In 2021, a friend and I headed to the northern part of Finland. After a long bus ride, we finally reached Enontekiö/Eanodat, the last stop. Despite the freezing temperatures, we decided to take on the challenge of skiing across Hetta-Pallas, a 12-day journey through snow and wind.

From hut to hut, pulling our heavy ahkio (sled), I wanted to capture those lights. When the sun clung to the horizon, the sunset seems to last forever. As darkness fell, there is a chance to see the sky light up in shades of green.

A told some insights of this trip in the Carnet d’Aventure n°70 (only in French). »

This quest of northern light, as is it for a thousand of people every year, I have done it by foot. To reach this north part of Europe, no plane been used. Only by train ! You can find my train trip story here : A 3000 km European train commuting Ep. 1. In this article, I’ll share the story behind a particular photo and time-lapse featured in my film, “The Forest Archipelago”.

Chapter I: The weather decide

Beginning a long trip with days of unfavourable weather demands resilience and adaptability. The focus shifts from the excitement to see northern lights to the practicalities of the journey. Equipped with a 14-day food supply, we progressed from hut to hut. The relentless winds and a perpetually cloudy sky kept us stuck inside the huts few time.

Resolute, we eventually decided to brave the elements. Skis strapped on and sled attached to the hips, we pushed forward through the snow-covered terrain, battling both physical and mental challenges. The days became a blend of monotonous travel and breaks in cabins, with the persistent hope of clearer skies.

After enduring a seemingly endless stretch of cloudy weather, a sudden break offered a glimpse of the elusive northern lights. The ethereal display of green across the snow-covered landscape justified the hardships of the journey, turning a challenging expedition into a rewarding adventure. Nature unveils its wonders when least expected, rewarding the energy spent.

Chapter II: After 6 days of ski, the sky open

After this brief northern light between cloud, before being gusted once again by the wind, we started another day toward a tunturi (Finnish name of this mountain/hills). The cold hitch our throats, making our hairs white, our buff being bloc of ice. It wasn’t even that cold, but the clear sky was finally here. As we were passing a mountain pass — if we could call it like this — the magic of north colours appear to us. I never thought that could append in this trip. We were at the best spot, at the right time.

The inversion gracefully danced around us, ascending as the sun taking his time to set, seemingly savouring the moment as well. With nightfall, we found ourselves immersed in the ritual of melting snow and preparing a meal in our cabin.

In this cabin, no network, no possibility to check the northern light forecast. Placing our hopes in the hands of the elusive auroras. As the night progress, the few hikers staying went to bed. We are alone with my friend next to the stove. Going outside, one after the other to check the dark sky.

The hour pass and nothing seem coming. My friend went outside brushing her teeth. And came back right away, “It’s here !!”.
Grabbing my camera in silent, clipping it on my tripod, we went outside.

The spectacle unfolded before us, leaving us momentarily breathless. Our bodies stood still as the universe performed its silent symphony. The world around us seemed to hold its breath in reverence.

But I had work. I became absorbed in the technical dance of setting up the camera, desperately trying to predict the movement of the Northern Lights. Every adjustment was a delicate choreography, an attempt to capture the essence of this phenomenon, hoping to freeze a moment that felt as timeless as the arctic night itself.

After few pictures and panoramas, I started to record a time-lapse — an accelerate video made of few hundred images — I had to patiently let my camera capture the unfolding moments over an extended period.

And because of the cold, I decided to let it outside while I was getting warmer inside. After half an hour, I went outside to retrieve my lone companion. When I saw my camera, my blood ran cold. The wind rose and brought all the humidity on my camera ! Even the lens was covered by ice.

I grab it and put it back in my backpack. The cabin being too warm now, I brushed it as much I could and let it warm slowly in the backpack. Crossing my finger in my sleeping bag.

With a lot of luck, it turned on perfectly in the morning. And after few years, it is still running ! Although few buttons don’t work any more, the image is still perfect.

Table of contents
Share Post

Related Articles

  • Europe by Rail: 3000 km Commuting Chronicles, Episode 1/3