Even though I have been incredibly lucky to be able to make a career change from chef to travel photographer, I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s necessary to make your own luck. So that’s exactly what I did when I approached Tourism Finland and asked them to hire me. Cold pitching, as I call it, can be intimidating to anyone. It’s especially daunting when you’re involved in new media. But fortunately for me, Tourism Finland was keen to have me visit.
I wanted to photograph wild bears, see Lapland Finland and find out exactly what huskies do in the summer. We developed an itinerary that would show me the best of Finland, with a diversity of regions and activities.
Finland has always been of interest to me, yet it’s not a place high on most people’s bucket list.
I decided I would attempt to persuade more travellers to visit by trying a new style of photographing destinations, telling a story piece by piece to uncover exactly what makes a place so special.
As with my first trip to Canada, I now get lots of comments about how much people loved my photographs of Finland. I believe this because of my genuine love of the country, how well-suited the itinerary was to my style of photography and the freedom I had to explore and shoot as much or as little as I wanted.
Like most creative people, photographers thrive on freedom and trust. Visit Finland gave me both in spades.
Did you know about the Sámi people?
Finland is home to an indigenous population known as Sámi and these guys know how to party.
On Midsummers Eve, under the midnight sun – jet lagged to the eyeballs – I joined a Sámi pop concert in Lapland.
The energy and vibrant atmosphere inspired me to make it my mission to shoot some Sámi portraits. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look much further than my guide.
In the nature
On my second day in Inari-Saariselkä Lapland, I took a midnight hike up Pyha-Nattanen. In Lapland’s midsummer, the sun never sets but it does get quite low and produces beautiful light at around midnight.
We set off on a meandering path through the forest. In Finland, the locals often use the expression “in the nature”.
I loved to wander around “in the nature” and was especially impressed that there’s nothing at all that can kill you out there.
When I think of the things that surprise and delight me about a new destination, it’s often the simple things that locals take for granted.
In Lapland, many Sami families own reindeer. To a local, seeing reindeer is ordinary and can be annoying when they hog the road. But for an Australian, reindeer are magical. They conjure memories of feeding Santa’s reindeer at Christmas time and childhood stories. This guy was the goofiest animal I’ve ever seen and I fell in love with him.
Husky Love – The beautiful Lady Grey
Without a doubt, my favorite Finnish experience was visiting Tervahovi cabin with Routa Travel in Wild Taiga. In 24 hours, I met an entire pack of huskies, took a traditional sauna complete with vihta (bunches of birch leaves for skin stimulation, hehe) and slept in an old cabin with two warm dogs on my bed. I am an animal lover and this was such an heart-warming experience. My host Aki was so obviously proud and caring of his pack.
The sauna, the lake, the jetty
For the Finnish, there’s nothing else that represents summer more than a lake. And spending summer at a lake house is a national pastime.
In Finland, people spend many happy hours alternating between a steamy sauna and the cool water of the lake.
At Tervahovi cabin, there was a traditional wood sauna right by the lake. It was the perfect spot for long relaxing afternoons.
Fields of Flowers
I’ve travelled to many destinations that promise summer wildflowers but never in the summer time, until Finland.
I had my head out of the car window like one of the huskies just panting for the roadside flowers. Later, I found something even better, a field of waist-high wild flowers as far as the eye can see.
Yep – A bear
Did I mention I saw some animals in Lapland Finland? It’s a little-known fact that many Finnish operators run bear-watching tours close to the Russian border.
You are served a massive meal before being holed up in a bear hide where you spend the entire evening watching for bears in the forest.
From the warmth and safety of these forest cabins, you can view and photograph wild bears through camouflaged holes in the walls.
How close did I get? Close enough to hear them breath!
And I didn’t forget to mention that Finland has squirrels too. I love them!