a type of quiet we long after

Words & Photography by Mia Nguyen-

There’s a type of quiet I long after. It usually takes place in the early mornings and late evenings. This particular state of calm permeates every living space, making it easier to breathe and be still. The late and early darkness is often filled with tender murmurs of airplanes flying over, a subtle hum from the refrigerator. I’m neither a morning or night person, but these are the feelings that home exhibits after being away and on the road for stretches of time. It’s a calmness that creates a space for reflection.

Finding pockets of calm in daily living can feel precious and rare, especially when living in a noisy city. It’s the moment when the phone buzzes less and the flow of traffic comes to a dead stop. It’s the moment where you can close your eyes and just be left alone. In our busy day-to-day, this slowness in life is often forgotten about. Due to our fast-paced lifestyles we have adapted ourselves to we have to remind ourselves to slow down.

After a while, there’s always a need to escape to a place with quiet ambiance. Each season, I find myself having a sudden need to escape in an attempt to build new meaning for my creative work. Time starts to stretch and start to weigh like heavy glass blocks when the winter air remains stagnant and unproductive.

On a late November evening in 2017, I took a red-eye flight to Reykjavik from Boston. I had the unique opportunity to return to Iceland for the second time. It’s the first country where I received my first passport stamp and will forever cherish that memory. The purpose of my return was for a photography workshop focused on photographing arctic foxes on the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve of the Westfjords. The northwest region of Iceland is known for its intensity and extreme weather patterns. Life is rugged underneath the Arctic Circle and I prepared myself for the worst by packing clothes I could layer on top of each other for shooting photographs outside for long periods of time. I specifically chose to embark on this trip for its challenges and completely surrender myself to the environmental extremes. I wanted to push myself to the creative limits under harsh conditions. I wanted to go at it alone.

The word bravery is often associated with traveling alone. Bravery itself is a choice we make in order to remind ourselves of our own strength and courage. We are stronger than we think we are most of the time. If I allow the thoughts of fear of failure to seep in for too long, it’s game over. There’s real magic in diving deep into unexplored parts of ourselves and the world. Through this magic, we can find solace and understanding on what we are after and where we are going.

On day one, we packed up the Land Rovers with our equipment and headed to Súðavík, an 8-hour journey from Reykjavik. Just moments on the road, the trip had already surpassed my expectations. The views were nothing but awe-inspiring. Each mile and turn unfolded another natural wonder and a new weather pattern. Over the course of an hour we witnessed a rainstorm, a snowstorm, and vastness of sunlight. The tumultuous experience felt like a kaleidoscope dreamscape. In Iceland, we must surrender ourselves to the weather and adapt quickly to the sudden changes. It is crucial to go with the flow.

The small town of Ísafjörður was dusted in a generous amount of snow. The place resembled a real-life snow globe. As we departed from the marina, we were advised to switch our phones to airplane mode. It was nice to disconnect and say goodbye to the world for a brief moment. Our worlds in the modern age is grounded in staying constantly connected. The thought alone can be overwhelming. Switching off occasionally is essential for sanity’s sake. There’s so much of the world to experience presently.

Life generally slows down in the Westfjords. The landscape of Iceland is defined by its sparseness. The sun doesn’t rise until 10 a.m. or later in the winter. The waves from the water crash onto the rocks with full force. Everything is cloaked in deep blanket of darkness upon waking up and before 5 p.m. The combination of the fast and quiet winter breezes complement the expanse of the fjords.

The auroras swayed and danced gently underneath the Northern sky, making it easy to fall in love with every bit of what nature had to offer. Early mornings are bathed with hues of ethereal pink light. The land surrounding the cabin felt like an endless playground, a boundless space for creativity. It was hard to let go and make the realization that we had to leave and go back home.

Building a strong connection with the strangers that came together for this trip was unlike anything else I ever experienced. The experience would have been much more different if we had cell reception. Moments were serendipitous and carefree. People opened up and revealed their truths.

© all pictures Mia Nguyen

I felt like it was a new beginning with a new family created through the power of serendipity. The anticipations we have for our adventures are often times charted with expectations. The world of Iceland is cloaked in beauty in every waking direction. It exceeds all and any expectations that conjured up in the distance.

