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Riisitunturi National Park - One winter day in photos

Photographing in Riisitunturi National Park - One-day weather diary

Riisitunturi national park is one of the best winter photography locations in forest Lapland. It is a place of a surreal-like alien world winter wonderland. One of the snowiest place in Finland, snow-covered trees and beautiful arctic light is a combo that makes it a world-class photographic spot.

Best time to photograph the area is in December - January. Arctic light is at it’s most epic levels when day length is about 3-5 hours. Spending one full day out there you can shoot everything from sunrise to night sky. In this blog post, I will show you how the light changes during the day. All pictures were shot 27th Dec 2015.

RIISITUNTURI SUNRISE TO SUNSET

Sunrise 10:45.

Hiking or skiing from the parking lot takes about an hour to reach the top of the hill where the wanderer cabin is located. You should time your trip so that you have enough time to hike up there before sunrise.

NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

Sunset was 13:32 There is still about 30 minutes pink glow after the sunset. I did not take any photos 14:00 - 16.00. I went to wilderness cabin to eat and chill for a few hours. It will take about two-three hours after sunset until the sky is getting dark enough to start shooting night photography.

I left the cabin after 18:00 and started skiing back to the car taking pictures on the way. I was able to capture some nice starry photos before moonrise. I skied back to the parking lot under the moonlight and continued taking pictures on the way.

Additional info

Weather can be freezing at that time of the year, and you can expect even - 35°c cold. You should wear proper winter gear!! Don't forget hot drink and snacks, working in the cold temperatures takes a lot of energy.

Visiting Riisitunturi is about 3-4 km hiking. I recommend snowshoes or skis to be able to go off the tracks.

Visiting Riisitunturi is about 3-4 km hiking. I recommend snowshoes or skis to be able to go off the tracks.

Photographing the Ice falls in Korouma nature reserve.

Korouoma is about 30 kilometres long, few hundred metres wide and up to 130m deep canyon at Posio, Finland. The entire area is a nature reserve.

Part of Koroma's distinctive nature are the cliffs both sides of it, where several streams freeze during the winter forming large ice formations.

Ice formations are one of the most exciting things to photograph in the area. You cannot find that kind of ice falls anywhere else in Finland.  There is five large ice falls height from 40m to 60m. 

 

korouoma_nature_reserve-12.jpg

Brown River is Korouoma's largest and highest icefall.

Korouoma is about 5km from my childhood home, and I have been there countless times. I had this idea of shooting ice fall pictures at night in my mind for a while.

It was a super cold night - 38°c degrees and bright moonlight night. Canyon drops from the ground level, so it’s even colder in the canyon. Once you have right winter gear and enough spare batteries cold is not an issue. Surely it makes your actions slower and even bit painful when adjusting camera setting, but it’s not so bad in the end.  

There is about 900m walk from the Saukkovaara parking area into the bottom of the canyon. The place is a popular hiking area, there are marked routes, and usually, the trail is open during the whole winter. At the bottom of the canyon, there are two lean-to shelters and campfire sites. 

I arrived at the bottom of the canyon before dark. First, I made fire; it makes the waiting game so much more comfortable. I wanted to shoot Ice falls under the moonlight, but once auroras came visible, I got excited. Could I get auroras and the Icefall in the same picture? 

Fireplace at the bottom of the canyon. Temperature - 41°C .

Auroras dancing above the trees in the Korouoma canyon.

 

From the fireplace, the largest ice fall is only 300m away. Just a few minutes of walk, but ascending to the bottom of the icefall takes another 15mins of sweat.

Once I arrived from the woods to open space, I saw the auroras dancing above the icefall. It was more than I expected. 

I spent about 5 hours in the canyon. First auroras appeared at 17:30 and I saw last auroras at about 20:00.

 

Operating in such cold conditions was worth it. I took about 290 long exposure frames, and I run all my five camera batteries empty. The cold has affected battery life; even you keep all of them in warm pocked. All pictures shot with Canon 5Dmk3. The camera was otherwise working good, but once in a while, it could not process preview images at all. 

After doing the shooting, it was time to go home and have a warm sauna.  Once I arrived at the car I was laughing out loud once saw my frosty look in the mirror. I felt some hair went out from the powder mask but did not expect the gnome-look.

The trail is easy but going back, it's all up hill.

5 hours in - 41°C degrees. Frosty!!!

5 hours in - 41°C degrees. Frosty!!!

