Words & Images by Kristoffer Vaikla
Winter is different. Winter is special, in every sense. You see it approaching when the birds begin to gather. It will be even closer when the trees turn yellow and red. You know that it is not far anymore when the birds fly up, and the same once colored leaves turn brown on the ground. You wait for it on the bleak days when the trees swing in the autumn storms. You are waiting for the white carpet to cover the somber land, to grant relief whilst the dark days. And then one day, you wake up and see the first snowflake falling down from the clouds and you know that winter is here.
The Estonians consider themselves a Nordic country. This is also confirmed by the fact that winter here in this small part of the world is generally cold and harsh. This little Nordic soul has always had a place in my heart. Already as a kid, after our short summer I started to wait for Christmas. It symbolized the begin of winter and snow. Santa Claus always came along with the gifts when the land was white outside. At least I remember it that way. After Christmas, however, winter was not over, it was just starting. The time for snowmen, snow castles, and snowball fights began. As I get older, there were less snowball fights and less snow castles, but a beautiful memory of it remained.
Now, besides simple joys, I am able to value everything else around me. One of the top events that I am looking forward to every winter is a trip to my summer cabin. As the daily life in the city and working pace are fast and nerve-wrecking, going to a small island on a winter trip will turn you off of that rapidness. At least for a moment. There is only snow, ice and silence. The small island of Vormsi, where about 200 people live, concedes me moments of peace. In wintertime it is a challenge to get there. It begins with a ferry ride: There are no other cars, just yours and one local resident is drinking tea in the ferry’s cafe, and then you know that you are going somewhere where there is nothing beside peace.
The barge breaks through the frozen sea, ice pieces clattering on the metal body. An hour-long ride in summer can turn into a 5 hours challenge in this tough wintertime. However, if it happens to be a real Nordic winter, then it is not rare that the ice road is open. 10km drive on the frozen sea creates an unforgettable experience. You’re excited but at the same time also scared. Everything you see is an empty field of ice that extends to the horizon. You know that under your feet there is a meters deep sea, but you only think of what is in front of you. When you arrive one way or another, your breath in deeply and feel the relaxation, all your daily troubles are left behind the frozen sea.
© all pictures Kristoffer Vaikla
More of this essay in our NL1 magazine
Words & Images Norbert von Niman-
It is those days when you’re walking on a glacier, everything around you in full black and white except your friends yellow raincoat, wearing three layers and still getting cold. You are still waiting for the heat waves, beach days and tropical showers when you realise it’s already August and this is as good as summer will get in Iceland. This is a fully different climate, fully different experience and an astonishing landscape to back it all up.
Getting used to a landscape like this is something that will never happen. Every time you revisit a place it’s a different light, different colours of the grass, different clouds, weather and season. In summer there are signs of lush, green life while in winter those four hours of sunlight bounces off the snow colouring everything with an orange hue, or pink, purple blue and then black. It’s like a massive colouring book, sometimes filled out but sometimes just left empty.
The desolation is sometimes imminent which makes the small details, that one perceivable object or the only feature, ever so much more important to show that this is actually reality. It’s difficult to comprehend the scale and the distance, and an anchor point for that sense of reality is important.
Same thing applies to life living in such a hostile environment. With cold around every corner and a darkness that takes everything there needs to be something to bring back some hope. Hot springs can provide warmth for body, good friends and all the open hearted locals provide warmth for the soul, and northern lights shine up the darkness. This makes even the coldest winter days survivable.
It’s not supposed to be easy to live on an extreme piece of volcano surrounded by the wild sea. You can hide in Reykjavik and pretend to live a normal life with normal problems but as soon as you get out in the wilderness the weather can be the greatest of challenges. Pictures are best taken when there is a good story to follow behind it, or a struggle to get it. That is most certainly the case when facing gale force winds, freezing temperatures and isolation from civilisation. The weather suits the landscape though.