In the final moments of quiet while standing on the shore and awaiting our Zodiac boat, I stand there dumb in awe by the vast beauty. I’ve grown so in love with the views over the past four days that I didn’t want to leave. The pockets of calm during these hours echoes a kind sentiment: everything is going to be okay. I take these words with me and tell myself that everything will be okay and I am right where I needed to be.

From NORTHLETTERS MAGAZINE Vol.1 print edition, available soon.

More about contributor Mia Nguyen here.

A space to be ourselves

Words & Photography Katherine Heath-

Knowing who we really are is something many of us struggle with our entire lives. We form opinions on matters that we believe to be our own, but that in reality are a combination of facts and observations we’ve heard elsewhere. And, whilst it’s important to learn from others and take external information into account, it’s equally important to stay true to ourselves even if our thoughts go against popular opinion.

External influences, I believe, often play too big a part in our evaluation of ourselves and what we believe we stand for. Our thoughts are clouded by the thoughts of others and it proves challenging to draw a line between where ‘they’ end and ‘we’ begin. But, the more that we are aware of ourselves and the happier we are with ourselves the less likely we are to let the opinions of others shape who we are.

Our lives are fast-paced and in a world where we have instant access to a consistent flow of new information and varying opinions it’s important to take a step back, breathe and remind ourselves who we are when there’s no one else around.

For me, the opportunity to switch off and gather my own thoughts has always presented itself in nature.

I think the one time we are most ourselves, most in our own minds and most aware of what is truly ‘us’ is when we immerse ourselves in our natural world. The sea air, a miraculous tonic. The damp, unmistakeable smell of the earth after rain. The sheer power of the wind during a storm. The irreplaceable warmth of the sun. All things we have no control over and that instantly remind us how insignificant we are and yet how powerful we can be.

Our intelligence is lightyears ahead of our natural instinct but it’s our instinct that greets the natural world with open arms. Our senses heighten, our ability to think for ourselves sharpens and we fall deeply in sync with the world around us. All appears clearer when we take the time to find the pace that our minds naturally thrive at. Stepping into the outside world allows us the time to slow down our thoughts and the space to reflect on who we are and what we stand for.

In time, this practice grants us with an understanding of our purpose and therefore a deeper awareness of what we want to achieve in life.

Our human world is fast paced–technological advancements allow it to accelerate at speeds we are not necessarily ready for–yet our natural world evolves in perpetuum to a slow, perpetual beat.

We will always be, in some way, a product of our environment and those around us which is why it’s important that we choose to surround ourselves with the space to breathe, with those that help us to grow and with the freedom to slow down and ask ourselves who we really are.

© all pictures Katherine Heath

More about Katherine, contributor of our Volume 1 print edition here. Take care! Melanie Kettner

Inspired by hygge

Words & Photography Rowan Collins-

Funnily enough, our friendship started with porridge. In 2016, we met through an online group for the university we were both about to join, when Liv reached out to me with a recommendation for a porridge café in Copenhagen, where I was about to visit. We didn’t think much of it at the time, but a year and a half later, after one of the busiest and most exciting weekends of our lives hosting our first porridge pop-up, we would be in Liv’s bedroom crying with laughter, remembering that was how it all started.

We are lucky to live in Norwich, a small city in the East of England with a wonderful community of independent businesses and creatives. Inspired by this and our love of porridge, we had a dream of opening a porridge café. A cosy space where people could come and enjoy slow mornings with their loved ones, and eat some wholesome, seasonal food. We talked about our idea again and again, and last year decided to run it as a pop-up for one weekend, just to see it come to life. Here, Norridge was born. What we didn’t realise was that the pop-up would end up feeling like just the beginning, and that we would go home with heads of full of ideas as to how we could expand Norridge into something bigger.

During that first pop-up, we were touched by how supportive our city’s community is, and how important that support is to our business. We want to celebrate that special community and bring it closer together, and we hope that through more pop-ups, wellbeing events and creative workshops we can do just that, at the same time collaborating with and supporting other independent businesses and creatives.

Outside of community, one of the biggest parts of Norridge is hygge. It’s become a bit of a buzzword over the past couple of years, but it’s something everyone can relate to and probably experienced before the term made its way across the world from Denmark. To us, porridge is inherently hygge. It’s warm, creamy, sweet, and there’s a certain slowness in the making of porridge, particularly when it’s made on the hob, that makes just about any morning more hyggeligt. We are passionate advocates of making a little more time in the morning, if you can, to make a proper bowl of porridge and take the time to sit down and enjoy it, preferably with a blanket and some cushions near a window with natural light, or with a few candles lit during the darker months.

