February 2018 brought with it some unexpected travel plans. I think this was the quickest trip by far from Thought to Planning and actually heading there that I have experienced in a very long time. I have been wanting to do some true white winter photography for a while now and being situated in India and Singapore you can see how that can be a challenge.
But this year all that changed as a chain of events resulted in my ending up in Finnish Lapland near the Arctic Circle. So what follows is a Photo Essay/Travel Tip/Photography Learnings from that trip. This is a prologue to my planned exhibit of images from Lapland that is now in the planning stages.
Finnair has direct connections from Singapore to Helsinki. From Helsinki fly to Rovaniemi which is the main gateway to Finnish Lapland.
Finnair flies from Mumbai and New Delhi to Helsinki from where you can connect to Rovaniemi.
Other Notable Airports in Lapland are Ivalo and Kittila but I strongly suggest heading to Ravaniemi first getting your winter bearings there in the comfort of a relatively larger town with load of facilities and Tour Operators before heading in to the more remote areas.
When to Go to Experience Winter in Lapland
December to March is winter period at Lapland.
Typical Temperatures in winter
December: -20 to -10 degrees Celsius
January: -30 to -15 degrees Celsius
February: -20 to -15 degrees Celsius
March: -15 to -5 degrees Celsius
At these low temperatures its very important to stay warm . Wear Layers and Choose good quality lightweight synthetic fibres or wool. Stay away from cotton while choosing clothing for this trip.
During my trip the coldest temperature was -29C and on average it was in the -15C range. I wore 3 layers regularly starting with thermals and then insulated pants and woollen sweaters or fleece and the final layer being a heavy insulated jacket and snow pants.
For footwear I wore sock liners and thick wooden socks and my mid height hiking boots which did a decent job of keeping me warm. And to protect my head and face I had a balaclava over which a I wore thick woolen Beanie and UV goggles to protect my face.
I used photography gloves with openable tips for index finger and thumbs on both hands to keep me warm but also make it easier to operate the camera controls.
My Favourite Outdoor Wear Brands
What was in my camera Bags?
As photographers we are ofter conflicted with what to take and what to leave behind just in case and this time was no different. I think I carried a little more than I should have but here is the list of equipment I carried for the trip.
and a GoPro 5 Black with 4 k video and voice operated control.
and a 2X Converter
Zeiss Otus 55mm 1.4
Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro
In hindsight I think the 55mm Otus and the 100mm Macro were overkill and weren't used all that much. The Lens that I enjoyed shooting the most with were the Sigma 20mm f1.4 and the Canon 70-200 followed by the Canon wide angle zoom.
Mindshift Gear- Backlight 26L Backpack , Think Tank Airport Stroller Bag
Gitzo Mountainer Tripod and Arca Swiss B1 ball head
Battery Grip for 5DSR
600 EX RT Flash
San Disk Extreme and Lexar CF Cards and SD cards
Lacie Rugged External Hard Drive for backing up my images
Macbook Pro and iPad Pro which were a bit redundant next trip I wil carry just one of these.
(I Lost my B1 Ball head while using the ski lift to to the top of kaunispa and now need to replace that. Hazards of travel photography !)
Singapore - Helsinki-Roavaniemi-Saariselka-Helsinki-New Delhi- Chennai
Day 1-Day 4 Rovaniemi
Where to Stay at Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi Offers a number of hotels and Apartments to stay at but winter is a very busy time specially during Christmas and accommodations can get fully booked a month or more in advance so book early.
I stayed at the Cumulus Hotel Pohjanhovi due to its location close to the river and also the rating and reviews from users. it turned out to be a good choice. The rooms were of a reasonable size and nice and warm which was a welcome relief after walking around in the cold for 5-6 hours a day.
But there area number of cottages and bed and breakfasts also available but can have little or no services and located remotely which will then require your to rent a car.
I managed without renting a car the entire trip as I was hesitant to drive in the icy winter conditions there. But I must mention the roads were all well maintained and clear and traffic was moving along well on the highways.