© all images Norbert von Niman
Many times there can be hours of howling wind tearing through even the most windproof layers of clothing, until you come to the sudden realisation that everything has gone perfectly quiet. All noise is gone, water flat, nothing is moving. The wind has stopped and so does the world with it. It is these moments of clarity when the feeling of truly being alone in the middle of nowhere creeps up. The shutter makes a quick sound that echoes in the vast emptiness. The wind is back.
Essay of our NL1 magazine!
Words & Images Frederique Peckelsen-
Not all summers are the same. Whilst most people use summers to lay in the sun and typically relax, for me summer is a time to explore and discover. I have the freedom to visit places far away from home, far away from the big known cities and the Western world. There are so many untold stories on our earth, so many unseen places, and I have this insatiable urge to go out and find them and share these stories with the world. I used to love the warm weather. My grandma always asked me when I was going to move to Spain. But then Iceland changed something. I want to be outside in the cold.
The white North has a treasurable silence, that I have found nowhere else in the world. It is the only place that never distracts me from my own thoughts and feelings, but rather confronts me with it. The endless white landscapes brings clarity to my mind. The rough but silent nature is so perfectly aligned with what I feel on the inside. There is hope, in the desolate landscape – as contradicting as it may sound. Its beauty strikes you in your core, as there is no distraction of any kind. Only a very pure feeling remains.
But then again, the North can be as mysterious as the night. The hidden and covered landscapes, and the mystery of what lies beneath and beyond makes way for untold stories. The invisible or the things out of sight fuel my imagination, and make way for a sense of freedom, away from the familiar and the obvious. The North is like home, but it is always far away from today, here and now. And in this way, with both clarity and imagination, the North unites me with my creativity that mostly gets smothered in the more crowded places. It taps into a world of the lost, the hidden, the untold and the forgotten. The North feels like the abandoned lands of epic battles fought in children books. Battles between higher Gods and invisible creatures.
I grew up in a very small town up in the North. I had a childhood full of fantasy, and played in the woods that surrounded our house for days on end. I imagined every tree was a spirit, and that the woods would talk to each other, but they talked in a language unknown to mankind. I played at a little wooden church, close to home. The church was built by Vikings, according to old folk tales. Folk tales and fairytales were not just stories that were made up, there had to be more to them. Since then I have always been on a quest to find most distant and forgotten places, locked between the most majestic mountains. Isolated houses awake my fantasy. Who lives there? What would a cold night, full of storm be like in there? Have you ever wondered? Every time I go back to Iceland, I secretly hope for these colors. There is so much that awestrucks me, but these colors make everything even more magical.
We are all looking for something, chasing it, sometimes even without knowing what it is. I always tend to find ‘it’ in desolate places, because of this ongoing confrontation with my own mind, and the beauty that I’m surrounded by while contemplating it all. As we grow older, we should realize that our option broaden, they do not limit. Learn, practice, put in every extra hour you have. Because if this is that little voice talking, it will guide you toward your final path. I’m looking for sacred places in nature, perhaps because I’m looking for that place within myself. Somewhere where nature is harsh and rules over everything, instead of everything seemingly ruling over nature. There is something so magical about the ever changing but rough and pure landscape of the North. It feels like an untouched piece of the earth, whereas a lot of other places are all altered to serve humans and make life easier. I believe that where we go or what we long for defines who we are, or and least says something about us.
Everyone has that one thing that keeps on calling. But mostly it is very silently. When we are children it is so much louder, and so much clearer. As kids we know exactly what we want, and we are not afraid to say these desires out loud. But then, when we get older, dreams change, although dreaming never changes. But the one thing is, that we don’t take our dreams as serious as we did before. When I was young, I always wanted to be an Egyptologist, an areologist. Of course my options where limited, but as a child I didn’t know what possibilities the world had in store. But I did know I was intrigued by forgotten and untold stories, by undiscovered kingdoms and that I wanted to explore what hadn’t been explored. I wanted to show the world the treasures earth possesses.