We are also hugely inspired by the slow living movement. We live in a world that is increasingly fast-paced and demanding of our attention, so now more than ever there is real value in slowing down and taking a break from our ever-busy schedules. Cooking is one of our favourite ways to do this, but we also love spending an hour or so in one of Norwich’s wonderful coffee shops or settling down at home with a beautiful magazine and a cup of hot tea. We hope that Norridge can be a space that will encourage people to slow down and take some time for themselves, and provide a rest from our ‘always on’ lifestyle.

Finally, seasonal and plant-based eating is a huge part of what we do. We’re both veggie lovers through and through, and we get excited by all the varieties each season has to offer. One of our favourite things is walking home with a tote full of fresh veg wrapped up in paper bags, ready to be made into something delicious. This is really important to what we do, and as Norridge grows we hope to continue working with local, in-season produce to encourage people to do the same at home.

© all pictures Rowan Collins

Starting a business has been a huge learning curve. Norridge has not only become a big part of our lives, but it has changed our lives and, in a way, changed us. We live and breathe our little business. We are constantly thinking about new recipes and new collaborations, and dreaming about opening a permanent café after university. It gives us the freedom to use all of our skills and interests and create our dream job. A job that is broad and hard to define, but encompasses everything we’re passionate about. We work as cooks, designers, photographers and marketers, we do both the admin and the hands-on work. We use every spare moment to work on the business, and even when we’re not working on it we’re thinking about it. It can be intense and it can involve long days and late nights, but it’s also immensely exciting and somehow rarely feels like work. This is still just the beginning of Norridge, and we can’t wait to see what’s yet to come.

More about this beautiful & mindful project here.

Essay from our Volume 1 print edition, available 2018.

 

 

The true nature of Copenhagen

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

 

 

 

 

 

silentia

Words & Images Petros Koublis-

A landscape is an illimitable state. It’s not restricted within the visible area in front of our eyes, but it extends in an undefined distance, reaching for the limits of our interpretation over ourselves and the world around us. It is because every landscape can be eventually defined as the vast open field where our thoughts and feelings are meeting with the outside world. It’s both an imaginary field and an actual reality, a perpetual state and a momentary revelation.

From the view outside of our window, to the far end of the Universe, it is one continuous landscape without limits. It flows undisturbed, dissolving into infinite forms that take the shape of everything we have ever seen, dreamt or imagined. Our world is celestial, sharing the same origin with the space that embraces our skies.

Mountains and seas, the most familiar forms of our immediate experience still carry within them the magic of distant worlds, for this is one, inseparable landscape. Nature has given us its own symbols, its own little natural monuments that awake inside of us this primitive memory. Everywhere around the world, every culture carries these natural symbols in a more abstract or specific way, having shaped mythologies of cultural, religious or simply emotional narratives linked to their surrounding nature. Everything is part of us in an emotional level that goes beyond our present state, as it reaches back to a forgotten memory of our origin.

There are limits to our perception, therefore we are not able to fully perceive what is essentially mind-independent, free of form, shape and definition. We are bound to keep addressing the phenomenal version of reality, limited within the confines of our understanding. Through Mythology the human spirit could philosophically approach those remote areas of a system much bigger than what we are able to perceive. As if through myths, our spirit is able to overcome the boundaries of the mind and expose our intuition to a much greater reality. Mythology preserves the meditation on the unconceptualized form. In fact. mythology could be considered as the linguistic effort to describe the inconceivable. This is how mythology became the mother of poetry, just by effortlessly negotiating the memory of experience.

© Petros Koublis with kind permission

Excerpt from NORTHLETTERS MAGAZINE print edition VOL.1

More about our contributor Petros here.

Take care dear readers! Melanie Kettner

farewell letter to the arctic

Images & Words Alexander Kopatz-

I am leaving. I thought this day would be much further in the future, but I am leaving the Arctic. After seven years of living and working at almost 70 degrees North it is time to say goodbye to the Arctic. I feel sadness at the thought of leaving and I wonder how I will cope with not being in the environment that has impressed me and resonated in my soul and heart more than anything else before. The Arctic is so special to me because it helped me discover something I thought I did not have, my visual creativity.

