It felt like summer had arrived when evening was getting closer and we decided not to bother with the outer tent. The feeling was accentuated by the late sunset, and the arrival of a couple of mosquitoes. When it was time for our evening snack, the kayaks were safely on land, our sleeping bags were awaiting us in the tent and we were watching the sun set behind Finland’s longest bridge.
This year’s kayaking season started in mid-May, which is pretty good, considering that it didn’t start at all last year… We stayed out for one night only; a good way to satisfy my getting-out-of-the-city needs while awakening my hunger for more kayaking.
These are a few of the photos I took during my short but sweet kayaking trip with my great friend and reliable kayaking partner. I hope I manage to convey some of the beauty of that evening to you!
(By the way, if you haven’t tried it – sleeping in a tent without the outer part, that is, just in the inner tent, is a wonderful experience providing it doesn’t rain. The world is right there, seen through a thin canvas; you can hear the sea and the wind like you were sleeping under a bare sky, and smell the space around you. I highly recommend it.)
A calm evening in the archipelago.
Last Friday, I joined a group of photographers and went to Santahamina/Sandhamn, a neighbourhood and military base in Helsinki. Apart from being a military area with thousands of soldiers and the National Defence University, it’s also a place with unique natural areas and values – this is the case in many military areas in Finland, thanks to the absence of outsiders and hunting. Santahamina has the oldest forests in Helsinki and hosts a high diversity of birds, insects and plants.
We were guided around the island and informed where we could freely move by a local resident. It was an interesting trip, and I really enjoyed the sea and the trees. We didn’t see any soldiers, though, which I don’t mind. The sunset over Helsinki was stunning thanks to some smoke coming in from eastern Europe, and for me the evening scene became even better when a sailing ship went past me through a narrow strait, back towards the city.
I hope you enjoy the photos; feel free to leave a comment!
A tranquil scene with a sail ship and the sun setting behind Helsinki.
The 1st of May is a big deal here in Finland. It’s a festival of Spring; it’s also Workers’ Day, and a student celebration. In Finnish, the day is called Vappu (Walpurgis Day), and is celebrated with marches, speeches, picnics, and so on. Many cities have their own specific events, and people from the countryside often come to town to take part in the festivities.
As a child, I used to go to town with my family to (hopefully) enjoy the weather, the people, and maybe buy a balloon. Since I moved to Helsinki I’ve successfully stayed away from town during Vappu; it’s one of the largest holidays of the year, and one where a lot of people get quite drunk. It’s never sounded very tempting, or interesting. This year I decided to be brave and stay for Vappu Eve to experience some of the festivities.
In Helsinki, one of the big events on Vappu Eve is putting a student cap on Havis Amanda, a statue found by the water downtown. It marks the beginning of the festivities, and a lot of people bring and wear their caps from then on. Me, and about 30,000 other people, went to see the event – what I want to share with you today are a few photos of that experience. I hope you enjoy them!
People gathering downtown to celebrate. The people in overalls are university students – different majors have different colours.
The snow is melting right in front of my eyes; the ground is turning from white to brown to green; the sun, when it’s out, is very warm; and birds have started gathering on the fields. There’s only one correct conclusion: Spring is here!
On Friday, when my dad and brother were visiting, we grabbed our binoculars and cameras and headed to the wet fields next to the biology campus in Helsinki. Every year, a lot of geese, gulls and other birds gather there to rest and eat. We mostly saw Barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) and Canada geese (Branta canadensis), but we also caught glimpses of an early Barn swallow (Hirundo rustica) and a Western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus). I took some photos, but mostly enjoyed watching the birds with or without binoculars. I secretly also enjoyed walking through large puddles of water, and listening to the water filling up the ditches. It’s a great time to be outdoors, despite the rain, mud and sometimes cold wind!
Without further ado, here are some of the photos I took – I hope you enjoy them!
There will be more, but there are already quite a few Barnacle geese hanging out and eating on the wet fields.
When we think of mushrooms, we might think of food, of things that grow on rotten wood, and maybe even of mold. What they are in a more technical sense, is the fruiting bodies of a much larger organism – the fungus itself. Fungi are extremely important parts of ecosystems. Not only do they contribute to the decomposition of organic matter, and thus make sure that our forests aren’t filled with dead things (and more importantly, that nutrients are recycled), but their positive effect on the growth and well-being of trees has huge indirect effects on the atmosphere. Mostly, the fungus is underground – but when it needs to spread its spores, it produces a growth above ground which makes it easier for the spores to reach a larger area. This growth is called a mushroom.
Mushrooms are conspicuous and often quite beautiful. I think it’s nice to remember that these small organisms that we see in the forest are actually just an expression of a much larger creature that lives underground.
Anyway, it’s the wrong season for them here, so maybe it’s the right time to remember them. I hope you enjoy the photos!
A fungus on a tree (I earlier claimed it was a polypore, but thanks to a clever reader, I’m now questioning that very much).
On Saturday morning, I met up with a wonderful family who came and joined me in the studio. We had a fun hour with toys and flashing lights – like most children, she enjoyed being the centre of attention. She clearly had a musical talent and played and sang for me while I photographed her. What a pleasure!
I thought I’d share some of the photos I took there – I hope you enjoy them! Comments are always welcome.
The joy of being the centre of attention.
About two weeks ago, I went to Stockholm with my partner and a good friend to meet up with another friend who was spending a couple of weeks there. We spent a fun evening and the night on the boat (there are big cruiser ships going between Helsinki and Stockholm) and woke up in the beautiful Stockholm archipelago. As we put our feet on Swedish soil (asphalt, actually), the first thing we saw was a flag that said: “Welcome to Stockholm, the capital of Scandinavia!” – pretty arrogant!
But the trip was wonderful and so were the Swedes. One day, we met up with the Stockholm surrealist group and had a fun time; one morning, we went to a cafe that only accepted cash, and they told us to eat first, and go find a cash machine later; and one afternoon, we found a comics bookshop which was owned by a guy who spoke Finnish. One of the surrealists, who also is a biologist, had found my website by chance, and informed me that I had mis-identified one of the insects. How surreal is that? That wasn’t all, but certainly the things I remember best in terms of interactions with the locals. It was wonderful.
I also had a great time with the group I came with, of course – but few things can go wrong with such wonderful friends and a marvellous partner.
After 3 days, we went back to Finland by boat. We spent a substantial amount of time on deck, even though it was quite cold… It was nice, though, and the skies were full of stars. Here are some of the many photos I took during our trip – I hope you enjoy (some of) them! Feel free to comment and/or ask questions.
Standing on deck, enjoying the sunset and the ice.