The other day, I noticed that I have quite the collection of wall pictures. As in, photographs of walls. Strange, huh? It even surprised me. I’ve never made a conscious effort to photograph walls. After all, what are walls? They’re often part of a structure, but can also make a structure in and of themselves; they can protect the people behind it or the people outside it; they come in a marvellous variety of shapes, sizes, colours, and materials. I guess they’re quite a presence in our everyday lives.
Walls can signify division, or unity. They can be used as an artist’s canvas, a dog’s bathroom, or a climber’s training ground. As all structures humans build, walls are an expression of people’s imagination (or lack thereof), of historical accidents, of our need to boast or survive, and of the different styles preferred throughout the ages. Maybe I do find walls interesting. Imagine that – I never knew.
A stunningly beautiful wall in an old, small mill town in southern Finland, called Fiskars.
You walk in through a large opening in the nearly 1000-year-old wall. There’s a square, but that’s the only other thing than the colourful, homely-looking houses that seem to completely fill the place. Between the houses there are small alleys, and sometimes a narrow street. At most one car could fit on those streets, which is fine, because there aren’t that many of them anyway. It’s possibly the best-preserved medieval city in Scandinavia, and it’s calm and quiet. Well, at least in early June – later in the summer, it’s run over by tourists from all over Sweden. This UNESCO World Heritage site is Visby, the only city on the large Swedish island, Gotland.
It was Autumn, and I was visiting family and friends in Finland. I kid I always used to hang out with in elementary school, but hadn’t seen for at least 10 years, contacted me and asked if I could come and photograph her children – she clearly wasn’t a kid anymore. Nor am I. Through the magic of the internet, she had found out that I take pictures, and that I’d be coming to Finland. Naturally, I said I’d be happy to come over with my camera.
There was a bit of shyness in the beginning, but soon enough the camera became overwhelmingly interesting!
One day, the sun burped. It was just what I had hoped for! We were visiting Finland, far enough north that the collision between the solar particles travelling at a high speed towards us and our shield against such burps, the magnetosphere, could give birth to something beautiful.
Aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights.
Today, we’re celebrating the day of Finnish nature for the second time, ever! I’m travelling at the moment (indeed, I am in Finland!), so this post is done in a bit of a haste. Despite this, I want to make a post because I very much like the idea of a day for nature, since there are days for so many other important concepts. This is what I wrote last year:
It’s a day for appreciation and maybe a bit of reflection, too – what does nature mean to us, and why are we destroying it? I also hope this day will raise awareness of the natural catastrophes that take place in Finland every year, caused both by companies and individuals. Money comes first far too often.
Days for this and that might not have a direct impact on anything, but I think it’s a good opportunity to nudge people to leave the comfort of their homes and go on an outdoor adventure – alone, with friends or family! There is a different kind of comfort there. And why just have it be the day of Finnish nature? Maybe we should make it a global nature appreciation day…
Here are some photos I’ve taken in Finland while outdoors – alone or with friends. I hope you enjoy them and that you get to enjoy an outdoor day, yourself!
My good friend, the mosquito whisperer.
The Sahara (the Arabic word for desert) is the largest desert in the world. Being surrounded by it gives a feeling of an infinite sea of sand. It’s like an ocean, but the opposite – it’s dry, hard to live in, with enormous changes in temperature. It doesn’t make it any less beautiful, though – and living in Morocco, one of the African countries which the Sahara is reaching into, I decided that I really need to see this vast expanse of sand, wind and sun.
The experience was not a disappointment. Walking in the sand and sleeping under the stars was like a dream – something completely different and quite unbelievable. The silence was stunning. Not only were we far from human habitation, but being a desert, there weren’t even any creatures that sang or shrieked or played.
After the first overwhelming feeling of infinite space and never-ending waves of sand, I started taking a closer look: the colours, the patterns, the lines. It’s an ever-changing work of art, created by wind, light and sand. From my human perspective I saw brush strokes, calligraphy made by the wind, patterns of a seemingly invisible sea. The desert is a place one can easily get lost in, both physically and mentally.
There is intricate detail and stupendous variability even in the greatest of things.
The writing of the wind.
It used to be an equatorial coral reef, but that was 450 million years ago. Now, it’s a large Swedish island in the Baltic sea – a magical place which still shows signs of its ancient history.
I’ve always wanted to go to Gotland. I’ve heard of its abundant fossils, its open landscapes, its unique animal and plant life, and specifically, its stunning sea stacks (raukar) – all of which, by the way, are thanks to that old coral reef. In June, as I was visiting my aunt in Sweden, I finally and surprisingly got the opportunity to go there for a few days. I charged my camera batteries and tried to tell myself that I wasn’t allowed to just run off the minute we got off the boat. After all, I was there with my dad and two aunts. Got to play the social game.
The view as we arrived: Visby, the only city on Gotland. As special as the island itself, it deserves its own blog post.