After finishing high school in Germany I struggled to find out what I really wanted to do in life. I was torn back and forth by the choices of doing what most people thought would be best: finding “a good job”, which meant to go into business or law, or pursue my interest in science and study biology or chase my passion for design and architecture. In the end, as I believed I was not talented enough to get into art school, I went and got a degree in biology.

During my studies and later in my job as a researcher studying brown bears I moved from one place to another, never being too long at one place. With every move to another place I had to leave a part of my life and, sadly, also friends behind. But I also made new friends at the new places, keeping busy with getting to know everything, going to parties, having what is commonly referred to as a “social life”. And then I moved to Northern Norway and my life changed drastically: all of a sudden I was at a very remote place with little possibilities of “going out”. And the remoteness was not the only thing that was extreme, there were also the extreme conditions in nature. The sun does not rise above the horizon for two months in winter and in summer, it does not set for two months. Temperatures may vary hourly, depending on season, and cover a scale of minus 30 degrees Celsius in late winter and less to plus 30 degrees on a few occasions in summer.

First, I was a bit afraid of settling that far North. But when I arrived in the Arctic, with the Barents Sea in the North and Russia right at the doorstep in the East, with only about 70,000 people inhabiting the county of Finnmark, Norway’s largest county, larger than the Netherlands, I discovered that it is one of the most beautiful parts of the world. The light and the landscapes of Arctic Norway immediately blew me away, cheered me up and rewarded me with beautiful views when I was working in the field to study brown bears. The distinctive landscape was probably the first thing I noticed when I started to explore the surroundings. On the one hand, there are the refuge areas of forests with their short growing pines and birches, on the other there are the coastlines and alpine areas dominated by rocks. And although I struggled during my first winter up here, I found the polar night strangely attractive. For two months there is no sunrise. Light and darkness are out of balance. But the remaining light often creates fantastic ambient light with colors of pink, orange or blue dominating.

All these impressions stimulated my senses and mind. After I shot the Northern lights for the first time with my camera, I was hooked trying to capture the wild beauty of the North. Getting outside into the Arctic constitutes a stark contrast to the office nature of analyzing data I have to do in my job. In the solitude of the forests and the tundra, I discovered my creativity, something I thought I did not have. I still would not consider myself an artist, but being in the field with my camera has become an important part of me. To me, it is like meditation.

Life means change, but while I am sad to move to another place, I can leave with gratitude and with a smile. I was very privileged to live and work that far North and I can truly say that the Arctic and the people I met here have left a deep impact on me and in my mind a part of me will be there for the rest of my life. It is here, where I found my inner creativity and developed my style. Fortunately, I will stay in Norway and my move will only take me to below the Arctic Circle. Other, spectacular landscapes and a different kind of nature await me and will do their turn in influencing me as a person, push me further on and frame my style.

This drastic change of my life makes me recognize that I’m combining my two passions: science and photography, I never thought of this possibility. I thought I had to chose one option, instead it’s possible to live both. I hope to link my interest in science and nature conservation and my passion of photography further and to document and help to save the Arctic for future generations to experience. I will not change the name of my website go70north.com, as it represents what has influenced me as a photographer, a guy that experienced nature and life for seven years at „70 degrees North“.

© All pictures Alexander Kopatz with kind permission

More of Alex and his spectacular photography in our Volume 1 NORTHLETTERS MAGAZINE. And more about Alex here.

Take care dear readers! Melanie Kettner

kerlingarfjöll

Words & Images: Michael Schauer –

There are a few places in this world that look so surreal, you are unable to process that they actually exist just like this. Places that come with all the bells and whistles of a meticulously planned A-list movie production – lights, fog and all of that, yet they… just are. Perfect in their own right.
Iceland is known for its wonderfully surreal nature – be it the volcanic landscape, the enourmous glaciers or the hot spring trails – hence it served as a backdrop for many movies and shows. Game of Thrones, Interstellar to just name two of them.
The black sand beaches and waterfalls alongside the ring road in Iceland tell a thousand stories of beautiful moments and memories with every day the sun sets and rises anew. Yet they have been seen so often.