A few hotels which I found interesting during my search
Cumulus Hotel Pohjanhovi
Santa Claus Village (very popular)
Arctic City Hotel
Day 5 - Day 9 Saariselka
Where to Stay at Saariselka
I stayed at the Lapland Hotels Reikonlinna in Saariselka Village. Centrally located short walk to ski slopes and winter walking trails and has a bus stop just in front of the property.
Other hotels in Saariselka that looked interesting are
Holiday Club Saariselka
Aparthotel Kuukkeli Aurora
Kakslauttenen Igloo Village deserves special mention.its a popular and expensive resort but is unique.
Day 1 - Two Bridges Walk
This ia a picturesque walk along the banks of the Kemikoji River with crossings over the two bridges namely the Jätkänkynttilä, or Lumberjack Candle Bridge and the Old Railway Bridge
Day 2 - Ounasvara Winter Walking Trail
Ounasvaara fell is a versatile outdoor area close to Rovaniemi city centre. The winter walking route grants easy access to magical snowy forests and beautiful winter landscapes. The trail starting point lies only a 15-20-minute walk from the city centre. See more details here.
Day 3 - Ranua Wildlife Park
This is a great way to view Arctic Animals up close.Its a nice day trip from Rovaniemei and sure to be a hit with the kids while you practice your long lens shooting technique here. Birds of Prey, Polar Bears, Wolves, Wolverines, Red Fox, Reindeer and Musk Ox can all be seen here.
Day 4(Travel Day) Ravaniemi to Saariselka by Bus
Day 5 Exploring Saariselka Village and Kaunispaa
One can easily spend a day walking around Saariselka Village enjoying the crisp winter air and stop for a quick lunch and to warm up at the Cafe at the Supermarket. I recommend the PizzaS there. Visit Kaunispaa in the afternoon via the ski lift and take in the play of colours during golden hour all the way up to blue hour. The Ski lift only takes you up so you will have to find your own way down and back to the village either via the ski bus or call for a taxi from the cafe.
Day 6 Kiilopaa Fell Winter Walking Trail
This is a lovely winter activity destination which also offer some rustic accommodations for trekkers.This is also one of the starting points for the larger Urho Kekkonen Nature Park which offers multi day hikes.
The extensive wilderness areas of Urho Kekkonen National Park can be explored on skis in winter and on foot in other times. Hiking outside marked trails requires wilderness and orienteering skills, and in winter the thick snow adds an additional layer of difficulty. A map and compass are necessary, since GPS devices are not always reliable in the remote wilderness. Nights can be spent at any of the many wilderness and reservation huts in the park, which are stocked with firewood. The huts are located about a day's journey apart from each other.
Day 7 Aurorapolku Winter Walking Trail
The Aurorapolku trail is a short 2.1 km trail ideal that ls also the one of the starting points for the Urho Kekkonen Nature park mentioned above.
This takes us you to the Aurora Viewing Platform and Day Hut with a nice warm fire and restroom facilities.
Day 8 Exploring Saariselka
On the last full day at Saariselka I decided to just enjoy walking around the village again with camera in hand. Walked a different route into snow covered cabins and houses but kept to the main road so as not to trespass on the locals residences.
Day 9 Travel Day
Having had my fill of sub zero temperatures and with memory cards full of images it was time to head back to warmer climates.
My journey from -15C to +30 C started with a bus ride from Saariselka to Ivalo airport.
After a short flight to Helsinki I boarded my Finnair flight from Helsinki to New Delhi where the temperature was a moderate 18C.
Next I boarded a flight on good old Air India to Chennai which gave me a warm welcome at 30C.
Home Sweet Home?
And here I am writing this blog as I edit my images from my trip to winter wonderland.
working on my exhibit images now. Please sign up for my newsletter or watch my Facebook page to keep updated about the dates for the Exhibit . If you like this travel adventure please do share it with your friends.Hope it was useful and helps you plan your next winter adventure. Cheers!
Here area few useful links for planning your trip to Lapland
Here are quick links to Amazon.in for gear that I either used for this trip or are on my own Wishlist based on my experience in the cold. Use this to browse and pick gear for your trip.