Wintry Scenes From a Swedish Wonderland #1

Author : yanjay148
Publish Date : 2020-12-21


Wintry Scenes From a Swedish Wonderland #1

I consistently give the same advice to aspiring photographers: Wherever home is, that’s where you should begin.It isn’t always easy advice to follow. After all, our understandable curiosity and fascination with the exotic — that which is different from what we are used to — sends us abroad by the hundreds of millions every year. And, having lived and worked everywhere but in Sweden for most of my life, I’ve been terrible at following it myself.For me, Sweden has always been a place to rest, relax and spend time with family. It’s rarely been a destination to explore in the ways that I do in Madagascar, Malawi or Zambia — until now.ImageA fresh layer of snow and a sky full of color and movement — welcome to winter in northern Sweden. Lapland Guesthouse and the small hamlet of Kangos are located 67.29 degrees north. New York City is at 40.71 degrees north, Toronto at 43.44, and Anchorage at 61.13.A fresh layer of snow and a sky full of color and movement — welcome to winter in northern Sweden. Lapland Guesthouse and the small hamlet of Kangos are located 67.29 degrees north. New York City is at 40.71 degrees north, Toronto at 43.44, and Anchorage at 61.13.With all of my foreign assignments and trips canceled this year, I decided to make the most of the closed borders and travel north from my home near Stockholm. What began as a single two-week trip quickly turned into a series of journeys that lasted several months and spanned the entire year, starting and finishing in midwinter.ImageLate afternoon aurora borealis.Late afternoon aurora borealis.The first thing to know about spending winter in northern Sweden is that sunburn won’t be much of an issue. The second is that you’ll want to pack a headlamp and lots of warm clothes. Sweden spans roughly the same latitudes as Alaska, and, while climate change is bringing milder winters in its wake, it doesn’t have any impact on the length of our daylight.ImageThe Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi was the world’s first, originally built in 1990. The indoor temperature is kept at around 23 degrees Fahrenheit.The Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi was the world’s first, originally built in 1990. The indoor temperature is kept at around 23 degrees Fahrenheit.ImageEach winter, the hotel is rebuilt. Artists from around the world are invited to create different rooms and decorations, including the bar — and even glasses.Each winter, the hotel is rebuilt. Artists from around the world are invited to create different rooms and decorations, including the bar — and even glasses.And yet, traveling across the snow and ice on dog sleds, skis or snowmobiles, or laying on one’s back staring up at the magical light show of the aurora borealis, I hardly minded the lack of daylight. Instead, what caught my attention was the mesmerizing beauty of the white, frozen landscapes and the endless shades of blue. Away from buildings and roads, the snow lit up even the darkest nights.ImageReindeer in Swedish Lapland are semi-domesticated. They generally keep their distance from people, but in winter they are sometimes provided with pellets, especially now that climate change and deforestation are reducing the amount of naturally available food. With the permission of their Sámi owners, it is possible to have some wonderful, close encounters.Reindeer in Swedish Lapland are semi-domesticated. They generally keep their distance from people, but in winter they are sometimes provided with pellets, especially now that climate change and deforestation are reducing the amount of naturally available food. With the permission of their Sámi owners, it is possible to have some wonderful, close encounters.ImageWarming up cold feet halfway through a day on snowmobiles in temperatures around minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit.Warming up cold feet halfway through a day on snowmobiles in temperatures around minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit.Whether basking in a sauna or going for invigorating dips in the nearby river (through a hole in the ice), I spent virtually all of my time outdoors — which made exploring Sweden’s northernmost region, known as Swedish Lapland, about as safe as travel can be during a pandemic.ImageThe magic of the aurora borealis are almost impossible to describe, or capture in a photograph. One simply has to see them to understand just how spectacular they can be.The magic of the aurora borealis are almost impossible to describe, or capture in a photograph. One simply has to see them to understand just how spectacular they can be.I was based mostly in and around the small hamlet of Kangos, and Johan Stenevad, my host at Lapland Guesthouse, showed me a world I had previously only seen in photographs: frozen bogs, lakes and rivers; gangly moose and curious reindeer; snow-covered trees; endless snow-shoveling; and a never-waning excitement whenever the sky was clear and the northern lights made an appearance.Image“X” marks safe paths for snowmobiles to use. The wetlands can be treacherous; even in winter there might be running water beneath the snow, and a snowmobile stuck in that is difficult to get out.“X” marks safe paths for snowmobiles to use. The wetlands can be treacherous; even in winter there might be running water beneath the snow, and a snowmobile stuck in that is difficult to get out.ImageNorthern Sweden consists largely of forests and wetlands. The wetlands are very difficult to move across in summer, but once the ground is frozen they are ideal for snowmobiles or skis.Northern Sweden consists largely of forests and wetlands. The wetlands are very difficult to move across in summer, but once the ground is frozen they are ideal for snowmobiles or skis.ImageBy February the days quickly increase in length, although the sun still sets early in the afternoon.By February the days quickly increase in length, although the sun still sets early in the afternoon.But Johan opened my eyes to something else, too. One day, on a snowmobile path lined by tall trees on both sides, he turned off his engine and asked me what I saw.