© all pictures Frederique Peckelsen
But weirdly enough, as we grow older, our dreams aren’t as big as they were – even though we are more aware of all its possibilities. We think about what would be the most sensible choice, what brings us most money. All of a sudden our options are limited, and we are scared to even say out loud what we desire. I am not saying that everybody should give up their jobs, and build a cabin in the woods (isn’t that what we all would love?). But what I am saying is, listen to that little voice inside. That dream you are scared off. That one thing you fear you will be ridiculed for, or seems impossible to achieve. Has one ever regretted trying to follow their dream?
Essay of our NL1 magazine!
Images & Words: Sisilia Tiseli-
Before the day begins…
I do love waking up into the comfort of silence, it is an early morning type of silence, that breed of silence where it is just you and all that is beautiful and natural; the kind of silence that is seen with the eyes and felt only by the depth of the heart. It is at a time where the sky is a deep sea kind of blue, the air is crystal crisp, filling up the lungs with deep sighs of gratitude. Inhaling. Exhaling. Slowly. Sigh. Seconds feel like hours has passed by whilst I enjoy this kind of silence, a sense of peace, just before the day begins.
When I was younger, I was always at a pace where it was on mode “go” and sleeping was a pause between days. The alarm would go off at 5 in the morning, and I am up, ready for the first phase of the day; an hour of exercise, make coffee, shower, drink coffee, getting dressed, blending of smoothie while sipping hastily of black coffee number 2, out the door and walk to train station. At the train station, I mentally go over my to-do list for the day. When the train arrives, it signals that the day has begun. All this happened before 7:30am. This seamless and well-oiled process that was my pre-morning went on for the next 14 years. I had no complains since this pace and structure suited me just fine. However, it wasn’t until recently, that my body yelled halt, and so I had to revisit how my day begins.
Three years ago, I realised how important it was to start my morning in a way that was gentle and mindful. Most days are demanding as it already is, so it was important that the beginning of the day should be treated with much care. I came across the notion of wabi- sabi as well as the idea of “slowliving” and it helped during this time of transition. I instantly recognised that there was a sense of disconnect within myself and everything else. Nature, which was something that I never appreciated, became the line connecting me to myself and everything else. It is with nature that taught me how to slow down, to stop, to enjoy, and appreciate the beauty that was silence. I also learnt to pause and listen, within myself and also all around me.
Before the day begins…
My mornings these days are extremely simple, grounded by a large dose of mindfulness; me, myself, coffee in my comfort cup, favourite linen blanket and silence.The first thing that I do to break the state of sleep after the dedicated call from the alarm is making that first pot of coffee. The process is methodical, but I take a little time for this, since this too is also a much loved part of my morning. During the time that I have my water boiled, I walk outside with a cold glass of water to take long large gulps of the luxurious morning crisp air, and, just, wait. I wait until I hear the “snap” from inside, a sign that the water is ready. For my morning coffee, I use what I call the comfort cup. I have specific cups for my coffee, tea and hot lemon water. I don’t know when this peculiarity started, but it has always been there before I fell in love with beautiful hand thrown ceramic vessels. Ordinary vessels when made with love, is priceless. My favourite comfort cups were made by my dear friend and talented ceramist, Annemieke.
My first act in the morning before the day really begins is to be gentle with myself, to enjoy the little things and to still the mind. Life and the day will be demanding, but starting the day simply and gently is a way to reclaiming a sense of control, a pace that is defined by you…before the day begins.
© all pictures Sisilia Tiseli
More in our NL1 magazine! Available at: coffetablemags,
Words & Images Morgane Erpicum
I woke up before dawn, awkwardly ensconced in my sleeping bag and our many blankets. I wiped the condensation from the car window and looked out, eager to start the day.
The night was a deep royal blue over winter’s thick blanket of snow. The silence was absolute, save for Doug’s quiet breathing next to me and the gentle stream flowing close to the car.
