#141. Lapland in monochrome

By pascaljappy | Travel Photography

Mar 02

Sol does play some wicked tricks. Everyone of His 12 year-long heartbeats sends waves of dread and excitement to us camera-toting earthlings.

Excitement and anticipation of the auroral displays that accompany the periodic peaks in solar cycles. Dread and fear of clouds and other potential hinderances.

An island in a frozen lake in Lapland. Nikon D800e & Leica Summicron-R 50

The Island

This winter, at the peak of Sun cycle 24, bears outnumbered bulls just as in Wall Street. And for a reason : our star’s activity has almost never been as weak in recorded history, meaning that even if the weather obliges, the odds of witnessing the amazing light shows that Alaskan masters have so brilliantly documented are rather slim for we tourists.

A river between snowy banks in Lapland. Nikon D800e and Leica-R Summicron 35

The River

Still, this is no ordinary blog and, in spite of the odds, Suzie’s two main contributors – Philippe and yours truly – both embarked on a photographic crusade in the farthest climes of Northern Europe in a modern-day Scott and Amundsen competition.

Philippe headed North to the Lofoten Island with his friend and brilliant photographer Boris (episode 1 of his hilarious report can be read here and Boris’s superb pictures can be found on a Fred Miranda forum and on his website) while I opted for a family trip to Lapland to combine Nordic skiing and photography.

Hiking tracks in the snow on a frozen lake in Lapland - Nikon D800e & Leica Summicron-R 35mm

The Tracks

This trip carried a special meaning for me. 12 years ago I visited Lapland for the first time, also hunting for Norther Lights (in much more favorable conditions) with the Mamiya 7 I have bored you so much about in this blog. It was that trip that started my love of medium format and manual lenses.

Since then, I have come full circle, neglecting film for early day digital, evolving to heavy DSLRs, finding liberty in mirroless wonderland and finding ultimate balance with the Nikon D800e and manual Leica-R lenses.

This trip was my first opportunity to verify that my change of photographic lifestyle was for the better.

A tree leans towards a frozen lake in Lapland. Nikon D800e and Leica Summicron-R 35mm

The Tree

So, what’s Lapland like to photograph ?

Trees and snow. Throw in a few frozen lakes and the odd cabin and that’s about it for scenery. Then, there’s the light! As the pictures on this page reveal, the sun occasionally shines, but remains pretty low throughout the day. Shadows are long and beautiful, sun rays filter through tree trunks and snow glitters like a sea of tiny diamonds.

Light rays on the snow in Lapland. Nikon D800e and Leica Summicron-R 50mm

The Rays

Taking pictures of that scenery is challenging. There are no highlights, no exciting drama, no spectacular waterfalls … There is much repetition, and attuning to this is a meditative experience that heightens awareness of small variations in light or curves in the hills. There is much interpretation involved and it is unlikely that two photographers shooting alongside one another would pick the same frame.

Long tree shadows at sunset in Lapland. Nidon D800e and Leica- Summicron 35

Tan Lines

Philippe and I have often likened photographic gear to Hi-Fi equipment. Well, photographing Lapland certainly evokes memories of the deeply penetrating melodies of Arvo Pärt and Erkki-Sven Tüür.

Black & White suits this landscape beautifully. The emotions are (often) not in hues but in tones, here.

A snow coevered raod in Lapland. Nikon D800e & Leica Summicron-R 50

The Road

That being said, colour plays its role admirably in subtle nuances and through atmospheric phenomena. Which brings me back to …

… Did I see and photograph Northern Lights ? Let’s just say Odin seemed to favour reindeers over cod during that wonderful week, but you’ll have to read our next instalments to know the details 🙂

Be seeing you !

  • Boris says:

    I really like your image “Tan Lines” and I’m very curious about your experience shooting aurora borealis.
    By the way, I’m on my way of going a very similar full circle regarding my camera equipment as you did.


  • pascaljappy says:

    Hi Boris, thanks so much for your comment. The D800 helped a lot with “Tan Lines” as there was a lot of post processing involved and the image quality did not break up. Our exposure to auroras lasted less than 15 minutes over a whole week and I had to shhot from a location that was not what I wanted because there was no time to get anywhere else. I’ll post the pictures later this week, in alternance with Philippe’s Lofoten adventures. You both brought back stunning pictures that really make me want to visit ! Congratulations.

    If you ever want to try the R lenses on your D800, I’d be happy to lend them to you. They are not without flaws, as I’ll report after the “artistic” posts, but they have some very strong qualities and are light and relatively small (a nice middle ground in between the M and ZF2 series).

    Hope to meet you one day.


  • kilted1 says:

    Beautiful series.

  • philberphoto says:

    Ah, Pascal, how crafty of yours to post these delightful B&W! This is your understated way of saying “wow me all you want with your breathtaking Lofoten landscapes, but what matters most is the photographer’s eye!”, and you are right of course!
    I love your Tan Lines, but the one that is my favorite is the Tree.
    Well done!

  • Tony says:

    Congrats Pascal. “Tan Lines” is magical, but my favorite is “The Rays”, which create a great serenity.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks Tony ! That’s also my favourite, I think. The place was so quiet and peacefull and I think this is the one (or maybe The Island) that best conveys that feeling of being alone on Earth.

  • pascaljappy says:

    Ha ha, thank you Philippe 😉 It wasn’t really premeditated, just a survival mechanism. How could I possibly rival your spectacular and colourful scenes in this flat light, if not in monochrome … It’s amusing how every one prefers a different one from the set. My favourite is either The Island or The Rays, they are so serene.

    Thanks for your comment. I look forward to part 2 of your adventures 🙂

  • […] my previous post, Lapland in Monochrome, I argued that photography in the repetitive landscape of Lapland was best captured in monochrome, […]

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