“Trees,” I answered. “A forest.”He shook his head.“Not a forest. A plantation. Soon, this is all that will be left,” he said, explaining that the straight rows of trees were being farmed. They were all the same species, age and size.ImageDespite its reputation as a leader of sustainability, huge swaths of old-growth forests are clear-cut in Sweden every year. The vast majority of Sweden’s forests are now plantations of pine or spruce. While pine trees easily reach 500 years of age, only a fraction are allowed to live past 120 years before they are harvested.Despite its reputation as a leader of sustainability, huge swaths of old-growth forests are clear-cut in Sweden every year. The vast majority of Sweden’s forests are now plantations of pine or spruce. While pine trees easily reach 500 years of age, only a fraction are allowed to live past 120 years before they are harvested.Johan was right. The great northern wilderness — the ancient boreal forests that once seemed endless — has been ruthlessly clear-cut for biofuel and paper and replaced by monoculture plantations of spruce or pine for over half a century. Only a fraction of the boreal forests remains, and that fraction grows smaller every year.In addition, wind turbines up to a thousand foot tall are being constructed throughout northern Sweden, their flashing lights visible for tens of miles, the previously dark nights lit up like airport runways. Many such projects are being fought tooth and nail by local communities as well as conservation organizations.“This will be the end of both tourism and of our communities,” Johan added.ImageAn ancient pine tree at the edge of an old-growth forest in Muoniovaara. The scar at its base is from a fire it survived 175 years ago. Behind the camera, hundreds of logs from similar trees await removal.An ancient pine tree at the edge of an old-growth forest in Muoniovaara. The scar at its base is from a fire it survived 175 years ago. Behind the camera, hundreds of logs from similar trees await removal.ImageThe day after the first heavy snowfall of the winter, the forest in Muoniovaara is transformed into a true winter wonderland.The day after the first heavy snowfall of the winter, the forest in Muoniovaara is transformed into a true winter wonderland.Meanwhile, the Sámi — an Indigenous people who live mainly in the northern reaches of Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia — are facing an existential crisis. Their lives and culture are inexorably linked to the old-growth forests and the reindeer who populate the region.ImageDuring summer, most reindeer roam freely in search of food.During summer, most reindeer roam freely in search of food.ImageRudolpha? Male reindeer lose their antlers in winter, so large-antlered reindeer around Christmas are more likely female.Rudolpha? Male reindeer lose their antlers in winter, so large-antlered reindeer around Christmas are more likely female.ImageSmart enough to know that the box on the ground contains food, and that the lid needs to be removed in order to get to it, one of the reindeer belonging to Hans Hansa of Muonio reindeer herding district attempts to do just that.Smart enough to know that the box on the ground contains food, and that the lid needs to be removed in order to get to it, one of the reindeer belonging to Hans Hansa of Muonio reindeer herding district attempts to do just that.ImageThere are no wild reindeer in Sweden today — all are owned by the Sámi, and are semi-domesticated. The world’s largest wild herd, known as Taimyr, which consists of between 400,000 and 1,000,000 Siberian tundra reindeer, can be found in Russia.There are no wild reindeer in Sweden today — all are owned by the Sámi, and are semi-domesticated. The world’s largest wild herd, known as Taimyr, which consists of between 400,000 and 1,000,000 Siberian tundra reindeer, can be found in Russia.The slow-growing lichen and mushrooms upon which the reindeer depend for their survival are not found in pine or spruce plantations, so the death of one means the death of the other, and an uncertain future for an entire people.ImageJohan Stenevad of Lapland Guesthouse has laid out reindeer pelts, ideal for insulation during the Arctic winter, for his British, American and Swedish guests while he prepares lunch and coffee. In addition to their fur, reindeer are prized for their meat and antlers, which are often used to make knife handles.Johan Stenevad of Lapland Guesthouse has laid out reindeer pelts, ideal for insulation during the Arctic winter, for his British, American and Swedish guests while he prepares lunch and coffee. In addition to their fur, reindeer are prized for their meat and antlers, which are often used to make knife handles.ImageNorthern Sweden — or Sápmi, of which it is also a part — is one of Europe’s last true wilderness areas. The question is: For how much longer?Northern Sweden — or Sápmi, of which it is also a part — is one of Europe’s last true wilderness areas. The question is: For how much longer?“We are not visitors in nature,” said Brita Stina Sjaggo of the Luokta-Mávas reindeer herding district. “We are part of the forest, and the forest is part of us.”Hers is a sentiment that resonates deep within me. It is one that too many of us have forgotten, and one that I believe to be essential for our own survival as well as that of the natural world.ImageJannie Staffansson of Eajran Sijte reindeer herding district, and Brita Stina Sjaggo from Luokta-Mávas, discuss the future of reindeer husbandry and Sámi culture in the face of ruthless clear-cutting of Sápmi’s old-growth forests.Jannie Staffansson of Eajran Sijte reindeer



Category :art-culture
Author Website : Wintry Scenes From a Swedish Wonderland

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