The wind suddenly picked up, blowing away the dark colours of the night and the cloud cover. I sat there, intently watching the sky turn to lavender, then to the softest of pinks.
“How is that for winter light?” He said, sitting up and tucking his messy hair behind his ears.
“Everything I could have hoped for”, I replied, grinning.
When my husband and I first started telling people we were moving to Iceland, the reactions it triggered were quite extraordinary; they ranged from utter amazement to horror. Amongst the raised fears (and a good load of misled preconceived notions), one issue seemed to arise more often than not. “How are you going to survive the winters? You do know you will be in the dark from October until February, don’t you?” they asked us, their eyes wide with shock.
While we appreciate the fact that their questions stem from concern and love, we have always approached the issue serenely. Fair enough, neither of us are used to living at such latitudes, but we both do come from the greyest and wettest areas of Western Europe. We have spent several weeks in Iceland, both at the beginning of winter and in the midst of it. Every single time, we were struck by the quality of the light and the uncanny realization that we had had more sunshine over the course of one week in Iceland than during the entire length of winter in Belgium.
“Shall we move on?”, he asked, stretching his lanky body as much as the confines of the car would allow him. I acquiesced while putting on the many layers that would help me brave the icy wind. We quickly packed up the back of the car, hopped in the front and started driving.
By then, the sky was painted peach pink and vermillion orange. It was February, and the sunrises and sunsets glow beautifully for incredibly long stretches of time at this period of the year. Sometimes, it almost seems like the sun wants to take full advantage of the shorter daylight by showcasing the most incredible kaleidoscope of colours.
We cruised along the snow-laden Ring Road, westbound through the Fjords, taking in the scenery and its many powdery nuances.
We soon reached a pass, climbing further and further into the mountains and the clouds.
As we took a turn, we got engulfed in fog, which submerged us in a milky mist indistinguishable from the snow. We slowed down, mesmerised by the white slivers streaming across the asphalt.
“Are these plumes of steam coming off the road?” he said, focused on driving.
“Nope”, I said, in awe, “it’s the snow dancing in the wind”.
© all pictures Morgane Erpicum with kind permission
excerpt from NORTHLETTERS MGAZINE print edition Vol.1!
More about Morgane here.
Take care dear readers! Melanie Kettner
Words & Photography by Christina Strehlow-
Love this place, the fields, the landscape, the sea so close, the magic light … dreaming that this never ends..at all.
It was obvious that it would be Österlen, we would only find the right house, and when we did, it felt so right. The first summer we spent here was cold, not at all like this summer, and we were renovating the house a lot in a comfortable climate. This summer was the best for a very long time, and I feel so grateful and glad that we can spend so much time here in Skåne, at Österlen, where we are so happy. So wonderful to inhale impressions, views, moments that arise and that you want to preserve, then it’s good to be able to take the camera to remember this instant forever, it never comes again… that’s how I think when I’m shooting these summer moments of our daily life in Österlen- Sometimes I want to shoot so many moments….time is limiting me, but I’m getting better at reacting fast and playing on daylight.
Our house is from the 19th century, and many fine details remained as old doors, low ceilings in some rooms, creating really the old style of former days. We mixed them up with new and modern details. One can say that the whole house is an inspiring place for me and my studio where I can plate everything from product images to my artwork. I really love the light here and the lyrical evenings when the soft light is creeping in and it looks so magically beautiful and inspiring.
The plains, the countryside, the fields, the sea, when you are close to all them, it’s not hard to get inspired and I work at least as much as I rest. I combine both, working and taking breaks. That’s how I want to live, I do not have any trouble to unwind occasionally, take the bike down to the water and take a dip or hang in the hammock and just read.
I love to create peaceful worlds through my imagery that feed my soul too, so when I take photos of my daughters, I hardly see it as a job, it is filling me with happiness and energy.