 

FEW THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN SHOOTING IN KOROUOMA AT WINTER TIME

  • If you go alone, tell someone your plan and when you should be back because phones are not working in the canyon.

  • If you go alone, take a winter sleeping back with you just in case if something happens like you broke your ankle, etc. and you can't hike back to a car. Help might take a long time, and you don't want to freeze. At the day time there are usually people coming and going, but at night you might be the only one in the area.

  • I recommend snowshoes, the trail might be snow covered, and you can take a hike out of the trails

Checklist

  • First aid kit

  • Headlamp

  • Hot drink in thermos & some snacks

  • Matches (lighters also freeze)

  • Extra batteries

  • Knife

Map of Korouoma  


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Photographing In Lapland: Chasing The Arctic Light

LAPLAND IS A POPULAR NORTHERN LIGHTS HUNTING DESTINATION, BUT IN THIS ARTICLE, I TELL YOU ABOUT THE ARCTIC LIGHT. WHERE AND WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH THE ARCTIC LIGHT DURING THE WINTER.

Finland is one of the world's northernmost countries, and Lapland is the largest and the northernmost region of Finland, about 500km long. Most of the Lapland is under the polar night during mid-winter. The polar night is the period when the sun no longer rises above the horizon. In the Northern Lapland, the polar night lasts almost two months

POLAR NIGHT AND PHOTOGRAPHY?

The polar night in Lapland is not complete darkness; it's more like twilight, lasting a few hours between the "nights."  If you want to shoot mostly night scenes, then the polar night is not an issue. Otherwise, it might be a bit challenging, especially in the areas where polar night lasts for weeks. Cloud coverage during the polar night means "complete" darkness around the clock.  You will get most hues during the last days of the polar night as the sun is already close to the horizon.  

Polar night statistics from 2016, days may vary a bit annually. 

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HOW TO GET MOST OF THE ARCTIC WINTER LIGHT?

If you have the time, first explore the Southern Lapland and then take a trip to the Northern Lapland after the polar night.

  • Alternatively, you can plan your trip to a location where you can experience the last days of the polar night and the first sunny days after it.

  • You can also plan your trip to a location with 2 to 6 hours of daylight.

When the day length is just a few hours, you will have the continually changing amazing arctic light. Even if there are clouds, you'll still have enough light for a daytime photo shoot. I love the short days because you can have a sunrise and a sunset in the same set and even continue to shoot night scenes, and all that before 9 PM. When the days get longer, you'll need to wake up earlier to shoot the sunrise, and there are the dull hours of white light before the sunset. 

Best time to shoot the arctic light below polar night line is from mid-December to the end of January.          

RECOMMENDED LOCATIONS :   

  • Syöte, Syöte National Park

  • Pyhä - Luosto National Park

  • Kuusamo, Oulanka National Park

  • Posio, Riisitunturi National Park

  • Salla, Eastern Lapland in general

Example Images from Southern Lapland shot in December and early January.

SHOOTING AFTER THE POLAR NIGHT. 

Ultimately the best time to shoot the northern Lapland's winter landscapes is the first weeks after the polar night. The light is the most epic when the day length is about 2 to 6 hours. At that time the light is evolving every minute, and there are a so many hues in just a few hours. You kind of have the same light conditions two times, first in Southern Lapland when the north is under the polar night, and once the south is getting too bright, you go up North and have the same light once again.

Depending on your location, the polar night begins and ends in different time. Use day length calculator to plan your photographic trip. 

The light will be still good for weeks after the polar night, but when the days get longer, you have more time between sunrise and sunset. On the other hand, then there is more time to explore the area and find the best spots.

RECOMMENDED LOCATIONS :   

  • Pallas - Yllästunturi National Park

  • Kilpisjärvi and Käsivarsi wilderness area

  • Pöyrisjärvi wilderness area

  • Paistunturit wilderness area

  • Enontekiö, Hetta

  • Utsjoki, Ivalo, Inari, Saariselkä

  • Levi, kittilä, Muonio, Salla

Example Images from Northern Lapland in the first weeks after the polar night. 

NOTES

  • The arctic light is at it's best when the day length is about 2 to 6 hours.

  • Southern Lapland offers the best light from mid-December to the end of January.

  • Northern Lapland provides the best light after the polar night.

  • Check out the day length calculator for when the polar night ends.

  • National parks are easy to access during winter time with snowshoes, skis or even with a fat bike.

  • Access to wilderness areas is challenging during the winter time, and local guidance is essential in most cases. Feel free to ask my help for finding the right guides.

 

LINKS

 

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