author of this post: My name is Tuuli Pulkkinen and I came to Rovaniemi from Eastern Finland around one and half years ago to study tourism at the Lapland’s University of Applied sciences. Lapland has always been very close to my heart and I have frequently visited Inari ever since I was born as we have a summer cottage there. I have been photographing for several years, but Lapland has always stayed as my favourite photographing scene over the years. What can I say, Lapland has evidently captured my heart and now that I’m finally living here, I’m not going anywhere else!

“Never take a single step outside without the camera. Never”

The quote above was the first and most important lesson about photographing which my father gave me when I started my photographing career in 2006. Ever since, I have cherished that advice with all my heart.

I grew up in Rautavaara, an extremely small village in Eastern Finland. But, ever since I was just a little baby, I have regularly visited Lapland and our summer cottage in Inari every year. And without a doubt, that is where my heart belongs. It has become something so special to me that there are no words to really even start to explain it. That is why it is no surprise that I also feel like Lapland and the arctic environment is the place where I like to photograph the most.

Finnish Lapland can be a challenging environment to photograph in; during the summer there is too much light and the sun is overpowering, it can get too hot or too cold and during the winter it is too dark throughout the day. But those challenges have never bothered me. I have found them more like opportunities and possibilities than challenges. You just need to learn how to use them to your advantage.

“Take as many photos as you can.”

As our society has turned to the digital age, we don’t have to think so carefully what we are going to photograph. During the times when the photographs needed to be developed separately, we needed to choose our photographing targets, making sure we would get the perfect shot with one picture. Nowadays, when we can have thousands and thousands of pictures in the tiny little memory card, we don’t need to worry about problems like that anymore. So, we come to the next lesson my father taught me, ‘Take as many pictures as you can, all the time.’ You can have hundreds of photographs about one subject to ensure you have the perfect one and just delete the ones you are not happy with. So, click click click!

Raindrops on the surface of a lake

aindrops during one night (Picture by: Pulkkinen)

Arctic environment, what is there to know?

As it is often characterized, Finnish Lapland has 8 different seasons. During each season, there are many different issues to take into account. For example, during winter, the conditions can get very cold and there can be so much snow it is harder to reach the places you want to go and photograph. Imagine that you want to catch the rare Artic Fox with your lens. First of all, you will need to find the spot up in the arctic fells where you can find the magical beast. It is most likely windy and very cold up there and you might need to stay out there for a longer time to make sure you actually get to see the white fox. So, you will need to get some warm clothing on and ensure that your camera won’t freeze either. You will need to stay in one place, camera ready at all times for the magical event. You wait and wait, shivering from the cold from time to time. There is a flurry of snow around you, you need to constantly clean the camera lens. You have to find a way to protect it. And then, finally, the fox slowly walks into your view. Focus, and shoot. Let the camera do the work. Once again, take as many pictures as possible before the moment is gone. One of those photographs will be the golden prize for your hard work.

During summer the sun doesn’t go down for a long time in Lapland. Sometimes it can be challenging, especially to photographers who might not have experienced something similar before; the amount of light is befuddling. But, by trying different techniques you can find the perfect match of settings that can make the magical pictures you want true. Sometimes the different colours for example on the sky are impossible to capture in one single amazing photograph, so you might need to take more than just one picture. Try different settings to find all those colour sweet spots. Later on, once you get on the computer, you can combine those photos and create something completely new with all the colours and details you were able to catch! You can create your own piece of art work you will not find from anywhere else.

picture of a sunset over a lake

Sky Colours over a lake (Picture by: Nousiainen)

Go with your feeling!

Photographing in Lapland has taught me it is important that you go with your feeling and take pictures all the time. Always be ready. Because anything, and I mean anything, can happen in Lapland. It is true magic! Keep in mind that you take good care of your equipment, because of the sometimes extreme weather changes might require some fast thinking. For example one time when I was in the area of the river Näätämö during summer, it got so hot that even the mosquitos couldn’t fly anymore. Dark rocks became so hot during the midday that you were able to fry a sausage on them. You can just imagine how that kind of heat from the direct sunlight might affect your black camera. It is still technology, hence it is in danger of getting some damage. Or then it can get so cold that your camera, and especially the batteries, break the contract to work with you. Be aware of the possible extreme conditions and work with them. Who knows, you could turn even those to your advantage in some crazy way!

Be always ready. Know your environment. Be creative. Do not hesitate to take multiple pictures from one subject. Do not hesitate to throw some crazy ideas to your photographing. Because in Finnish Lapland, you are allowed to get crazy. It is part of the magic.

Swimming Norway lemming crossing the lake

Lemming crossing the lake (Picture by: Pulkkinen)

Author: Lapland Safaris

This is the blog of Lapland Safaris, which is a company specialized in all sort of activities in Finnish Lapland both in winter and in summertime. In winter we enjoy snowmobiling, husky and reindeer-sledge rides, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing among other things. During the summer we cruise on river boats, visit the reindeer and husky farms, and hike in the forests. Do you have questions? Ask us anything in the comments of this post. We will be happy to help you!

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  1. Hi. I am planning a trip to Lapland in February. I have a Canon 600D with standard lenses, + telephoto and wide angle. Is it likely to be effective in the -20 to -30 degrees that I will encounter?

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    • Hello Verne!

      Canon professional equipment usually handles the cold well. However, the 600D battery, LP-E8, is smaller than batteries used in pro equipment, so if the temperature goes colder than –20 we recommend that you keep your batteries close to your body warmth. Once you’ve taken out a battery and turned the camera on, the battery will sustain itself warm by releasing energy to the camera (as long as you don’t shut the power off). We also recommend having enough of extra batteries on you. :)

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