It might come off as ironic that the road leading up to one of the most unique and surreal places starts right where one of Iceland’s most iconic natural tourist attractions lies. Right next to the famous Gullfoss waterfalls a barely noticeable road – the F35 leads the way to Iceland’s cold and barren heart, to a radically different landscape. A few miles into that road, the lush green quickly dwindles and the colors of the land begin to take on earthen tones, a familiar but fascinating dress allowing a glimpse into what is yet to come. It is sparkled with sapphires as we pass the lakes Sandvatn and Hvitárvatn while the wind is getting harsher and temperatures begin to drop under the zero degree celsius mark making it all too clear that this is a different Iceland than the one we left behind at Gullfoss. A few miles after that, the road vanishes. All that you can follow now are the gravel tracks between the piles of rocks left and right which barely leave enough space for two cars to pass each other, let alone the enormous Arctic Truck models with wheels taller than a grown adult.

After entering the gravel road a gauntlet of bumps and potholes begins, a challenge for every car and driver but reviving and a more than welcome relief from the always straight and always crowded ring road. For two full hours there is nothing but the gravel on the road and the dust left behind.
But then… it is there. Kerlingarfjöll lying right before the eyes. The most surreal landscape leaving an impression never to be forgotten. Sulfuric steam boils out of the countless hotsprings, clouding the place in an everlasting fog and the same earthen colored gravel hills but now smoothly polished from a receding glacier, divided by rivers, paths and a small bridge. It is a painted world. You are alone in wind and silence. It is exalting.

© all pictures Michael Schauer with kind permission

Michael Schauer is an outdoor and aerial photographer, hailing from Munich, Germany. His work revolves around the rugged landscapes, people and stories of the scandinavic regions. Studied in sociology and with a clear aesthetic vision in mind, he sets out to understand and document what lies in front of him, displaying it in inspiring visual tales that ewoke heartfelt emotions and the desire to travel. More about Michael here.

More of this outstanding series can be enjoyed in our Vol.1 print edition this autumn! Take care! Melanie Kettner

living on the edge, life in estonian winter

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 with kind permission

Excerpt from Vol.1 NORTLETTERS MAGAZINE print edition, available this autumn.

More about talented young Kristoffer here.

Happy easter dear readers! Take care! Melanie Kettner

The snow dancing in the wind

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 available this autumn!

More about Morgane here.

Take care dear readers! Melanie Kettner

soulmates

Words & Images: Michael Schauer-

Whales have been my favorite animals for as long as I can remember. Ever since I was very, very little their slow and gracious movements, their seeming calmness and their otherworldly singing kept me under their spell and every time I see a video or an image of a whale, I get this curious feeling that I had when I was five years old and saw a blue whale for the first time in my life. In our home television.

From this day on, whales would become my spirit animals, as some of my friends would say, and every book, movie and documentary about whales was just inhaled by my young and insatiable mind and somehow… they became a part of me and who I am and what I photograph. I am especially fond of slow and cinematic sceneries. Sceneries that extort a subtle sense of power but power beneath the surface. Power which is collected in calmness and which radiates graciously through the landscape. Therefore, whales resonate deeply with my work and who I am as a human being as their collected and calm aura has something inspiringly stoic about it and their singing of songs cradles me in a soothing drone. Yet, at the same time, they are full of life and contagious joy when they play. I get this feeling of celebration of life and livelihood through a calm and slow catalyst and that is what I like to find in my work as well.

Iceland in September of 2017. I drove all the way up to the Eyja fjord where there is the small village Hauganes, which is about thirty kilometers north of Akureyri. In Eyjafjörður there are humpback whales, they told me, and I am determined to see them.
Twenty minutes on the vessel and the zodiac speedboats zip past us- a film crew armed with serious gear- they spotted something we did as well. Fins and spouts in the distance where the school of humpbacks surfaces to take a deep breath before going on yet another seven minute dive. We are closing in on them and the next thing I hear and smell is the explosive sound of a humpback breathing out right next to the vessel. They are almost in touching distance as if they greet us. Them and the crew surely are old acquaintances.
Kindly, the captain allows me to launch my small drone from the rear of the ship and what I see cannot be described in words. I tried but I can not find anything to justify the endless beauty and grace of whales seen from above. Only ear to ear smiles, sometimes turning into laughter, and a bright and exalted blue in my eyes.

© all pictures Michael Schauer with kind permission

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Take care dear reader! Melanie Kettner