Words & Images by Elmoon Iraola-
I grew up in Northern Norway in a little town named Kirkenes, which is only a few minutes away from the Finnish border. Kirkenes is surrounded by a beautiful nature and flourishing wildlife. The winter there is long, and at times harsh to be honest. The days feels shortened due to the absence of daylight. Despite this, there is a beauty in the serenity and peacefulness winter brings, unlike anything else. And let’s not forget about the northern lights, the captivating aurora borealis. Seeing the lights high above your head dancing with such grace almost makes you believe in magic. This reveals how beautiful the world truly is.
Spending my youth up in the North gave me unique experiences and treasurable memories, but this would just be the starting point, as my hunger to discover the world increased with the years and I moved to the capital city, Oslo. I was honestly curious about urban life which gave the feeling of “rush” in the daily life. Shortly after, however, I began yearning back to nature and its calmness. I firmly believe that the landscape of my hometown had a greater impact subconsciously than what I initially thought. I had sincerely developed a higher appreciation for being out in the wilderness than ever before, but my studies forced me to stay in the big city. This is the reason why I’m inspired to explore new places, in Norway and beyond.
So I decided to discover more of the vast landscapes in the West of Norway, that is known for its many fjords, and that’s for a good reason. Glaciers, the creators of the deep and captivating valleys carved out these creations through erosion over several decades. After experiencing everything from the mesmerizing fjords, the powerful Vøringsfossen and to the turquoise waters in Lovatnet, I went on to explore Lofoten and Senja in the North. Standing before the mighty Segla in Senja and the mountains in Lofoten left me in total awe. There is nothing more powerful than to stand amongst these giants. The overwhelming feeling of humbleness is almost addictive to put it mildly. Nothing makes me feel more grounded, calm and connected to nature. But the most powerful experience so far is without doubt my visit to Iceland and the Faroe Islands last year. The first visit made such an impact that I simply had to return shortly after. The raw, unique and fierce landscapes stole my heart away and left me completely speechless.
Witnessing Drangarnir in the Faroes for the first time was such a surreal moment for me. On the day of the hike it had been pouring rain all day with fog so thick that you couldn’t see much of the surroundings, and there was no stopping the wind. My friend and I concluded to venture on with extreme caution. I found the last part of the hike to be somewhat sketchy as the trail was extremely slippery. The view we were rewarded with was inarguably worth the difficult hike. Finally, seeing that place with my very own eyes was a special moment which I find challenging to describe. The emotions I was experiencing standing there before Drangarnir are inexpressible.
Another unforgettable moment which made me appreciate the blessings I’ve been given, was in Iceland:
It was early in the morning and still dark, and as we opened the door we were met with a snow blizzard. Our car for the trip was completely covered in snow and we could feel the coldness creeping in. As we drove towards our first destination, Black Sand Beach, we didn’t dare drive faster than around 40 km/h. The snow was gushing on our windshield and made it difficult to see clear of where we were driving. We drove onwards with great caution and made it to our destination safely. We sat in our car awaiting for the weather to improve, and I remember feeling discouraged about the weather conditions. Any hopes for decent shots just sank straight down. However, to my big surprise it turned out to be one of my favorite moments from that journey. The adventurous feeling of striving our way through the total whiteout was a true adrenaline rush. It made me forget about all about hectic life. There was a tranquility to this blizzard which is rare to find these days; I truly felt alive. I mean, aren’t moments just like this what life is all about? Life is easily filled up with busy schedules, and we’re always on the run. We tend to either plan days ahead and live in the future, or dwell too much in the past. Living in the present almost becomes a rare treasure. I believe we can do our bodies, souls and minds a favor by taking a pause more often and embrace the smallest beauty and goodness there is in life and nature.
As a photographer I learned that there is so much more behind the scenes than just taking a good “shot”. I´ve been given the chance to meet so many interesting people and creative minds. I´ve had the opportunity to exchange and share ideas, happiness, peacefulness and incredible moments with amazing people from all around the world – and for that I´m forever grateful.
Photography has shown me the importance of living in the present, appreciating nature and not taking life or our earth for granted, in other words, a life- changing experience, without a single doubt.
© all pictures Elmoon Iraola with kind permission
Dear readers. Hope you are all doing well! Learn more about this young contributor of our print edition here. Take care! Melanie Kettner