This place will always be my inspiration to create, to have my studio here, both inside the house and outside the door, is amazing. If I occasionally lose contact to my inspiration, I drink my coffee ( often 8 cups ), take a walk and look at the beautiful prospect and the inspiration is coming back to me.
Feel so privileged and grateful
©all pictures Christina Strehlow
More about in our NL2 magazine and about Christina here.
Words and photography by Lise Ulrich
For most of the year, weather permitting, the streets of the small Danish capital are bustling with local life, students and curious tourists filling up hip eateries and cafes, strolling along canals and taking in the historic sights. And of course pedalling from a-z in throngs of ever busy bicycle traffic. Copenhageners enjoy a uniquely high quality of life in a city that has always been more ‘hyggelig’ than hectic, and yet a born country girl might find herself yearning for a bit of untouched nature beyond walks in well-groomed castle gardens. Lucky then, that this too, is Copenhagen.
I used to miss the sound of crickets in summer, and the emptiness of open fields on a winter day. I missed the way light filters through leaves in the forest, the sound of waves rolling in and looking out over the landscape with not a house or road in sight. I missed being alone with my thoughts surrounded by nothing but nature, savouring a few hours of uninterrupted mindfulness before another workweek started churning away.
I needn’t have.
Having grown up in the Danish countryside without a single neighbour and being used to long daily walks with the dog or riding my horse, I remember feeling slightly overwhelmed when visiting Copenhagen as a child. The city – however tiny and picturesque compared to most capitals – seemed loud and slightly claustrophobic back then, and the traffic congestion, train stations and crowded streets left my skin sticky (or so I imagined).
Later as a young adult I would move to London and completely immerse myself in big city life on a vastly larger scale, and thus when I finally returned to Denmark years later by way of a job offer in Copenhagen, it was like relocating to a village where shops closed early and people walked frustratingly slow on metro escalators.
Perhaps because Copenhagen suddenly appeared unequivocally miniscule and laid-back to me, the country girl inside started stirring from her London adventure-induced nap. The hills and forests of my old home were now but an hour’s drive away, but with no car, a busy new career and precious little time to spend whole days escaping by train to the country, I grew restless walking in well-trodden circles around Copenhagen’s four lakes and central gardens several times a week, however lovely they are, trying to find some inner peace through the sound of birds and the wind in treetops – all the while surrounded by countless dog walkers, runners, nervous looking first-date couples (you can spot them a mile away) and groups of friends chatting animatedly with take-away coffee (admittedly I was and am often one of them).
But as many a newcomer to the city learns, I had only to expand my vision beyond the iconic heartland to discover the second nature of Copenhagen.
© all pictures Lise Ulrich
Following a few tips from fellow nature-loving Copenhageners and a map (these were the last days of the paper map, mind you), I realized to my initial surprise that I did not even have to leave the city perimeter to find those green spaces and uninterrupted vistas I longed for. It was there on my doorstep, a bike ride or few metro stops away from the familiar cobblestone streets and spires and bike lanes.
So much had I longed to take up those weekly country walks, that my entire perception of living in Copenhagen changed drastically and to the better on the afternoon that I got off at the last metro stop on the green line, at Vestamager, and walked to Kalvebod Commons, a large nature reserve right on the edge of the city that stretches on for miles and miles of marshlands, grass fields and birch forests, only occupied by birds, deer, sheep and cows.
Excerpt from NORTHLETTERS MAGAZINE VOLUME 1. More in our Vol.1 this autumn and about Lise Ulrich here.
Take care, dear readers! Melanie Kettner
Images & Words: Fran Mart-
Miles and miles have passed since I decided to move to the UK, and so many wonderful things have happened. I found the right path, the right guy to walk it with, and we’re making a home out of our dreams and kindness. Today I want to encourage you to take that first step you’ve been thinking about for a long time. Maybe it’s moving to a new country, or starting a new project, asking someone to walk beside you or just allowing yourself to find more quiet. So many beautiful horizons are waiting for you if you’re just willing to take the wheel. Life is a matter of choice. I’m thinking about how different my life was before. Visiting Ibiza and Formentera has made me remember how much I love the sea and how much it has always been present in my life. But I always knew that my soul belonged to another place and this is the highlands of Scotland. I left my whole life behind and chose to go out and find my place, my inner home, the place where I feel complete.
