a photophile's wanderings
Turtle* shells have fascinated me for a long time – in fact, ever since I learned that it develops from the turtle’s ribs. I don’t know why, but that was one of those revelations that added something to or changed something in how I perceive the world. To some, it might seem insignificant, to others perhaps interesting, but not THAT interesting. To be honest, I don’t know why it left such an impression on me. After all, I’ve never had a specific interest in turtles and their ilk, definitely not more than the universal interest I’ve always had in living creatures.
Whatever the reason, my reaction to finding an intact turtle shell when I was out walking was quite mild and almost reasonable if seen by an onlooker – but in my head, it went something like this: ‘what’s th… wooooooooow!!! I’m going to take this treasure home, I’m going to clean it, I’m going to photograph it and stare at it and poke at it and display it and tell everyone else about it because it’s unbelievable!’. Fortunately, I didn’t have any obligations for the rest of the day, because if I had, I would have forgotten about them and been in trouble now.
That afternoon, I set up my studio lights, and spent a few hours taking pictures of the skeletal remains of what once was a living, breathing, beautiful turtle. And I have to admit that the structure and detail of it kindled the kind of fervor that it wouldn’t have, had it been alive. I don’t know how to feel about that, but I know I hope that you enjoy some of the fruits of my delight!
* There are regional differences in the meaning of the word ‘turtle‘ – but in this blog post, I use it to represent all species in the order Testudines.
Bodies of water have always fascinated me, but lately I’ve come to realize that it isn’t just the expanse of an ocean or the potential of a river that has me mesmerized. I also love coasts or shores; any border between land and water. I love them because they’re seemingly so solid, yet in reality, so fuzzy. It’s a border that moves everyday and over the eons; and the one between land and water is a relationship that takes and gives.
So when I was asked what I wanted for my birthday, I said: “I want to see the ocean”. And I did. I saw the mighty Atlantic crash into vast Africa, tirelessly, as it has for much, much longer than we have existed. It’s a good way to spend a birthday, by the way – it makes the whole idea of a year or 31 seem like… not nothing, but definitely nothing to worry about.
I wasn’t the only one spending an evening by the coast outside Rabat.
Morocco has been my home for three years now. Yet, this place never stops amazing me – the natural diversity, the beauty of the people, the colours and the tastes, the lessons it has taught, and the ones it’s still teaching me. One of these moments of amazement arose a couple of weeks ago, when I was being chased through a cedar forest by a hungry monkey. Fortunately, the monkey was a Barbary macaque, and so (basically) a vegetarian (ie., it didn’t want to eat me) – not-as-fortunately, these vegetarians have massive canine teeth, unlike me. A bit further down, you can see the monkey in question, still posing in a deceptively friendly manner next to my hiking companions.
The monkey was chasing me, because he wasn’t entirely unused to getting food from passing apes, and the bread we offered was obviously not enough. Perhaps he was more greedy than hungry? I guess I can’t blame him. The macaque and his family pack are a part of a free-living, wild population found in the Atlas mountains of Morocco, more specifically in the protected Cèdre Gouraud Forest.
I’m planning on making a post dedicated to Barbary macaques soon (which, by the way, are the only primates found in Europe, apart from humans), but for now, I wanted to share some photos from a fun, interesting, and slightly unnerving hike through yet another stunning, wild area of Morocco.
Is this Morocco? Absolutely! The coniferous forests of the mountains are important habitats for many species, including the endangered Barbary macaques.
You hear things about England. I mean, at least I have. I don’t remember exactly what they are, the things I’ve heard, but they have created an image in my mind. I’m having difficulty putting those images into words, but fortunately, I have those images right here, where I can share them with you.
A year ago, I ended up visiting Cambridge with my partner. We were only there for a few days, but those days were enough to confirm and expand my views of this strange land, a place so utterly drenched in human history that it’s hard to imagine what it was like before our species inhabited it.
I took on the challenge to get to know the area by wandering along the river Cam, through campuses and fields, on paths tread by Darwin, Newton and Milton (to name just a few), and by having a couple of sweet old ladies try to save my soul in a park in full autumn colours. No souls were saved, but I continued to move through a surreal haze until it was evening, and I found a nice pub to clear my head in.
So, to get back to those images I promised I’d share… Enjoy exploring autumnal Cambridge through my eyes!
The last to hold on.
Eons ago, back in the year 2000, my mother took me on my first trip to “the south” (which people in Scandinavia call anything south of Paris, more or less). I was 14 at the time, and the furthest I had travelled was Denmark; this time, I took a leap to a whole new continent as we flew from Helsinki to Agadir.
Agadir is a coastal city at the foot of the Atlas mountains in Morocco. It was 36 °C on our first day there, which already was a marvellous experience to me. All in all, the trip was great: I learned lots of things, like the fact that boys seemed to communicate by whistling (maybe they knew I didn’t understand Arabic?); that Moroccan oranges in Morocco are the tastiest thing in the world; that tagine is a local dish that I could eat everyday; that some local people speak Finnish; and that if you’re a European, you can hang out on a part of the beach that locals can’t access. It was a mind-expanding and slightly terrifying experience.
A week ago, I returned – 16 years later. This time, everything was quite different – I’ve been living in Morocco for 3 years, I’ve seen more of the world, and, importantly, the experience wasn’t terrifying at all (and the boys weren’t whistling at me anymore).
The drive from Rabat, where I live, to Agadir, took about twice as long as the flight from Helsinki to Agadir did all those years ago. Driving through the mountains is always, including this time, a double-edged experience for me: it’s both exciting (because I love the mountains and we’re driving through them) and frustrating (because I love the mountains and we’re driving through them).
The magical Moroccan mountains – they never seem to run out of colours in this country!
On a dark evening in snowy March, as I was staying with a dear friend of mine, they brought a crow out of the freezer.
It’s been a while! Both in terms of this blog, and in terms of the theme of today’s post. This summer I spent two months in Finland – a period of at times being very busy, at times lying around on a newly built pier with a book and a thermos of tea, and sometimes even floating on top of the sea in a kayak and good company.
A few months earlier, I was contacted by an old student of mine and a fellow biologist, who was getting married in June and had heard that I was going to be in the country at that time. I was happy to be invited to be their wedding photographer, and even more so after I heard about the venue: Nuuksio National Park. What a brilliant idea! The national park is not far from the capital, Helsinki, and it’s a beautiful area covered in lakes and forests (and one of my favourite places in Finland).
Surrounded by beauty.