All I have achieved so far has been with the help of people around me, my persistence, my love of adventure, nature and the desire to inspire people to travel and explore in themselves. Follow the path ahead, be patience, believe in this and go your own way. Originally from Andalucía, Spain, the colors, landscapes and textures offered by the British countryside continue to inspire me today. Having discovered photography through my good friend (and tattoo artist), it very quickly became my passion and adventure. Obsessed by light and simple, natural beauty, I always seek to capture something beyond what we see – the emotion, feelings, memories that exist in the moment. For me, photography is akin to sitting by the fire, sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee or dram of whisky, and sharing stories with good friends. My photography has taken me on an incredible journey. A journey that takes you to the unexplored space of your own being. One of the meanings of photography for me. What started with exploring my own feelings through self-portraiture has turned into capturing the lives of others in a variety of styles. Photography gave me a reason to fall in love with life again.
For two years now I’ve been living with the frustration of not being able to express myself with the right words. This is because it is not my mother tongue.
I want to connect with you in a deeper way, sharing thoughts and experiences which is why I’m making the decision to write more. Photography helped me to express myself when the words where scarce but it’s just one of many ways. Writing, painting, dancing, whatever is inside you, let it come out. Free yourself. Art is a way to release feelings and thoughts, a way to be honest with ourselves.Think big about our world and your mind will expand, we know very little of it. We live in our bubble of desires stopping us from growing. Be authentic, rare, strange, you are unique when you are really you. Stay true to your own nature. Mine is the slow living, the quietness, the explorer, the enthusiastic, the dreamer.
I was catching up with another photographer the other day and he asked me why an adventure account from Scotland hasn’t featured my work on their page yet. I’ve been doing some thinking on these “big accounts” and so wanted to share a little something on what motivates my work. I love taking pictures. I love being out there, exploring, noticing and connecting with what is in front of me. I love getting back home and sitting in front of the computer seeing the beauty that’s captured on my camera. I love to read your messages saying how you find inspiration in those images too. These and a thousand more are the reasons for what I do. I’d be lying if I said that I don’t like it when big communities on IG feature my work; this brings me a little bit of happiness and itself feels rewarding (maybe stroking that universal need for recognition) but I’m very clear that it does not make you a better photographer. What helps you grow as a photographer is believing in yourself, having the courage to get out there and explore, to see with your own eyes and feel in your own self the world where we live and all the beauty that lies waiting for you. I feel grateful for the journey that photography is taking me on, traveling to so many places, meeting incredible people, being more present. With photography I discovered parts of myself that have been hidden, releasing my sensibilities, and allowing more beauty into my life.
For me and for thousands with similar inclinations, the most important passion of life is the overpowering desire to escape periodically from the clutches of a mechanistic civilization. To us the enjoyment of solitude, complete independence, and the beauty of undefined panoramas is absolutely essential to happiness…”- Bob Marshall. I couldn’t agree more with him, there is no better place than nature to listen to your inner soul. Nature is full of wonder. I didn’t realize the very importance of nature in life until a few years ago. Distracted by fantasies of a life I thought I wanted, I didn’t allow space to develop a vision beyond myself. It was in front of the sea where I first came face to face to the feeling that I’d been building a life I did not actually belong to, a life outside myself. Let yourself be part of nature and allow its stillness to speak into who you are.We spend much of our life traveling between thoughts. We forget to appreciate everything around us, the moment of here and now. Nature transports us to the natural state of the present and to calm our loudest mind.
© all pictures Fran Mart with kind permission
Essay of our NL1 magazine!